Gardens Of The Moon by Steven Erikson
Review by Floresiensis
Steven Erikson's Gardens Of The Moon is the first book in the series and is entitled A Tale Of The Malazan Book Of The Fallen. The book was first published in 1999 and marked a sensational, critically acclaimed debut.
The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake, lord of Moon’s Spawn, and his Tiste Andii. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out and it is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.
However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…
There is no easy way to describe this book, you are flung into the fantasy world from the first page with no explanation of characters or plot. Questions that arise are rarely answered and if anything the answers raise even more questions of their very own. If you hoped that this would be a fantasy book that would help wile away a few rainy days then you will be in for a shock as this tale will require your full and undiluted attention from the very beginning. That is if you want to understand what is going on...
As with many new fantasy novels there are a lot of new character and place names to come to terms with before you can fully enjoy the book. Gardens Of The Moon is more difficult than most in this aspect as many, many characters enter the story in a very short time period and there is a lot to keep up with. It is though, without doubt, worth preserving as the whole story comes together beautifully and the plot begins to make more and more sense. I should also mention that it is not just people and places that you will need to learn, there are also gods that interfere in mankind's struggle.
During the first chapters of the book, Captain Paran, one of the main characters comes into contact with the Empress' Adjunct at a scene of unexplained carnage.
Gardens Of The Moon: Book One - Pale
Amongst all the intrigue and battle there are a company of soldiers called the Bridgeburners. I would say that these are most interesting and easily identifiable characters in the book. Their fate is intertwined with that of Captain Paran, Tattersail the Mage and the myriad characters that appear in the tale. A large majority of the action centre's around a siege on a city called Pale where there is a great magical battle between the Empire's mage's and the Lord of Moon's Spawn, Anomander Rake. We are unsure as to who is good and who is bad and the story builds nicely and the characters are developed nicely and past happenings are mentioned that help us to understand how everyone and everything has ended up in the situation that they are now.
'I make neither, Elderling One.' With a soft, hollow laugh, Raest's battered, withered body collapsed.
K'rul cocked his head. 'He's found another body.'
Kruppe pulled out his handkerchief. 'Oh, my,' he said.
Gardens Of The Moon: Chapter Twenty Two
I can't overstate the importance of sticking with this book even if all seems to confusing, the book WILL make sense in the end as the author expertly brings all the threads of the story together and gives us a story to cherish. The imagination of Steven Erikson can only be marveled at as he breathes new life into the fantasy genre with his new ideas and creations.
This is a book that I think I will need to re-read as soon as possible due to the fact that I feel it make be enjoyed even more second time around and there is a good chance that there a parts of the book that I missed first time around.
I highly recommend this book, it is a work of great skill and beauty. Read and enjoy.
Pawwly from UK
An epic campaign and detailed world with limited character development and storytelling that feels it never begins. Gardens of the Moon reads like a game module... a very intricate and detailed game module . I am confident Erikson is an accomplished GM. Erikson may be a world builder but story skills severely lack. Blown away? Spellbinding narrative? Did we read the same book?
Philip from Cambridge, UK
I genuinely don't know what to make of this book. What everyone agrees on: It's epic, complicated, and confusing. People seem to be divided over whether this means Erikson just doesn't write very well or whether he's a visionary who is challenging the boundaries of SF fiction. And I really can't decide which I think it is! There were times in this book when I just put it down because the plot was such a mess. There were also times when I was gripped (esp. when the Darujhistan action got going) and loved some of the characters. All in all, I wouldn't rate it as highly as some other fantasy authors, but would be willing to give the rest of the series a go some day as it sounds like it does improve. After all, everyone learns as they write, right?
Josip from Croatia
Best fantasy series out there! Don't miss it!
Anon from UK
I think there's only one fantasy writer more overrated than Steven Erikson - Terry Goodkind. For starters, writing is atrocious (seriously, I'm non-English speaking, but this guy is illiterate). Secondly, all characters are exactly the same (and smart asses, as sombody said, author is full of himself) - Whiskeyjack=Dujek=Kalam=Rake=Brood=Tattersail...you can go on for miles. The plot is over the top, deus ex machina drivel, with high level magic and outrageously complicated "plots" which unravel like reading Agatha Christie novel. In a world where everyone is a (demi) god, magic is worthless - with such a plethora of superpowerful characters, the whe concept of power becomes meaningless and boring. It's not intelligent in any way, just tries to make you go "oooh, shiny!!"
Ivan from Croatia
Gardens of the Moon is just the beginning of a mind blowing story, exceptional world, great characters, epic wars etc... which T highly recommend to everybody hungry for a great read... Steven Erikson will hardly be surpassed in years to come...
Andarist from Drift Avalii
Amazing, simply amazing. One of the greatest books I have ever read, second only to the other books in the series.
Hristo from Spain
A nice start for a really complex fantasy book.
Adam from UK
I loved these books because they made me think full time. To say they are an easy read... they're not, so if your looking for a simple series read another set. But if you want something complex and well structured and a amazing diversified cast, read these books.
Bob from UK
The only way I've managed to get a quarter of the way through this book is by missing out large chunks of meaningless drivel. Just leave it on the shelf and hope that Patrick Rothfuss brings his third book out soon.
Wayne from UK
I've only started reading fantasy novels, and I've made a terrible mistake in starting with this series. Steven Erikson has set the bar too high.
John from Vankoughnet
Only half way through the book but I am already hooked. Yes the characters are full of questions and I feel like I missed some back stories but I am willing to take on the challenge. I am a huge gamer and I plan to run my Dungeons and Dragons group in this new found world ( after I get to grips with whats going on) . I look forward to the next books in the series.
Roger from Canada
This book is no fun at all, tried reading it many times but each time it felt like studying for math exam. I loved Martin's books and spend nights reading them not wanting to sleep. But this book made me sleep in 30 minutes. I really tried but cant do it....
Tehol the Only from Letheras
Words cannot express the sheer awesomeness of this series. It's hard to get into: Gardens of the Moon dumps you in the middle of action, among dozens of characters in an unknown continent and the first 200 pages will really see you struggle to figure out what's happening... but OH how it's worth it. Going from book to book you'll feel like learning a foreign language, understanding only little bits at first (but you HAVE to pay attention, no spoon-feeding here) and then more and more. At some point you'll re-read the first books and get BLOWN AWAY again as they'll feel completely different once you get the Malaz way of thinking. Not a book for everyone but I really can't see how Steven Erikson can be so underrated... so few people reading him and so many going nuts over a certain pompous fake who lately got a series on the HBO (any reference to events or persons is purely coincidental). BUY THIS!
Nikitas from London
I'm still reading this book. I've read more than 60%, according to my kindle and I believe I can form an opinion on it. I have to admit that this book is one of the few books that made me miss my train stop. I completely love it. I don't agree that it is as complicated as other people say. For example other books, like the 'Song of Fire and Ice' have far more characters and POVs. Steven's writting is so captivating. I find that not knowing the background of the characters from the begining a very good thing. There are surprises in every corner that keep the reader interested. I usually don't like rating a book before the end. Hopefully I'm not wrong to score it a 9.
Tom from Withernsea
Many people have doubtless complained that Erikson is a vague prose stylist, but this criticism is almost certainly based on the fact that Erikson deliberately rejects fantasy convention and seeks to achieve what can actually be called a writing style that extends beyond narrative and breaches (very slightly indeed) the poetic. Although fantasy writers tend to be superior users of language to, say thriller, crime, and mystery writers, they are rarely - with the exception of a few - possessed of anything that may be called aesthetic skill, they rely very much on an adequate style which adaquately conveys character psychology and narrative, with their books largely driven by the readerly desire to know ''what happens next''. Erikson strives for a comprehensive world history alongside the creation of complex humans whose motivations and lives are communicated in a method far more ambiguous than the almost child-like exposition and shallowness that is a well-established tendency in fantasy novels. Erikson should be praised not only for transgressing the bounds of character and narrative strucuture, hence creating a series which occasionally makes one feel as if one is witnessing a unique history develop, but for describing his world in a manner which dispenses with linearity. The Malazan novels are a genuine achievement. A piece of basic advice to the traditional fanatsy reader: you will find it difficult to gain an initial foothold 'Gardens of the Moon', but attentiveness to the history of its world and its numerous cultural aspects will prove rewarding. A
David from england
amazing that all i can say.
Dave from Stalyvegas
Hmmm, time will recognise Steven Erikson's genius. The Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series will be studied in school, college and University the world over for it's sheer brilliance in terms of narration, philosopy, ethics, character development, scene setting, dealing with complexity, blending depravity with violence and humour, breaking the rules etc etc. You are witnessing, my friends, a modern day Shakespeare. Forget all the dross in the Booker list Erikson is one of the most profound authors I've come across. If his books were not in the S&F genre he would have been far more widely acclaimed by now in the literary establishment. Time will show his true literary genius!
Jason from Champaign, Illinois
Gardens of the Moon is one of the worst books I've read in recent years. There is no cohesive plot, the pace is tiring, and the characters are largely one dimensional. The author's idea of world-building seems to involve peppering the dialogue with myriad names, places, etc., that are unsupported by the plot. While I appreciate the focus on mythology and ancient races, it comes off hollow without any hint of how it all ties into the present. Cities seem to be names on a map to serve as different settings for action; there is nothing distinct about any particular location. With few exceptions, the characters are archetypal, with little development to foster any sympathy with them or for their cause. The Bridgeburners are a blatant copy of the Black Company but with none of the vitality or charm. In general, everything about the book lacks the depth needed to create a truly fantastic world, let alone an epic fantastic world. Perhaps the rest of the series continues or otherwise expands on what happens in Gardens of the Moon and thus sets things right. Unfortunately, I was too unimpressed by this book to soldier on through another.
Chance from America
These books were the worst books I have ever had the privilege of reading. I struggled through the first 3 books and half-way through the fourth book. His writing is absolutely atrocious, vague in the worst way. Steve Erikson switches between countless different POV which even some of the most hardcore fans will say is a major flaw. OK, lets say you get a grip on the writing style and the numerous different POV's. Hey, maybe it's just not my cup of tea. But then author uses deu ex machina to an extreme, almost as if he were writing a soap opera. Eventually I just put it down because of the sheer and utter ridiculousness of the plot line. To compare his works to Tolkien is disrespecting the man who brought about the dawn of fantasy. I'm truly sorry I was forced to give these books a single star.
Tom from Canada
Like Quick Ben from New Zealand said, these books are frustrating... but also incredibly rewarding. They're frustrating because they jump around through dozens of POVs and the enormous scope of the series makes it difficult to follow. Also, the way that Erikson writes is highly ambiguous, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It makes the story more mysterious and adds a great deal of unpredictability and even a certain poetic quality to the writing. The series is rewarding because it is incredibly creative, there are tons of amazing battles involving powerful characters and even gods, and the climax of virtually every novel is mind-blowing, without fail. Once you make it to book 3 you'll start to see the bigger picture of what is unfolding... and prepare to be amazed.
Milan from Dordrecht
For everyone who just don't understand anything about the story behind the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Well tough luck it is meant to be this way, Steve Erikson's meaning was to create an epic fantasy book. How did he do it? Well he didn't take the reader by the hand and introduced all the main characters piece by piece. No, instead he just throws storylines right in your face. Being very interested in history myself and knowing a thing or two about ancient mythology, the interweaving of tales is just brilliantly done. Finally I have to say "yes" these books are not for the lazy reader, the story can be murky but as the author says himself: "Naturally, I'd rather everybody loved it, but I understand why this will never be the case. These are not lazy books. You can't float through, you just can't. Even more problematic, the first novel begins halfway through a seeming marathon - you either hit the ground running and stay on your feet or you're toast" Well that about says it all doesn't it.
Cam from Orem, utah
This book is a sorry sort compared to Martin. When I pick up and read a book I do not read it so I have to work at enjoying it I want a good story and to fall in love with the world and characters. This book gives no explanation it is the most foolish thing I have seen. What is going on I do not know, why should I keep reading it, I do not know. I have text books in the closet I have to work at understanding them the reason I cannot follow this book is the extremely poor writing.
Shell from Winchester
This series will no doubt receive 10/10 once I have read the final book - compelling characters and original plot.
Tom from Columbus, Ohio
I had heard how good these books were and I received the first eight books in the series as a present. I struggled through the books but they were the most over rated books that I have ever read. I don't see what everyone here likes about them. Boring and confusing. I hate how the characters change ever book and Gardens of the Moon was the worst book in the series in my opinion. The index of A Song of Ice and Fire was more interesting than these books.
James from Bangor
Hm...these books are intelligent. They're well-written, intricately plotted, and have great world-building and characterization. They're also slow, pretentious, and self-important. To be perfectly honest, I don't understand the wave of love these books have received. They're good, I'll grant you, but there's little warmth in them and they only get more frustrating as time goes on. So good, but not great.
Quick Ben from Auckland, New Zealand
The book is not perfect... it is hard to read... and down right frustrating at times... it is also epic, smart, complex and one of the best novels I have read. Period. And I have read a lot. Across the genres. As a friend of mine who I enticed to read it said.. "it is like fantasy... for adults" and that is so true. You will have to work hard to get through it but its well worth it in the end. I've read up to book 7 then decided to start from the beginning again so that I can read the series right through up until the final volume is released. Second time round I appreciated so much more how epic this book was. There is stuff going on here that won't become obvious until you are well advanced in the series. My advice... read it... persevere... then at the end marvel at how incredible the ride was.
Andreas from Copenhagen, Denmark
Best fantasy series out there period!
Koen from Netherlands
I just finished reading Gardens of the Moon and I loved it! You just get thrown into a world of which you know absolutely nothing about, a very abundant Fantasy world at that, full of gods and magic and whatnot! To make it even more interesting, Erikson doesn't even EXPLAIN anything. Nope, nothing at all. An ignorant main character then, that gets taught by some wiser allies? Nope, that isn't the case either!! You just get pelt by all sorts of terms that mean aaaaaaaaaaabsolutely nothing to you, except for the fact that they often sound cool ^_^ And while reading you slowly start to understand the world around you! You change perspective a lot, so much that it takes some time to find out who the good guys are and who the bad!! All kinds of major events take place, and the.... 'mood' of the story make sure that you realise this, however, you've got no clue what's going on!! The story takes your full participation, and if you can keep up with all the terms you'll slowly start to understand everything. But. Everything that happens gets defined by you, and you alone. Steven Erikson gives you the guidelines, it's up to you to visualise the story, and he leaves you pleeeeeeeeenty of room for that! :D About the story itself, it's about 'free will' mainly. The gods try to influence everything, everyone's struggling to survive. Nearly every person is a pawn to a major power in the world, be it gods or an empire. Yet the struggle against this being ordered around is what defines the book most I think. Fighting for your own cause, not for the cause that has been laid upon you. All in all an excellent read, and I'm proud to add the full series to my collection next time I order books again!
Nikolas from Finland
@ Ana: Thank you - I don't know how you could hit the nail on the head that perfectly, but you did. I have no explanation - other than the need for something to read after Martin - for why I read this douchy narcisist's entire pleonastic monologue (9000 pages), but I did, and it's one of my greatest regrets. How this dweeb is rated higher than Martin (or above 5 stars in general) on this site is a complete mystery to me, and I thoroughly advise anyone contemplating on wasting valuable time on this jumble to first get a copy from the library - don't waste money.
Tony from UK
@Ana Seriously, have we been reading the same books. I teach philosophy and find there are deep moral outlooks that cover the characters and they events/life they find themselves in.
Ana from Philadelphia
This book is so hectic i'ts hard to follow the events, the writer is so full of himself it's hard to read, the characters are so cluttered with unfulfilled promises it's painful to witness. Overall - book is like one big and messy closet with no structure or moral to the story whatsoever.
Steve from London
I came across this book without ever having heard of the author. After 100 pages I nearly gave up, but something about the author's style made me keep going. Was I glad I did! This book blew my mind, although I had to re-read straight away to get everything straight. The best modern fantasy series and author today bar none. How Mr Erikson pumps these novels out at the rate of one a year beats me. This is exciting and intelligent stuff and having caught up with the series I can't wait for the climax. Developing the plot and characters across the series and keeping them fresh is a major achievment. Get into the world of the Malazans now, you won't regret it.
Omar from Sydney
There is no other word more fitting for Steven Erikson, for his achievement with this stunning series. He takes an old format and tired genre by the throat and revolutionizes it with his creativity, his ingenuity and brilliant storytelling. A multitude of characters, grim and dark, struggle to survive in a world every bit as real and brutal as our own, if not more so. This is perhaps the only time fiction has made the real world pale into insignificance. This is a series that everyone should read. A lyrical master, Erikson fills his novels with lush prose and evocative descriptions without ever losing that hard edge; his characters distinguish themselves more distinctly than any I can remember - you will laugh, scoff and mourn with them as though you were best of friends or kin. Erikson proves himself as the best in the business with this series and Gardens of the Moon is a rip-roaring opener.
Ed from Nottingham
With most modern fantasy being very much a "good vs evil" affair, I found this book very refreshing. By the end I was still trying to work out who the good guys and the bad guys were! It is an extremely well crafted story of war, politics and betrayal. The story flows well, despite the number of characters involved and builds up to an exciting climax. I get the feeling that this is very much the 'tip of the iceberg' in terms of the world that Erikson has created. I have wasted no time whatsoever in starting his second novel.
Emily from Seattle
This is a perfect start to what may be the best fantasy series I have ever read. Complex fantasy, rich characters, involving story. I found that I had to re-read the book as I felt that I\'d missed too much first time around. I\'m glad I did, it was even better second time around, Kruppe is a great character.
Gaz from The Malazan Empire
Wow, what can I say. Fantasy like this does not come along all that often and I was blown away. The imagination of Steven Erikson is incredible, the world that he builds and characters that he creates are unbelievably good. Gardens of the Moon has a start and a finish so you could stop after reading it but I find it highly unlikely that anyone could do that. Brilliant, fantastic, exceptional, I'm running out of superlatives, so just buy it.
Daniel from Reading
Steven Erikson is the best fantasy author to come along since Tolkien. His narrative is spellbinding and the characters are as life-like as you could wish for. I did like Gardens of the Moon but thought that Erikson was cutting his teeth on this one and that the books improve with each release. Memories of Ice is very, very good!
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