This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

27 February, 2011

REVIEW: GARDENS OF THE MOON

Cover Illustration: Steve Stone

GARDENS OF THE MOON
THE FIRST TALE OF THE MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN
BY
STEVEN ERIKSON

   ISBN: 978-0-593-06506-8
 Pages: 516
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publishing date: 1 April 1999

On the cover:

Bled dry by decades of warfare, infighting and bloody clashes with Anomader Rake, Lord of Moon's Spawn, and the mysterious Tiste Andii, the Malazan Empire simmers with discontent. Even the Imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearns for some respite. Yet the Empress Laseen's rule - enforced by her feared assassins, the Claw - remains absolute.

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 help the still-living to mourn the many dead. but the Empress has other ideas. Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out against her and it is towards this ancient and noble bastion of independence that she turns her predatory gaze.

However the Empire is not alone in this great game. Other sinister, shadow-bound players are poised to make their first moves - as Captain Ganoes Paran, aide to the Empress' Adjunct, is about to discover. For he has been chosen for an altogether higher purpose - as a harbinger of the gods themselves...

   The first thing that I really noticed about this novel, was how much is going on. There are multiple locations, a huge cast of characters, and several points of view. I didn't have a problem with all the characters or the many point of views, I've read quite a bit of Harry Turtledove and is used to that from there.
   But I have to say I was very glad that I have a habit of taking notes when I read books for review. It really came in handy here, and I would actually advise anyone who is going to read it for the first time to write down a sentence or two from time to time to keep track of everything.

   This is fantasy on a truly epic scale. I had been warned about this, and Erikson mentions it in his foreword, but at 516 pages it didn't look daunting at all. That is purely an illusion.
   Erikson doesn't really waste anytime at all. By the end of chapter two (page 69) it is clear that there is a vast amount going on. There is plenty of action throughout, but Erikson also finds room for massive amounts of information about the world.
   The worldbuilding here is very well done. You get a constant trickle of information about both the present day, and the history of the world. There is so much information that you feel that this is a world that has grown over thousands of years, something I really appreciated as I'm a bit of a history geek. 
   Fortunately there aren't really any info-dumps as such here. I never felt that what was told of the background to what is happening was forced into the story. It has the feel of being given naturally by the characters when they tell it. And I found that to be a great strength in this book.

   As for the story, I really enjoyed it. It is rather complex, there is just so much happening that it is easy to loose track if you don't give it your full attention. I like books that are like that, so I enjoyed immersing myself in Erikson's world. 
   It is a very rich story, with characters that you feel you get close too. And the fact that the characters themselves have to discover what is going on, makes it feel like you are taking the journey with them instead of just following them.
   There are very few times in this story when there is not something happening somewhere. And in these few quiet periods Erikson gives out bits of information that drives the story along. It never feels like there are any times where you are reading padding material.
   The suspense level is kept pretty high at all times, and it can actually feel a bit daunting at times that every answer gives you at least one new question. But it really pays off.

   What more can I say? I really loved this book. And as I write this I'm about 100 pages into Deadhouse Gates even though I had planned to write this review before starting to read it; I just couldn't wait.
   This is excellent epic fantasy, and I don't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who likes secondary world fantasy. Be advised though; this is not a light read. It demands you invest in it, but it gives so much back in return that it is very much worth it.

Review: Solaris Book of New Fantasy -Contains a non-Malazan short story by Erikson.


2 comments:

  1. I'm just about to start House of Chains, the 4th volume, after reading both Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice in the past month. Both were brilliant! I'm just excited that I still have lots more to read.

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  2. I had the unusual experience of reading Books 6, 5, and 7 of MBotF (in that order) before going back and reading Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates back to back and having concepts that I could only make educated guesses about explained. Gardens of the Moon is a masterpiece. I found Deadhouse Gates a tougher slog in places, but rewarding in the end. I'm completely willing to crown Steven Erikson the master of modern fantasy at this point.

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