Megan VincentI also love a Song of Ice and Fire and I love this series as well so far (I'm on House of Chains, the 4th book). It is very confusing as the world is…moreI also love a Song of Ice and Fire and I love this series as well so far (I'm on House of Chains, the 4th book). It is very confusing as the world is very detailed, and new characters/plots continue to be introduced even into the 4th book that completely change the story line. I still really enjoy the book because for me that is not a dealbreaker. However if you are someone that likes to know where a story is going ahead of time and doesn't like an overly complex plot this may not be the series for you. Personally I love the depth of the world, and I love how Erikson keeps the reader on their toes by introducing new characters and depths to the story.(less)
RobinhjSapper is not a made up word, you should find it in the dictionary; my grandmother even had a dog named 'Sapper'. Originally in medieval times they…moreSapper is not a made up word, you should find it in the dictionary; my grandmother even had a dog named 'Sapper'. Originally in medieval times they were the people that dug tunnels and planted explosives to collapse castle walls etc. The verb was 'To sap'. In later wars they were the branch of the army that laid or cleared minefields wholesale (as opposed to Bomb Disposal), built or laid temporary bridges and other 'Engineering' duties. In the British Army A 'Sapper' would be in the Royal Engineers but I believe the US Army has them as individual members of Light Combined Arms teams eg alongside Rangers. British Commandos would also have combat engineering specialists as part of a team but they would not call them 'Sappers' as far as I know.(less)
UPDATE: I've just reread this book so I've updated my review, which you can find at the end of my little lovenote here. :)
Why Read The Malazan Book of the Fallen, or A Love Note to Steven Erikson (Okay, not really the latter)
If you've even attempted to read Gardens of the Moon, the first book in the 10 book epic that is the Malazan Book of the Fallen, you'll see very quickly that you're not given much as a reader. It's confusing, it's complicated, it's full of mysteries and myriad of charactersUPDATE: I've just reread this book so I've updated my review, which you can find at the end of my little lovenote here. :)
Why Read The Malazan Book of the Fallen, or A Love Note to Steven Erikson (Okay, not really the latter)
If you've even attempted to read Gardens of the Moon, the first book in the 10 book epic that is the Malazan Book of the Fallen, you'll see very quickly that you're not given much as a reader. It's confusing, it's complicated, it's full of mysteries and myriad of characters and magics that you can easily become overwhelmed. Not to mention, Gardens of the Moon isn't nearly as well-written as the rest of the series.
Not the most ringing endorsement so far, but we're getting there.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is easily the most epic series I've ever read. The history is mysterious (and murderous) and vast, the races are plentiful and old, and the magic is as powerful as it gets.
How many times do you pick up a book that sounds epic, but you start to read and it really isn't? This happens to me all the time. Because of a drawback of the medium, there can only really be a focus on so many characters. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it takes away from the epic-ness. The consequences of a few characters may have far-reaching effects and the history and world may even be vast, but there's still no denying that the scope is limited. It can't really be anything else.
Steven Erikson does something that has yet to be seen in epic fantasy. He has created the standard for what is truly epic. I'll not deny that his characters suffer somewhat from this, many seeming to be essentially the same, but he has truly created a world that is so vast and detailed you won't care.
This is also part of the genius. The characters don't even know what's going on, who's killing whom or why. They rarely even know who's actually in charge. And Erikson puts you right there with them. In addition, they're the ones narrating the story, which means you really have no idea who to trust. This is yet another aspect of his genius because as humans, we tend to want things to go our way, to see things our way, even to tell stories that go our way. Many characters are humble enough to see their shortcomings, but the story is told from very human people... well, and gods.
And like George R.R. Martin, Erikson has no problem killing off main characters. It IS the book of the fallen after all.
Another reason to read this series is what I call the Superman phenomenon. Erikson creates characters who have it all when it comes to magic or military prowess or swordsmanship or you name it. They are all-powerful and when they clash it will blow your mind.
At the same time, he creates tragedy filled with pathos that at one point had me devastated for weeks. This is not a bad thing, not only is it good for the soul, it's powerful writing that evokes emotions in you so strong you feel like you've lost a friend when all you did was finish a book. This makes me wonder how he can possibly be accused of having thin characters when he made me feel like that about them.
Finally, and fittingly, Erikson has written simply the best endings I've ever read. Any bit of confusion, and believe me there's quite a bit in every book of the series, is rewarded ten-fold with an ending that you will never forget.
For most books, you may get a hundred pages as you climax after 500 pages worth of build-up. Erikson gives you at least 200 and in some books even more than this. The Crippled God , the final book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, starts a part of the climax with 400 pages to go in the trade paperback.
Simply put, read this series. When you're 400 pages in and you still have no clue what's going on, it's okay, I've been there too. It will be worth it, keep pushing on. How many authors really trust you, the reader, to put things together on your own? Have you felt how rewarding that is, have you even been given the chance? Now's your chance.
As Logan Ninefingers always says (or rather, his father), “Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than live with the fear of it."
---------------------- Updated Review:
There are few books you put down and immediately want to reread. Gardens of the Moon is one of those books for two reasons. One, it's that good. Two, it's that confusing.
On a reread I already know I missed a lot the first time, but I quickly realized I missed SOOOO much that first time and most of it is because I wasn't used to having to use my brain as much. I was constantly amazed at how much foreshadowing is in this first book. So much is mentioned from the origins of the T'lan Imass and Tiste Andii to the Jaghut and even a little about the Forkrul Assail.
And the epigraphs made sense! They ACTUALLY made sense! I always thought they might, but they are tell quite a bit in fact. Some I was amazed actually give away events in the following chapter, but you have no idea when you first read it. You wily bastard, Erikson!
Hand in hand with the foreshadowing I'm amazed at the level of detail in this book, there's hardly a sentence without extra meanings behind it. But the problem is - you just don't know who to trust when you're going through this on your first time and it's so hard to catch it when so much is revealed in such an offhand manner.
I still remember being so confused the first time and then figuring something out. That's what sold me on the series and why I still consider it one of the best, if not the best out there. A second reading sealed the deal.
Having said that I also saw a lot of why people say it's the least well-written of the series. It's well done, leaps and bounds ahead of most I think, but it can be inconsistent. For most of the series it's told in third person limited, and while that seems to have been attempted for most of this book, there were instances where it drifts to omniscient within a section. The pacing is also a bit off, but that's not really any different from the rest either.
Despite that, I stick with what I said above. :) These complaints are drops in the bucket compared to this vast, epic tale filled with history and magic and plans within plans.
At the moment, The Malazan Book of the Fallen is my all-time favorite series. This may or may not change when George finishes his series (in 2113, zing!), but I have a hard time right now seeing how it will be possible to top. Yes, there's a similar level of detail and even camaraderie you feel with some of the characters, but how do you top this kind of epic? I don't think there's a better feeling in reading than figuring something out that the author withheld, that's what sold me on my first read and what continues to make this my favorite.
5 out of 5 Stars (Not even a second thought)
Note: I also highly recommend reading this with a group, or just checking out the discussions from the group read I've been participating in. Being able to toss around ideas and theories is priceless and having people to explain some of it is also very helpful....more
If only I hadn’t put on that little black dress. Perhaps that would’ve saved this one for me. I mean, not only did I put on the little black dress, the one cutjusttothere. I did the hair. I put on the heels too. Everyone who has that little black dress or is dating someone who does knows what heels I mean. You guys have been in that mood where you really just want to go out- paint the town red like you’re Sinatra and are just, as they used to say of kings, in the mood to be pleased, right? WhoevIf only I hadn’t put on that little black dress. Perhaps that would’ve saved this one for me. I mean, not only did I put on the little black dress, the one cutjusttothere. I did the hair. I put on the heels too. Everyone who has that little black dress or is dating someone who does knows what heels I mean. You guys have been in that mood where you really just want to go out- paint the town red like you’re Sinatra and are just, as they used to say of kings, in the mood to be pleased, right? Whoever your date is that evening will probably have to make very little effort for you to have a good time, and indeed you’re just fine with being the entertainment. I would like to state here and now that I showed up for my date with Steve Erikson with the hair and the dress and the heels in this mood. And it turns out he’s that guy. The one who will manage to irritate you no matter how many times you try to grin and change the subject, no matter how many broad hints you might help him out with. As with most dates you’ve gathered information on solely from the internet and well-meaning friends, he turns up late, it turns out he has lied about his height, is awkwardly insistent on telling you excruciatingly uninteresting stories the entire night while not asking you a single question about yourself, and then is confused when you do not want to see him again.
Seriously, I PUT ON HEELS FOR THIS, ERIKSON. (Somehow that’s always the most insulting part, isn’t it?)
Everyone told me you were great! This was supposed to be my happy fun vacation time with a happy fun book that I could geek out with my friends about and finally have something to talk about with them that did not involve Foucauldian analysis, Marxist delusions, academic drama or a thesis of any kind! But nooooo. Instead someone’s evil twin shows up and now I have to awkwardly tell all these people I like that I do not like their favorite book.
It’s just that this isn’t a good book! And not even that it's not “good” in some literary way. It is clearly not “good” in that way, and it isn’t meant to be. I don’t hold it to that standard. It does seem to me to be trying to be good in a more old fashioned way more typical for fantasy- it just wants to tell a rollicking good story. But I mean… it is a bad story. I like stories. That’s why I read fantasy, in large part- I like that feeling of the archetypal coming to life in an interesting way that shows the inner workings of the recurring characters that I see everywhere in my reading. I like that sensation of a campfire at night and a bard repeating the history of a people, with flickering flames and drama and shadows and pronouncements that you can only take seriously in that setting and which you’d feel obliged to laugh at in the morning. This is a bad story. It’s cool that Erikson doesn’t need to spend a hundred pages explaining every detail of his world to us (and given how complicated it is, thank GOD for that), but the reader shouldn’t have to stop reading many times in order to try to straighten out what’s going on, who are these random people that keep showing up, how does this new demon or magic fit into anything, and most importantly, all important, why on earth should I care?
Erikson definitely did not manage to make me care. It’s largely a function of the fact that there is such a huge cast of characters, and he spends so little time developing any of their personalities. When there is some sort of “inner reflection” by a couple of them, or “feelings”, it seems shunted in there to give his epic quest one of the elements an epic is supposed to have- it feels like he’s impatient with people being, you know, people, and would rather get back to telling me about this super cool magic battle with a demon he just invented that just popped out of nowhere. It was almost like people were necessary vehicles for him to create his fantasy world, but that cool names, and “Houses” and ranks (Son of Darkness, Knight of Darkness, Queen of Light) were the real point of the whole thing. People are there for him to be able to have fights. Honestly? It seemed like it was kind of constructed like an RPG game a lot of the time. Here is an action sequence. After this, your hero may explore this world and pick up coins and treasure to increase his value, there is an epic quest, but you can choose to get sidetracked by a bunch of others that involve various gods and spirits. Then in between each quest there’s that part where the game stops to give you an expository scene that advances the plot and you just watch, and then you take control back and go on to the next action sequence. Eventually you come back to the big quest and kill off the Big Bad and YAY YOU WIN! I can certainly see the appeal of this construction as a game, but I think as a book it doesn’t work so well, at least, not for me.
It certainly didn’t help that in addition to the off putting construction and the poor character development, the dialogue was absolutely laughable (incredibly stereotypically exactly what satirists make bad fantasy writing sound like), the plot was ridiculous, he pulled a new thing out of his ass every five pages because… well.. because... His world building was incomplete, too. It felt like you could never trust it because he could just change it on you a minute later because he felt like it. He doesn’t hold himself to any rules. It’s like when you’re trying to make up an excuse on the fly for why you were late for something: “I forgot my keys, and then I got caught in a traffic jam, and then I passed that and there was some truck that had dumped bunnies on the roadway and I had to help save the poor things, and then I was almost here when all of a sudden Elvis appeared from the dead, riding an elephant and… well that’s why I’m late and its totally okay!” There’s no suspense because the main characters are sure to be resurrected (the alternate dimension rebirth had me laughing so hard I was crying), and the bad ones are either off screen, introduced late, or dumb. There’s some attempt at shades of grey with one character (the Adjunct) but he tells me what the point is, straight out, about five times, just to be sure that I get it, and its not that interesting a point anyway so it kind of ruins it. I liked the climactic end battle, but I swear to you even while that battle was going on, he was introducing new magic and people and not just going with the hundreds he already had after 600 pages of setting things up. If an author feels the need to do that instead of relying on the payoff from the 600 pages he already has… not good news. Not good news at all.
I don’t know, I almost kind of feel bad saying all this. It feels like I’m making fun of someone who’s just so excited to tell me about all this cool stuff he thought of that he forgot to put it in a coherent order. It doesn’t mean that the individual ideas he thinks of can’t be cool, he just hasn’t figured out the other stuff he needs to make it interesting as well as cool. But still… lest we forget. HEELS, ERIKSON. HEELS.
Yeah, still not over that. Next date, if there is a next date (I’m sensing some peer pressure coming my way from my crafty friends), I’m showing up in sweats, half tired and in the mood to watch reality TV. Something tells me things might go better that way. ...more
"Now these ashes gave grown cold, we open the old book. These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen, a frayed empire, words without warmth. The hearth has ebbed, its gleam and life's sparks are but memories against dimming eyes - what cast my mind, what hue my thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen and breathe deep the scent of history? Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath. These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again. We are history relived and that is all, without"Now these ashes gave grown cold, we open the old book. These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen, a frayed empire, words without warmth. The hearth has ebbed, its gleam and life's sparks are but memories against dimming eyes - what cast my mind, what hue my thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen and breathe deep the scent of history? Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath. These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again. We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all."
Dark times have set upon the Malazan Empire. Nine years ago, the Emperor Kellanved was murdered and his most loyal followers purged by a ruthless and ambitious woman called Surly, formerly the Commander of the Claw, now known as Laseen, 'thronemaster'. Under the rule of their new empress, the Malazans have spread their empire across the known world, and now the war rages in distant Genabackis. With the Siege of Pale coming to an end, Laseen's attention turns towards Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities...
The first tale of The Malazan Book of the Fallen takes place almost exclusively in the cities of Pale and Darujhistan, and their immediate surroundings. Yet despite of that, the book manages to encompass an enormously wide range of different characters and storylines, all occurring simultaneously. And not only that, but all the time, the reader gets subtle hints that are easily missed about events yet to come. Of course, Steven Erikson has become rather infamous for all this.
The characters were pretty standard. There were a few I enjoyed greatly (most importantly Adjunct Lorn, Kruppe and Anomander Rake), another handful I liked well enough, and a whole lot I found to be completely one-dimensional and uninteresting. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, for such a situation must be expected from a book with as many characters as this one.
The writing style is a matter for debate. I know many people like it (and I've also heard that there is a lot of development throughout the series), and while I wouldn't call it bad, I cannot say that I liked it either. Erikson's style, as stated by the man himself in the introduction, is both fast-paced and dense. That made this feel like a book I should have been able to read a lot faster, but where I had to force myself to go very slow in order to avoid missing anything. So sometimes reading the book caused a minor headache, not because it was confusing (I actually don't think it was), but because I had to read it like I would a university textbook. Looking away from all that, though, the writing itself is okay. Not particularly impressive, but still good. The chapter introductions, however, were simply amazing. I always like quotes and excerpts from in-world texts introducing chapters, and when those come in the form of poetry, it's even better.
Let me talk a little bit about the setting then, which is by far the greatest strength of this book. The continent of Genabackis is a land of many different nations and cultures, and it seems that each and every one of them has a developed history. From the Moranth to Darujhistan to the lands of the Pannion Seer, Erikson has created a setting that's astonishingly enjoyable to read and learn more about. Add to that the Tiste Andii, the T'lan Imass, the Jaghut and all the other non-human races, and the fact that there's a whole world out there waiting to be explored and nine more books to do it, and this reader for one is definitely happy with the latest fantasy universe he's been given the chance to see.
I also felt like there was an advantage in having read the whole Chronicles of the Black Company before venturing forth into this series. Glen Cook is according to Erikson his most important source of inspiration, and it is already quite easy to see connections between the two series in this first novel. Genre-wise Erikson follows in Cook's footsteps and both the setting, the writing and the characters are similar to the ones found in the world of the Black Company.
So in the end, I really liked Gardens of the Moon. There were intriguing stories, fascinating legends of old, epic duels between powerful wizards and mythic creatures appearing from the realms of the gods. I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would, but pretty close to how much I expected I would. It is still far too early to see if this series will become one of my favourites, but I certainly intend to find out.
i feel like i'm being pretty generous in giving this 3 stars. okay, it is my good deed for 2011. now don't say i never did nuthin' for you, steven erikson!
the cons: so much, where do i even start. (1) the dialogue is a joke, a sad flailing uncomfortable joke, the kind that just goes on and on and i start to look away from the joke teller in embarrassment. corny corn, beyond belief. (2) and the characterizations - so flat! so trite. and when they weren't trite - just entirely unrealistic. there ai feel like i'm being pretty generous in giving this 3 stars. okay, it is my good deed for 2011. now don't say i never did nuthin' for you, steven erikson!
the cons: so much, where do i even start. (1) the dialogue is a joke, a sad flailing uncomfortable joke, the kind that just goes on and on and i start to look away from the joke teller in embarrassment. corny corn, beyond belief. (2) and the characterizations - so flat! so trite. and when they weren't trite - just entirely unrealistic. there are literally no stakes to the character of Paran because he literally has no character. the attempt to establish him as a speaks-his-mind kinda guy falls totally flat when you see him act like a jackass to the number 2 most powerful person in the land and then to some kind of Master of the Assassins. he also acts like a jackass to GODS. there is a difference between admirable pluckiness and the kind of bizarre behavior that is a sign of mental unbalance. (3) i hate when non-human species act like humans in costume. that is lazy writing. or unimaginative writing, take your pick. this happens with at least a couple non-human species.
the pros: the imagination on display. except for characterization, erikson's imagination is actually a little breath-taking. this is a fascinating and incredibly complex world. so many fertile concepts, just one after another, almost overwhelming at times. for example: an insane wizard trapped in the body of a puppet, running around various dimensions... about a half dozen non-human species, many of whom seem genuinely alien (the two i mentioned above being the notable exceptions)....a great sense of scope, of so many larger things happening throughout so many places... a floating moon palace! the world took a while to understand, but slowly but surely i was taken in and reading the novel turned from a frustrating experience to, in the last third, a truly pleasurable one. the last part of the novel was read in a big rush - i felt like i read my eyes out that night. in the end, despite my issues, i am now really looking forward to reading more of this series. besides, depth of character & excellence of dialogue are not absolutely necessary for my own enjoyment.
also, the author clearly favors larger women. two big ladies are represented as very attractive, enticing even. that was unusual to read and i loved it. as far as the ladies go, i think erikson must have great taste!...more
This is my second reading of Gardens of the Moon. I’ve long suspected that the best way to read Erikson’s Malazan series is to read it again. I can now confirm that suspicion has been proved correct as far as this book goes. I loved rereading this book. There were so many times reading the series initially that I felt certain information and story arcs and characters just came out of left field. But having read this first book again I am astounded at the sheer level and volume of foreshadowing cThis is my second reading of Gardens of the Moon. I’ve long suspected that the best way to read Erikson’s Malazan series is to read it again. I can now confirm that suspicion has been proved correct as far as this book goes. I loved rereading this book. There were so many times reading the series initially that I felt certain information and story arcs and characters just came out of left field. But having read this first book again I am astounded at the sheer level and volume of foreshadowing contained right from the beginning.
As a first time reader it is almost impossible to conceive of the notion that the author trusts the reader to discover the mysteries of a story for themselves. One of the things I like about whodunit stories is the quest to discover the answers simply from the clues given in the plot. But even then, most such stories still end up withholding just enough information so that there was no way to discover the story from the clues. Well this book turns that idea on its head. You get ALL the pieces to the puzzle(s), and when you have enough pieces, Erikson assumes you also have the answers. Erikson spends very little time and often none with confirming whether you were right or not. Confirmation are mostly implied or inferred by dialogue and/or what happens next.
I remember on my first read that I spent about a third of the book thinking “this guy couldn’t write to save his life.” But around halfway when I figured one of the mysteries of the book all by myself the penny finally dropped. Erikson was trusting me to figure things out, but I hadn’t been trusting him to give me what I needed. And from then I was hooked on the Malazan universe.
Thankfully that first time around, during the initial phases of the book Erikson’s style of writing included some fantastic imagery as well as some of the most badass action sequences ever that kept me coming back. There are some fantastic scenes that you could paint in detail as picturesque snapshots I’m thinking in particular of the epic mage battle over the city of Pale with the sky fortress hanging overhead and waves of power reigning down carnage. I’m thinking of mage assassins battling on the rooftops of Darujistan. I’m thinking of lords of war free falling from the sky to engage their enemies. Dragons. Tyrants. A possessed puppet for goodness sakes! And my personal favourite for snapshot poses of pure awesomeness – Anomander Rake – with his two handed sword that sings with the sound of thousands of enslaved souls.
Apart from the snapshot imagery – there are also some very intriguing characters. The Bridgeburners in particular Quick Ben. Then there’s Shadowthrone and The Rope and the Hounds of Shadow. And who can forget Magnanimous Kruppe who has a weak spot for pastries and employs his vast talent and magery to lift cakes and sweets vacuum cleaner style as he walks through the markets of downtown Darujistan.
One of the difficulties I had the first time round is that I had trouble caring about any of the characters. Part of that maybe that there is such a vast cast and the narrative doesn’t impose on you who to side with in the conflict. But mostly I realise now was because I wasn’t paying attention. Very little of the detail in the writing exists purely for background or to simply set the tone of the book. Most of what you read is significant in some way. Erikson wastes few words. If a character briefly notices something in passing, it’s your cue to pay attention. By the time I cottoned on to this fact I had already missed so much and lost a lot of continuity. And I knew it. And I can tell you on this reread, the clues and the detail and foreshadowing I missed the first time round is staggering. I’m getting answers that alluded me through the series in this very first book. They were there hidden in plain sight all along!
So, I say all that to say, this re read was a different and far superior, more enjoyable reading experience than the initial read. And the level of detail is such that I think I could read this again and still get further revelations. As such I am re-rating this from 4 stars to a very firm ...
Gardens of the Moon is the first in Steven Erikson's gargantuan and oddly named fantasy series, Malazan Book of the Fallen. What's odd about it is that it took me THREE tries to get through this first volume. The first two times I tried, I got one or two hundred pages in and just lost interest, mainly because I was confused and didn't know what was going on. But the third time I tried it just clicked and I enjoyed it. Figuring out why this is the case took some thought, and I believe it boils doGardens of the Moon is the first in Steven Erikson's gargantuan and oddly named fantasy series, Malazan Book of the Fallen. What's odd about it is that it took me THREE tries to get through this first volume. The first two times I tried, I got one or two hundred pages in and just lost interest, mainly because I was confused and didn't know what was going on. But the third time I tried it just clicked and I enjoyed it. Figuring out why this is the case took some thought, and I believe it boils down to two basic and interconnected reasons.
First, Erikson has an extreme "show, don't tell" kind of style. The very first chapter dumps you head over heels into the middle of an epic storyline full of action, with hardly any exposition at all. There's no narrator saying "Okay, there's this nation called the Malazan Empire, and they've been engaging in a protracted military campaign against a group of allied Free Cities. We're going to enter the story as the Malazan forces prepare to attack one of these cities, which has formed an alliance with this one badass dude who controls a flying fortress. Now, let's talk about the structure of the Malazan military..."
No, none of that. Instead, after a brief prologue where you eavesdrop on a few characters, you get action action action and you're left to yourself to figure it all out by paying close attention and making your own inferences based on what's said and done. This is mainly what put me way off balance on my first two attempts at reading this tome.
The offsetting effects of show-don't-tell style are exacerbated by something else Erikson does: he eschews many of the typical fantasy staples that usually act as guideposts to new readers. There's a reason why not many books stray from the formula of a hapless youngster being apprenticed to an elder wizard or military veteran or adventurer or whatever who guides him through the world that has been opened up to both him and the reader. It allows the author to slyly provide exposition about the world by having the master explain things to the apprentice while the reader just sort of listens in. And going along with all that, other fantasy staples act as familiar sign posts and landmarks so that you don't get lost.
Not so much with Erikson. Sure, his books have wizards and dragons and dudes on horseback slinging swords around, but in general Erikson's world is different enough that you don't necessarily know what's going on, and his staunch adherence to the show-don't-tell method means you gotta figure things out on your own. What's a "warren" and what does it mean when a wizard "enters" one to perform his hocus pocus? That's not explained. Figure it out. Or don't. It's all on you, hapless reader.
But eventually I did figure enough of it out, and in time I began to see both Erikson's style and his kicking of conventions to the curb as good things. I enjoyed the story and the richness of the world that he was building. If I've got one complaint it's that at least in this book Erikson can't seem to help upping the ante with how powerful each character or threat gets. Okay, here's these really frightening and legendarily powerful Hound things and --oh, okay, this even tougher dude with a big black sword just killed three of them. Guess they weren't that tough. But this wizard is really powerful oh, no he just got stabbed in the neck by an assassin chick who's apparently even further to the right on the badassedness curve. Now here's a demon king fighting a dragon while a pissed off demigod is kicking over mountains like they were sandcastles RRRAAAWWWWOOOOEERRAAHH PEW! PEW! PEW!
After a point it borders on ridiculous, but fortunately there are a number of more mundane (and more interesting) characters to tether things down a bit. I look forward to seeing where he goes with it all in the subsequent books....more
"Every decision you make can change he world. The best life is the one the gods don't notice. You want to live free, boy, live quietly."
Great advice anytime, but even better advice when your world is in a constant state of war. Living large as the younger generation used to say. I'm sure I'm at least a few years out of date with that term. I think someone "living large" is exactly who the universe is most attracted to, not that it is above toying with the occasional poor bastard who just happen"Every decision you make can change he world. The best life is the one the gods don't notice. You want to live free, boy, live quietly."
Great advice anytime, but even better advice when your world is in a constant state of war. Living large as the younger generation used to say. I'm sure I'm at least a few years out of date with that term. I think someone "living large" is exactly who the universe is most attracted to, not that it is above toying with the occasional poor bastard who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For it does seem as if something bad has to be happening to someone all the time, and it only seems prudent to make small arm motions. In the Malazan Empire neutrality is nonexistent. You must choose a side, sometimes a different one depending on the prevailing winds, but being in the middle just means the whole bristling array of creative weaponry is pointed at you instead of half. Even if you choose wisely your ability to stay alive long enough to drop the next generation of squalling infants is based more on dumb luck than skill.
If I lived in Genabackis I'd be looking for the most inhospitable chunk of icy sheep shit encrusted land that I could find. I'd be thrilled about the sheep shit because that would mean that there is something shitting; ergo, something that could land in my stew pot. The point being, to be somewhere, that has little or no value...equivalent to say an Indian Reservation.
The emperor is dead and the empress is intent on bringing all the city states under her control. There are The Crimson Guards, The Bridgburners, The Claw, The Tiste Andii, The T'lan Imass, and The Barghast to name a few of the military organizations and different cultures involved in this conflict.
Did I mention this is an epic fantasy series? Is there magic you might ask? The air is absolutely nose twitching foul with the smell of casting spells. There are warrens that zip those of a magical aptitude from one end of the country to the other. There are mages, there are gods (bunch of ninnies), there are evil cast off creatures that are slumbering waiting for a chance to enslave the world, there are hell hounds, there are enchanted sword blades, magical coins, possessed marionettes, and assassins. I know, I know if I were reading this I would be thinking not for me. I'm not a Dungeons and Dragons kind of guy. I don't play video games. I don't as a rule read fantasy books. I absolutely LOVED this book; in fact, I loved it so much I think I may have been hit with a book love potion spell, so keep that in mind when you think about adding this to your reading list.
I've read the reviews, and one of the main points of concern to those that did not like this book is the massive, record breaking number of characters that are thrown at you. It is true. It is as if you have went over to Steven Erikson's house and there he is with his group of geeky (to not type cast they could be employed people too) buddies and they have been engrossed in this role playing game for the last 10 years with evolving rules and characters and you are dropped right in the middle of their latest epic struggle expected to assimilated ten years of evolution in ten minutes.
For the first few chapters my brain was reeling like a drunken sailor on leave in Shanghai. After I realized that I was drunk, I did what I always do when I find myself in such precarious circumstances. I relaxed and let Erickson's world flow over me, around me, through me, in me until suddenly everything starting clicking into place. For whatever reason Erickson with a few descriptive sentences locked characters into my head, so even when they disappeared for twenty chapters I could still remember who they were when they became crucial to the plot again. This could all be a residual symptom of the book love potion as well.
I think another problem that might occur for readers is to read a bit and leave it for a week. I could see how threads of the plot would become tangled or lost and the frustration for the reader would increase exponentially. It is a book that might be assumed to be a light pleasure read and that would be a big mistake. I read this book every day until I finished it. Family must be attended to. Work was an irritation that had to be endured, but these imposed absences heightened my pleasure once I escaped back to the Book of the Fallen . I had to find out what happened to Tattersail. Like the Mazalan Empire there is no way to be neutral on this book. You will either love it or absolutely hate adore despise relish it. My fingers... are not... completely... under my control.
I'll leave you with a scene from the book.
"Whiskeyjack's gaze strayed to one of the beds, on which lay his armor and longsword. Rust stained the hauberk's tattered chain like old blood. The links were missing in some places, torn in others. In his bones and muscles the memory of that damage remained: every cut, every blow now haunted him with aches, greeting him each morning like old comrades."...more
There is no spoon-feeding here. You are thrown into the world that Erikson created with no back story or explanation. Although there is a glossary of important terms and people. I suggest putting it to good use, like I did.
Nothing is clear from the start, but once you start getting invested and reading between the lines, you start to notice how truly amazing this book is. There are a lot of characters, and despite finishing this mammoth book I feel like I have bThis was a tough book to get into.
There is no spoon-feeding here. You are thrown into the world that Erikson created with no back story or explanation. Although there is a glossary of important terms and people. I suggest putting it to good use, like I did.
Nothing is clear from the start, but once you start getting invested and reading between the lines, you start to notice how truly amazing this book is. There are a lot of characters, and despite finishing this mammoth book I feel like I have barely begun to scratch the surface of who they are.
However there is a lot of action, and it is done well. After struggling with the start of the book I suddenly found I could not put it down.
Stick with it. It will be worth it. I truly enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the next one!...more
Gardens of the Moon is an ambitious, dense and challenging book. The reader is dropped into a world with thousands of years of history. A history of war, politics, violence and intrigue. A world where the gods themselves scheme and battle for power. Names, places and concepts are suddenly thrown at the reader without any attempt at simplification … and it was this difficulty that ultimately made this book so rewarding. If you can persevere through the challenges this book throws at you, you’ll rGardens of the Moon is an ambitious, dense and challenging book. The reader is dropped into a world with thousands of years of history. A history of war, politics, violence and intrigue. A world where the gods themselves scheme and battle for power. Names, places and concepts are suddenly thrown at the reader without any attempt at simplification … and it was this difficulty that ultimately made this book so rewarding. If you can persevere through the challenges this book throws at you, you’ll realize that this is also a book filled with complex, interweaving narratives, deep world-building, a massive cast of well-written characters and gripping action that brilliantly sets the stage for the rest of the series.
From the start Gardens of the moon drops the reader into a complex world filled with mystery and intrigue. Erikson makes no attempt to help the reader, instead trusting that they will be able to figure it out for themselves. Much has been made of this aspect of Erikson’s writing and it is possibly the most important element of this book, the beginning of a 10 book series. Having heard from so many of my friends that this was an incredibly dense and difficult read I think that my expectations ultimately worked in my favour. While I struggled a bit early on, by the mid-way point I felt that I had a decent grasp on the main plot (although there was still a load of stuff going on in the background that was hella confusing) and towards the end I really appreciated how the seemingly unconnected arcs were converging and how brilliantly they wove together in the finale.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen about this book was about the lack of depth in the characters. While some of the characters, especially towards the start of the book, were unremarkable and somewhat repetitive I still thought the massive cast of characters in this book was handled well. Captain Paran and Tattersail started out as pretty uninteresting characters, however towards the end Paran improved and Tattersail’s plotline went in an interesting direction. The Bridgeburners were a likeable group of characters despite being a somewhat clichéd portrayal of tough, veteran soldiers with Whiskeyjack being an especially familiar personality. Anomander Rake was an enigmatic and intriguing character whose scenes were consistently amongst the most interesting in the book (view spoiler)[ and HE TURNS INTO AN AWESOME DRAGON!!! (hide spoiler)]. I thought the characters really picked up when the setting moved to Darujhistan and an interesting new group of characters were introduced. Kruppe, the cherubic egomaniac who likes to refer to himself in the third person and is much more than he seems. Croakus, the young thief with a romantic streak. Murrilio, whose integrity and skill with a sword belie his appearance as a fop. And Rellick Nom, the assassin clinging to the one last shred of honour that makes him human. The complex and ambitious story that Erikson tells doesn’t leave much room for depth or agency from his characters but they were still well-written and admirably played their parts in this epic story.
The slow, hard-fought discovery of knowledge about Erikson’s world, politics and characters was extremely rewarding and among the best aspects of this book, however I was often frustrated by the lack of information about magic. This was especially important due to the prominence of magical battles in this book. With little knowledge of how magic works in this world or how powerful any given character is, encounters and battles between hostile mages were often needlessly confusing. At times it felt like Erikson just wanted to throw ina series of increasingly badass sorcerers, dragons and gods.
While this book was slow and confusing at the start it picked up as it went along. By the time all of the important characters had been established half-way through I had been dragged into the story. It was especially interesting to see all the different storylines converging and overlapping towards the end. The intensity of the finale more than made up for the slow opening. While some aspects seemed somewhat forced and overdramatic (view spoiler)[ e.g. after spending half the book hyping up the Jaghut tyrant as an important plot point and central villain it was quickly killed off and a previously unmentioned demon brought in as a second, even bigger threat (hide spoiler)] it was still a suitably epic ending to this ambitious book. Erikson’s skill at writing taut battle scenes (view spoiler)[ such as Anomander Rake bodying aforementioned demon (hide spoiler)] was another cool part of this book and served to off-set the usually ponderous plot development.
Overall this was a really enjoyable book and an extremely promising start to this series. I’d recommend this to any fan of fantasy. This book was often slow, confusing and difficult, and should not be taken lightly. However the development of ambitious, complex storylines, the extensive cast of well-written characters and the intriguing, slowly revealed world made this one well worth the effort. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Technically speaking I read this book and the Ice and Fire series as work-related research. I think that the cover alone might have been enough to scare me off otherwise. This book is quality, though not *great* fantasy fare. By and large I enjoyed it in the role of fantasy geek; my more literary aspect was full of frowns as smiles throughout the course of it.
The book is not well written; specifically, it is bad prose written by someone who is very intelligent, but lacks an ear for poetry, or inTechnically speaking I read this book and the Ice and Fire series as work-related research. I think that the cover alone might have been enough to scare me off otherwise. This book is quality, though not *great* fantasy fare. By and large I enjoyed it in the role of fantasy geek; my more literary aspect was full of frowns as smiles throughout the course of it.
The book is not well written; specifically, it is bad prose written by someone who is very intelligent, but lacks an ear for poetry, or in fact, language in general. The names are atrocious (and to think I complained about G.R.R. Martin's names!), and the sentences are disjointed in a kind of technical way that often left me rereading them because I had somehow missed the sense in them as I grappled with their structure. There is a good deal of poetry prefacing the book and every chapter, and it is quite bad. Not just because it doesn't rhyme, but because it too is disjointed, and all too often it seems to be making a smug in-joke for the author, rather than informing the reader's understanding of the book.
To complement the actual prose style, the story to be told is not an easy one to jump into. For the first fifty pages I had no idea what was going on, and seventy-five pages after that I had just the beginning of an inkling. Granted, The Sound and the Fury presents a similar level of disorientation, but I won't belabor this review with a list of reasons why Erikson is not William Faulkner.
All of that said, the story is a good one. Ultimately, it feels a bit like historical fiction, except set in a fantasy version of history. The characters don't have the depth, or interest, or, well, *character* you'd get from the greats of fantasy, or of literature in general. But the history feels real, and the way that individuals are played upon by such greater forces has enough of a grain of truth to it to be compelling. Erikson does not create the immersively accurate-feeling world that George R.R. Martin does, but he often alights on a writerly detail or artifact that gives his world considerably more depth than it would otherwise have.
Lastly, the fantasy geek in me was entirely satisfied by the fantasy part of the book. Erikson's model for magic is intriguing (and feels slightly video-gamish to my eyes, actually). He has done the courageous thing and largely departed from the old Orks'n'Elves pabulum. Although he has analogs to some of these things, he has created his mages, monsters, and non-humans afresh. Of course, their names are over complex, unpronounceable, and generally intractible. But still.
By the books end, you get the feeling that Erikson has made the opening move in a game of chess; or, to try another metaphor, that he has presented us with a prelude, chosen his instrumentation, a key, and the major themes of movements to come....more
A year or so ago someone PM'ed me on Goodreads out of the blue, practically demanding why I haven't read the Malazan series. I was simultaneously pleased and annoyed, the former because somebody seems to think I am some kind of SF/F guru who can be presumed to have read every worthwhile book in these genres, the latter because it's a bit rude init? Still, a backhanded compliment is better than no compliment, or an actual application of somebody’s backhand on my person.
Gardens of the Moon has a rA year or so ago someone PM'ed me on Goodreads out of the blue, practically demanding why I haven't read the Malazan series. I was simultaneously pleased and annoyed, the former because somebody seems to think I am some kind of SF/F guru who can be presumed to have read every worthwhile book in these genres, the latter because it's a bit rude init? Still, a backhanded compliment is better than no compliment, or an actual application of somebody’s backhand on my person.
Gardens of the Moon has a reputation for being a “tough read”, which is intriguing because fantasy has always seem easily accessible to me. I seldom select books which are generally viewed as challenging, usually I just like to kick back and read (my idea of leisure reading). Still, the Malazan series is often included in lists of all-time great fantasy novels*, and I do like to keep up with the genre Joneses. So two years after languishing in my TBR list Gardens of the Moon arrived at the top of the pile, I think it’s something to do with stars aligning.
This is indeed a tough read, not in the sense that Ulysses or Mrs. Dalloway are tough. Those are post-modern novels with experimental narrative style. While it is quite well written there is nothing particularly experimental about the prose style of Gardens of the Moon. The difficulty lies in how the author, Steven Erikson, throws the reader in at the deep end of his complex world. I could not make heads or tails of the prologue. Who? Why? What? I suspect that if I had simply soldiered on through the next few chapters things would have gradually fallen into place. However, I am somewhat impatient, I wanted to understand the book right from the first page. I already knew there are online sources for this series so I went to Tor.com’s “Malazan Reread of the Fallen”, where they have done chapter by chapter summaries and analyses, which I found to be extremely useful. So I read their summary of the confusing prologue, and then went back to read Chapter 1 of the book, then read their summary of that chapter, the same back-and-forth process again for Chapter 2 and 3. By the time I was reading the fourth chapter the training wheels came off, I no longer felt the need to keep referring to Tor’s summaries any more.
Gardens of the Moon is set on an unnamed world mostly dominated by the expansionist Malazan Empire. The narrative is told from multiple characters’ points of view, some working for the Malazan Empire, some working to defend their homeland against it. Fortunately for me, the novel is not about armies clashing on battlefields, but about individuals doing their duties for their side, be they spies, assassins, mages, alchemists, or thieves. Beside warfare on the mortal level, there is also a concurrent warfare between gods and immortals. It is not clear who are the “good guys” because there are central “POV” characters from both sides of the conflict, and they all have understandable motivations.
A lot of modern epic fantasy series tend to be “low fantasy”, which simply means “not much magic", so little of it around that a lot of characters don't even believe it exists. Wizards and dragons seldom show up and when they do the mundane characters are generally flabbergasted. This current trend** seems to have started with A Game of Thrones and followed by the likes of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series and Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence. The world of the Malazan series bucks this particular trend. Magic is everywhere in Gardens of the Moon, most fights involve magic usage, and at least half the characters seem to wield magic of some kind. The way magic functions in this series is quite interesting, magic requires a power source called “warrens” which are both power conduits and hyperspace-like shortcut passages.
Gardens of the Moon features a huge cast of characters, so big that Erikson felt obliged to provide a “dramatis personæ” at the beginning of the book. Some detractors of the book say that the characters are flat or not well developed, this surprises me a little because some of the main characters are vivid, complex and believable. However, as there are so many significant characters that some are inevitably less successfully developed than others.
Though this book is a little hard to get into once I became familiar with the setting and the characters I find Gardens of the Moon to be quite fast paced without a dull moment. I imagine the next book in the series Deadhouse Gates will be much less challenging because I am already familiar with the setting and the author’s style now. I can’t say I feel committed to reading all ten books in the series, but I am looking forward to the next one. Gardens of the Moon is a lot of fun and I am tempted to rate it at five stars but in all good conscience I cannot because it may require more patience, effort and concentration than some readers are willing to allocate. I have to admire Erikson’s moxie though, for writing such an uncompromising first book in a series, I like that he credits the readers with quite a lot of intelligence (probably excessive credit in my case!). It is a gamble which seems to have paid off as the series is one of the most popular of the epic fantasy genre. ____________________________
Executive Summary: This is not a book for the faint of heart, or the first time fantasy reader. Mr. Erikson makes you think, and READ. No skimming allowed. Every word can be important. It's certainly not for everybody, but if you stick with it, I think most people will find their efforts greatly rewarded.
Full Review This is a case of, you were right Good Reads recommendation engine. Why didn't I listen to you?
Shortly after joining good reads last year and putting all my books in, I checked outExecutive Summary: This is not a book for the faint of heart, or the first time fantasy reader. Mr. Erikson makes you think, and READ. No skimming allowed. Every word can be important. It's certainly not for everybody, but if you stick with it, I think most people will find their efforts greatly rewarded.
Full Review This is a case of, you were right Good Reads recommendation engine. Why didn't I listen to you?
Shortly after joining good reads last year and putting all my books in, I checked out the recommendations page. This book was prominently listed based on several of my shelves. I read the description, and some of the reviews, and wasn't too impressed and moved on.
Fast forward about 6 months and a few of my newly made GR friends were making a group to do a series re-read. A few others decided to join in as first timers. I was convinced to give the series a try.
I'm glad I did. I can't say how I'll feel after all 10 books, but after the first one, I'm hooked!
The group is probably a large part of my enjoyment. I can see this book being very hard to read by yourself. There were a few parts that confused the hell out of me, that were explained to me by people who had been there before.
I'm very much a go with the flow and enjoy the ride type of reader. I'm OK if things don't make sense right away, so long as I get there eventually. Everything that confused me at the start was cleared up by the end. I'm not 100% if that was all book, or our great group discussion, but it doesn't matter.
The book certainly has left me with a lot of questions to be answered, but that's to be expected as the start of a 10 book series.
Mr. Erikson is an excellent writer. His descriptions, characters and language are all top notch. My only (minor) complaint would be that he sometimes seems intent on showing you just how good his vocabulary is.
The highlight for me is the character development. This book involves some very powerful people. And just when you think "wow, what a badass", someone more powerful shows up. I don't know if Dues Ex Machina possible when the gods themselves are part of the cast.
He also paints a very grey picture. One or two chapters in, I started to feel I knew who was "good" and who was "bad". Five chapters in, I had to re-evaluate my initial assessments. I wouldn't be surprised if 2 books in, I re-asses them again.
Mr. Erikson introduces an interesting magical system with his use of Warrens. Unlike Brandon Sanderson who gives you a lot of detail and rules about how magic works, at least through 1 book the details are quite murky.
All and all, a great start to the series. It's a 4, but it's a very high 4, and the ending almost pushes it to a 5 for me. I'm already looking forward to continuing on with Deadhouse Gates in two weeks....more
So I finally got around reading the famous Erikson - finally got around reading the first book that is. This book is definitely not a standalone, but the start of a massive series and, honestly, every paragraph oozes its epicness. You can't miss it!
I had been warned about getting confused and this series being very complicated, but I actually thought it was all right. It's not a fast read, that's true, and you can't skim anything at all. I've also realized that I needed to get my chapters in earSo I finally got around reading the famous Erikson - finally got around reading the first book that is. This book is definitely not a standalone, but the start of a massive series and, honestly, every paragraph oozes its epicness. You can't miss it!
I had been warned about getting confused and this series being very complicated, but I actually thought it was all right. It's not a fast read, that's true, and you can't skim anything at all. I've also realized that I needed to get my chapters in early evening (or even better: Sunday early afternoon) to make sure I could pay attention. Whenever I tried to read this as 'bedtime-literature' - it just wasn't working. Especially the end is a blur of action that made me go "Wait, what happened just now?!" But apart from that, I did not get all that confused, but I guess I'm just not the kind of super-analyzing-reader. I just soak it all in and trust that the pieces are going to fit eventually and that everything will 'click' inside my head. And of course - this being the first book not everything is explained, but Erikson's writing style makes me very confident that will happen eventually.
His writing is definitely very good. Sometimes a bit showing off. After reading the prologue I got a bit scared of the amount of words I had to look up in a dictionary after just 5 pages (here's the list: merlon, tithe, vambrace, accoutrement, sappers, shoal, seditious, gauging and conflagration), but it definitely gets better as of chapter 1. I also like that there isn't going to be any Deus-Ex-Machina here. Just from this one book the amount of foreshadowing has been perplexing - and I'm sure I can only tell about 1% of it right now. It must have been massive work to create the world and all the events before writing the first book!
This is also the kind of 'real' book, where it's hard to take sides. I found myself cheering for so many different people! But my favorite, by a long shot, was Kruppe; he made me chuckle from the very first time we meet him. I couldn't help but adore the little fool who talks about himself in the third person.
"Weren't we supposed to report to Baruk?" Murillio asked, his eyes on his friend. "All in due time," Kruppe said. "First, we must recover from our ordeals. What if Kruppe were to lose his voice in very mid-sentence of said report? What would avail Baruk of that?" He raised his tankard and drank deep.
Or another one:
"Kruppe admits to his own weariness. Indeed, a camp should be found, and Murillio can construct a small fire, perhaps, and so prepare dinner while Kruppe ponders vital thoughts and such."
Despite it being an epic read, there is a enough humour to lighten it all up. One of my favourite scenes is about Tattersail, one of the mages of the 2nd army:
"I am Toc the Younger," he said smiling, "and you need a drink." He poured the glass full and handed it to her. "Often, when we camped on the march, I'd see you lugging that traveling wardrobe of yours around. Now I finally see what was in it. Sorceress, you're a sight for a sore eye." A look of gratitude entered Tattersail's gaze. She raised an eyebrow. "I hadn't realized my traveling wardrobe garnered such attention." Toc grinned. "I'm afraid you've provided a standing joke in the Second. Anything surprising, be it an ambush or an unplanned skirmish - the enemy invariably came from your traveling wardrobe, Sorceress"
I wish I had a traveling wardrobe like that to ponder about while Muriollio constructs a fire and prepares dinner. Dragon fruit scales with moon tear sauce and potatoes shaped like little houses, bon appetit!...more
Yeah, I'm officially calling this one. Time of death: 9:18pm EST, March 6th, 2014.
My interest level in this book has only declined since I started it. That's not unusual for me, considering that I often anticipate a book much more than I enjoy the actual reading of it, but this one... Shit. It wasn't even that it was bad, it was just that it was so fucking all over the place, and I just don't have that kind of patience anymore. Not for a single book that gives me nothing to work with after 300+Yeah, I'm officially calling this one. Time of death: 9:18pm EST, March 6th, 2014.
My interest level in this book has only declined since I started it. That's not unusual for me, considering that I often anticipate a book much more than I enjoy the actual reading of it, but this one... Shit. It wasn't even that it was bad, it was just that it was so fucking all over the place, and I just don't have that kind of patience anymore. Not for a single book that gives me nothing to work with after 300+ pages, and DEFINITELY not for a 14+ book series opening book that gives me nothing to work with after 300+ pages.
I made it to the 54% mark, and then I just gave up when the book started mocking me with calls for brevity. Are you serious, book?! You're going to waste my time by just showing scene after scene of disparate.. well, everything.. bad dialogue that is purposely, maddeningly cryptic (seriously, picture some hooded "mage" type waggling his fingers mysteriously and saying "Oooooooooh...." after every comment from someone in Shadowthrone or Hairlock), and giving me exactly zero story... and then after more than 300 pages, with nearly that much left in the back half, you're going to have your most annoying character crack a joke asking for BREVITY after reading a whopping 3 paragraphs of a historical document he's reading?
To quote Eminem: I just do not got the patience.
To add to that I seriously could not care less about every single one of the characters. There was not a single character that I would even notice was gone if they were to just drop out of the narrative. In fact, quite a few of them were characters I wished WOULD just drop out of the narrative.
Well, I say "narrative" as though there's something stringing this together, but that's just for a lack of a better word. "Story" doesn't apply either. There's no story to speak of... it is just a collection of scenes and events that occur in the same "world". None of it makes sense and none of it gives me hope that there will be anything that will make it worth my time (damn near a month already, and only 300 pages in, FFS!), without committing to 50,000 more pages before there's some cohesiveness.
And so, book, I bid you adieu, and good riddance. ...more
Update 10/19/11. After my second reading I love this book even more. Any confusion I had before was cleared up. And I cannot believe how much more I got out of it. I love the style. The world. The characters. I think this could end up as my favorite fantasy series. Period.
First I have a confession to make. I was a pre teen reading high school melodrama when I picked up my first fantasy book. It was a Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman Dragonlance book. And I quickly fell in love with the world of eUpdate 10/19/11. After my second reading I love this book even more. Any confusion I had before was cleared up. And I cannot believe how much more I got out of it. I love the style. The world. The characters. I think this could end up as my favorite fantasy series. Period.
First I have a confession to make. I was a pre teen reading high school melodrama when I picked up my first fantasy book. It was a Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman Dragonlance book. And I quickly fell in love with the world of elves and dragons. Now that I'm older I can see some of my sentimental favorites do not hold up well with a series like A Song of Ice and Fire, a series I like a lot, but there's a younger part of me that still yearns for why I fell in love with fantasy to begin with. This book is a merging of my two personalities. Yes you are dropped in the middle of a strange world without a road map. But like any trip getting there is half the fun. And there are surprises around every bend. A fantasy for adults that does not apologize for being fantasy. Okay maybe the book could've been better, I admit getting confused a few times, but I honestly couldn't have enjoyed it more. And that's the reason I read what I do.
This was the hardest I had to work at a book in a long time. There are so many characters, magics, peoples, gods and shear volume of information that I had difficulty keeping track. This diminished my enjoyment a little bit. Also the author doesn't ever definitively give you an answer to situations. There is enough information to draw a conclusion but I still don't have any ideas if the conclusions I've drawn are correct. I don't mind working a little for a good story but I wish I had read a fewThis was the hardest I had to work at a book in a long time. There are so many characters, magics, peoples, gods and shear volume of information that I had difficulty keeping track. This diminished my enjoyment a little bit. Also the author doesn't ever definitively give you an answer to situations. There is enough information to draw a conclusion but I still don't have any ideas if the conclusions I've drawn are correct. I don't mind working a little for a good story but I wish I had read a few reviews and knew that going in.
Regrets: That I tried to listen to this on audio. There is so much information that I really needed to jump back and forth to the glossary to figure out who was talking and saying what. Also the chapter format jumps to multiple PoV in each chapter and it was difficult to follow along with on Audio.
I didn't even begin to really like the story until about 50% in. There number of characters made it really difficult to become attached to anyone and I still wasn't sure who or even if there was a side to root for.
Hopes: This is a completed series and it seems after reading a few reviews that on the second read everything makes much more sense and things from this book flow through the rest of the books. So I hope that knowing I will need to approach my reading a little differently I will enjoy future books a little more with less confusion.
Suggestions: Tor re-read of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Good chapter summaries with a lot of the finer points being discussed in the comments section. You might find that a good supplement to your reading.
I like this book a lot. The author says he was inspired by Glen Cook's Black Company, and it shows. This is not an easy read. There are a lot of names to keep track of, places, races, etc. The glossary of major players in the beginning helps a lot; my advice for new readers: use it every time you encounter a new name, or forgot who this once mentioned person is. It does not help that as soon as a subplot gets really exciting (fortunately, this happens a lot), the author switches to another, muchI like this book a lot. The author says he was inspired by Glen Cook's Black Company, and it shows. This is not an easy read. There are a lot of names to keep track of, places, races, etc. The glossary of major players in the beginning helps a lot; my advice for new readers: use it every time you encounter a new name, or forgot who this once mentioned person is. It does not help that as soon as a subplot gets really exciting (fortunately, this happens a lot), the author switches to another, much slower moving subplot. The ending was slightly anticlimactic.
Having said this, the book was impossible to put down, and people say this is the weakest book in the series. A lot of events, action sequences, people, backstabbing, were very memorable.
The Malazan Empire is conquering last of the Free Cities on a continent. Finally, only two of them is left. One has a good army, strong leadership, a lot of high-ranking wizards, and an ally whose ancient forgotten magic is unrivaled. The second city does not have any army except for city watch, the leadership is corrupted to high heaven, and is torn by internal conflicts. The city with good defences fell first. Most of the action of the book is centered on the aftermath of this battle and intrigues related to upcoming conquest of the second city.
The problem is, there are a lot of groups with different interests related to it (I actually lost count of them). Some want this city to still remain independent, some want for Empire to conquer it, some want for peaceful takeover by the Empire, some want to destroy it, yet some want to destroy the whole world starting with (you guessed it) the city. Considering the range of actors - from humble humans to gods (yes, gods play active parts in there), it is extremely complicated affair.
For fantasy fans who are not afraid to tackle complicated plots my advice: read this book now....more
Steven Erikson's first entry in the ten book series The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a promising opening entry for the series. It is also to me a masterclass in how to create entertaining gritty fantasy fiction. There were visible flaws in dialogue and it took a brief time to adjust to the novel's unique method of showing events but once I did it was very much worth it. I feel that over the next nine novels everything will improve even more and have some sense of wrapping up in a conclusion. Th Steven Erikson's first entry in the ten book series The Malazan Book of the Fallen is a promising opening entry for the series. It is also to me a masterclass in how to create entertaining gritty fantasy fiction. There were visible flaws in dialogue and it took a brief time to adjust to the novel's unique method of showing events but once I did it was very much worth it. I feel that over the next nine novels everything will improve even more and have some sense of wrapping up in a conclusion. That said I am not sure that Gardens of the Moon is for any reader, but if you like fantasy try this book. If you particularly want something a little different from the standard Tolkienesque fantasy and liked Martin's Game of Thrones then try this for something a little between the two.
When I say between the two this is what Gardens of the Moon is: a precisely calibrated and well balanced novel with a lot of potential in terms of vision and scope. Erikson creates a world with history, magic and mythology that runs according to its own laws and precepts, and he does a brilliant job of writing such a world.
The premise for this initial book is that the Malazan Empire holds control of most of the known world save for one area which resists. A long and brutal war is being fought to overthrow this final bastion against the Empire: the city of Darujhistan. The Empress sends her Adjunct to see that this final city falls. And so the Adjunct plans to unleash ancient and uncontrollable sorcery to see that this occurs. But of course the old gods have different ideas and so they pick characters to perform roles for them. Think of the political scheming of Game of Thrones but on the level of deities rather than kings.
The writing style of this book was interesting. For the most part Erikson writes like many other fantasy authors, at times reminding me of Martin or Sanderson but certainly writing in his own way. Every so often a more fanciful piece of prose would enter the story and I would notice with interest (particularly after just having read How Fiction Works which mentions how prose sometimes slips in which does not adhere to the rules of the narrative). In many ways this revealed that the book was certainly a first novel by a talented author; minor flaws existed but the story idea was strong and so I look forward to seeing the improvement. I quite liked the poetry that begun each new chapter I must admit also, this fascinated me and added to the legend or epic feel of the book.
Why read fantasy if not for the fantastical elements? This is a question that I would ask of any fantasy reader. Erikson's world certainly has many fantastical elements whether it be the various human and non-human races, the assassins, the magic weapons and the magic system with warrens. Or more fascinatingly the list of gods and heroes. I loved the fact that this work made the gods such a physical and intangible presence at the same time.
If you want to read epic fantasy reminiscent of ancient mythology but with a definite contemporary feel then Malazan's opening chapter is the way to go. I for one will be reading the following books and enjoying every chapter.
As for a brief update I wanted to reflect upon the fact that while some may believe Erikson's writing to be terrible I disagree. He is certainly, at least not from this first volume, a natural storyteller (at least, his prose reads a little awkwardly and he lacks a little talent in building a hook to pull the reader in). Also calling it complex is a let off for Erikson when compared to far superior epics or philosophical ventures. That said, the scope of his story is interesting and there is far greater depth to my view than as with other fantasy authors - not that that excuses Erikson either. I was ultimately willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for the main reason that in the end it is part one in a long series and many people in the loop have advised me that. However, there is a warning, if you are not the kind of person who wants to read books in the long spiralling or winding vein of G.R.R Martin or Robert Jordan then I recommend wisely staying away. While I do believe it is snobbish to look down on certain books and readers I do also believe that to ignore a book with the understanding that you would not appreciate it is not snobbish but rather, wise selection of reading material....more
Well, I finally finished. It did get better, although it took more like 200 pages to do so. I was never more than mildly interested, though, and I really didn't like it enough for it to have been worth the pain of the beginning.
The problems with this book as I see them:
- The author seems to think it makes things mysterious if he doesn't explian what he's talking about. The result is you're halfway through the book before you can picture anything in your head. - Character development is an afterthWell, I finally finished. It did get better, although it took more like 200 pages to do so. I was never more than mildly interested, though, and I really didn't like it enough for it to have been worth the pain of the beginning.
The problems with this book as I see them:
- The author seems to think it makes things mysterious if he doesn't explian what he's talking about. The result is you're halfway through the book before you can picture anything in your head. - Character development is an afterthought. - No effort is made at the beginning to introduce the reader to the world. He just jumps in, so you have no idea who or what all these people are for half the book. - In general, the writing isn't engaging. Even after the story started to pick up, it was likely to lull me to sleep.
I wouldn't recommend this book unless you're one of those people that only cares about how complicated the fantasy-verse is.
------------- I'm trying so hard with this one... I would have already given up on it except that people have said it gets good after the first 100 pages. It's putting me to sleep, though....more
Let me state right at the beginning that I am typically not a fan of fiction series. Too often, I have begun a series or made my way through the first two books in a series only to find that the writer ran out of steam (and new ideas) somewhere along the way. Being a writer, I understand this. Sustaining the intensity required to write one novel for any length of time is difficult. Being a reader, I've been bitten one too many times by this lack of staying power on the part of several authors. NLet me state right at the beginning that I am typically not a fan of fiction series. Too often, I have begun a series or made my way through the first two books in a series only to find that the writer ran out of steam (and new ideas) somewhere along the way. Being a writer, I understand this. Sustaining the intensity required to write one novel for any length of time is difficult. Being a reader, I've been bitten one too many times by this lack of staying power on the part of several authors. Needless to say, I picked up Gardens of the Moon only after carefully reading dozens of reviews here on Goodreads and elsewhere. Seeing the blurb by my friend Paula Guran under the front cover clinched it. Paula has discriminating tastes in fiction and won't pin her name on a book that doesn't deserve it. And so, I ventured forth.
For a book of 657 pages (of story), Erikson's novel read very quickly. This author has a good handle on how to keep the pages turning and how to move from character to character without seeming too choppy and without getting bogged down in one person's story. That isn't to say that Gardens was entirely glitch-free, particularly when it came to characters' actions or reactions. In fact, this is the first of my two criticisms of the novel: because so many sub-plots are being juggled here, and since we have such infrequent contact with all the players, there seem to be gaps between some characters motivations, reflections, and action. The most blatant example of this was manifested in Lorn, who takes a sudden swing from the disciplined, hardened Adjunct to a melancholy brooder on the self-destructive nature of human society on about page 427. I see where Erikson is trying to go with this - showing the struggle within Lorn's heart between loyalty to the Empress and feelings of responsibility for harm she has caused and the terror she is about to unleash. But it all seems so sudden, without precedent and without enough jarring of her experience to even cause her to consider questioning her past, present, or future actions. Whiskeyjack is also forcibly turned (by no other agent than the author's whim, it seems) toward a previously-absent sense of hope in humanity around page 500. This (newly-discovered?) sense of optimism just sort of pops out of nowhere. It's far too intense a feeling for the words and thoughts that preceded it; thus it feel disingenuous.
I suppose that Erikson felt he must show some kind of foil to the fatalism that permeates the work. There are no paladins in this book and very few heroes. Even those whose actions are informed by a sense of duty are often twisted by the service they give. And no one is quite what he or she seems. Masks abound, figurative and literal, and some of the characters are even masked from themselves, which creates a nice feeling of dramatic tension throughout the book.
The second flaw in the book is the muddled identity of the many non-human (more appropriately, "quasi-human") races that play key roles in the book, whether as individuals or as entire peoples. I had a very difficult time separating them out from each other. Maybe, after repeated readings, I'll get it all straight. But even the glossary was of little help and, in fact, added to my confusion regarding which races were which. Other than a few mentions here and there, racial characteristics were rarely mentioned. When they were, they were so far removed from other mentions of these characteristics that I found myself thumbing back through to try to find where that race had been mentioned before. I failed miserably. Frankly, the Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the novel and the Glossary at the end were not enough. I even went to the Malazan website to try to get enough information about the races to be able to visualize them in my mind, but to no avail. This book needs an index.
Now, given those two flaws, I hasten to say that these are the main reason that I gave this book only four stars instead of five. This is one of the better fantasy books I've read in some time. Yes, the characters could have used some more fleshing out, but I'm expecting to see some of them in later volumes in the series. Overall, I quite liked them. I was particularly enamored of Kruppe, whom I really hated when he was first introduced, not because he's a despicable person, but because the syntax of his dialogue ran counter to everything that preceded it. As the story went on, I saw why Erikson had portrayed Kruppe in this way and, in fact, learned to appreciate it. I also liked the outright wickedness of Hairlock and the conflicted internal struggle that Tattersail went through (which seemed much more believable than Lorn's internal struggle, mentioned above). I have to say, though, that Circle Breaker, one of the more mundane of the minor characters, was my favorite. He filled the role of "everyman," a working-class character who is eventually rewarded for good, old-fashioned hard work . . . of a sort.
The world of Malazan is a fully-fleshed out world, and Erikson does a good job of presenting its richness to the reader by using the dialogue between characters who have obviously known each other for some time to open windows to past events and cultural history. Some characters are famous enough that it is assumed that anyone in this milieu will know of them and their exploits. Casual bits of information about these characters are thrown about in bars or in private conversations, almost as an afterthought. But since no one is quite what they seem, it is only through seeing the characters' actions that these larger-than-life heroes'/antiheroes' legends are verified. Anomander Rake is a prime example of this. He definitely lives up to all the hype.
And so does the novel.
I am a man of limited time. I don't enter into a series lightly, and I will bail out at the first sign of fundamental weakness I detect. I simply don't have the time to waste on bad books. For now, though, Erikson has me hooked. Time will tell if he stands the test of time: timelessness. So far, so good....more
This was my second read of Gardens of the Moon, I had read the book in June 11 so it was relatively fresh in my memory. I remember when I was half way through this series thinking to myself, i cannot wait to start this again. I was less than 5 pages into this re-read when i realised just how much I was going to enjoy the story with the knowledge I had.
Erikson is a brilliant story teller, There are a number of 'Epics' out there, to be honest, there probably needs to be another honorific that traThis was my second read of Gardens of the Moon, I had read the book in June 11 so it was relatively fresh in my memory. I remember when I was half way through this series thinking to myself, i cannot wait to start this again. I was less than 5 pages into this re-read when i realised just how much I was going to enjoy the story with the knowledge I had.
Erikson is a brilliant story teller, There are a number of 'Epics' out there, to be honest, there probably needs to be another honorific that transcends Epic. This story, you have to factor the whole story when discussing the Epicness of this, is unlike any other i have read. You'll read much about how hard it is, how lots have tried and given up, how Erikson loves his descriptive prose etc etc But at the end of the day, what Erikson does is create a world with lots of shit happening in it. He then opens a portal and drops you in it. There is no backstory, there is no slow introduction of characters, it is here and now and you'd better start concentrating.
I remember when Twin Peaks first came out, I remember half of my friends thinking it was the best thing they had ever seen, there was bizarre stuff, mysteries, weird clues and it didn't get resolved at the end of the hour, hell there was a possibility it might not get resolved. The other half of my friends hated it, absolutely hated it with a passion. There was not many fence sitters. The haters did not like the fact that, sitting on their couch, relaxing with a glass of wine and then having to work hard to gain enjoyment/ nah! not their idea of entertainment. Malazan Book of Fallen is a lot like that.
Erikson will not give you any free passes with this book, he will tell you what is going on and start to slip in clues about why it is happening. As the characters unveil plots and gain information, you gain it too. There is no God view here. So why does this make a brilliant book? Why does this become more than an epic? i'll tell you why, because you feel a sense of achievement as you read this book, your mind is being forced to work and not just process words flowing across a page, having the story spoon fed to you. Why the hell did an Elder God just suddenly appear after hundreds of years of inactivity? Did you not remember the discussion about sanctifying temples? Yeah, neither did I at first.
Erikson has the ability to create a world that seems very much real. Characters who develop personalities that you can identify, he needs to be able to do this because by the end of the story you know 500 characters and be able to describe each one. There is a downside to this realism. The book can be very violent, if you want descriptive world building you get descriptive battle and gore. It can be grim at times, but this is a shitty grim world. You have a army marching across the world conquering. Hundred thousand troops marching from one place to another is not a Contiki tour of Europe, this is a nasty world where the population live in fear of war and death. Being in a conquering army is a awful life most of the time, there are moments of brightness, but Erikson doesn't hide the badness of it all.
I always recommend this series to people, I know most won't stick with it, that's ok, I understand not everyone wants to invest in the story like you have to do with this. But when I meet people who have read the books....happy times, you will NEVER have a moment where you have nothing to say to each other. You'll find you can talk for hours on the subject that is Malazan.
If you are planning on reading this book and would like help in understanding the story. The group The Fallen, has a discussion thread chapter by chapter, in fact some of the threads are longer than the bloody chapters themselves. it is likely that if you have a question, it has been asked and debated to death here. The group is VERY strict on spoilers, so each thread is chapter specific.
I struggled with what to rate this book because I went through so many different emotions whilst reading it. This is unlike any other book I've read in that not only is the world ridiculously layered and the plots intricately woven, but much of the story is dictated by chance and luck and there's all sorts of thrilling and unique scenes within this.
We follow a whole cast of characters and are constantly picking up more as we go through the story. Some of my favourites from within this book are: -I struggled with what to rate this book because I went through so many different emotions whilst reading it. This is unlike any other book I've read in that not only is the world ridiculously layered and the plots intricately woven, but much of the story is dictated by chance and luck and there's all sorts of thrilling and unique scenes within this.
We follow a whole cast of characters and are constantly picking up more as we go through the story. Some of my favourites from within this book are: - Tattersail - a mage who is embroiled in a plot and is a rather likeable character despite hints at a darker past. I thought her use of the Deck of Dragons was truly interesting and her plot took a fair few twists I hadn't expected making it exciting. - Kruppe - a slightly barmy and eccentric character who refers to himself in 3rd person, has peculiar dreams, and is relied upon by many. He's a truly intriguing character and probably the most fun character for the way that he views life, himself and those around him. He seems to have many secrets and hidden motives, but at heart he seems nice. - Sorry - a young girl with a heart of ice, she's dark and scary, yet there's a reason for her cold nature. She's a very intimidating presence to all who meet her and I found her story to be one of the more moving out of all of the characters for the amount she goes through. - Whiskeyjack - a head of the Bridgeburners, a savage, yet soft character with a good number of people to manage and control. The Bridgeburners as a whole all interested me as they were all great characters in their own ways, but Whiskyjack just appealed to me because of his honesty to himself and the way that his life has warped his views and made him slightly doubtful of any form of redemption. - Crokus - I did enjoy this young thief's character a lot because he's a fresh perspective who learns a lot at the same time we do. His story took off with a flying start and he's a charming young boy when he wants to be.
There are so many, many more that I could mention and equally there's as long of a list I could give you of character whom I passionately hated! There's a whole host of very powerful, dominating, scary characters. There's mortals, Gods, Ascendants and other races. There's Dragons and beasts, Warrens of magic and mystery. Everything in this book has meaning. There's foreboding with almost every other sentence, there's intrigue with all that's hinted at. There's so much going on at all times that even the most mundane scene might come back to haunt you.
If I had to describe the plot I wouldn't be able to because I'm not even sure I know any where near to the full extent and ramifications of what happens within this book. The number of plots and storylines is large, and they all interconnect in interesting, innovative and vibrant ways. I would say that there are some very action-packed scenes which were shocking, dark, brutal and imaginative. Equally there are some much slower and calmer scenes with lots of dialogue and mystery.
This book has a bit of everything, and I liked that. I enjoyed letting the story wash over me and engulf me and not trying to figure everything out straight away. This isn't one of those books where I was waiting for the ending as I knew it would be explosive, it was a book where I enjoyed the journey, I enjoyed following the characters and seeing what they're doing and where they come from. Everyone is questionable, it's not black and white, and it's an adventure to read a book like this, but also an undertaking.
This isn't a light read and so if what I have said in my review up until now doesn't appeal then I wouldn't recommend it. However, if you like a challenge and enjoy a multi-layered, multi-pov book then maybe this is worth a go! It's supposedly the worst in the series so I am anticipating the next one eagerly to see what happens there. A solid 4*s I think because of the enjoyment from the overall read, and I look forward to Deadhouse Gates (book 2) in February!...more
Well...it was a near thing. I was sure for a while that this would be a 4 star read and indeed were I dividing up "parts of the book" much of it would be 5 stars. Several of my friends love this book and it comes highly recommended. I found that while I was sucked in quickly there were many times that I simply lost interest.
This is another epic fantasy told in the time honored style of many points of view. Some of these were very interesting others I found yawningly slow and only got through thWell...it was a near thing. I was sure for a while that this would be a 4 star read and indeed were I dividing up "parts of the book" much of it would be 5 stars. Several of my friends love this book and it comes highly recommended. I found that while I was sucked in quickly there were many times that I simply lost interest.
This is another epic fantasy told in the time honored style of many points of view. Some of these were very interesting others I found yawningly slow and only got through them to find out what I needed to know.
Well conceived and elaborate this is an epic that will be one some of you will not be able to put down and will run out (or have run out already) and snap(ed) up the following volumes.
As a matter of fact I'm curious about some of what's coming....just not all.
What can I say (without spoiler that is)? This is a book I'll definitely suggest that if you are a fantasy and especially if you're an epic fantasy fan you pick up and try yourself. I drop my rating to 3 as a few times I was driven to skimming forward, but I would say a high 3 as much of the book is enthralling. The magic system(s) the warriors, the assassins, the political interplay.... all are well done. I simply found at times much of the writing seemed to me a bit, "overdone". There is also the matter that I just couldn't stand a few of the characters (Krokka [think I got the spelling wrong but you'll know the guy]).
So really...try this one for yourself. Parts are excellent and from the number of 5 star and 4 star ratings many think all of it is.
Wish I'd enjoyed it more. I sometimes suspect that getting involved in long running epic fantasies may be more likely when you're younger... I don't know. Try this one yourself. The books just don't really appeal to me. ...more
Over the years a lot of my old favorites have failed to stand the test of time and have disappointed me when the time for a re-read has rolled around. I'm happy to say that, despite the near 14 year gap between my two reads, Gardens of the Moon was as good value for its 5 star rating this time around as it was the first time I read it. It was an incredibly entertaining book. It had almost everything a fantasy fan could wish for. Fantastic world building, a complex plot, a huge cast of charactersOver the years a lot of my old favorites have failed to stand the test of time and have disappointed me when the time for a re-read has rolled around. I'm happy to say that, despite the near 14 year gap between my two reads, Gardens of the Moon was as good value for its 5 star rating this time around as it was the first time I read it. It was an incredibly entertaining book. It had almost everything a fantasy fan could wish for. Fantastic world building, a complex plot, a huge cast of characters each with their own set of motivations and goals, an incredibly cool magic system, fantastic action scenes featuring battles that were both mundane and sorcerous in nature, dragons, demons, strange non-human creatures, and a whole bunch of meddlesome gods! To top it all of Steven Erkison has a fast paced and engaging writing style that makes this an incredibly enjoyable read.
It is often said that Gardens of the Moon is a hard book to get up to speed with initially, and I'm not going to argue with that assessment. Erikson provides a Dramatis Personae at the start of the book which I found very helpful to consult for the first third of the book just to help me keep track of the vast multitude of characters, places, and how they all related to each other. Once you get to know the characters and the settings the book progresses at a fast pace.
The story featured a whole host of great characters. I found Paran the most likable, Kruppe the most entertaining, and Anomander Rake and his sword the most intriguing. That said Quick Ben, Sorry, and the dead god Krul all deserve an honorable mention.
I loved this book and have been totally sucked into Erikson's Malazan world. I'm glad this is a lengthy series as I cannot wait to see how the various ongoing story arcs develop.
Rating: 5 stars!
Audio Note: I was not a big fan of Ralph Lister to begin with, but I warmed to him as the story progressed. I'd have chosen different voices for some of the characters, but his Kruppe was perfect.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it,
click here.Update, 7/1/13: I finished listening to the Brilliant Audio version of GotM (ISBN-13 978-1-4692-2570-8) as performed by Ralph Lister. I don't have anything to add to the substantive comments I've made here and elsewhere about the Book of the Fallen but I would like to remark on the quality of the reading. Overall, I think Lister does a pretty good job but some of his voices were just "off." The most egregious of these mischaracterizations is - IMO - Kalam Makhar's. Described as a large man withUpdate, 7/1/13: I finished listening to the Brilliant Audio version of GotM (ISBN-13 978-1-4692-2570-8) as performed by Ralph Lister. I don't have anything to add to the substantive comments I've made here and elsewhere about the Book of the Fallen but I would like to remark on the quality of the reading. Overall, I think Lister does a pretty good job but some of his voices were just "off." The most egregious of these mischaracterizations is - IMO - Kalam Makhar's. Described as a large man with rippling muscles, Kalam is voiced with a high-pitched, nasal whine that brings to mind a cowering wimp, always wringing his hands and looking worried. In my head, Kalam will always speak with more of a Barry White/James Earl Jones timber than anything else.
Well, I finished my third go-around with this book this week. After four+ years it still stands the "test of time" and I don't regret the 5-star rating. After 9 books averaging 500-700+ pages per, it's impossible to explain the story-so-far in anything less than a novella-length review but for the uninitiated the overall plot revolves around the Crippled God's plans to end to his pain in an apocalyptic denouement that will bring down gods, Ascendants and mortals. Twirling around that common theme is a number of subplots spanning dimensions and enormous time periods but that are all tied together in their common source in the god's plan to end his and everyone else's existence.
In Gardens of the Moon, in addition to being a good story in its own right, we're introduced to some of the major players in Erikson's world, including the Malazans (Whiskeyjack, Dujek, Quick Ben, etc.) and the Tiste Andii (Anomander Rake), as well as its "physics." One of the more attractive features of this series is that Erikson has thought about how magic works. Even though he hasn't elaborated the rules explicitly, you know there're rules, which become clearer as the series progresses.
The top four reasons to read this series:
1. The Malazan Empire and the world it inhabits is utterly engrossing and original and realistically complex. Erikson creates a world familiar enough to readily grasp yet alien enough to be interesting, betraying a well constructed and thought out background that approaches the Tolkienesque ideal.
2. Erikson has created enough interesting characters and story arcs that even if you don't like some (for example, I'm not a fan of the Tiste Andii plot nor that of the Beddict clan), you know he'll get back to a favorite relatively soon.
3. Good writing. IMO, obviously; I know from other GR reviews that others don't share my POV. I particularly enjoy that Erikson assumes his readers are intelligent, and he doesn't get bogged down in a lot of explanatory text or dialog. It does mean a reader can get lost for a while but the ultimate payoff is worth it. And, rereading the series, I'm having fun recognizing the clues the author scatters throughout the text that become full blown plots later on.
4. Each novel is essentially a standalone. True, it helps immensely to have read the previous works but each volume follows a particular tale in the "Book of the Fallen" (which title's significance has become clearer now that I'm in the midst of #2 - Deadhouse Gates - following the Chain of Dogs) and has a resolution. (Book 9 ends in a cliffhanger, I'm told, but I'm willing to forgive Erikson much as the war against the Crippled God culminates in #10.)
The one thing I've noticed (& remember), however, is that Erikson has an annoying tendency of killing off my favorites - to whit:
Tattersail: I carry quite a torch for Tattersail, and though she was reborn as Silverfox, the relationship was never quite the same. Whiskeyjack: I assume Erikson is aware of where this name comes from: It refers both to a species of jay (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_Jay) and is a corruption of the name for an American Indian trickster god (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisakedjak). Trull Sengar: I was awfully PO'd when Erikson killed Trull. He figured prominently in several volumes and I had grown to love him like an alter ego. Coltaine: For me, The Chain of Dogs is probably the most "intense" episode in the series so far, and Coltaine one of Erikson's more interesting creations (the moreso in that we see so little of him, sort of like his men in the Seventh Army). He, too, has been reborn but at the time of his reappearance in Esslemont's Return of the Crimson Guard, he's still a toddler. Duiker: Yes, I know, he's only dead for a short time but after his return, Erikson seems to have forgotten about him. Disappointing because, like Trull, I had come to know and love him as an alter ego....more
I truly can not recommend this book enough. Though Erikson's style of plopping down right in the middle of the story might throw some people off, I appreciated the lack of obvious exposition as we switched from view point to viewpoint and patiently wait for the pieces to 'click' together. Yes, there is a large cast of characters, and yes, you will have to refer to the list of them at the beginning of the book, but when it all clicks into place it is a truly wondrous world. It's also important toI truly can not recommend this book enough. Though Erikson's style of plopping down right in the middle of the story might throw some people off, I appreciated the lack of obvious exposition as we switched from view point to viewpoint and patiently wait for the pieces to 'click' together. Yes, there is a large cast of characters, and yes, you will have to refer to the list of them at the beginning of the book, but when it all clicks into place it is a truly wondrous world. It's also important to remember that this book was a rewrite of a screenplay, and that the rest of the series was written ten years later. That makes the writing of this book a bit different than the rest of the series.
__________________________ Upon my reread, I have to say all the scope and wonderment was in here the whole time! SO many more details now shine through as foreshading of things to come!...more
One of the things I loved about this book was that the plot and its many sub-plots are a continuous mystery. You the reader are solving this "mystery of the plots" throughout the book. Who did what when and where. Erikson does not spoon-feed you a story with a nice begining, middle, and end. You must work for the details of the plot. I like this challenge. I found it refreshing and would not spoil it for anyone. However, when people saw that I was reading GardensWHY THE LACK OF A PLOT SUMMARY -
One of the things I loved about this book was that the plot and its many sub-plots are a continuous mystery. You the reader are solving this "mystery of the plots" throughout the book. Who did what when and where. Erikson does not spoon-feed you a story with a nice begining, middle, and end. You must work for the details of the plot. I like this challenge. I found it refreshing and would not spoil it for anyone. However, when people saw that I was reading Gardens of the Moon, people didn't ask me what it was about or even if I liked it. They asked me the following:
IS IT AS DIFFICULT AS EVERYONE SAYS IT IS? -
I don't believe it's difficult. I believe it's challenging and intense. You have to be ready to immerse yourself in the world of Malazan because since you are solving the "mystery of the plots", you need to be looking for the clues. Did I mention you don't always know what the clues are?? And they are hidden in plain sight somewhere on the 487+ pages!! The first half of the book was much more slower of a read, but as I gathered my clues and began to remember the MANY proper names and places, the reading sped up. But I could never have read this book as fast as I could my other books on a first reading.
WAS ALL OF THIS DEDICATED READING WORTH IT? -
YES, Erikson drops you off in the middle of place called Pale that has just been devastated by a sorcerous battle and you must start figuring out what is going on. BUT Erikson's world is magical; magical in that he describes it as if he has lived there all his life. He gives you histories, and founding peoples, and City councils and much more. YES, I was still looking at my list of humans and non-humans and gods, etc up until the time I finished the book. BUT these characters are all so fully developed, I felt like I knew them and there is not one that I could not imagine myself meeting because I can see them so clearly in my head. I couldn't rate the book less than a 4 just on the strength of his world and characters alone. And there are thieves, assassins, and spies, oh,my!
RECOMMENDED TO -
People who enjoy military, heroic, epic fantasy. People who enjoy a fantasy where they are not spoon-fed every piece of the story and don't mind mindfully reading. Not recommended to people who don't like books with violence, unless you don't mind skipping over parts (which I've mentioned is difficult to do in this book!)The violence is offset by an understated humor that Erikson has that was just my style and I found worth reading through the violent parts for.
This book has it all - swords, sorcery, immortals, hounds of death and even an insane marionette mage!! What more could you want from a fantasy based series? This is simply a superb book and a great introduction to the Malazan world.
Not sure what all the previous posters are on about concerning the first 200 pages being bewildering or hard to get into - I was well and truly hooked by the time I got to page 200! A must read if you're into the fantasy genre.
Have you ever watched an episode of "The Twillight Zone" where you really weren't sure what the hell was going on but kept with it anyway? Reading Gardens of the Moon was like that for me, but with each turn of a page my joyful experience grew like a snowball rolling down a mountain in Omtose Phellack.
I thought this book was a fantastic start to what promises to be a truly epic fantasy series. I was a little apprehensive about starting this series due to the sheer size of the cast of charactersHave you ever watched an episode of "The Twillight Zone" where you really weren't sure what the hell was going on but kept with it anyway? Reading Gardens of the Moon was like that for me, but with each turn of a page my joyful experience grew like a snowball rolling down a mountain in Omtose Phellack.
I thought this book was a fantastic start to what promises to be a truly epic fantasy series. I was a little apprehensive about starting this series due to the sheer size of the cast of characters and detailed setting, but Erikson does a great job of easing the beginning "Malazan" reader into his series while concurrently confusing the hell out of them.
*I highly recommend this book and series if you enjoyed George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series....more
Steven Erikson is the pseudonym of Steve Rune Lundin, a Canadian novelist, who was educated and trained as both an archaeologist and anthropologist. His best-known work is the on-going series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen.
“Tell me, Tool, what dominates your thoughts?' The Imass shrugged before replying. 'I think of futility, Adjunct.' 'Do all Imass think about futility?' 'No. Few think at all.' 'Why is that?' The Imass leaned his head to one side and regarded her. 'Because Adjunct, it is futile.”
“Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat.”