mark monday's Reviews > Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
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Mar 15, 11

bookshelves: fantastickal

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 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!
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 58) (58 new)


message 1: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy fat bottomed girls you make the rockin' world go round...


mark monday get on your bike and ride!


message 3: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy I can't get that song out of my head now!


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm anxious to see what you'll think of Deadhouse Gates. I think it's far superior to Gardens of the Moon (though I loved it as well)


message 5: by Michael (new)

Michael I heard the first book was a little difficult to get into, but then it picks up and the series was supposed to be fantastic. Are you going to continue with the series?


mark monday yes!


Lori (Hellian) I'm in the middle of the 10th and final. This is the best series I have read, the proof being my obsession. I never reread stuff, but I am excited to reread this again. It will have even more meaning. Intense stuff. And yes, it just gets better and better. Note the the next is with different characters. I think - some of them go off on completely separate parts of the continent. At first you may be dismayed - you want to continue with Whiskeyjack et al - but then you get so involved that by the next book when you get back to those characters from the first, you'll be dying to get back to the newer ones! And so it continues, and then it slowly all comes together. Ahhhhh.


mark monday thanks lori, this is very good to hear. i'm looking forward to being in this world for a long, long time, yahoo! aren't there even spin-off series & novels?


Duffy Pratt The characterizations improve as he goes on too.


message 10: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Broderick One thing I would say in defence of the characterisation of Paran, I didn't see him as a "speak his mind kind of guy" so much as a nervous teenager showing off, in the second half of the book there were signs that he was beginning to grow up a little. It's not often you get that kind of character development in a book.


message 11: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday that's a good point Lee. nervous teenager. i will have to keep that in mind the next time i skim Gardens, in preparation for the 3rd novel (where i think Paran returns?)


Lampster65 People I know LOVE this series! Several people have compared Erikson to George R. R. Martin, in that there are no real good guys or bad guys so it is more "realistic". But Martin is the master of characterization, and ASOIAF allowed him to create a tapestry of characters. It is interesting precisely BECAUSE of the characters. The problem with Erikson, his characters are so devoid of personality, I didn't CARE what happened to them! There is no drama if a character is in peril, because I could care less if he lives or dies! By the end of the book, I didn't care if the Empire succeeded or failed. If the BridgeBuilders survive or are destroyed.
Chapters end with lines that clearly indicate a plot twist, but the significance is lost because the meaning is so cryptic. I don't know, maybe if I read this 10-20 years ago I might have invested more of my emotion and imagination in these characters and actually cared about their adventures.
Second, without clearly defined rules for a world's magic, where ANY character can do ANYTHING, there is no drama or tension because they can magically escape anything with the whim of the author. I find this type of fantasy boring.
So too is this "world" created by Erikson, which so many praise as "detailed and developed." Detailed, yes, but I always have the feeling that he throws out details off the top of his head and lets the reader decided the significance and interrelationships. It feel like connections happen more by accident than design.
And for religious reasons, I find the notion of immortal magical races being called "gods" insulting. All powerful beings involved with petty scheming and being duped by mere mortals is just ... stupid.


message 13: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday very interesting points Lampster! i agree with many of them. especially around characterization. particularly this phrase:

The problem with Erikson, his characters are so devoid of personality, I didn't CARE what happened to them! There is no drama if a character is in peril, because I could care less if he lives or dies!


Duffy Pratt Based on Gardens of the Moon, I might also have agreed with Lampster about characterization. But, for me at least, all of that changed a bit in Deadhouse Gates, and then even more so with each passing book. (I'm currently through The Bonehunters.)

On the last point, about religion: I guess that means you don't care much for Greek mythology either. This world simply is not monotheistic at all. And the Gods are not omnipotent, nor omniscient, etc... They are much more like the multiple gods of the Ancients (with varying layers of divinity).


message 15: by seak (new) - rated it 5 stars

seak Yeah, the characterization never gets better, you may even argue it gets worse in fact because there are so many and lots of them just start to run together.

Other than that, the next couple get as breathtaking and tragic as you can get. Love this series and even loved GotM.


message 16: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday for all of my issues with the book (many encapsulated by Lampster), my feeling is still a positive one. i'm looking forward to Deadhouse Gates, sometimes this year hopefully. characterization is pretty terrible, and that is something that i often respond to. but characterization is not everything for me either. erikson does a phenomenal job at world-building in just that first novel, and i got a lot of pleasure from that. lose some, win some.


message 17: by seak (new) - rated it 5 stars

seak Exactly, and you can't deny this series is pretty unique. I think the lack of characterization, and thus the focus on world-building makes this possibly even more epic; taking out the focus on only one or two (or even more) finite relationships and making a vast history.


Lampster65 Duffy wrote: "Based on Gardens of the Moon, I might also have agreed with Lampster about characterization. But, for me at least, all of that changed a bit in Deadhouse Gates, and then even more so with each pas..."

Not to get into a discussion of theology, since it is just a pet peeve of mine, and a minor nit have have with the book. I love Greek, Roman, Norse and other mythologies! But they are myths that evolved from humans trying to put reason and intent behind the mysteries of their world. The stories are made up after the fact to explain what happened before. In a fantasy story, because the author is omniscient, the gods and powers they wield are exactly as they appear, not a fallible interpretation by deluded humans.


Lampster65 Seak wrote: "Exactly, and you can't deny this series is pretty unique. I think the lack of characterization, and thus the focus on world-building makes this possibly even more epic; taking out the focus on only..."

I do deny it. I haven't read the whole series. My comments are based on GotM, which this review is posted under. Based upon that, I'm at a loss to understand Erikson fans' insistence that this world is more unique, the story is more epic, and the characters are more interesting than, say, Ray Feist, David Gemmel, Greg Keyes, Joe Abercrombie, Dave Duncan, all of which are better story tellers than Erikson. I'd even put Robert Jordan, David Drake, Stephen Donaldson (LOVE the Gap series more than Covenant, btw), Terry Brooks, Michael Morcock, over Erikson although I like the previous list of authors more, but these have all created detailed worlds, populated by memorable characters, and told epic stories about them. And I like ALL of them more than Erikson.
Exactly what is different? Unique? Creative? ... Better, about this book?!
When I read comments like yours, I wonder if a)We read the same book, and b)if you've read any of the above mentioned authors/series.
Again, my comments are based solely upon GotM. My opinion my be changed by later books if I ever get around to reading them.


message 20: by seak (new) - rated it 5 stars

seak Lampster65 wrote: "Seak wrote: "Exactly, and you can't deny this series is pretty unique. I think the lack of characterization, and thus the focus on world-building makes this possibly even more epic; taking out the ..."

GotM still shows Erikson's vast imagination. I mean, there are numerous races, the T'lan Imass are pretty unique - they performed a ritual to live forever and became walking corpses. The history is there and btw, I agreed with you about characterization.

I also agree that this book isn't for everyone, not only because the characters aren't well drawn but because it's so confusing. For me, I loved every bit of it, loved the mystery, the races, the distant lands and especially the magic. I love that he's not afraid to make characters extremely powerful - kinda like superman - and there's always some other powerful being to weigh in as well.


Duffy Pratt Erikson has the steepest learning curve of any fantasy author I've read.

He writes better tragedy than any fantasy author I've read.

The level of machinations of the various characters is deeper and more duplicitous than in other books.

He's less prone to explanation of how his world works than any fantasy author I've read.

He's the most likely author (including GRRM) to kill off a major character.

He doesn't repeat himself.

Over the course of the books, he gives the broadest emotional range of any fantasy writer I've read.

And he has a handful of the coolest characters anywhere, despite other peoples claims about bad characterization. I love Karsa Orlong, Quick Ben, Fiddler, Bugg, Apsalar.

I agree that he'snot for everyone. And Gardens of the Moon is not a representative book. It's very much a first novel by an author who's still learning. I could easily have dumped the series after it, but I'm extremely glad that I did not.


message 22: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday as far as characters go, well, i will admit to a soft spot for that Quick Ben. he was probably the best-developed character in Gardens. i hope he returns in subsequent volumes.


message 23: by Nadine (new)

Nadine Jones very helpful review! I can't stand bad dialogue - so many good books out there waiting to be read, I'll skip this one.


message 24: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thanks Nadine! if you hate bad dialogue (and weak character development), then this book is not for you.

although it does have many virtues tht i really enjoyed. overall it was a positive experience for me.


message 25: by Ryan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ryan It appears that you never even finished the book nor understood half of it. And maybe if you went into his other books you'd get a better idea. Or you just will never get it. Eriksons world is by far, out reaches many fantasy novels, depth of characters and societies. You call the dialogue trite. I think you just dont get it. His character development is amazing far better than soap opera style of Martin. And the dialogue is great. I think this review totally misrepresents the book entirely.


message 26: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday well, we all have our opinions. in my case, my opinion is that you are totally wrong and that your opinion is laughable. if you think the character development and the dialogue in this first book is "amazing", then you really need to read more books, Ryan. there are some amazing things going on, but that is with the world building and certainly not the depth of characterization.

poor little Ryan! such a limited perspective. sorta makes me a wee bit sad. maybe when you reach your teens you'll have more of an opportunity to understand what i'm trying to say.


message 27: by Ryan (last edited Feb 13, 2012 01:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ryan First you say i am welcome to my opinion. Then you insult me. Then you you misquote me. And then you call me a child. Not much room for dialogue or intellectual discussion.

I admit i started with being a little insulting to you as well and i apologize.

I've Read George R.R. Martin's series twice now and still find Erikson writing is more sublime, artistic as well as possessing a greater understanding of human nature. I feel Erikson takes the reader on an exploration of human character. His series is like an adventure down all the different avenues of the soul.

When re-reading it, I found the first book full of little jewels of glittering subtlety.

Erikson changed the fantasy genre for me. I've been reading fantasy for years and was ready to give up until he came along. I highly recommend you read the entire series.

Yes, our opinions are drastically different. That is fine by me.


"Tell me, Tool, what dominates your thoughts?"
The Imass shrugged before replying. "I think of futility, Adjunct."
"Do all Imass think of 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."


message 28: by mark (last edited Feb 13, 2012 02:13PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday I admit i started with being a little insulting to you as well and i apologize.

thank you! i'm glad you realized that. your initial post was pretty insulting and trollish, and so i responded in kind. and so i apologize as well about my own insults to you.

i am on GoodReads to have discussions about books, and your second comment above is much more on my wavelength.

i do disagree with you about Martin, whose ASOIF is something i truly love. have only read it the once though, although i'm looking forward to a reread. anyway, i disagree because i find him to be a superior writer.

who knows though. 2012 may well be the year for Erikson, for me at least. after finding many other things to read, i finally buckled down and bought Deadhouse Gates and plan on reading it sometime in the next couple months. who knows, i may go on a Malazan run, if the second one is better than the first. i did think there were many things of value in that first book.

i liked your choice of dialogue. i think there are MANY examples of really shitty dialogue in the book, but that part you excerpted was great. if memory serves, the ongoing dialogue between the Imass and the Adjunct was actually pretty good.

i also like that you mention that Erikson changed the fantasy genre for you. i think his series did the same for many people. in many ways it is a modern classic.

two questions for you:

- would you say the characterization & dialogue improves as the series progresses, or do you think it stays at the same level as Gardens of the Moon?

- if you had to pick a favorite of the series, which would it be and why?


message 29: by Ryan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ryan Yes i do think it improves as most good authors writing does over time. Do i think Gardens of the Moon is still way beyond most fantasy novels in characterization, dialogue and writing. yes.

Hmmm. hard to pick a fav. I would say anything with kruppe. Gardens of the Moon is definitely one of my favourtie books in the series. Re-reading it was amazing as there is so many subtle messages about the future story and events that you miss the first time around.

And all the books with Tehol Beddict. Midnight Tides, etc. I really just can't name one.

"Ah, but, Kruppe, Gifts are not easily attained, nor are Virtues, nor are Doubts easily overcome, and Hungers are ever the impetus to climbing."
"Kruppe is too clever by far."
~Kruppe's Dream, pg. 166 (gardens)

I'd like to see you show me dialogue from gardens that would bring the books rating down to 3 stars.


message 30: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday I'd like to see you show me dialogue from gardens that would bring the books rating down to 3 stars.

a fine challenge! i still have the book and will do that sometime over the weekend.


message 31: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday I'd like to see you show me dialogue from gardens that would bring the books rating down to 3 stars.

forgot to add... i see 3 stars quite differently than most GR readers. for me, it means what its GR says it means... i.e. "I Liked It". i have given many books that i like 3 stars. books that i do not like get 1 or 2 stars.


message 32: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Broderick mark wrote: "I'd like to see you show me dialogue from gardens that would bring the books rating down to 3 stars.

forgot to add... i see 3 stars quite differently than most GR readers. for me, it means what ..."


I actually think this is one of the great strengths of GoodReads - the fact that our ratings should all be comparable. It irritates me when occasionally people seek to use them in a different way.


message 33: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday i try to let go of the irritation but i can't let go of the confusion. so many people - people i like and respect! - seem to give everything 4 or 5 stars. and when they give 3 stars, they are often compelled to explain why they gave it such a "low" rating (i've even done that myself a couple times). i don't get the hesitation in giving a likeable book 3 stars - it is not a low rating. it does literally mean I Like It, which is far from a negative statement.


message 34: by Nancy (new) - added it

Nancy Guilty as charged...I have a few 3-star ratings that probably should be 2 and 2-stars that should be 1.


message 35: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Broderick mark wrote: "i try to let go of the irritation but i can't let go of the confusion. so many people - people i like and respect! - seem to give everything 4 or 5 stars. and when they give 3 stars, they are often..."

Yes, like you I've been asked to explain why a book "lost two stars" when I gave a positive review. It didn't - it never earned them.


message 36: by Ryan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ryan Lets note that Mark could given it 4 stars or 4 1/2 and if he still stated his reasoning as poor character development and dialogue, i would still disagree. I have no contention with anything but that. So let me retract anything about 3 stars.


Razmatus bad characterization? I disagree - it is just different - if you think he will spend a page just saying hey he is like this and that, that wouldnt be so good, right? instead he lets the characters speak through what they do, how they do it, the whole situation, and not always they show logic - as humans do sometimes

I think he does a pretty good job at characterizing IMO - for example Crokus is done nicely, as a young head-full-of-glory guy... or Kruppe

yes, this is probably the weakest book of the series (I am at Toll the Hounds atm), but still pretty damn good and I remember the characters pretty well, and how they were in here... many of them reflect as far as to this book in Toll the Hounds, and it is still nice to remember all those cool chars from Gardens of the Moon, now all changed and stuff (I really liked Murillio and Rallick Nom there as well :P)


message 38: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday as far as the characterization went, i just thought it was terribly flat & shallow, even cartoonish at times, and often didn't make sense to me - so, unrealistic too. but there were exceptions - i'm forgetting their names now, but the er 'big-boned' sorceress and the black wizard stood out as interesting and well-done.

AND, more importantly, i started Deadhouse Gates a few months ago and loved what i read of it, so i think Erikson improved in the second book. unfortunately i lost that book and have to buy a new copy, sigh.


Razmatus mark wrote: "as far as the characterization went, i just thought it was terribly flat & shallow, even cartoonish at times, and often didn't make sense to me - so, unrealistic too. but there were exceptions - i'..."

the char. was ok IMO, especially considering the damn fast pace . remember the rooftop chase parts for example?

his writing isnt nearly as strong here as farther in the series, true, but he still does a great job... flat? didnt seem that way to me... unrealistic? well, not sure - the characters at this point possess too many secrets and mysteries to the reader to really say... for example Quick Ben - he might think like an almighty macho, but then, at this point, you know only very little of him (he is not that all powerful you might think him to be, as you will learn later in the series)

I guess it was also cos you know so little of many of the characters at this point... y know, this one is like 700 pages of very intense actions and I think that what he said about the chars here is sufficient for me to pursue... and then, he often has much unsaid or better said expressed in between the lines... maybe I managed to find some small nuances that I cant really name right now that some ppl didnt? could be

you could consider Raest for example a bit flat here, but then, considering what happens to him, no real surprise, right?

big-boned sorceress could be Tattersail (although I think she was plump?) or Nightchill (who really might seem flat here cos of the lack of explanation regarding her char, she is a mystery here)... black wizard (dark skinned?) could either be Quick Ben or Anomander Rake?

Deadhouse gates is dead on lol


message 40: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thanks for the names! the ones i was thinking of were Tattersail and Quick Ben. who ended up being my two favorite characters because their characterization had depth to it.

definitely not Anomander Rake - a character who i really wanted to like, but where i was very disappointed by the dialogue and characterization. he came across as very corny to me, and i wanted him to be AWESOME. ah well.

i understand your point about my word "unrealistic". it's a good point. but for me, i am using the word unrealistic to describe what i thought was some very clumsy and corny dialogue. what you are saying about getting to know character motivations better by continuing to read the series does make sense - but that's not really what i'm talking about when i say unrealistic.

Raest? was he the sorcerer who turns into a little puppet? if so... sad to say, another disappointment. i really, really wanted better characterization for him. still, he's an enjoyable character if only because of his various actions and what happens to him. so despite my complaints (i thought he was given weak dialogue and was poorly characterized), he was a big part of what i liked about the novel - the creativity of it all.

i will give you no argument on the action. it was great. that rooftop chase part you reference was super, loved it. i will also give no argument about the incredible creativity of the entire enterprise. Erikson has a very impressive imagination.


message 41: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday oh and "big-boned" is just my polite way of saying that she is a big lady. so yes, plump. plump plus!


Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) I "liked" your review purely for the last paragraph. As far as the cons went, I pretty much disagreed :-)


Duffy Pratt Hairlock is the Mage who has his soul transferred to a puppet. Raest is the Jaghut tyrant who gets released near the end of the book, only to quickly get swallowed up by an Azath house.


Brightlord Sabri I loved Paran!


Mayur Wadhwani first book was the hardest for me to get into. too many characters and too less information about the land.
but as I read the next books I got hooked, and what is best is the 10th book.
this is the best series I have ever read.


message 46: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday that's what I've heard. I have high hopes!


Suraj Loungani Keep your hopes. They're going on an exponential ride. If you continue the series, you shall meet some of (and by some, I mean a LOT) of memorable characters who're just too awesome. Yeah, the first book was flavorless, but you seem to have an eye for good imagination. And the upcoming books are one of the best ever written. Of this world you've seen absolutely nothing yet. And if you've considered re-reading it (you should, after proceeding with the next few books), try a soundtrack in the background. The normal human imagination sometimes needs it to keep track of so much conspicuousness going on at once. If you've started the second, do try a youtube soundtrack that I shall upload. The second book is far superior to this in almost every respect, marking Erikson's epic growth along with his story's. And the second is much about sand, blood, death, despair, war, friendship, basdassdom, betrayal, huge worlds, dragons, tortured children, assassins, Gods and life as a whole, and I discovered some pretty well anime soundtracks and general scores of music which go along well with the setting. Carry on, you shall discover an awesome journey.


message 48: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday thanks for getting me excited about Deadhouse Gates! I fear I've been putting off reading it, although I do own a copy. but your enthusiastic comments make me want to read it right away.


message 49: by seak (new) - rated it 5 stars

seak mark wrote: "thanks for getting me excited about Deadhouse Gates! I fear I've been putting off reading it, although I do own a copy. but your enthusiastic comments make me want to read it right away."

Very much looking forward to your review of Deadhouse where writing keeps up a little better with epicness.


Anthony Vacca I second going onto the Deadhouse Gates. He works out a lot of his technical kinks. The over-arching narration can be cold, but he is more generous with developing characters. Plus one of the storylines is one of the more badass extended action sequences I've read in a fantasy novel. And there's also about fifty more mind-boggling and psychedelic concepts thrown into stew. I'm just picking up the 3rd book now.


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