Review: Gardens of the Moon. The Malazan Book of the Fallen 1 by Steven Erikson

Gardens of the Moongardens

752 pages
published in 2005

1. Gardens of the Moon
2. Deadhouse Gates
3. Memories of Ice
4. House of Chains
5. Midnight Tides
6. The Bonehunters
7. Reaper’s Gale
8. Toll the Hounds
9. Dust of Dreams
10. The Crippled God

Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Anomander Rake, the Malazan Empire simmers with discontent. Its legions yearn for some respite.
For sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners, and Tattersail, surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the dead. But Empress Laseen’s gaze has fallen upon Daruhjistan. For this ancient citadel, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, still holds out against her.
However, the empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…

This is one of the most complex books in probably the most complex series I ever read. I finished the whole thing a few years ago and by now re-read Gardens of the Moon.

In the first part of the series the reader gets introduced to the always expanding Malazan Empire that is in the process of conquering city after city and gaining more power day by day. Gods, Wizards, Ascendants, men and ‘elder’ races fight for supremacy.. and often keep to the shadows.

After the first 200 pages, I didn’t have a clue what was going on or what this whole thing was about. The author throws a bunch of different characters at us, as well as historic dates, events and nothing made sense to me! Also, what are warrens and who is this guy again and why the hell is he there..? As a non-native speaker, I had to read veeeery slowly and carefully, as the style of writing was sometimes very challenging. I had to concentrate to not just miss important information etc. This got much better with time though.

Anyways, I almost gave up on the book then, but am happy that I kept on reading, as I was rewarded with a complex, very detailed world that is incredibly massive and just plain awesome. I came to like the style of writing, especially the dialogues were just great and always kept me intrigued. I found a lot of my favourite quotes in the book.

Steven Erikson spent many years preparing his epic story and it is noticeable. Every stone, every city has its history and there are no blanks, there is no missing information. Everything is real and realistic. The author developed his own magic system, which centers around the so-called ‘warrens’. There are different ones with different aspects (e.g. Denul: the warren of Healing) which can be accessed to wield magic, but are also paths or complete different world. Gardens of the Moon doesn’t give too much information on how the warrens work or how many there are, but it will get introduced to the reader little by little. I didn’t get a lot of things when I read the book for the first time and it was all a bit annoying, although I still liked it. It was just too big to grasp sometimes. A lot of things are not made clear, which is probably what the author intended – to not give all the secrets away immediately, but it was quite frustrating sometimes.

I love the setting Erikson created, like the floating mountain fortress Moon’s Spawn or the city Darujhistan which seems so alive and detailed. What I love even more are the characters. Yes, there are a lot of them. A whole lot. Maybe too many. Also, a lot of different perspectives. Me personally, I didn’t mind it as I like many different pov’s. Sure, I have my favourites and least favourites, but in general, it helps the story.

Erikson developed a lot of new races, like the T’Lan Imass or Tiste Andii, that are a little different than your average elves and orcs. I thought that all of his characters are very well thought-through and multi-dimensional. They all have different hopes, feelings, motives and a lot of it is not revealed immediately. There’s a lot of plotting, killing and backstabbing. It’s pretty gory and disgusting, so if you are not a fan of that, stay away. Although there are some characters with better intentions than others, there are no real ‘good’ heroes. Everyone has their good and bad sides and what I like a lot is, that no one is safe. Even main characters can die.

It’s especially the characters that made the book and the whole series worth reading for me. I fell in love with so many of them. There’s Quick Ben, an obscure and mysterious wizard, whom we get to know more and more throughout the series. His partner Kalam, who starts out as an assassin and a lot of the Bridgeburners and soldiers in general, as they are mortals trying to survive in a world of gods & monsters.

Although there’s a lot of focus on drama, war and violence, the series contains a good portion of humorous scenes. Especially the soldiers crack me up!


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