Thursday, November 3, 2011

Review: Gardens of the Moon, by Steven Erikson

Everywhere I looked there were people saying how complicated and hard Gardens of the Moon (and the Malazan series as whole) is to follow. Which is the best thing that could have happened, really. Because it meant that I went into this book with the right mindset. I was ready to put the effort in, to read every word instead of skimming and give deep thought to the most offhand of comments. Not just ready, I was looking forward to it.

And in the end, I didn’t find Gardens of the Moon to be nearly as complicated as I was expecting. Kinda like when a book is hyped everywhere and you find it to be not so great.
Not that I’m saying Gardens of the Moon is a light and easy read. If I hadn’t gone in well prepared I doubt I would have stuck with it. As it was it took me three times as long to read as a normal book. But if you give it your full attention and really concentrate on everything then you’ll be ok. Mostly.

Reading Gardens of the Moon… To me it was like picking up book four in a twelve book series and trying to keep up. A whole bunch of really important stuff has already happened and the characters all know each other and have complicated histories. And it’s not a book four written by one of those authors who recaps every little thing, no it assumes that you just finished reading the first three books or at the very least you looked up some recaps on the wikipedia, so you know what’s going on.

Except, you know, there are no previous three books. Gardens of the Moon is book one, and if ever the proverb sink or swim was appropriate it's here. You just have to go with it, keep reading even though you have no idea what’s going on and trust that it will become clear.
And the best part it that, slowly, it does. Or at least it starts to. And trust me, it’s worth it.

Gardens of the Moon revolves around the efforts of the Malazan Empire to add another continent to its growing list of conquered lands. The scope of this thing is breathtaking. The book pretty much opens with a battle so epic it feels like it should be the climax of the whole series, not just the opener. And things barely slow down after that.

How many of you have seen the Final Fantasy VII movie, Advent Children? My fiancĂ© is a fan of it, and I remember watching the special features once and the director said something along the lines of ‘every time we considered adding something, we asked our selves; does it look cool?’ Which shows in the film, because everything looks really cool. But underneath the coolness is, well, not much of anything.

Erikson may well have written this book with the same question in mind. Everything in the book is just really, really cool. The immortal Anomander Rake and his terrifying sword of doom? Cool. The magical warrens that mages tap for their powers? Cool. Elite military unit the Bridgeburners? Oh my god, so freaking cool. Except unlike with Advent Children, it’s not all show. This book has more depth than the ocean, and it’s twice as difficult to reach the bottom of.

Not that everything is all serious and thought consuming. There are moments of genuine humour scattered liberally about. I was actually really surprised with how funny the book was. Erikson has a good eye for when to break the darker moments with something lighter, which I as a reader appreciated.

At the end of the day you’ll only get out of Gardens of the Moon what you put in. It’s a love it or hate it kind of deal, I think. Personally, I can’t wait to read the other nine books in the series, and to see if things get any clearer or just a whole lot more complicated!

I bought this book


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. For some reason the first book was just okay for me. Indeed daunting but for the most part I was there. If you liked book 1 than I imagine you will adore books two and three, for me personally I gave up halfway through book four... It was just getting way to complicated, and it began to feel like I was studying or doing research for a paper! Best of luck with the series though, he has legions of adoring fans for a reason!

  3. I'm glad you liked it, and I think that, if you did, you'll love what's to come.