About the Book
The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting, and bloody confrontations. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.
But it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand.
I first read Gardens of the Moon about five years ago. I remember reading it, and enjoying it, but mostly because I loved the writing. I spent most of the book completely confused, absolutely lost, and uncertain. I was positive that something better was going to happen, so I pushed through it, focusing on the writing, and forcing myself to ignore my confusion.
I recently decided to re-read the Malazan series, through audiobook. I was reluctant to start on Gardens of the Moon because of my previous experience with it. But, I figure if I’m going to reread this series, I’m going to do it right. I’ll start with the first book and move on through.
The audiobook is amazing, by the way. While I do think that it might be wise to read this book before you listen to the audiobooks (it’s complex, and for a first timer, it might be nice to be able to reread stuff and flip back and forth in a way you can’t with audiobooks), the audiobook is completely worth the time it takes to listen to it. Ralph Lister is a fantastic narrator. Some of the voices felt a bit off for me (Fiddler, for example), but when you consider how many voices this guy has to figure out, and keep track of, it’s pretty easy to be in awe of his voice acting skills (and memory) and forgive the voices that don’t quite hit it right. He’s easy to listen to, and he effortlessly tells an epic story without ever really bogging it down with over embellishments.
Gardens of the Moon is the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. It is also, arguably, the least loved books of the series. Part of this, in my opinion, is because Erikson kind of throws his readers into the deep end in a complex, sprawling political and personal war, and lets you sink or swim without any real regard. There are no infodumps, and no real explanations. You either figure out this complex world and magic system as you go, or you don’t. That’s hard, and it’s stand-offish, and it’s difficult to care about people when you don’t understand what the hell it is that they are doing and why they are doing it. So yeah, I get it. I really wasn’t fond of this book on my first read through it.
But on my reread, I love it and I can’t get over Erikson’s genius. All the things that confused me before make so much sense to me now. There is a ton of foreshadowing, and a lot of details that I missed on my first read through are BAM, there and incredible. The world is textured, and the magic (and religious) system is so layered and intricate it is almost mind boggling. Gardens of the Moon sets the stage for the most complex (my opinion of course) epic fantasy out there. It’s military and raw, and brutal.
I can’t stop wondering how many notes and how much time went into creating this series. My mind can’t even wrap around all of the things that Erikson has created, and even though this is a review, it isn’t really because how in the hell am I supposed to talk about something this huge? On my reread, I’m amazed by how many details Erikson has packed into this novel that really make no sense until you read further books in the series. Everything ties to everything else, and characters make unexpected and often painful decisions in some of the most tense situations that anyone can possibly imagine.
What really makes Gardens of the Moon shine, is the fact that you, dear reader, know exactly as much as the characters do. No one really knows who is killing who or why they are doing it. The magic system exists, but a lot of people know almost nothing about it (some people know a lot about it, to be fair). The empire is moving here, there, and everywhere, and no one really knows why, nor can they anticipate the next move or the reasons behind it. People make decisions that are painful based on limited information. It’s a human drama told through a diverse and sprawling group of characters, in a world that is one of the best created secondary worlds I have ever run across.
Gardens of the Moon makes you work for it, but the payoff is worth it. It sets the stage for one of the most incredible, mind bending, well crafted, shocking, emotionally jarring, painful, unforgettable epic fantasy series out there. And I can honestly say that I loved this book with an intensity that surprised me on this reread.