Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Posted by Simcha 4:12 PM, under | 9 comments

I usually like to write my own synopsis of each book that I review, but in the case of Gardens of the Moon I’m not even going to try it.

So here is the blurb from the book’s back cover:

The Malazan empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Anomander Rake, Lord of Moon’s Spawn, and his Tiste Andii. Even the imperial legions yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Lasseen’s rule – enforced by her feared Claw assassins – remains absolute.
For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to pause, to mourn the many dead. But the imperial gaze has fallen upon the ancient citadel of Darujhistan. This, the last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet dares to hold out.
However, the empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces gather as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand.

I will admit from the start that Gardens of the Moon was not an easy book for me to read. The first time that I had tried to read it I only got through a couple of chapters before putting it aside. I would probably not have given the book another chance if I didn’t keep seeing it praised by so many other book bloggers, and referenced frequently in fantasy book reviews. It took me two more tries, and even an attempt at the audio version, before I finally succeeded in reading the whole book.

The main obstacle for me, in reading Gardens of the Moon, is that I’m not a very patient reader. When I start a book I like to be immediately caught up in the story, and if takes me too long to understand what is transpiring then my attention drifts and I lose interest in the book. But Gardens of the Moon is a book that requires patience, as it slowly weaves together the story, one thread at a time, and it’s not until almost halfway through that I was able to see the tapestry that was being created. There is also a very large cast of characters, with each character being gradually added into the mix, but it takes a while for it to become clear what role each of them plays.

Another reason that I struggled with Gardens of the Moon is because of the strong focus on political plots and military campaigning, two subjects that I have no interest in at all. I usually avoid books with these themes, which makes Gardens of the Moon a very unlikely book for me. The fact that there were so many different characters involved only intensified my confusion, though eventually I did come to understand enough of what was taking place to relax into the story.

Though when I did finally manage to get a good grasp on what was going on (at least to the extent that it was possible) I found that I had become completely riveted by the story and its characters, without even noticing it.

Although Gardens of the Moon was not the easiest book for me to read, I have to say that Erikson did a brilliant job in creating a vast and intricate world and an elaborate labyrinth of a story. While it was difficult to really get to know any individual character particularly well, because there were so many of them, each one still came across as unique and compelling, and very real. The reader gets the opportunity to see the story unfold from the perspective of each character, thereby getting an understanding of the motive of every player involved. In this way, the reader comes to relate in some way to each of the characters, including those who appear at times to be the villains of the tale .

I admit that I had pushed myself to read Gardens of the Moon because “everyone was doing it” and I was curious as to what the appeal of this book was. But I ended up being really glad that I had made the effort and read this book, which is so far outside of my comfort zone, because I did come to enjoy it, and I hope it will help open me up to other books which I might have otherwise shied away from. Plus, I too can now pepper my reviews with references to Erikson and his books (well, at least one, so far), which will help give my reviews some real authority.


I always tell people, Erikson's tough but worth it and you've explained it well here.

What's really tough though is that they don't get much easier from here. Each book keeps introducing another huge cast of characters and you're almost back to square one each time.

While GotM is one of my faves in the series, most people think the story gets better and better, especially in the next two books. Midnight Tides is a lot more linear (comparatively so).

Love this series, glad it grew on you. :)

Erikson loves to confuse the reader by throwing them in the middle of a story without explaining what's going on it seems. Most of his books take a while before the story begins to take shape. Reading a Malazan book is always a challenge in that respect. I don't think I could read these books back to back but he has me hooked anyway. I am very much looking forward to reading the final part in the series later this year.

Sounds sort of like the book I'm reading right now. I think you have to pick the right time to read this kind of book, otherwise you could end up getting annoyed by what is truly an awesome book.
I've been seeing this referenced in a lot of places, too. . .I need to restart reading more fantasy!

Glad you enjoyed it too. In my opinion, the GotM is the toughest to get by but if you liked this one, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy at least a couple of the following books in the series.

Memories of Ice was one of my greatest reading experience.

However, remember that the road is quite long until the end and you will probably struggle a bit with some of the latest iterations.

Well, I keep hearing the book is worth it in the end. *clear throat* from commenters above, not mentioning any names - Seak & Phil. :) I am soooo lucking forward to getting into these books. I will definitely make sure I have my notebook around to help me keep the characters straight. :) Thanks!

Bryce and Val, you guys have really burst my bubble. I had assumed that after Gardens of the Moon the rest of the books would be easier to read because I'm already familiar with the world and its characters. Now you are telling me that the other books are just as challenging? In that case, I think it's going to take me a while until I'm prepared to start on the next book. But thanks for the warning.

Brizmus: This wasn't a book that I could sit and read for long periods of time, so I would often take a break in order to read something lighter.

Phil: That was great! "remember that the road is quite long until the end..." I feel like I have embarked on a journey :) I will probobly will continue on with the other books, but not right away.

Melissa: Now is actually a great time to get started on these as there will be a discussion on Gardens of the moon in May on Goodreads as well as on the Tor blog. I'm really looking forward to those as perhaps they will help clarify some of the details of the book that I'm still uncertain about.

Oops, didn't mean to discourage you. The second book opens a complete new story line so most of the characters you're introduced to won't appear in that one. They will return in Memories of Ice though.

Oh, so many books to read for the month of May. :) I am just going to have to get moving on them. This would be a great discussion to get in on. I am going to have to look at my reading stack and see if I can rearrange it. :)

Val, don't feel bad, I'm glad that you warned me. Otherwise I would have been in for a shock had I started the second book and once again wouldn't have known what the heck was going on. Though, knowing that, I think I'm going to wait a while before trying the next book.

Melissa: I'm really curious to see what your reaction to Gardens of the Moon will be, and if you will have an easier time with it than I did. Though I think you will be able to fit it into your current reading schedule because you can only read it for a little bit at a time, or at least thats how it was for me.

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