Yet another book that I am of mixed mind about. This is getting to be a constant thing for me...
Gardens of the Moon is book 1 of a projected ten volume fantasy series. It's full of action and warfare, magic, political intrigue, assassins, thieves, and so on. It was recommended by a friend, so I ordered a copy from paperbackswap.com.
As it happens, what we have here is a HUGE pile of back story. Erikson's history is vast and deep. His notes about any single place he mentions - and he mentions a lot of places - must include at least 5 or 6 conquests spread out among the various races that have peopled his planet. If you want a world with history, this one has it.
But that's about all it's got. His characters are mostly cardboard cut-outs, with very little in the way of real depth, and despite the fact that they live in a world with all that history, we never understand it. Facts from that history are thrown at us as if we should know them, but there is no cohesive way to piece them together. And it gets worse. There are maps at the front of the book, but they don't cover everything described, and it was only at the very end that I learned one of the major characters was "2 continents away" from where she'd started out. Excuse me?
There are many different groups or individuals that could be viewed as major characters, but we have very little to go on for motivations, and they mostly react to things going on around them. Some of those potential major characters are on stage only briefly throughout the course of the novel, so we don't really even know if they're important. And as for that plot they're supposed to be a part of, it's almost a random series of events. Things - sometimes very improbable things that we as readers have no way to know anything about or anticipate - just happen, and these people (or creatures, or gods, or whatever) are bounced about like pieces on a checker board during a 6.5 earthquake. Whenever one of those potentially important characters winds up in a precarious position, we find ourselves introduced to a new player who gets him or her out of the jam. Sometimes those new players are mortals, other times they're not. Usually we had no idea they even existed when they are slapped in our face.
Another thing that pushes characters about is magic. Vast quantities of totally unexplained magic. We don't even get good descriptions of what is going on when magic is involved. And (of course) there are a zillion different types of magic - and a flock of gods, some current, some ancient, and some dead, but all (apparently) capable of other types of magic - that we're supposed to keep track of. Or maybe Erikson doesn't care that we can't keep track of it. I honestly couldn't say.
In a nutshell I couldn't follow the story, I got tired of the "here's something you didn't know" method of dealing with things, the characters (who could have been memorable) aren't, and it was all just too contrived.
So why did I finish it? I could have quit after 50 or 100 pages, but I didn't. I did regularly put it down - sometimes mid sentence - simply because I was sick of it, but came back and finished it in the end. (It took a while... I've been busy and this hasn't been a fun read.)
At some level I think Erikson has affected me in a manner similar to Martin's Fire & Ice series. There are major issues with it, but I kept reading in the vain hope that I would figure things out, or that it would all make sense at some point. Sadly that point never came.
With Erikson I don't think I'm going to bother continuing. Reading a few reviews on amazon.com I am convinced that the later volumes are more of the same and I have far too many other things to read to bother with them. That's a shame, but such is life.
Some people will love Gardens of the Moon, but not me.
The world Erikson strives to create is vast and in depth...possibly a little too in depth in that you sometimes feel as if you are floating through the story without a solid foundation to keep you afloat throughout the side plots that are all connected to the main plot. Overall I thought the book was good and will continue the series in the hopes that I find that foundation. I do recommend this book, it just might be a little much for those who are looking for good solid dose of story instead of tiny dribbles that that add up to a full measure in time.
Joe M. (StCroixJoe) reviewed Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, Bk 1) on
Helpful Score: 2
A Beautifully written fantasy saga that is very deep and challenging.
I found it took me a greater amount of time and effort to read. Some character names interrupt the flow of the read because they have common English meanings (I.E. one character is called Sorry).
The story is incredibly involved and fascinating. The characters are well defined and interesting.
My greatest complaint is the author's use of magic which seemed a bit weak. It is unsatisfying and novice to use magic to solve a problem when all other hope is lost. With any luck the author's use of magic becomes as sophisticated as the other aspects his writing.
I got this as it was highly recommended to me by a friend who knows I enjoy epic fantasy.
It was good. It was well-written. However, I think that in its epic scope, it loses something. I usually very much enjoy stories where you're just dropped into the action, rather than sitting through lots of exposition and explanation, but here, often, just not enough clues are given to let you actually know what's going on. There are lots (and lots) of interesting characters, but I failed to be as emotionally involved with their lives as I wanted to be. However, by the end, it picked up a bit, and I think I'll try at least the next one in the series to see if I feel more drawn in to the story
You hit the ground running with this novel and man, you do NOT stop. Explanations are scarce to non-existant, and you had better pay attention to the little details, because they are sure to be important to your proper understanding of past and future events in other books.
Gardens of the Moon reminded me of the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. It had a similar scope and breadth with lots of characters, multiple intersecting plot lines, and seemingly no chance of a neat and happy ending. Surprisingly, after it was over, it almost felt like too much was wrapped up. Also, there were significantly more main characters alive at the end of Gardens of the Moon than any of the Song of Ice and Fire books. Gardens of the Moon also had very little explanation. Instead, the reader is thrown into the deep end and expected to figure things out as they go. This has some advantages (no glaring inconsistencies because there are no rules) and some disadvantages (no understanding of whether a task is monumental or insignificant because again, there are no rules). In the end it felt a little like the book failed to deliver on expectations/its promises, but it was definitely an enjoyable read along the way.
Jon C. reviewed Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, Bk 1) on
The world created by the author has me intrigued. It is very deep and wide, 90% of it only briefly touched upon in this book. That is both to its benefit and detriment. If you are looking for a traditional fantasy story/quest/journey, this is not it. There are times for that but Steven Erikson has attempted to create a world that has a past we know very little of and a future that appears on the brink of destruction.
The reader is dropped into an ongoing war. We see it from bottom to top. From the grunts in the trenches to the commanders leading the grunts to the gods worshiped by those same soldiers. Yes, gods walk among men. And the relationship between man and gods is fairly unique to the fantasy genre. I hope it is expanded upon in future volumes. Magic is prevalent and used almost as one would use any weapon. Its part of the arsenal and just as messy. There are no fireballs and lightning bolts flung from the hands of warlocks. There are simply forces, sometimes fire, sometimes unknown, that simply leave a trail of destruction. Or twists your soul.
This is where some readers will get lost. There are so many characters and locations that are not explained. You must piece it together as you go, which can frustrate people. Steven Erikson will not hold your hand and tell you who is the hero and who is the villain. There is no farm boy made into a hero, who will lead his people into the great battle. But if you stick with it, you may be rewarded with an experience above traditional fantasy.
Gardens of the Moon started off slow. Really slow. I put it down several times, read a few other books, before picking it back up again. It did, however, get interesting towards the end but honestly not enough to have me pick up the second in the series.
There is a lot of jargon specific to Erikson's world bandied about, especially in the first chapters with nothing to explain the meaning of the words. You have to puzzle the words together to make an educated guess as to their meaning. This makes it very hard to get into since every few pages you are stopping and trying to figure out if you missed something.
At one point of the book, Erikson spends at least half a page describing a layout of a city that never once came into play later in the book. Perhaps this is a set up for a future battle in another book but for me it seems like filler in a book that was already at an appropriate length without.
This book leaves you confused 85% of the time, never knowing what exactly is going on or why it is happening. There is no foundation on which to build an epic story.
I appreciated the ambiguity of who was the protagonists as well as the the political intrigue, but I spent half the book wondering how any of this would tie together and it never did. Perhaps it will later in the series but I will not stick around to find out.