March 7 2011

Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is a great book. I picked this book up in 1999 at Minicon from the DreamHaven book table in the huckster room. I had picked up a number of books (from various dealers) and started reading this one soon after I got back home. I finished it about 1 day later. It’s a big book but I couldn’t put it down.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Gardens of the Moon is the first book in Steven Erikson’s 10 book series–The Malazan Book of the Fallen. It opens with Whiskeyjack looking out upon a burning Malaz city from the heights of Mock’s hold. He briefly counsels a young boy (Ganoes Paran) against seeking glory as a soldier and then talks to Surly–the head of the Claw who is adopting the name Laseen. This prologue sets the tone that this is going to be a book that doesn’t mince words or emotions.
From the heights of Mock’s hold, we are quickly plunged into the Malazan universe. There are historical details stretching back 100’s of thousands of years, rich magic, intricate intrigue, and just about everything else a fantasy needs.
A number of people seem to find the headlong plunge into the world confusing. There certainly isn’t any hand feeding of details. But, if you pay attention you’ll find that what you need to know will be provided.
I think I’ll emphasize that again–Pay Attention. It’s well worth it. If you are finding that details are escaping you, then I recommend taking a look at The Malazan Reread of the Fallen over at That’s a chapter by chapter reread in which we point out many of the details that you will need to pay attention to as you go along.
Here’s an example scene:

A figure had appeared on the ledge before the portal, its arms upraised, long silver hair blowing from its head.
Mane of Chaos. Anomander Rake. Lord of the black-skinned Tiste Andii, who has looked down on a hundred thousand winters, who has tasted the blood of dragons, who leads the last of his kind, seated in the Throne of Sorrow and a kingdom tragic and fey—a kingdom with no land to call its own.
Anomander Rake looked tiny against the backdrop of his edifice, almost insubstantial at this distance. The illusion was about to be shattered. She gasped as the aura of his power bloomed outward—to see it at such a distance . . . “Channel your Warrens,” Tattersail commanded, her voice cracking. “Now!”
Even as Rake gathered his power, twin balls of blue fire raced upward from the center hill. They struck the Moon near its base and rocked it. Tayschrenn launched another wave of gilden flames, crashing with amber spume and red-tongued smoke.
The Moon’s lord responded. A black, writhing wave rolled down to the first hill. The High Mage was buffeted to his knees deflecting it, the hilltop around him blighted as the necrous power rolled down the slopes, engulfing nearby ranks of soldiers. Tattersail watched as a midnight flash swallowed the hapless men, followed by a thump that thundered through the earth. When the flash dissipated, the soldiers lay in rotting heaps, mown down like stalks of grain.

This occurs in Chapter 3. It’s probably one of my favorite magic duels of all times. But, it isn’t just that. As we’ll gradually find out, there is almost always more than meets the eye going on in every scene of the Malaz world. Did I mention intrigue? well, there are intrigues going on here that have their roots in ages past.
Gardens of the Moon — all awesome. If you haven’t read it, get out and read it now. It’s a really good time, since The Malazan Book of the Fallen now has its conclusion with the publication of The Crippled God on March 2.
And now, below the cut are a couple of small spoiler treats:

Here’s the first hint–there aren’t any Deus Ex Machina’s in this book. If you are surprised, then look again.
Here’s a fun piece of info for a personal connection. In a Q&A on, while attending the World Fantasy convention, Steven Erikson mentioned that the co-creator of the Malazan world (Ian Esslemont) had mentioned that:

But at the same time, everyone now and then, one of us drops the other to the floor with something, as Cam did last night when he told me about the homage that was paid to a certain literary tale, in his game-based creation of Coll, Murrilio and Rallick, with Crokus thrown in — check out ther situation and story-line and first to find the reference wins a prize (I’ll send a copy of Crack’d Pot Trail or something…).

Everything clicked in my head and I replied that The Three Musketeers sprang into my mind. Erikson confirmed this (and delivered on a copy of Crack’d Pot Trail). So, as you are reading pick out the plot lines between this storyline and Aramis, Athos, Porthos and D’Artagnan. I love The Three Musketeers, but until Erikson mentioned that there had been a homage, it hadn’t occurred to me. Coolness.

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Posted March 7, 2011 by user in category "Book review


  1. By Ian on

    I read Gardens of the Moon a couple of years ago, and found it very difficult reading for the first 200 pages or so– quite an uphill climb to get on top of everything he throws at the reader. The style of information delivery might have done a little more to accommodate the reader (a single simple declarative sentence here and there can do wonders!).

    But, having said that, once I got atop that mountain of information and had a breather, the view from that vantage is really, really cool. Once I was able to spend more time enjoying the story I found I did quite a bit. And I have to say that the book has stuck with me– my thoughts keep coming back to the depth and extent of the worldbuilding in that novel. I’m strongly tempted to go back and reread it, and then read the rest of the series, now that it’s finished.

    1. By Ian on

      I guess what I meant to say was that I thought it was kind of a shame that so many people bounce off that first book. I very nearly did. A little more attention to the reader’s needs early on might have made these books even more successful than they already are.

  2. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

    Good observations. I see that reaction quite a lot. There does seem to be a certain hurdle to overcome–those first couple of hundred pages are a whirlwind of information. For some reason it really meshed well with me.
    I had been reading a lot of fantasy (especially Glen Cook) when I picked it up, so maybe I was so immersed that it just felt natural to me.

  3. By Ian on

    There’s also every possibility that I’m just slow on the uptake, too 🙂

    Once I got into it I really enjoyed it. And I’m very impressed that he wrote such a long series so quickly, and finished it successfully. He deserves a ton of credit for that.

    1. By Steven Halter (Post author) on

      It is an impressive amount of work. A big quality book a year for the last 10 years. I finished The Crippled God on Saturday and I’m trying to get my head around what I want to write about it (I liked it but there is a lot to it).

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