Monday 17 October 2016

Gardens of the Moon by Steven

Book Title: Gardens of the Moon (Malazan #1)
Author: Steven Erikson
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
Source: My own copy
Goodreads, Amazon UK 
Goodreads Summary: 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...
What did I think? This is a favorite among fantasy readers. Almost worshiped by many. However as a new reader you also get warned: it's complicated. It's dense. You get thrown into the middle of a story without any explanation whatsoever. Be prepared.

I was prepared. But (sadly) it still didn't work for me. This is hard for me to write, because I definitely see the depth of the world building and I can tell there's a lot to discover. It's a detailed world. And it's waiting for me to dive in and have fun.

But instead I felt...lost? I felt lost despite notes, despite chapter summaries, despite character portraits and maps, and towards the end I had the impression the book just turned into a bunch of chaotic events and none of it really mattered...

For me it almost came across as if I was punishing myself with this book. Back to school, and back to homework. I made notes and it felt like a chore. But most of all: Erikson did not manage to make me care. A lot of what happened just happened and I wondered, why? And why does it matter? And why should I care?

Maybe I should give up on the note taking and just read the second installment, see where it takes me and once I'm done (and if I liked it) revisit Gardens of the Moon. Or, maybe I should just give up on Malazan altogether, I haven't made up my mind just yet.

Gardens of the Moon is a complicated story. The writing is solid but not memorable (the first book was written years before the others, and apparently Erikson's writing improves a lot in later books). If you like epic and complicated fantasy, please do give this a try, I can see why so many readers absolutely love this series and if I read it again I'll make sure to review it again. Who knows.

If anyone is interested in some of the helpful websites that exist out there to help a first time reader:
  • The new Readers Zone of the Malazan Wikia (there are no spoilers on this page as long as you don't click on any links.) 
  • did a re-read with chapter summaries and discussions (careful there are spoilers) 
  • Chapter summaries (spoiler-free)


  1. I like the premise but yes it does sound complicated. Is the writing like that of Lord of the Rings?

    1. Yes the writing is similar. And there's also poetry at the beginning of the chapters. But Tolkien explains his world in depth before dropping you into it. And Erickson doesn't. He just presents you people and they're in the middle of a conflict and you go along and discover the world along the way. I might actually try again in German, my native language. Maybe English plus a foreign world with a lot of made up names made it too complicated for me. It gets rave reviews on Goodreads from fantasy lovers...

    2. I just checked it out on Goodreads. I see what you mean. People seem to love it. But I also saw reviews like yours. I'm not sure its the book for me. I like to have the world set out in front of my eyes before the characters start charging!

      Oh yes, might be. you should try it in German and post a review of that too. Viel Glück!Ich hoffe euch gefällt es :)
      (Is that right? My German isn't that good)

    3. That was 100% correct German. Thank you :) If you like the world set out then no, this isn't for you.

  2. Wow. This one sounds intense. I'd actually never heard of it until now and yet it seems to be so popular. I'm not sure I could have slogged through this like you did!

    1. I like a challenge, in fact I get awfully stubborn. I'm actually eyeing the series in German... just because I think it would be helpful to know whether a word is made up or an English word I'd never heard of before!