Wednesday 6 October 2010

A Different Sort of Review - Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

As regular readers of my blog will know, a chap called Bill Capossere and I are re-reading the Malazan works at a slow pace on the blog, a few chapters at a time. Last week we completed Gardens of the Moon and, rather than do one of my regular reviews here on the blog, I have decided instead to show you my recap of the book:

Well, Book 1 of a long, long journey completed and time to reflect on this opening chapter...

I don’t think, when I took on this project, that I knew how all-consuming it would become, or how it would force me to look differently at my reading habits. Over the last two months or so, I have come to deeply enjoy my time spent in Erikson’s world—loving the dissection of words, the wondering about foreshadowing, the commentary that accompanies every post Bill and I put up. When I haven’t been reading Gardens of the Moon directly, my mind has often wandered to it, which rarely happens with books I read. Part of that is the density and challenge provided by GotM, but mostly it is because I am reading it so slowly—enjoying every chapter, and not skipping past essential parts of the plot because I am skim reading. It makes it far easier to remember plot points as well, which I hope will stand me in good stead over the next few books!

Anyway, Gardens of the Moon...I started the novel with confusion and no little frustration as people I didn’t know had conversations I didn’t understand. But then gradually my understanding expanded, my desire to know more about the world grew and I immersed myself more fully in GotM. By the time the big finale came, I was a little bit in love with virtually all the characters, and I definitely don’t want to get off this ride!

One thing I have been enjoying most about the novel are the different levels of interest it provides—for someone like myself, whose attention is captured by human relationships and great dialogue accompanied by big ass fights and lots of magic, it does the job. For someone who likes their fantasy grim and grimy, it delivers. But GotM also delivers for those readers who appreciate a philosophical slant, and discussion points galore. Erikson writes comfortably on the theme of war, the fact that there is no easy right or wrong. He shows us moral dilemmas and doesn’t let his characters take the easy way out. In the commentary each week, I have seen some people take the easy ride like me, and just read this thumping good story, enjoying the characters and not looking much past the surface detail. And I have watched with awe as some of you dissect key passages, provide essays on points that interest you and argue philosophy. Good job! And what a great thing that we can get all that from one book and (hopefully) one series!

So, final wrap-up:

Favourite moment of the book? Probably when Rake transformed into his dragon form—I had waited so long to see it and it didn’t disappoint at all!

Favourite character? Hmm, I’m going to get tiresome and say Anomander Rake here! I think everyone who reads my commentary has been able to see which way that was going. Right now I have an almighty fiction-crush on the guy and I can’t wait to see more of him.

Would love to hear yours! And, y’know, least favourite on both counts if you have them...

So, onto Night of Knives— and I have to confess I’m a little nervous. Mostly because I am wondering how I will adjust to Esslemont’s writing style versus that of Erikson, and whether I will find characters that are as enduring as in this first novel of the Malazan. One good thing! I took a sneaky peek and there is no poetry in sight! *grins*

If you are contemplating Gardens of the Moon, I absolutely urge you to read it - push back the confusion of the first few chapters and you will be gripped. In different places, I have equated reading those first chapters to walking into the middle of a conversation or starting at a new job and not knowing the back history of all your colleagues instantly. Erikson's writing rewards those who persevere - with moments of humour, tenderness and real emotion in amongst the mystifying foreshadowing.

I absolutely adored this book, by the end of the two and a half month stint reading it - and so many parts of it have remained with me: Paran falling into the sword; the duel between Rake and the demon king; and then all the very human moments, such as Whiskeyjack talking with the rest of the Bridgeburners.

I am ready for step two of my journey - Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont. Head on over to and join us!


  1. Nice post! I was so impressed with GotM when I read it almost two years ago and I've got Deadhouse Gates sitting on my TBR. I didn't realise until then how dark and complex fantasy could be. I read Esslemont's Night of Knives this year and loved it too. And I also have an almightly crush on Anomander Rake. Who can resist him?

  2. Hey Amanda - top review. This is my favourite series of all time and am eagerly awaiting Stonewielder and The Crippled God. Note that NoK is probably the weakest novel(la) in the series; which is not to say it's bad, but yeah totally different style to Erikson and I think you can tell it's ICE's first book. But don't let me discourage you - it's still a good read. When you get back to DHG and then MoI I think you'll be blown away - enjoy the ride!

  3. Quick Ben all the way, for me.

    Nice review.

  4. I love your review and it is interesting how every person can relate to it on various emotional, scientific and psychological levels.

    I really hope that with the advancing CGI-technology these books will made into a movie one day.