A little while since my last book review but having finished Gardens Of The Moon today here we go:
This is the third time I’ve tried to read the first book in the “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series. Most reviews will mention that they are a hard series to get into and generally this polarises opinion. From my first few attempts I can certainly see the difficulties, a huge amount of back story is routinely mentioned as characters talk yet you really only understand about a tenth of it! This put me off the first few times as I fled for easier reads, but I should really have stuck with it.
After a while characters start reappearing and you get a greater feel for things. You still need to pay attention though. Erikson is absolutely deliberate with everything he says, even in this debut novel. Character’s names will not be mentioned unless they are both important and worth remembering. Descriptions of locations are important, everything is not as it seems so pretty descriptions of sky colour, a city which has green gas lamps at night, it’s all necessary for the plot. Even the epigraphs at the start of every chapter are important; they fill you in on important plot details, history and give hints of what is to come.
So you can appreciate why it took me a little while to get through the book. There’s a huge amount to admire in the book: Likeable characters on both sides of the conflict, genuine surprises which never felt cheap thanks to great foreshadowing (provided you pay attention) and excellent world building. There are some flaws: It’s difficult to get a feel for a lot of characters motivations particularly when many are possessed in some way or another by a god. I never really understand why the gods involved cared about anything that’s happening. Maybe it’s suggested at one point that I missed. There’s also one or two bits of dues ex machine that aren’t foreshadowed in the finale which does feel a little disappointing since I’m sure it could have been worked in somehow.
Provided you go into this book recognising that you’re not just going to be able to float through without paying attention then Gardens of the Moon is a great read which tries to do something a little bit different with standard fantasy tropes. Malazan isn’t up there with the best fantasy novels for me (Prince of Nothing currently reigns supreme) but I shall endeavour to read more. Since this is only the debut I’m certain the best is still to come. Next up some Paul Kearney.