Review – Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

coverThe first part of the 10-book Malazan Book of the Fallen series this novel is pretty notorious among fantasy fans for being a complex world to get into. I was warned multiple times that it would “baffling” and “crazy” but to keep going and trust the author because all would become clear. I mean,with warnings like that I was expecting the damned Voynich manuscript (seriously, look it up, it’s amazing). So I put on my big girl socks and prepared myself for an intense reading experience…….

…….……. Seriously you guys, WTF? This isn’t weird or crazy or difficult or complicated. It’s standard drill, dragons and assassins, taken to pieces by Terry Pratchett,  epic fantasy. That’s it. All those warnings about complexity are because the author doesn’t really do much in the way of info-dumping, instead relying on you to pick up information through dialogue and descriptions of things that characters see. And without meaning huge amounts of offence to my fellow readers – was that really so difficult for you?

What, like it's hard?

All this should not suggest that I hated the book, I didn’t. I just don’t understand the hype. But let’s move on to a discussion of what the book is rather than what it is is not. Gardens of the Moon is based around the vast Malazan Empire whose massive armies are conquering neighbouring cities and states in a seemingly never-ending reign of terror. We follow a host of different characters who come together in Darujihstan, next on the Empire’s list for destruction. There’s grizzled soldiers, possessed teenage killers, gods, monsters and demons galore. It is, to be fair to all those aforementioned fans, pretty damned epic in scale. And this one book is just a tiny slice of what’s to come. So much is hinted at, so much is set up ready for a vast unraveling plot of wonder, that you can practically feel this giant world unfolding in front of you.

But, my sweet darlings, this promise of things to come is not an entirely good thing. 700+ pages is not a length I find acceptable for a setup. There was action, there were story arcs that arc in a fairly satisfying manner but goddamn there was a whole mess of unanswered questions just left in a big tangled heap. I’ve been promised by those who have read the entire series that many of these things will be answered but too many of them were introduced far too late for me to be satisfied with that as my answer. One particularly grating example came at the denouement when the big bad is (of course) defeated by the appearance of a never before seen or mentioned god tree thing. Fucking deus ex machina. Well, deus ex abore really. You get my point. I have been assured that it is explained in later books but my dissatisfaction remains. Long plot arcs rock, clunky individual parts do not.

I think that the characters and world that have were begun in this book are wonderful in their detail but I’m not sure that the detail can make up for what was essentially a pretty standard fantasy world with some boilerplate characters and settings – assassins guild, night-watchmen, master spy in plain sight, mysterious dark anti-hero, grizzled soldier with true honour and a tight knit crew – did you read Discworld? Yes, it’s likely better written and more complex than metric fuckton of fantasy out there. But writing the same damn fantasy novel in more detail does not a perfect read make.

Maybe I’m being overly harsh, maybe I need to read more of the series to give it a fair go, but this one book didn’t do it for me.

But everybody likes me

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5


4 thoughts on “Review – Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

  1. T says:

    Well, you’re not sitting on the fence anyway 🙂 The gifs make reading the review here rather than GR well worth it 🙂
    Gardens of the Moon had crept onto the bottom of my TBR simply because it crept cropping up; I suspect it will stay near the bottom after this review, especially as a 10 part series of 700 page books is not particularly appealing anyway. I’ll give it a go someday…
    “maybe I need to read more of the series to give it a fair go” sounds like it’s not for you really. There are too many good books left in the world to continue a series that hasn’t grabbed you.
    What this review has prompted me to do… rewatch Legally Blonde <- classic!


    • says:

      Yeah it probably just isn’t the series for me to be honest. I think I’m learning that trad epic fantasy has slowly become something I don’t really want to read. And yes, Legally Blonde is a true marvel!


  2. Ty Wilson says:

    Thank you for the review. It’s wonderful as all of your’s are. I had also heard a lot about this book in recent years, including the warning about it being complex and somewhat hard to follow. At some point I did pick up a copy of this book, but as of yet haven’t gotten around to starting it, and now it’ll probably sit on my shelf a bit longer before I dive in. If nothing else your review will lessen my expectations so I’ll be less apt to be disappointed. Thanks!


    • says:

      Glad you enjoyed it! This really illustrated the perils of hyped up books. They might be amazing if you’ve only read what those other people ahve read but if you’ve got different expectations and experiences then you’ll have such a different view of the book. I guess that’s why you tend to find certain reviewers/bloggers/booktubers whose taste you trust more than others. 🙂 I think it’s worth a go but for sure with lowered expectations!


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