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Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1) [Mass Market Paperback]

Steven Erikson
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (650 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this sprawling fantasy epic of the Malazan empire at war with its enemies and itself, the first of a projected 10-volume series, Canadian newcomer Erikson offers many larger-than-life scenes and ideas, but his characters seem to shrink to fit the story. Perhaps they need to stay small enough for the reader to keep them all in mind. Jumping often between plot lines, the novel follows Ganoes Stabro Paran from his boyhood dreaming of soldiers to his escape from imperial service. Paran travels on journeys of body and soul, going from innocent to hardened rebel against gods and empire without losing his moral core. Other characters may go further, to death and back even, but none is as sharply portrayed. The book features a plethora of princes and paupers, powers and principalities, with much inventive detail to dazzle and impart a patina of mystery and ages past. The fast-moving plot, with sieges, duels (of sword and of spell), rebellions, intrigue and revenge, unearthed monsters and earth-striding gods, doesn't leave much room for real depth. Heroes win, villains lose, fairness reigns, tragedy is averted. Erikson may aspire to China Miéville heights, but he settles comfortably in George R.R. Martin country.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

In the first of a projected 10 volumes of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, the Malazan Empire is up to its eyebrows in the intrigues of mage Anomander Rake and his sorcerous minions, the Tiste Andii. The empress Laseen pursues her grisly ambitions with the aid of the Ninja-like Claw assassins, but Erikson focuses on the grunt-level fighting of military engineers Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and the field-grade mage Tattersall, who are more than ready to go home, when the empress commands a battle in and around the Free City of Darujhistan. Erikson portrays this hurly-burly--something very like the Lord of the Rings' Battle of the Pellenor Fields--from the perspective of those who had to get out of the way of the charges and exchanges of spells and sometimes died anyway. It remains to be seen whether Erikson's excellent writing will carry through nine more volumes of this gritty, realistic fantasy in the manner of Glen Cook's Dark Company series. Wager on fantasy readers' robust appetites, however. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Erikson is a master of lost and forgotten epochs, a weaver of ancient epics on a scale that would approach absurdity if it wasn't so much fun." (Andrew Leonard Salon.com)

"An astounding debut…has the potential to become a defining work in Fantasy." (Neil Walsh SF Site)

"Steven Erikson is an extraordinary writer. My advice to anyone who might listen to me: Treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon." (Stephen R. Donaldson)

"There's nothing safe about fantasy like this: intriguing, complex, thought provoking, exceedingly well-written, and, for the intelligent reader, exhilaratingly satisfying." (Paula Guran Cinemafantastique)

"Complex, challenging…Erikson's strengths are his grown-up characters and his ability to create a world every bit as intricate and messy as our own." (J. V. Jones SFX)

"Gripping, fast-moving, delightfully dark, with a masterful and unapologetic brutality reminiscent of George R. R. Martin. Utterly engrossing." (Elizabeth Haydon)

"The experience of reading Gardens of the Moon is akin to being plunged into a full-immersion course in a heretofore undiscovered realm." (Jacqueline Carey)

"A brilliant book! Exciting, inventive, intelligent--frequently funny. A wonderful book to read and to recommend to others." (David Drake)

"I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of imagination may be the high water mark of epic fantasy." (Glen Cook)

Review

"Erikson is an extraordinary writer. My advice to anyone who might listen to me is, Treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon. And my entirely selfish advice to Steven Erikson is, write faster."--Stephen R. Donaldson

"I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of imagination may be the high water mark of epic fantasy. This marathon of ambition has a depth and breadth and sense of vast reaches of inimical time unlike anything else available today. The Black Company, Zelazny's Amber, Vance's Dying Earth, and other mighty drumbeats are but foreshadowings of this dark dragon's hoard."--Glen Cook

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Praise for Gardens of the Moon:
"Steven Erikson is an extraordinary writer. I read Gardens of the Moon with great pleasure. And now that I have read it, I would be hard pressed to decide what I enjoyed more: the richly and ominously magical world of Malaz and Genabackis; the large cast of sympathetically-rendered characters; or the way the story accumulates to a climax that hits like machinegun fire. My advice to anyone who might listen to me is, Treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon. And my entirely selfish advice to Steven Erikson is, write faster."--Stephen R. Donaldson

"An astounding debut . . . has the potential to become known as a defining work in Fantasy." --SF Site

"I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of imagination may be the high water mark of epic fantasy---accomplished with none of the customary rifs on Tolkien. This marathon of ambition has a depth and breadth and sense of vast reaches of inimical time unlike anything else available today. The Black Company, Zelazny's Amber, Vance's Dying Earth, and other mighty drumbeats are but foreshadowings of this dark dragon's hoard."--Glen Cook

"Complex, challenging...Erikson's strengths are his grown-up characters and his ability to create a world every bit as intricate and messy as our own."--J. V. Jones

"Rare is the writer who so fluidly combines a sense of mythic power and depth of world with fully realized characters and thrilling action, but Steven Erikson manages it spectacularly."
--Michael a. Stackpole

"Gripping, fast-moving, delightfully dark, with a masterful and unapologetic brutality reminiscent of George R. R. Martin. Steven Erikson brings a punchy, mesmerizing writing style into the genre of epic fantasy, making an indelible impression. Utterly engrossing."--Elizabeth Haydon
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

"Give me the evocation of a rich, complex and yet ultimately unknowable other world, with a compelling suggestion of intricate history and mythology and lore. Give me mystery amid the grand narrative. Give me a world in which every sea hides a crumbled Atlantis, every ruin has a tale to tell, every mattock blade is a silent legacy of struggles unknown. Give me, in other words, the fantasy work of Steven Erikson. Erikson is a master of lost and forgotten epochs, a weaver of ancient epics on a scale that would approach absurdity if it wasn't so much fun."--Andrew Leonard, Salon.com

"Steven Erikson is an extraordinary writer. My advice to anyone who might listen to me: Treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon. And my entirely selfish advice to Steven Erikson: Write faster."-Stephen R. Donaldson

"The author is working so far beyond genre convention you need to measure the distance in light years. We'd sooner attempt to reduce the history of China to a logline than try a plot synopsis in this limited space. Enter Malazan and find a fully-realized universe complete with history, mythology, sociology, and thaumatology. It is peopled with characters who are neither black nor white but patterned of gritty grey and shadows and wade through oceans of blood. There's nothing safe about fantasy like this: intriguing, complex, thought provoking, exceedingly well-written, and, for the intelligent reader, exhilaratingly satisfying."--Paula Guran, Cinemafantastique

"An astounding debut...has the potential to become a defining work."--SF Site

"Gripping, fast-moving, delightfully dark, with a masterful and unapologetic brutality reminiscent of George R. R. Martin. Steven Erikson brings a punchy, mesmerizing writing style into the genre of epic fantasy, making an indelible impression. Utterly engrossing."--Elizabeth Haydon

"The experience of reading Gardens of the Moon is akin to being plunged into a full-immersion course in a heretofore undiscovered realm. Erikson's world is richly envisioned, dense and gritty, rife with magic and filled with complex political and military intrigue."--Jacqueline Carey

"A brilliant book! Exciting, inventive, intelligent--frequently funny. A wonderful book to read and to recommend to others."--David Drake

"I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of imagination may be the high water mark of epic fantasy---accomplished with none of the customary rifs on Tolkien. This marathon of ambition has a depth and breadth and sense of vast reaches of inimical time unlike anything else available today. The Black Company, Zelazny's Amber, Vance's Dying Earth, and other mighty drumbeats are but foreshadowings of this dark dragon's hoard."--Glen Cook

"Complex, challenging...Erikson's strengths are his grown-up characters and his ability to create a world every bit as intricate and messy as our own."--J. V. Jones, SFX

About the Author

Steven Erikson is an archaeologist and anthropologist and a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His Malazan Book of the Fallen series, including The Crippled God, Dust of Dreams, Toll the Hounds and Reaper’s Gale, have met with widespread international acclaim and established him as a major voice in the world of fantasy fiction. Gardens of the Moon was the first novel in the series and was shortlisted for a World Fantasy Award. The second novel, Deadhouse Gates, was voted one of the ten best fantasy novels of 2000 by SF Site. He lives in Canada.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One
 
 
The old stones of this road
have rung with iron
black-shod hoofs and drums
where I saw him walking
up from the sea between the hills soaked red
in sunset he came, a boy among the echoes
sons and brothers all in ranks
of warrior ghosts he came to pass
where I sat on the worn final
league-stone at day's end--
is stride spoke loud all I needed
know of him on this road of stone--
he boy walks
another soldier, another one
bright heart not yet cooled
to hard iron
Mother's Lament
Anonymous
 
 
1161st Year of Burn's Sleep
103rd Year of the Malazan Empire
7th Year of Empress Laseen's Rule
 
 
Prod and pull," the old woman was saying, "'tis the way of the Empress, as like the gods themselves." She leaned to one side and spat, then brought a soiled cloth to her wrinkled lips. "Three husbands and two sons I saw off to war."
The fishergirl's eyes shone as she watched the column of mounted soldiers thunder past, and she only half listened to the hag standing beside her. The girl's breath had risen to the pace of the magnificent horses. She felt her face burning, a flush that had nothing to do with the heat. The day was dying, the sun's red smear over the trees on her right, and the sea's sighing against her face had grown cool.
"That was in the days of the Emperor," the hag continued. "Hood roast the bastard's soul on a spit. But look on, lass. Laseen scatters bones with the best of them. Heh, she started with his, didn't she, now?"
The fishergirl nodded faintly. As befitted the lowborn, they waited by the roadside, the old woman burdened beneath a rough sack filled with turnips, the girl with a heavy basket balanced on her head. Every minute or so the old woman shifted the sack from one bony shoulder to the other. With the riders crowding them on the road and the ditch behind them a steep drop to broken rocks, she had no place to put down the sack.
"Scatters bones, I said. Bones of husbands, bones of sons, bones of wives and bones of daughters. All the same to her. All the same to the Empire." The old woman spat a second time. "Three husbands and two sons, ten coin apiece a year. Five of ten's fifty. Fifty coin a year's cold company, lass. Cold in winter, cold in bed."
The fishergirl wiped dust from her forehead. Her bright eyes darted among the soldiers passing before her. The young men atop their high-backed saddles held expressions stern and fixed straight ahead. The few women who rode among them sat tall and somehow fiercer than the men. The sunset cast red glints from their helms, flashing so that the girl's eyes stung and her vision blurred.
"You're the fisherman's daughter," the old woman said. "I seen you afore on the road, and down on the strand. Seen you and your dad at market. Missing an arm, ain't he? More bones for her collection is likely, eh?" She made a chopping motion with one hand, then nodded. "Mine's the first house on the track. I use the coin to buy candles. Five candles I burn every night, five candles to keep old Rigga company. It's a tired house, full of tired things and me one of them, lass. What you got in the basket there?"
Slowly the fishergirl realized that a question had been asked of her. She pulled her attention from the soldiers and smiled down at the old woman. "I'm sorry," she said, "the horses are so loud."
Rigga raised her voice. "I asked what you got in your basket, lass?"
"Twine. Enough for three nets. We need to get one ready for tomorrow. Dadda lost his last one--something in the deep waters took it and a whole catch, too. Ilgrand Lender wants the money he loaned us and we need a catch tomorrow. A good one." She smiled again and swept her gaze back to the soldiers. "Isn't it wonderful?" she breathed.
Rigga's hand shot out and snagged the girl's thick black hair, yanked it hard.
The girl cried out. The basket on her head lurched, then slid down onto one shoulder. She grabbed frantically for it but it was too heavy. The basket struck the ground and split apart. "Aaai!" the girl gasped, attempting to kneel. But Rigga pulled and snapped her head around.
"You listen to me, lass!" The old woman's sour breath hissed against the girl's face. "The Empire's been grinding this land down for a hundred years. You was born in it. I wasn't. When I was your age Itko Kan was a country. We flew a banner and it was ours. We were free, lass."
The girl was sickened by Rigga's breath. She squeezed shut her eyes.
"Mark this truth, child, else the Cloak of Lies blinds you forever." Rigga's voice took on a droning cadence, and all at once the girl stiffened. Rigga, Riggalai the Seer, the wax-witch who trapped souls in candles and burned them. Souls devoured in flame--Rigga's words carried the chilling tone of prophecy. "Mark this truth. I am the last to speak to you. You are the last to hear me. Thus are we linked, you and I, beyond all else."
Rigga's fingers snagged tighter in the girl's hair. "Across the sea the Empress has driven her knife into virgin soil. The blood now comes in a tide and it'll sweep you under, child, if you're not careful. They'll put a sword in your hand, they'll give you a fine horse, and they'll send you across that sea. But a shadow will embrace your soul. Now, listen! Bury this deep! Rigga will preserve you because we are linked, you and I. But it is all I can do, understand? Look to the Lord spawned in Darkness; his is the hand that shall free you, though he'll know it not--"
"What's this?" a voice bellowed.
Rigga swung to face the road. An outrider had slowed his mount. The Seer released the girl's hair.
The girl staggered back a step. A rock on the road's edge turned underfoot and she fell. When she looked up the outrider had trotted past. Another thundered up in his wake.
"Leave the pretty one alone, hag," this one growled, and as he rode by he leaned in his saddle and swung an open, gauntleted hand. The iron-scaled glove cracked against Rigga's head, spinning her around. She toppled.
The fishergirl screamed as Rigga landed heavily across her thighs. A thread of crimson spit spattered her face. Whimpering, the girl pushed herself back across the gravel, then used her feet to shove away Rigga's body. She climbed to her knees.
Something within Rigga's prophecy seemed lodged in the girl's head, heavy as a stone and hidden from light. She found she could not retrieve a single word the Seer had said. She reached out and grasped Rigga's woolen shawl. Carefully, she rolled the old woman over. Blood covered one side of Rigga's head, running down behind the ear. More blood smeared her lined chin and stained her mouth. The eyes stared sightlessly.
The fishergirl pulled back, unable to catch her breath. Desperate, she looked about. The column of soldiers had passed, leaving nothing but dust and the distant tremble of hoofs. Rigga's bag of turnips had spilled onto the road. Among the trampled vegetables lay five tallow candles. The girl managed a ragged lungful of dusty air. Wiping her nose, she looked to her own basket.
"Never mind the candles," she mumbled, in a thick, odd voice. "They're gone, aren't they, now? Just a scattering of bones. Never mind." She crawled toward the bundles of twine that had fallen from the breached basket, and when she spoke again her voice was young, normal. "We need the twine. We'll work all night and get one ready. Dadda's waiting. He's right at the door, he's looking up the track, he's waiting to see me."
She stopped, a shiver running through her. The sun's light was almost gone. An unseasonal chill bled from the shadows, which now flowed like water across the road.
"Here it comes, then," the girl grated softly, in a voice that wasn't her own.
A soft-gloved hand fell on her shoulder. She ducked down, cowering.
"Easy, girl," said a man's voice. "It's over. Nothing to be done for her now."
The fishergirl looked up. A man swathed in black leaned over her, his face obscured beneath a hood's shadow. "But he hit her," the girl said, in a child's voice. "And we have nets to tie, me and Dadda--"
"Let's get you on your feet," the man said, moving his long-fingered hands down under her arms. He straightened, lifting her effortlessly. Her sandaled feet dangled in the air before he set her down.
Now she saw a second man, shorter, also clothed in black. This one stood on the road and was turned away, his gaze in the direction the soldiers had gone. He spoke, his voice reed-thin. "Wasn't much of a life," he said, not turning to face her. "A minor talent, long since dried up of the Gift. Oh, she might have managed one more, but we'll never know, will we?"
The fishergirl stumbled over to Rigga's bag and picked up a candle. She straightened, her eyes suddenly hard, then deliberately spat on to the road.
The shorter man's head snapped toward her. Within the hood it seemed the shadows played alone.
The girl shrank back a step. "It was a good life," she whispered. "She had these candles, you see. Five of them. Five for--"
"Necromancy," the short man cut in.
The taller man, still at her side, said softly, "I see them, child. I understand what they mean."
The other man snorted. "The witch harbored five frail, weak souls. Nothing grand." He cocked his head. "I can hear them now. Calling for her."
Tears filled the girl's eyes. A wordless anguish seemed to well up from that black stone in her mind. She wiped her cheeks. "Where did you come from?" she asked abruptly. "We didn't see you on the road."
The man beside her half turned to the gravel track. "On the other side," he said, a smile in his tone. "Waiting, just like you."
The other giggled. "On the other side indeed." He faced down the road again and raised his arms.
The girl drew in a sharp breath as darkness descended. A loud, tearing sound filled the air for a moment, then the darkness dissipated and the girl's eyes widened.
Seven massive Hounds now sat around the man in the road. The eyes of these beasts glowed yellow, and all were turned in the same...
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