- Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1 (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 666 pages
- Publisher: Tor Fantasy; First edition (January 10, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765348780
- ISBN-13: 978-0765348784
- Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,114 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – December 23, 2004
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“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
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
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Reading this book gave me a feeling of immersion and excitement that I haven't felt since I first read Dune (my favorite book) when I was around 13 years old. When I picked up Dune I was shocked to see a glossary at the back. A work of fiction so vast that it needs its own glossary? It was fantastic. I couldn't get enough of it; learning these new words and new places, experiencing this whole new world alongside the characters. Those same feelings came back to me as I read Gardens of the Moon, holding my fingers in the front and back of the book, flipping to and from maps and glossaries and character lists learning all that I could. I think I'm in for the long haul on this one.
Many have spoken about the fact that you don't know what is going on and have to "figure it out" as you go. Sanderson fans will hate that - sorry - not meant to be an insult, but that is indicative of Sanderson's style. His magic system is very direct and easy to understand. This series is not. This book doesn't answer all your questions, either.
So, to be more precise, "difficult" is just too vague. I would say this story develops suspense and makes you wonder about the politics, the motivations of the characters and the way the magic and world works without digressing to explain anything to you or to resolve all your questions. You must stick with the story to find out everything. There are no 'informative digressions', which is a common feature in fantasy today. What I mean by 'informative digression' is a point in the text where the main character or narrator will, as an aside, stop and 'catch you up' on how the world works, what his/her motivations are and just spend a page or so explaining things about the world and how things work in the world to you.
So, this series has NO 'informative digressions'.
Also, most modern fantasy is much more character focused. These are all stylistic choices, not substantive choices. It may make it harder to get into for some, but this is a point of preference, not quality. Given, if you want or need those character driven stories or like to get filled in as you go, you won't like this series.
Personally, I enjoy both kind of stories and don't view one style as inferior or another superior, but I accept the style for it's strengths and enjoy them when they are well done. In this case, it is VERY well done and INTENSELY enjoyable!
Let me start with the good parts. First, there's a lot of creativity in this book. The world is interesting, the history is long and complex, and the world is bigger than any one character. Second, Erikson is an excellent writer. I couldn't have finished this book otherwise.
Now there are problems. It's going to sound like I'm really negative about the book and hate it. I don't hate it or Erikson. I do think it was over-ambitious for his level of writing ability at the time of writing. I also think there are some things new readers should know before starting.
* You expect a lot of new characters and places when you start a new fantasy series. Never have I been forced to endure such a steady stream of characters, histories, and magic systems with so little in the way of development or explanation. It becomes so overwhelming with so little structure it's hard to even care enough to read on.
* The dialog is a mess, especially early in the book. Most writers would put clues in the dialog to help with exposition. Unfortunately, I don't think Erikson even knows what exposition means. At many points it just sounds like the characters are speaking nonsense. It's not entirely because you don't know anything about the topic of the conversation, but also because their dialog lacks subjects and is often jolting and unnatural.
* Character development is okay, but very abstract. You get to know a new friend by seeing what they do and say, right? This is also the best method for getting to know characters because it aligns with our real-life meetings. In the book almost everything happens in characters heads, and you don't get to visualize a lot of what they say or do. They also talk to themselves quite a lot. This leaves you with a sense of what they think, but not really much in the way of how they act with other people. It's told to you, not shown. This may have actually worked out, because otherwise character development would have been even more incomprehensible dialog.
* There are far, far too many unexplained character intuitions. Some of these unexplained intuitions are explainable by the story, but most are lazy shortcuts for foreshadowing and having characters think things a normal person wouldn't.
* The book desperately needed an editor with some pull. I don't know what happened here, but it really read like a self-published book from a first-time author with dreams well beyond his abilities. An editor should have pulled back and reminded the author we don't know about this civilization or that type of creature, and he should probably make us care about the current cast before adding on more. You want to craft a world, fine, but take some time to explain it rather than just assuming we've read (or want to read) your academic thesis on Malazan history.
* Everything stops reading like nonsense about halfway through. I can't imagine many people make it that far. You start to focus in on some characters and get a sense for what they want to accomplish through their plans. The "how" turns out to be excessively convuluted and poorly-explained, but you don't realize that until you think back after finishing and realize their plans were actually just the plot outline made manifest.
* The book all builds to the final climax, but the final climax is a series of loosely-related stories. Rather than ending in a big climax, then, there are an awkward series of resolutions as bad guys 1 through 4 all meet with their just ends ... in totally different scenes to wrap up totally different character stories.
* While introducing new side-stories and mysteries can maintain a sense of mystery, doing it endlessly and to resolve stories rather than begin them is frustrating for the reader. You don't even care to think ahead by the end. Will the story be resolved according to your clever interpretation of prophecy with our protagonist's cunning? Nah, there will just be some new entity or plot device that is totally unforeseeable. Probably some new entity appearing or falling from the sky.
* Minor spoilers here, but nothing that will ruin the book. Even at the VERY END of the book, Erikson is introducing new characters, creatures, and items. The demise of what you thought might be the most powerful villain and tyrant happens in a place that isn't even clear, with new rules (you can't be enslaved if X), and at the hands of a new being that hasn't even been hinted at. It honestly felt like a child was telling the story. "But then then there's this other guy, and he's even more powerful, and he beats the bad guy."
* My saddest criticism is that character motivations don't really move the story along. It's what writers call "and then" storytelling. Characters have plans, but they don't really make sense in light of what they want and know. Almost no one is acting like a normal human with normal human motivations, which makes them all harder to relate to. "Why was she doing that?" is an unanswerable question for a main viewpoint character at the very end of the book, and she's not alone in that respect.
Ultimately book 1 was exceptionally ambitious with lots of interesting ideas, but the author lacked the skill to pull it together into an interesting story.
How, then, could I possibly say Erikson is a good writer? He writes each paragraph well. Being good at putting words together is not the same thing as being a good storyteller. Erikson is like a runner with excellent form and top-notch ability who will never win a race because he's running all over the stadium looking at new shiny objects. It limps along, but only because he can manage the next step. It feels like it's about to collapse at any moment, and in the end it sort of stumbles to a halt and then simply ends.
Surprisingly, I do plan to read book 2. I've been told it gets much better and that I "just have to get through" book 1. It was so frustrating I can't imagine a world where the quality of story changes dramatically. I will give it a shot, but I'm putting it down unless there's significant improvement.