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Home » Book Reviews » Book Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Book Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

T;LDR: A classic series among fantasy readers, Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson was confusing, amazing, brilliant, and complicated.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

An epic fantasy series, this book kicks off the adventure with meddling gods, ambitious soldiers, suspicious and power mad mages, and oh so many surprises for them all.

If you ask any hardcore fantasy reader what series they recommend, the Malazan books (this one is book 1) are up there at the top of the list. They are said to be complicated, confusing, and Erikson drops you in the deep end and hopes you catch up. It was all that and more and I can’t wait to reread it to figure out what I missed (a lot). I give it 5 stars.

The Plot

The Malazan empire is fighting wars on all fronts, especially against Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and powerful sorcerers… and maybe something else. The Empress Laseen, who took charge when the prior Emperor was assassinated refuses to give in and has many different fingers in what is happening under her watch.

The Bridgeburners, a rough and tumble squad of soldiers well-liked and respected amongst the many legions, and Tattersail, a surviving cadre mage of the massacre at Pale, find themselves in an uncomfortable position. Unable to mourn their dead, new suspicions arise and make them question the Empress’ plan.

Add to that the gods walking among them, twisting fate, pushing the dice one way or the other, and you have a complex story of loyalty, ambitions and lies.

Laseen demands loyalty, but is she sacrificing her best soldiers to get it? And just what game are the gods playing anyway?

What I liked & liked less

Where to start. I loved this book. It was so good. I loved all of the characters. There were a lot of them and yet Erikson took the time to build them up and create richness from the short scenes they were in.

The world building is unique and interesting, but also confusing. There are no explanations, no hints, no pauses to explain what is happening and why. You either flow along with the story or you don’t. I reread many passages just to understand what was happening and I was mostly successful. (There are tools available online to help unravel the story lines, characters, and world building for anyone who wants to give this series a shot.)
I chose not to look things up as I wanted to get a good sense for what I could figure out and if this book was for me.

You can tell the author is an archaeologist, because his landscapes, mythology and history is solid. He created interesting races, varied groups of people with different motivations, and wove them all together to create a really good story.

There wasn’t one character I didn’t like. Some of them were young and will probably have some growing to do in the rest of the series, but even their naivety felt deserved and honest. The soldiers felt like soldiers in how they saw things, the wacky characters were wacky and yet poignant, and drove the plot forward, and in short, I loved this book.

Every character felt like their perspective grew out of the experiences they had and the choices they made. I think for me, that is why I loved this book. None of it felt as if the author pushed the character into one decision or another, but that they – the character – made the decisions based on their beliefs, their past, and their values.

There is so much to it and it is a long book, but so worth the read. As for what I didn’t like? I would’ve liked just a little bit of explanation for what a warren is, because that caused me no end of confusion. And I should have kept track of the gods, the religions mentioned, and who was what, to make my life a lot easier as I headed into Book 2, Deadhouse Gates. But that was all.

To Sum Up (Too Late!)

If you’d have asked me a year ago if I’d like a complicated, character-heavy, world-building series that has spawned numerous sites to help the reader follow along, I would’ve laughed at you. But here I am. Gardens of the Moon is not for everyone, but for those willing to take up the challenge and go along for the ride, it is totally worth it. I loved the stories, I loved the threads coming together and others being dangled for another book. For all this and more, I give this 5 stars.

About the Author

Steven Erikson is the pseudonym of Steve Rune Lundin, a Canadian novelist, who was educated and trained as both an archaeologist and anthropologist. His best-known work is the series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

If you wish to purchase this book, pick your vendor of choice here, or just cave to the man and get it from Amazon here.

Originally published on Feedium. This fills in the Book Club square on my Fantasy Bingo 2022 card.