Stephen Erikson sure loves his world-building!
I’ve wanted to bring ‘Gardens of the Moon’ to the attention of anyone who might be reading my blog since before I was even sure I wanted to start a blog. But where do I begin?
Singing the praises for Erikson’s ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series is as easy as breathing; so then, I will begin with a warning. Getting into ‘Gardens of the Moon’ demands no small amount of attention, as well as the willingness to dive into a world that doesn’t slow down to hold your hand for so much as a single moment. This first chapter in a ten book-spanning tale is a challenge that won’t be to the taste of every fantasy reader out there. It’s understandable — ‘Gardens’ has the task to set up a great deal many concepts, which besides interesting are also complex.
Stick with it, however, and you will discover a tangible world rich in all the aspects that make fantasy a fully realized genre. Action, drama and memorable characters are built on some of the most memorable dialogue I have ever encountered. Erikson’s dialogue, in fact, has remained with me for years — the first time I read ‘Gardens’ was ten years ago; I’ve had the following lines seared across my mind since then:
“Kallor shrugged. ‘I have walked this land when the T’lan Imass were but children. I have commanded armies a hundred thousand strong. I have spread the fire of my wrath across entire continents, and sat alone upon tall thrones. Do you grasp the meaning of this?’
‘Yes. You never learn.”
I don’t know about you but this is the kind of writing that gives me goosebumps in the small hours of the night.
Stephen Erikson is a master of plot twists, somehow managing to surprise — either to the point of delight or infuriation — most every single reader on a near-constant basis. You might consider that someone is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on the first couple of actions you see them take until — surprise! They do and say something that ends up changing your whole outlook!
What I mean to say is that the men and women (and children) who populate the world of the Malazan Empire are complex individuals whose motivations are very real. Some characters may be utterly despicable (especially in some of the following weeks) but even those don’t feel like cardboard cutouts and that is an accomplishment worth commending in any fantasy epic.
I’m not going to go into detail about any of the characters here, for they are numerous; there’s a ‘Dramatis Personae’ list at the beginning of the book and suffice to say, it is a long one.
And now, bullet points!
Who this book is for:
- Readers of epic fantasy;
- Readers of grim fantasy;
- Those of you who enjoy long-ass stories with hundreds of subplots that might be solved several books from now;
- People who enjoy fantastic characters and alien cultures;
- Readers who enjoy a challenge and love taking their time with books;
- Your grandmother who’s always nodding off — this’ll be sure to keep her awake!
Who this book isn’t for:
- People who hate everything good and nice!
- Readers who don’t enjoy being thrown in the deep end — I understand why some find it unappealing but I’ve always found books like ‘Gardens’ to be extremely appealing exactly because they’re not afraid to remove their gloves.
- Those of you who don’t enjoy stories that are immensely massive in scope will probably not stick with this particular series on account of it being some of the most ambitious fantasy ever written. It makes Wheel of Time look like a children’s tale, and that’s one tough feat.
Before I leave you off, I’ll just mention a few things I adored for all those who’ve already read the book and are familiar with the vast universe that it introduces. There’s hardly going to be any context to the following, but read on at your own risk!
- Anomander Rake!
- The bloody cover above!
- Crazy assassins and their mage friends!
- I is for intrigue!
- Crazy little dolls that end up as timber!
- Elder Gods and disturbing new rituals!
- Prologues that make so much more sense in hindsight!
- Fantasy’s obsession with the tale of Belisarius!
- The end of this blog post!
Phew, that was one fun lightning round! Thank you for reading, hope to see you again next week! If you’d like to further discuss Gardens of the Moon, fear not — I plan on writing several essay-length bits and pieces on the series as a whole, come the future! You are very welcome to join me!
Great bullet points! Very convincing. Consider it added to my list! 😛
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Didn’t you add it before, though? I’m sure I’ve yelled at you to read it at least a couple of times…
Haha probably….see I need to actually write down my list to avoid embarrassments like this…
I’m currently reading this book and enjoying it a lot! So much is just thrown at you with no explanation. The author depends on you to figure it out yourself as you piece everything together. Not for everybody, but definitely for me!
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Erikson will really make you work for it throughout the entire series. That said, it’s the single most rewarding piece of fiction I’ve ever read!
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Well, I’m only about 100 pages in but so far I have definitely noted the “figure it out yourself” style. I like the fact that Erikson has admitted that some people will love the books whereas others will strongly dislike them. I feel like the reviews I read on Goodreads definitely reflected that.
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They absolutely did! A lot of readers love more literature that doesn’t give everything away, thankfully!
If you enjoy the Malazans and the general military bits in Malazan — and I’m betting you do — I’d like to point you out to Glen Cook’s Black Company series if you haven’t read that; Erikson drew inspiration from it, and it’s absolutely magnificent. Same dark, caustic humor and great action, albeit on a scale that’s not quite as all-encompassing as the Book of the Fallen.