Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is intricate high fantasy on a large scale that delivers a world that few other books can match.
Type of Story: High epic fantasy following multiple point of view characters and plot-lines that converge in the end to tell an over-arching story.
– High fantasy with a lot of use of magic. Almost every character has some ability they excel at.
– Intricate world building that is on another level compared to a lot of fantasy titles. The author created an entire world and its history before writing.
– Unexplained mysterious elements that reward a reader that enjoys that sort of thing. This is a book you figure out while reading because the author does not spell things out.
– A cast of characters that all have their own ambitions and desires without putting people into good and evil camps.
– Active gods!
– Almost all the pros can become a con for some readers. Some readers might not want a lot of magic and they might want more direction in their narrative instead of figuring things out.
– There are no proper introductions with a lot of things and this could really throw some readers off.
– Some readers might have a hard time connecting to the characters because at times it just seems like the characters just can do whatever they want without explanation.
Similar Books/Media: Think Game of Thrones on crack dropped into the middle of the narrative randomly and instead of limiting magic, making everyone a Dragon Ball Z or Bleach character, but in a serious way. All those movies with like a dozen different characters that somehow become connected at the end.
Plot – 4/5(Stong)
At the start of Gardens of the Moon there are about a dozen different plot lines that Erikson is using to introduce his grand vision. The Empire of Malazan is continuing to conquer lands on a continent called Genabackis. The last free city is Darujhistan and the Malazan Empire want this last city but their army has a lot of cracks in it. The main reason the Empire itself has a lot of cracks in it is because many of the conquered territory have men from that territory now serving in the Malazan army. We follow characters that are extremely loyal to Malazan, characters that are only loyal to their company, and characters that want to overthrow the Empire.
Darujhistan has their own problems and conflicts even without Malazan. They have a mage cabal, regular council, and an assassin guild all vying for power in the city. When Malazan makes Darujhistan its next target there are some in Darujhistan that want to take advantage of the situation.
The gods and other immortals want to be involved in this conflict because it gives them something to do and they have things to lose or gain from the possible take over of Darujhistan. The multitude of characters verge upon Darujhistan and eventually all become connected in multiple ways.
The strength of the plot of Gardens of the Moon is taking many different strings of plots to weave them together into a tapestry of cohesion. This is a book that takes you on a journey into the unknown and holds back information to create interest in the reader. I personally loved this aspect of Gardens of the Moon because it always challenged me. I have never looked at a character list and glossary more while reading a book. I’m a big mystery book lover and being in the dark with things is sometimes what you encounter with mystery books so it felt fine to me. I feel like I’m overstating the mystery and challenging aspect because I didn’t really struggle to understand much of it. There are a lot of fights in this book with sorcery being used and tons of assassins.
The characters in Gardens of the Moon are all extremely varied. There are gods, mages, healers, assassins, thieves, monsters, demons, and everything in between. I would feel really bad for the normal every day person in this world because it seemed so many people were extremely exceptional. When every character has abilities and powers it slightly cheapens the outstanding qualities that powerful characters possess.
There are enough fun and really just down-right cool characters in Gardens of the Moon to entertain. In fact, at this point in the Malazan series we aren’t really worried about creating extremely detailed characters with a lot of back-story and emotions just some cool characters to read about. The personalities and backgrounds of the characters will continue to grow over the series.
Setting/World Building – 5/5(Very Strong)
The world building of Gardens of the Moon is immense. Erikson just hits the tip of the iceberg of his Malazan universe with this book. You can tell that he created this entire world before writing the series. This is a great example of such an established setting that the setting can pretty much tell the story. A dozen or more different kinds of magic, about 20 different immortal beings/gods, multiple unique races, a detailed map, and everything has a history.
Writing Style – 3/5(Fine)
Erikson’s writing style in GotM is a limited 3rd person pov that jumps from different povs often. I really didn’t mind the pov jumps that much but I can see how it would bother people. People say he gets better as the series goes on. The dialogue was fine and a strength of the book. I would have liked a little bit more description of characters and the scene. He definitely isn’t a bad writer by any stretch of the imagination but I think as the world building grows and becomes this entity of its own that the writing quality needs to meet that level. His ability to foreshadow and put in small tid-bits of information that relates to other parts of the book is one of his best attributes.
Heart and Mind Factor – 4/5(Strong)
There was not much heart factor in this book for me but there was some mind factor. The mind factor was more me trying to figure things out and unravel this world that Erikson created. I really enjoyed this and I was really happy to do this as a buddy group read because it made things much more clear to me and I focused harder to understand the book to join in on the discussions. At first this book felt like someone dropped a 1,000 piece puzzle on the floor and I had to pick up all the pieces and put the puzzle together. I am really cool with that because I like the challenge.
Recommendation: I recommend Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson to people that place world building above other aspects in their fantasy reading, readers that enjoy stories with multiple threads coming together, and readers that want to figure things out.
I really liked GotM and I was torn between giving it a 5 or a 4 but finally decided on the 4 because I think it can get better. I might edit this review in the future after reading the entire series and give it a 5, who knows. I am very happy I am tackling this series this year.