I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
"We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all." So goes the first epigraph to Steven Erickson's Gardens of the Moon (1999), the first book in his ten-volume The Malazan Book of the Fallen. The epigraph is an apt introduction to his massive work of history-infused epic fantasy. The novel explores history, identity, free will, chance, and empire. The plot involves the attempts of the Empress of the Malazan Empire to annex Darujhistan, a city-state "built [3000 years ago] on rumor," the attempts of the legendary but decimated Bridgeburners unit to survive yet another suicide mission, the attempts of the hidden rulers of Darujhistan to protect their city, and the machinations of some gods to influence events one way or the other. Rather than trot out Tolkien-esque elves and goblins and typical conflicts between Good and Evil, Erikson creates his own world with a long, rich history and varied gods, races, and cultures, all with their own agendas.
Erickson writes great characters, like Whiskeyjack, the grizzled Sergeant of the Bridgeburners; Tattersail, the plump, 200+ year-old mage with a conscience; Anomander Rake, the jet-skinned, silver-haired, 7' tall Son of Darkness and leader of the immortal Tiste Andii, who live in a floating black basalt mountain; and Kruppe, a rotund, sweaty mage-thief who refers to himself in the third person and tells tall tales of his absurd exploits. The main characters are convincing and appealing because they have personal histories and are struggling to stay human in intense situations, especially when being used by external forces like gods or empire. Adjunct Lorn, the arm and voice of the Empress, suppresses her identity to fill her role and nicknames her T'lan Imass guard and guide "Tool," but there are many other tools in the novel, like Ganoes Paran, a young captain who as a boy wanted to be a soldier-hero and ended up making the mistake of getting noticed.
There are plenty of treats to savor in the novel:
--Cool artifacts, like the tarot-like Deck of Dragons that characters consult.
--Potent epigraphs for the novel's books and chapters, taken from different genres, eras, and writers of Erikson's world.
--Great scenes, like when the buffoonish, cherub-masked Kruppe meets the sublime, dragon-masked Rake at a party.
--Much impressive writing, as in this description of Rake's sword: "From the weapon bled power, staining the air like black ink in a pool of water. As his gaze rested on it, Baruk almost reeled, seeing, for a brief moment, a vast darkness yawning before him, cold as the heart of a glacier, from which came the stench of antiquity and a faint groaning sound."
I liked the complexity of the situation, which had me rooting for both the Malazan Bridgeburners and Darujhistan's protectors. Is the Empire a promise of peace or a devouring beast? The vision is bracingly bleak. One character wonders, "What is this human urge that brings us to such devastation?" One race/culture called the Jaghut decided over 300,000 years ago that community breeds tyranny and tried to escape the endless cycle of war and empire by isolating themselves from each other.
In Erikson's world of endless war the redeeming things are loyalty (like the Bridgeburners trying to help Whiskyjack), free will (like Paran trying to act freely), sympathy (like Tattersail feeling remorse over a massacre), ethical action (like Rake involving himself in human affairs), and impossible hope (like Sorry--who has killed many people while god possessed--yearning for the gardens of the moon: "And we'll live in those gardens, warmed by the deep fires, and our children will swim like dolphins, and we'll be happy since there won't be any more wars, and no empires, and no swords and shields. Oh, Crokus, it'll be wonderful, won't it?")
And the novel is full of humor. Some situations are ironically funny, like that of the innocent thief Crokus, who picks up the spinning coin of Oponn (the jester God of Chance), and unbeknownst to him becomes the lucky (or unlucky) "Coinbearer," attracting powerful protectors and assailants. Kruppe constantly spews comical, pointed verbiage. The Bridgeburners play a never-ending and ever-changing gambling game with the Deck of Dragons. The conversations between the Adjunct and her jaded 300,000 year-old Tool are funny and moving. Sorry, the name given the teenage girl possessed by an assassin God, is cited in situations of apology. I can't remember another heroic fantasy novel that so made me chuckle and smirk.
I did notice some flaws in the novel.
--Too often Erikson either artificially increases suspense by withholding information from us that his characters should mention or think about or tediously lets us know what's going on early enough and then writes scenes of characters struggling to figure things out.
--Magical travel, powers, artifacts, and gods lead to a bit too much deus ex machina (literally), so that at times Erickson does Anything He Wants. Admittedly, his characters mention "convergence" (by which power attracts power), but that may be a bit too convenient.
--Some of the fighting is unbelievable if you pause to think about it, as when an assassin-mage, a mage-assassin, an alchemist, and a brick-throwing thief engage in an absurd action-movie-fight.
The base narration voice of the reader of the audiobook, Ralph Lister, is fine, and he tries to differentiate among the many characters of many races, cultures, classes, and genders. He's great with gruff Whiskyjack, nice Tattersail, cool Rake, buttery Kruppe, deliberate Tool, and malevolent Jaghut Raest, but he makes Quick Ben and Kalam too nasal.
The novel recalls Homer, Glen Cook, Michael Moorcock, Stephen Donaldson, and Fritz Leiber, but with its humor, historical and cultural bent, and elaborate system of magical Warrens and Ascendant Houses, Erikson's work is his own. Fans of epic fantasy who haven't read his fantasy yet should give it a try, for it puts most examples of the genre to shame.
this was a struggle. I kept hearing how great this book was and I gave it 3 attempts. I finally finished it. it was ok at best. the jumbled confusion isn't a sign of complexity as it is a sign of poor writing.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving or riding my bike.
Steven Erikson writes gorgeous prose and passable poetry (some of it disguised as prose). He has a phenomenal imagination--actually an imagination beyond imagining for me. And he has the patience and discipline to pull a huge number of extraordinary creations together into a world and sequence of events which is consistent and which, by the time you reach the end of the book, seems like it probably all made sense. What he does not seem to have, at least in this first book of his gargantuan series, are a couple of the most basic skills of the story teller: the ability to keep his story in control in a way which will allow the reader to understand enough at any given point to want to press on, and the knack of making us care about characters so that we can invest in the outcomes of the journey we share with them. I tagged along to the end of the trip but only because I hate quitting.
Often while I was listening to the book I was reminded of the Emperor's line in "Amadeus." Having just listened to a Mozart opera, his response was, "Too many notes. Just...too many notes." The Emperor was wrong, of course, and perhaps I am, too, but for me there were just too many characters, factions, near death or return from death moments, deities and demi-gods, etc. etc. This sort of thing really appeals to some readers, and more power to them. For me the prospect of jotting all of this down on cards and arranging them on a wall so that I can keep the myriad factions and interests straight in my mind through the continuous process of alliance and conspiracy is just too much.
But what I found most off-putting was the fact that most of what transpired was the result of manipulation by entities lurking in the background about whom I cared not at all--some of whom I never met until the final confrontation. Since all the humans I might have invested in were parts of different and competing factions, I soon felt as though I were sitting somewhere far removed from the action watching history on which I would eventually have to pass a test if I wanted to get into the game. I realize that this manipulation by the powers beyond was the point of much of the story, but to work it needed to allow us to identify much more powerfully with a few of the human players.
Clearly a lot of listeners have found this book and series riveting, so I encourage you to read the best of the positive reviews and decide. As for me, I will not be continuing through the rest of the series.
Is it just me or does it seem weird to be reading a review on an audio site? It is, that is why there is a record button for reviews......
First off as a caveat I am an avid fan of Steven Erikson and have read the Malazan Book of the Fallen series complete, twice. There are many things about the Audio version that I loved but to be honest what astonished me the most was the sudden realazation as I was half way through that the Audio version of Gardens of the Moon was so much easier to follow than reading the book.
Anyone who has read the series will tell you that Gardens of the Moon is good book but in contrast to the rest of the series pales in comparison. Its more disjointed, has an incredible steep learning curve and REQUIRES complete focus and attention to understand what is going on. It is no supprise that many many people have a hard time finishing the book and are dejected at the idea of continuing on. But I say this for the feint of heart, if you are one of those people who have trepidation of reading the book because of said issues above then pick up the Audio book and give it a go instead.
It is in my opinion so much easier to follow all of the different threads and plot points listening to this begining of one of the most epic tales to be told in modern fantasy. Now you may be saying to your self "well of course it was easy for you, you have read the series, twice!" and yes that is true. But in answer to that statement I will tell you this! Every time I have read this series, in every book I finish I know that I have learned more, caught on to more threads of the story that I missed before and that I finish the book feeling that there is still more that I have missed. Following the listening of the Audio book I have walked away feeling that I missed nothing and that I was able to capture and become immersed in all the intracy, plot threads and ground work that has been laid down in this story. Take that for what it is worth and start your listen on this fantastic story.
I enjoy fiction including Sci Fi and fantasy (lots of epic fantasy.) I'm also a big fan of some of the spy genre like the Bourne series and some Tom Clancy.
That is a definite maybe. But probably not. Right now I don't know how I will go on to listen to the next two.
This book had all the makings of a fantastic book. Without the story. So what's wrong with the story? It doesn't really exist. You're pulled into it without context, description, direction or any sense for what anyone is doing beyond their present actions. You have no ability to sense the gravity of the moment or have any emotional attachment to what's going on. At one point there's what seems should be a dramatic scene and he says "The day of the Tiste Andii has come!" It has the same gravity as "DUH DUH DUUHHHHHH... Bob is acutely pissed." Maybe it's different when you can sit down and slowly read it but there are some many seemingly mindless facts, names, places, etc. that when the time comes that those things are important you've completely forgotten what they are or just don't realize why you should care.
There's a dramatic fight scene at one point on the roofs of Darujistan which Anomander Rake joins. You find out he's a bit of a bad@ss. Well, actually you don't. You don't know it's him. Later in the book you find out it was him and then you're like... oh... ok? Well I guess he's a bad@ss.
Frustration. Boredom. I found myself easily distracted and wanting to do something else other than listen to the book.
There are far more enjoyable books out there. If you really geek out on technicals - if you LOVED the Silmarillion.. then maybe this book is for you. Just remember you'd have to love the Silmarillion without reading any of the other Tolkien books first! That would be a similar experience I think.
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
CLAW, MAGE, HIGH MAGE, WHISKEY JACK, FIST, HIGH FIST, ONE ARM, MOONSPAWN...
I read the hard cover years ago. I remember the book has having an exciting beginning but getting bogged down in details after that. I thought maybe if I heard someone else read it, I would understand it better. I was wrong. I was even more lost listening than reading. I suggest if you want to tackle this, get the hard back. Even then it is not my type of book. The author spends more time naming things and saying things, than telling a story.
In the first hour the book takes the reader to two battlefields after the battles. The book describes the dead and the gore. I believe the first battlefield was enough to set the stage and than we should have been taken to an actual battle. This author spends too much time describing the scene and saying things that sound cool. He needs to spend more time developing the characters and the story. This is the equivalence of a Horror writer putting the word Blood in every other sentence, thinking that makes his story scary, in place of building suspense.
I absolutely love my audible account, makes its from enjoying a book to loving the stories found in the books. Do forgive my errors in the reviews i do have dyslexia but i will share my love with everyone
Steven Erikson has a great way to merge several different magics into his novel. the magic is called warrens, most people can use there one warren. there is also his own version of taro cards called the deck of dragons. each warren is tied to a house in the deck.
what happens when the ascendents of the warrens start to mess with the empire of Malazan? the house of shadows seems to be the main opposition to the empire. Oponn the twins of chance are up to something as well. Anomander Rake, with all his power is playing games from his moon. Why are the ascendents so interested in the empire, and why are the bridgeburners wanted to be eliminated.
plots found inside plots, men fighting ascendents, ascendents fighting the empire. alliances are made and broken. and you can never trust anyone. This book has you listening to it over and over again
I recommend "Gardens of the Moon" to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy. This book is fast paced, with great characters. Just as complicated as George R.R. Martin, and Robert Jordan, but with a much faster pacing. The Magic is unique, and you can tell that Steven Erikson was a professor of anthropology.
This is Grade A fantasy at its best.
The pacing of the story, it covers a lot of ground. I also have love for the Bridgeburners.
When Quickben, and Kalem get ambushed by Anomander and company on the rooftops.
Certain characters made me laugh, but it is a serious book.
Please get the other 9 books of the main series on Audible asap!! ohh... and all the novellas of the Malazan world by Steven Erikson, and the ones by Ian C. Esslemont
I am a lifetime devotee to fantasy and sci-fi and I really wanted to like this. This book had wizards, fighters, thieves, assassins, fair maidens, and various sentient winged creatures. It had plots and plots within conspiracies within plots. It had all of the superficial elements the genre demands but somehow the whole never became any greater than the sum of these parts. There were too many characters and they were introduced too fast without sufficient background to "get to know" them. As a result, I spent the first 1/3 of the book a bit confused and I never fell in love with the characters in the way I have with other fantasy series. The narrator was pretty good but a few characters sounded annoyingly like leprechauns.
It's obvious form the other reviews that plenty of other people enjoyed this book much more than I did,but all in all it just never grew on me.
Probably easier to read than listen to because of the complexities of character names and number of strange story lines but for someone who listens to 500 plus hours of audio books every year thus is one of the few I need to drop from my device and just move on. I gave it 6 hours before giving up wishing I could get a refund.