Gretna, LA, USA | Member Since 2006
If you've read my review of Erikson's Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1, I stated:
"This is a stunningly powerful epic that can both capture and entrance you. Words like stirring, captivating, engaging, and memorable come to mind. This wonderful work has rich and complex storylines, characters, and descriptions. Consider the complexity of The Lord Of The Rings. Take it up a few notches, and you might be there when it comes to the Gardens of the Moon. Seriously. And this is only the first in the series!"
Well, here's the second book, and it's equally as stirring, captivating, and enjoyable as the first.
So, here's the conundrum: How do I review this book without giving anything away?
Wow. Okay. Deep breath. Here goes.
Once again, Erikson crafts a masterpiece that brings a strong storyline, rich character development, dark fantasy, the winds of war, and just plain good story-telling together.
He carries on the story beautifully and rewardingly begun in the first, but it takes place countless leagues away from where Gardens of the Moon began, with only a few of the characters from the first book along for this new ride.
Strap in, because a virtual jihad of war is on the horizon, a nightmare whirlwind, and anyone who has read the first book has figured out exactly what I'm being vaguely stating here. Yes, it's coming to pass, and characters you'll love (and hate), most new and a couple of old ones as as well, will be swept into its maelstrom. Deep magics, black plots, and machiavellian twists and betrayals lay in wait for the listener. And I HAVE to say, Erikson got me in a few places in this book - I usually play chess in my head with novels, trying to figure out in advance where the arthor is going. And often, I'm right.
Erikson, you got me good. REALLY good. You surprised me a number of times. You twisted the plot, and then twisted it yet again . You gave both heroes and villains powerful motivation and direction. The military scenes were dead on. It's...well...gripping.
And GREAT listening. Keep in mind that the sheer size of this sweeping epic requires time to set up the pawns, knights, bishops and king and queen on the gameboard, but once done, the story propels you forward. it takes you on a journey that still has eight more books to complete.
But again, it is NOT for the casual listener. In fact, it's more demanding than the first audiobook. Is that even possible? Yes, it definitely is. Is it worth the effort?
Yes, it definitely is.
It is, in a word, exceptional.
If you follow my reviews, you know that I like to roll the dice, to randomly buy a series on a whim, on the luck of the draw. Sometimes, it's a bust.
This time, it's a definite win, but if you go by how the series was created, you'd probably run in the opposite direction.
Here's one for the books: Jim Butcher is well-known for his "Dresden Files" series, created a fantastic fantasy series on a BET. Yep, a bet. Read on.
To quote the Codex Alera Wiki site, "the inspiration for the series came from a bet Jim was challenged to by a member of the Delray Online Writer’s Workshop. The challenger bet that Jim could not write a good story based on a lame idea, and Jim countered that he could do it using two lame ideas of the challenger’s choosing. The “lame” ideas given were “Lost Roman Legion", and “Pokémon”.
It DOES sound lame.
Well, Butcher makes it work. To the nines.
I've finished this first novel, and I'm enjoying this unique story line of humans with Roman similarities binding with elemental furies. Add unique races, backstabbing, politics, military battles, duels and an interwoven story line that pulls it all together, and you get a fantastic story that's simply put, a VERY VERY good listen.
The whole concept of fighting alongside elemental familiars used here is wonderfully executed. It's deep, well-thought magic-based partnership of man and magical creature is a pleasure to experience.
So, what about the writing?
Again, if you follow my reviews, you know that I love ENGAGING fantasy or scifi writing. Anything less won't do. And this is definitely engaging. There's great characters that plot, backstab, challenge, fight for their beliefs, devour their enemies, and celebrate their victories. You're taken on a great romp of a story, and in the end, isn't that what we all want in a good listen?
I know I do, and I so enjoyed this first audiobook in the series, that I bought the entire series. Yep. And I'm not disappointed with the decision.
Who knew that Lost Roman Legions and Pokemon could knock it out of the park?
Home run, Jim. Home run.
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