January 13, 2011
Review: "Gardens of the Moon" By Steven Erikson
It has taken me a couple of days to formulate my thoughts and impressions about Gardens of the Moon and shape them into this review. First, I must say to Mr. Erikson, "Bravo! and Brilliant!" Secondly, I am still rendered nearly speechless after reading this first installment in his hugely fascinating and sophisticated epic fantasy series, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen." This book hurls the reader into a red-hot frying pan face down! As it is so darned intellectually creative, the novel requires a significant amount of work on the part of the reader, but it is ever so worthwhile. While clearly dark, and at times bleak, the plot is stunningly complex but absolutely riveting; and the characters are just about the most original I've encountered in fiction, and feel so damned realistic. From my perspective, there are also a host of connections to the great literature of the ages in this first book--from the classics of the ancient Greeks and Romans, Arthurian legend, the Norse mythology in the Poetic Edda and the Ragnarok, to the naturalism of Edith Wharton and Thomas Hardy--it is all here.
The plot of the novel, and the series for that matter, in a nutshell is this--the Malazan Empire, ruled by the megalomaniacal Empress Laseen, is a militaristic human society that has ambitions for conquering most, if not all, of its known world. Erikson's background as an archaeologist and anthropologist shines through in his description of the various cultures and peoples that occupy the various continents and countries of this fascinating world that the Malazan Empire is trying to control, and one can't help but hearken back to the days of the Roman empire at its heyday. Now throw in mages and their use of some complex and intriguing forms of sorcery, near-constant interactions with gods (good and evil) that take great delight in meddling and influencing the events and actions of the mortal protagonists on the planet, and finally Erikson's creation of several unique non-human races of sentient beings that have been on this world for hundreds of thousands of years! Altogether this makes for a very potent and heady brew that needs to be imbibed slowly. Read carefully and just take it all in word-by-word. There is some seriously scary shit going on here that simply makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up! I can only bow down and marvel at the imagination of Mr. Erikson.
My final word--strap yourself in and brace yourself for the ride! Erikson's "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" is an epic fantasy series that grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go, not for one second. Honestly, if you like creative and detailed high fantasy that is also amazingly fresh and original, you won't want to miss one word of this series. For me, now it is on to the second volume, "Deadhouse Gates."
For your information, here is the complete list of the titles in Steven Erikson's The Malazan Book of the Fallen series, and date of first publication:
Gardens of the Moon (1999)
Deadhouse Gates (2000)
Memories of Ice (2001)
House of Chains (2002)
Midnight Tides (2004)
The Bonehunters (2006)
Reaper's Gale (2007)
Toll the Hounds (2008)
Dust of Dreams (2009)
The Crippled God (forthcoming final volume in the series, January/February 2011)