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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best epic fantasy I've read in a long time
I read this book because I was going through books so fast, and wanted to find an epic fantasy series that would keep me occupied for a long time. The reviews on Amazon - both positive and negative - decided me.

A lot of people have said this book is confusing and hard to follow. I didn't find that, but you probably will if you try to read too fast. There...
Published on 27 Mar 2011 by Louise

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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I admired it more than I enjoyed it.
The Malazan Empire seeks to conclude its long campaign to conquer the continent of Genabaris. At the front-line of this struggle we find a general close to rebelling, a legendary squad of sappers, a sprinkling of gods, a handful of warring mages, an ancient lord who flies his own moon around, a rag-bag gang of low-lifes, and a rich, gas-lit city where mandarins and...
Published on 10 April 2012 by Jason Mills


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73 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best epic fantasy I've read in a long time, 27 Mar 2011
I read this book because I was going through books so fast, and wanted to find an epic fantasy series that would keep me occupied for a long time. The reviews on Amazon - both positive and negative - decided me.

A lot of people have said this book is confusing and hard to follow. I didn't find that, but you probably will if you try to read too fast. There are no wasted words, no lengthy explanations of "what has gone before." There's a vast history behind this story and its characters, but you are only told as much as you need to know right now, and what you are told is slipped in and can easily go unnoticed as the plot moves forward.

There are a lot of characters, and some are developed more thoroughly than others. There simply isn't space in 750 pages to show every character learning and growing.

The story moves forward at a good pace. In that sense, it reads more like a moderately paced thriller than an epic fantasy. But there's nothing thriller-like about the content. The world is filled with magic, and the gods move amongst mortals and interfere in their lives. If you prefer magic to be subtle, this book probably isn't for you, but if you're like me, you'll love the creativity in this world's unique system of magic.

Some people have complained that this book is a prologue to the rest of the series. It is. There are a lot of questions left unanswered. But that doesn't really matter. It's also a story in its own right - the tale of the Malazan Empire's attempts to take control of the last remaining free city on the continent of Genabackis. That story reaches its conclusion as all the threads come together in a dramatic climax.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I've used Amazon for years, but never been inspired to write a review before.

Have I found what I was looking for? Oh, yes. This epic fantasy series is going to keep me occupied and happy for a long time
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86 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get into the Malazan World, 30 Mar 2005
Now where do I start? Gardens of the moon is the first book in a series of 10 (5 out so far) based on at least 5 continents and I estimated over 10 different character POV per book. There is also about 300, 000 years of relevant history, numerous different species and a completely different system of 'magic' to the regular fantasy fare. With countless mysteries and good number of extremely powerful beings it is quite hard to get your head around it at first. So I will try my best in this review to give you a good idea of what to expect from the series as a whole.
Firstly if you are looking for any of the following, beware!
A young nobody (or lost prince) finds famous sword, hacks up baddy, saves the world
Main characters that never seem to die
A light read i.e. Few brain cells or imagination required (Harry Potter?)
Author spoon feeding i.e. everything is explained immediately
Elves, Orcs, Hobbits, goblins etc
After about 100 pages of gardens of the moon you will be very confused, after about 200 it will be even worse, it was for me when I first read it. The story does pick up, but there are still a number of things that will have your head spinning. Erikson is not the type to give info dumps so the brain cells will have to stay sharp while reading this book since the info is spread through all the books. The first book is the weakest of the 5 currently published simply because it is impossible to fully understand everything that happens since you don't have enough information about the Malazan world. But perseverance pays of tenfold as soon as the second book and there is hardly any filler (WOT?) so it is worthwhile not to skim through.
To give a head start I would say that there are 2 definite constants in the Malazan world. The first is convergence which means that power draws other power. And the second one is a balance of that power. It is also useful to condition your thinking and remember that this is a completely different world and is not based on LOTR or D&D, for example a god is not one in the conventional sense, but is just a powerful being who commands a warren (a realm can be used to release magic into the Malazan world).
Even though gardens is a good book, there will always be debate about its quality since it is quite complex and a lot of people can't take that. However, that debate dies off after Book 2 (Deadhouse Gates) , which even with a good dose of extra mystery is easier to follow and the Erikson proves himself as top class with incredible story that leaves most people very numb and wanting more. If you are not hooked after that there is still some hope as book 3 (memories of ice) is in my opinion even better.
There will invariably be comparisons made to George Martin's (another favourite of mine) song of ice and fire. Which is fair since they are both gritty and main characters can and do die. However, I would say that Martin is more character driven, while Erikson is more event or plot driven. But both do it so well that they are arguable writing the best ongoing fantasy series at present, other really don't come close.

So you should get into the Malazan series if you're looking for:
A powerful story that will blow you away
An intriguing web of plots with no clichés
A chance to test the limits of your imagination
A different world you can really get into
Enjoy.
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67 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!, 27 Mar 2007
When I bought this book, I was dreading having to look up stuff in the index at every page, or not being able to understand what was going on in one great long, 700 page battle. That was the impression I had got of the series from its critics. However, others, whilst admitting that it was complex, could not praise it enough. I thought I'd give it a try.
Well, I'm simply blown away. What an amazing start to what promises to be an enormous project that will be soon seen as one of the top fantasy series ever!
Yes, Steven Erikson (and Ian Cameron Esslemont, the co-creator of the world of the Malazan empire) have imagined a world far beyond anything that's ever been written about before. Yes, sometimes it can be hard to remember exactly which Ascendant Cotillion is (though perhaps if you're confused over that one, you've skipped a few pages!) but generally if there is a point when you think, "Hang on, who's Apsalar again?" there is a very useful list of characters at the start which helped me get a few things straight - but I never needed to do this with anything important. If there was something I was unsure about, it would be a minor God, whose name was mentioned in passing. Erikson writes so skillfully about this complex world that I had next to no difficulty remembering what was what.
The pace is fast throughout the book, helped by the style of the book. You see events from many different characters points of view, from both 'sides' (similar to George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire) and you come to care for the characters.
You do NOT get spoon fed the story and details of the world. You get dropped into the story, and you pick up stuff as you go along. The way the reader has to work some things out and wonder about others is deliberate, and I feel one of the book's strengths - instead of spending a few hundred pages introducing you to the world, there is a few pages of prologue, which give you some idea of the start of the Malazan Empire, and introduce you to some of the main characters - and then the pace immediately picks up, dragging you into the story straight away.
As you can see, I feel that this will be an astounding series, and I've heard that the sequel is even better that the first book (doesn't seem possible!)
If you want a nice, easy read, where you don't really have to think too much to understand whats happening, don't chose this book. But if you want an epic, original and unbelievably engrossing new series, what are you waiting for?
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I admired it more than I enjoyed it., 10 April 2012
By 
Jason Mills "jason10801" (Accrington, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gardens of the Moon (Book 1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen) (Mass Market Paperback)
The Malazan Empire seeks to conclude its long campaign to conquer the continent of Genabaris. At the front-line of this struggle we find a general close to rebelling, a legendary squad of sappers, a sprinkling of gods, a handful of warring mages, an ancient lord who flies his own moon around, a rag-bag gang of low-lifes, and a rich, gas-lit city where mandarins and alchemists prepare to meet the onslaught.

I was a little irked by Erikson's disdain for the genre convention of avoiding anachronistic language: too-contemporary words like 'migraine', 'paranoia' and even the dreaded 'okay' jar this reader's suspension of disbelief. Occasionally too his background in role-play gaming intrudes, as when he speaks of a demon being banished 'when enough damage has been inflicted'. But mostly his prose is crisp and effective. Here the Empress's Adjunct quizzes her ancient companion:

----------------------------
"Tell me, Tool, what dominates your thoughts?"
The Imass shrugged before replying. "I think of futility, Adjunct."
"Do all Imass think about futility?"
"No. Few think at all."
"Why is that?"
The Imass leaned his head to one side and regarded her. "Because, Adjunct, it is futile."
----------------------------

Is this then the first volume in a major work of fantasy? Undoubtedly. Is it well written, with economy of prose, bold imagination, well-delineated characters, concise yet colourful dialogue? Yes to all of this. Is it impressive in scale and scope, deftly detailing a complex world and history, telling all it needs to tell while hinting at much greater things? Is it elegantly structured, advancing steadily towards an exciting and action-packed climax, yet packed with incident and intrigue from the first page? Yes. Absolutely.

Odd then that I could hardly be bothered to pick it up: it took me months to get through. If this novel and I registered on a dating site, the algorithm would match us up immediately; but when we actually met there was no spark. I think a problem for me was that I couldn't see what the bouncing ball was following: no one character or cause carries the reader through this bewildering story; instead, we jump ceaselessly from faction to faction, place to place, in a drunkard's walk with no sense of destination. Whilst it's flattering that the author deems me capable of holding this intricate narrative balanced in my head, it often seemed like just one damned thing after another. Still, I entirely accept all the reasons to admire this work, and you may have a better time with it than I did. Just be prepared to work for your supper. :)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new style of fantasy..., 29 Oct 2011
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This review is from: Gardens of the Moon (Book 1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen) (Mass Market Paperback)
...Gone is the grandiose of Tolkein, Jordan, etc. The Gardens of the Moon feels very different from the onset: whereas the classic fantasy stories are slow, descriptive and start instantaneously spinning weaves of grandeur by slowly layering history and lore on the reader, Erikson instead opts for a much more fast paced, action orientated writing style. Little is explained, with characters often conversing over plot points that the reader won't be aware of until later. Character/Race/Place names are constantly thrown at the reader, which can be a little daunting, yet it unarguably prevents the characters from "going stale" as the reader has so little time to acquaint oneself with them before they're either dead or have started plotting with/against yet more hitherto unknown characters. Characters constantly feel as if they know more than the reader does, often speaking of things that make little or no sense and which the reader must try to analyse and guess on the fly. The magic system, despite sounding vastly complex when fleetingly mentioned is not clearly defined at any one point (though as the characters themselves profess not to know everything I think I can forgive them.) Magical combat is simplistic - X strikes at Y, Y avoids/blocks/survives - there is little deeper intricacy, and although the types of magic described are varied and interesting (necromancy, "Elder magic", Pyromancy, Entropy, etc.) there's little that a true fantasy fan won't have come across before. The chronology is speedy - I think by page 100, two years had passed since the beginning of the tale (though the tale really has no defined beginning.)

Re-reading this review, even I find myself thinking "well these don't sound like brilliant qualities?" But there's something about this book. Maybe it's the rawness of the book which makes it likeable? Even I find myself unable to give a definitive reason, having nervously shuffled over from deep trenches in the Robert Jordan world. The book is too fast, too zealous, too political (oh boy is it political - every character seems to have a plethora of possible agendas, and few are clearly explained or even known to the reader/characters alike.) But there is something appealing about the book. Maybe it's the writing style, which despite being hyperactive (or utilitarian shall we say) is enjoyable, making good (and constant) use of metaphor and simile to thread strong images. Maybe it's just the amount of content crammed into each page? Maybe it's the realistic and likeable characters or unpredictable plot that shuttles its way along regardless of whether you're holding tight, often threatening to leave you behind completely if you don't grip on and pay attention. Regardless of what it is, this book does have a raw, primal beauty to it, and though I wouldn't rank it up there with the best of the genre, I do think it's worth a foray just to season oneself in a different environment and try something new.

I would've awarded it 3.5/5, but it deserves rounding up rather than down.
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43 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Epic Begins, 7 Feb 2003
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Few fantasy series take as few prisoners as Steven Erikson. In Gardens of the Moon we're plunged into a story that feels already halfway done. The Malazan Empire is battling to conquer the continents of Korelri, Stratem and Genabackis, the Emperor and his high assassin have both died under murky circumstances and the new Empress is untested. The previously-conquered land of the Seven Cities is on the verge of rebellion and something seriously odd is happening in the Warrens, the otherdimensional magical realms where the Ascendants (demigods) and demons dwell and which the various races can tap to use for their own ends. This isn't a relaxing, take-your-mind-off things read, but an explosive, fast-paced epic tracking the Empire's attempts to conquer the city of Darujhistan. There are a huge number of characters here, from tragic wizardess Tattersail to cynical battalion commander Whiskeyjack to Captain Paran, whom fate has a truly bizarre destiny arranged for. Erikson takes few prisoners and also refuses to bow down to cliche. No dwarves, hobbits or elves (although the cold, remote Tiste Andii are a bit elf-like at times), but an overwhelming array of more original races, such as the demons of the Warrens and the T'lan Imass, an undead race who comitted racial suicide in order to confront a powerful enemy hundreds of thousands of years later. At times Erikson's past as a role-playing gamesmaster comes through (such as a bewildering array of magical items and a frantic desire to cram as much of his meticulously-constructed world in as possible) and the plot is so crammed with incident you may completely lose track of what the hell is going on. But Erikson's style is good, delivering complex ideas whilst retaining a certain dark humour and a genuine (and fiendish) desire to shock the audience out of its genre expectations. Even the frequent intrusions of the gods into the lives of mortals (something I have hated since foolishly reading a David Eddings novel when young) is handled well. Gardens of the Moon is a stunning debut, presenting a fantastical world in its full glory and setting up intriguing hints for future volumes...although, refreshingly, the book stands perfectly well by itself. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best fantasy writer, 6 Feb 2010
This review is from: Gardens of the Moon (Book 1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen) (Mass Market Paperback)
I've Read Jordan's WOT series and all of Raymond Feist's books and they are great, but Steven Erikson makes them all seem very basic.

Without a doubt Gardens of the Moon and the series it begins is the most beautifully woven series I've read so far. It is complex yet coherent, extremely consistent, intelligent, raw and genuinely an adult read in every sense. Yet it is spun with humour, dry wit, and amazing attention to detail. Each volume is very large (usually topping 1000 pages) and I feel you get 1000 pages worth of value, unlike previously mentioned author's who tend to get rather lazy from time to time (esp Feist in his most recent endeavours), and fill it will meandering fluff.

The magic system used in this series is unlike any other. The characters are believable and many ( there are no 'fill' characters - they all serve a purpose even if they are only mentioned once - quite a feat). The mythology is deep and complicated - Feist was pretty good with 'gods and mythology' but has nothing on this series.

Garden's of the moon is a complex start to a complex series but its worth staying with it because once you 'get it' it is an enormously entertaining and engrossing read. It's like when you think you've tasted good food, then eat at a 3 Michellin Star Restaurant and realise there is another level higher. Also worth noting is how good the reviews are for this series... unlike many others that start strong and end weak (eg Feist, goodkind etc), the comments for this series stay generally good throughout - and lets face it to write this consistently well means the author actually cares.

Pure class.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic Fantasy at its best, 29 Oct 2011
This review is from: Gardens of the Moon (Book 1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen) (Mass Market Paperback)
I have now read the entire 10 books and wanted to pay homage to the monumental effort that went into this series. Erikson has pulled off an astonishing depth of breadth across both his plot and characters. I can understand why some people found this daunting and were turned off from the books as a result but I found it fascinating to see how plot unfolded from so many different points of view. The plot of many other books seem to follow a tunnel from one end to the other. Here you get a true glimpse of the complexity of real life in a fantasy setting.

Erikson has created a host of memorable characters that are sure to end up as icons in the fantasy hall of fame: Whiskey Jack, Fiddler, Quick Ben, Anomander Rake, Karsa Orlong and I could add many more. It was easy to fall for these characters and too many nights I stayed up way later than I intended just to follow the story of my latest favourite.

It has been said that Erikson based his books on a fantasy role playing game and I can see where this setting would make a perfect campaign background. I recommend the book even more highly to any other role players out there and only wish I could have been part of the original game.

This series is not for the faint of heart but amply rewards the effort.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars confusing, unbalanced, rushed and truly brilliant., 26 Mar 2013
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This book is not for the faint hearted. I would not blame someone for giving up on this story a third of the way in. The style IS confusing, it rushes through more unexplained history than you can shake a fairly big stick at. The narration sometimes leaves you feeling like you were the one that just got randomly attacked by something that is never quite understood or explained yet somehow ripped your leg off.
Yet. You put in the time. You stand up to the confusion, the unbalance, the pace. You invest yourself in the detail of histories stretching a thousand years, with characters that have seen it all until the definition of God and mortal blur into empire and a battle for power that if you blink, you miss it. Do this and then put down this book. Look at the dirt, the notched sword, the wounds of a battle won, and another lost; smile and remember the happy times when all you expected out of fantasy was good and evil..... with a shed load of magic.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From Small Acorns..., 10 Aug 2012
This review is from: Gardens of the Moon (Book 1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen) (Mass Market Paperback)
I originally picked this book up in a bookshop whilst waiting for the next instalment of A Song of Ice and Fire. I was sceptical at first, but was decided upon reading the blurb; not just wizards and demons but Gods too! Having always liked the debauchery and melodrama that arises with a pinch of polytheism I bought it then and there. I was not to be disappointed.

Erikson starts off with a preface which I suggest is read by all because it really helps you understand what he is trying to achieve. This book, this series, is ambitions, he pulls no punches and throws you right in the deep end, to paraphrase, you may only learn so much of his characters true intentions, just to find it subsumed as part of the plots, counterplots and ancient grievances being played out across a stage that spans continents, millennia and magical realms galore. Yes, be prepared to not know everything straight away; as other reviewers have said, be prepared to have to check up once in a while in the list of characters, but please please don't let this put you off. Erikson is simply a master of his art, something that becomes apparent the more you delve into his works, if it's the little poems and excerpts of lore that preface every chapter that whisper of more and more hidden depths (a mark of so much extra involvement, some will doubtless skip these because the text stands alone perfectly well but I feel it hints of just how invested he is with this world and its history) or his wonderful command of language, his descriptions are rich and varied, his characters even more so.

His is a new take on the fantasy genre (although this may simply be due to limited experience), far be it for me to get political, but his series is the most egalitarian and multicultural fantasy series I have yet read. I recall now charges levelled against Tolkein and (the suspiciously similarly named) George R.R. Martin, that their books were a little monochromatic with, mainly in Tolkien's case, a dearth of well-developed female characters. There's none of that with Erikson, when a soldier enters the picture and my helplessly sexist brain is reading "he", I have to do a double take, no it's a "she", there are plenty of black characters too, and it's not just tokenism, this continues throughout the series.
There may be only one thing I'd say he does poorly and that's romance, I didn't find the romance between Paran and Tattersail at all convincing, springing as it seemed out of the blue, with hardly ten words between them. I simply couldn't believe feelings could really develop in such a short time. It's not even as though he tried to pitch love at first sight, eyes meeting across a crowded room and all that, they just seemed to fall into it.

So, onto the book itself. I mentioned the gods, one of the hallmarks of gods is that they do not like to be crossed, one does so at ones peril, for assuredly...they will exact revenge.
On a lonely coastal road in Itko Kan there has been a massacre, an entire Malazan cavalry regiment along with every other soul for miles around, slaughtered. No sign of who...or what, did so. Lieutenant Ganoes Paran of the Malazan Empire must find out why. In doing so he must enter into a deadly game of gods and mortals, and fight to become more than just a pawn, but to be the master of his own destiny.
Soon he will be thrown together with the likes of Whiskeyjack and what remains of the Bridgeburners, a regiment of soldiers perhaps too dangerous to be left alive, and the mysterious sorceress Tattersail. With the siege of Pale almost over, and likewise the Empire's campaign of conquest on the continent of Genabackis almost at a close, this should be an ending; but betrayal, and a new mission, for the Empress herself, will force them into the field once more. Except this time, it seems, they're not meant to come out alive.
In Darujistan, the last Free City, things are coming to a head, dangerous sorcerous assassins stalk the moonlit rooftops and Elder gods are stirring. The cities fate hangs in the balance and only blood can tip the scales.

I hope this review was helpful and if you read this book I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, it's just the gilded tip of the iceberg, theres so much more to come even if at first it may be hard to see. Good Luck.
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Gardens of the Moon (Book 1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Gardens of the Moon (Book 1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen) by Steven Erikson (Mass Market Paperback - 12 Feb 2008)
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