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103 of 108 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 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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73 of 82 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 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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102 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 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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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
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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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2011
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2014
This is the first time i've ever written a review in Amazon. I do it now because i am seriously awe struck with Malazan Book of the Fallen. I found the series after finishing A Song of Ice and Fire and looking online for something similar and boy, did i hit the jackpot.

As with many, it was only on my second try that i was able to surpass that first 200 pages threshold. It is that confusing in the beginning, specially for non English native speakers. But I remember how it felt after it, entire chapters taking my breath way, the mere scope of what I was being presented!

I have now finished the entire series and have started again from the beginning. I literally picked up Gardens of the Moon again after finishing the last one (The Crippled God), that is how good it is.

Lets talk specifics - You get Gods aplenty, complex characters, undead armies, conflagrations and confrontations of unimaginable proportions, a worlds older and more detailed than a I though possible, where every ruin, every hill, every city has such immense and ancient history (Most you are just hinted at, never fully explained, as it should be).

There is no hero. Until the end, the author was able to shift my perspective on characters and their actions with ease, multiple times. I found my self never knowing rooting for someone in a book, only to completely hate that someone in the next book, only to then be sympathetic to him again in the next.

You can just feels the immensity of Pathos when reading this series. I felt like I had been physically struck sometimes. There was one death that left me positively devastated for days. It is that powerful

I am not a fantasy "geek". I have read A Song of Ice and Fire, the Magician and the King Killers Chronicles, not much else. So don't believe it when they say this is for hardcore fantasy fans.

Treat yourself to this series and you will never look at another fiction book the same
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2012
With a long novel like this, you may think the author has dragged it out, and it could be shorter. That's not the case. I think if anything, it could be longer. It has so many different plots, especially for an opening chapter. There was a storm of different soldiers, gods, ravens, warrens, spells, lands, cities, events. And just when you think you've met the biggest threat, another comes along and the author says 'This guy could kill all we've met so far in a single swipe of his claw'.
Also, when the climax comes along, it only lasted about one page, and was not very satisfying.
Lastly, the writing style was flat.
Don't get me wrong, it was still good, but not quite the enticing, spellbinding masterpiece I was lead to expect.
I will give it another chance.

Good: a multi-layered, engrossing plot, with strong characters.
Bad: The climax was very short considering the 650+ page build up, confusing in some places, flat writing style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 October 2014
Gardens of the Moon - the beginning of what is, in my opinion, the greatest fantasy series of all time.

This book may be difficult for some intially, as it doesn't coddle the reader, and many argue it is one of the weaker Malazan books. However, I found the fact that the reader is dumped in the thick of things to be refreshing, as opposed to stale 'stable boy leaves village to seek his fortune and get stronger' trope.
Some of my favourite literary characters are introduced in this book, and this is where Erikson shines. His characters, and his imagination soar like Moons spawn in this one. Many different characters, doing many different things, and as the book moves so the scope escalates. - breathtaking at times.....

As the start to an incredible series, this book is essential for anyone who enjoys fantasy. .A must read.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 11 April 2012
***UPDATE*** I finished the series, it doesn't get any better, ten novels that are confused, convoluted and ultimately, crap.

I tried very hard with this book. I've lost count of the times I picked it up with a determined mindset, prepared to get a good few chapters under my belt. But invariably I would just get frustrated and give up after a few pages. I eventually reached the end and the thought of reading the next instalment filled me with dread.

I just don't understand the positives to be gained from slamming the reader into the middle of a plot where you know no-one, have no frames of reference, no sense of reality or boundaries. The characters and locations are introduced so thick and fast that it's impossible to even begin to form an opinion on them. I'm not saying that the first book in a series has to be a typical `farm boy meets mysterious stranger and slowly discovers he's important', but spending a little time with the central characters is essential if we are to ever care about them.

The author seems to have developed this opinion that it is somehow `conformist' to establish a setting and sow the seeds of a story. I can understand that he may want to move away from the aforementioned `farm boy' convention, but to disregard basic storytelling principles goes too far the other way. I adore reading all sorts of books, particularly epic fantasy and I don't see why what is meant to be a kind of creative escapism should be a chore. I shouldn't have to force myself to read on, in the hope that eventually something will happen that I care about.

To continue the rant, I also have a problem with stories that involve gods as physical entities, its one thing to have an undefined dark lord/good god lurking in the background that people can blaspheme about, but it becomes really annoying that just when you feel like you've started to get a handle on what is and isn't possible in the reality of the book; what magic can and can't achieve, then a god can turn up and just do whatever they want, completely altering events and the story. To me this is a bit of a cop out, and makes the whole narrative feel pointless; you just end up waiting for another godly intervention to change the circumstances. It's a similar problem with the magic...the whole `warrens' thing is very confusing, and with barely a sentence of description or explanation they come across as a source of `do whatever you want' power, which like the gods, makes the plot boring.

Finally, the names are pretty bad. Ganoes Paran is such an awkward and unwieldy name for a main character, Tayschrenn is another example. Whiskeyjack just seems so contrived, as if the author has sat down and thought `what would be the coolest name for a grizzled old veteran?' It also seems completely out of context with all the other names, that all have an otherworldly quality, albeit an awkward one.

So I'm sorry, but I just can't get into this, and I was really looking forward to getting involved in a series that actually had a finish, instead of hanging around for years waiting for the next instalment.

Maybe one day I'll try again, but for now I'm afraid I didn't enjoy it.
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