Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is one of those fantasy books that if you end up searching “fantasy series you must read” will appear nearly every single time. It’s the start of one of the most complex and sprawling book series ever created with currently ten books of more than 7,300 pages.
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Gardens of the Moon is the first book in a series that tells us many tales about the epic history of the Malazan Empire. This book focuses on an array of characters and their stories, most of whom eventually end up crossing each other’s paths.
It’s a book that will require you to really concentrate, it may require you to keep referring to the glossary and the people guide at the start and it may even require you to refer to a Wiki to be able ti build out a better understanding of characters and places.
Gardens of the Moon plot – 4.5/5
Gardens of the Moon doesn’t really feel like it has a beginning and an end. You know when Erikson wrote this that he very much intended it to be a sprawling series which will encompass many stories. This results in a book that feels like you’ve been dropped right into the middle of a story, so you have to keep up and keep track. However, if you do pay attention, if you get past the first third of the book and have a decent understanding of what’s going on, then you’ll be thoroughly rewarded.
There are chapters in this book that you’d argue maybe don’t need to be in here and you could be without, however, there is also a certain element to them that allows you to get to grips with a certain character more or adds some lore to a culture or place. These are dense books written by someone who is clearly enthusiastic and has a lot of material to work with.
The book covers different wars, and battles, it covers a range of Kings, magic cultures, soldiers and more. If there were a tick list of things to fit into a fantasy plot, Gardens of the Moon would probably tick them all. Does it possibly make it a little difficult to get into? Yes. Does the plot all make sense and have a resounding finish that makes you feel the effort was worth it? Oh yes.
Gardens of the Moon characters – 4/5
I always find writing good characters in fantasy books genuinely very impressive. To create a completely fictional world with fictional cultures, and fictional hierarchies and to still be able to do all of this with genuinely likeable and interesting characters is a real talent. Gardens of the Moon does this.
Gardens of the Moon has characters from all levels, all the way from a lowly lonely lost girl right up to Gods. It has funny characters, genuinely enjoyable characters and character arcs and stories that you find absolutely fascinating. My favourite character is Kruppe – he really stood out as unique from the others and even goes on to have a pretty fascinating story.
Whether Erikson will continue with the characters in the second book or take us elsewhere in the Malazan Empire’s history and write about completely different stories and characters, I don’t know. I’d prefer him to stick with these so we can build them out a bit but I would also have full confidence in him introducing some new ones too.
Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson overall rating – 4/5
I would have given Gardens of the Moon five stars if it weren’t for the constant need to reread some areas to check I was right and the fact that characters are often introduced without any real introduction at all. Gardens of the Moon and the Malazan Book of the Fallen series as a whole is often talked of as being difficult to read and this is very true. But when you find yourself two-thirds of the way in, utterly enthralled by everything going on and the world that Erikson is carving, you can’t help but be in awe of it all.