Gardens Of The Moon by Steven Erikson (A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 1)

9/10 A stunning opening to what may become the best fantasy series in decades.

"In the years and many novels since, certain facts have made themselves plain. Beginning with Gardens of the Moon, readers will either hate my stuff or love it. There’s no in-between. Naturally, I’d rather everyone loved it, but I understand this will never be the case. These are not lazy books. You can’t float through, you just can’t. Even more problematic, the first novel begins halfway through a seeming marathon – you either hit the ground running and stay on your feet or you’re toast."
Steven Erikson, 2007

Steven Erikson's Gardens Of The Moon is the first book in the series and is entitled A Tale Of The Malazan Book Of The Fallen. The book was first published in 1999 and marked a sensational, critically acclaimed debut.

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake, lord of Moon’s Spawn, and his Tiste Andii. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving sorceress of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out and it is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze.

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand…

There is no easy way to describe this book, you are flung into the fantasy world from the first page with no explanation of characters or plot. Questions that arise are rarely answered and if anything the answers raise even more questions of their very own. If you hoped that this would be a fantasy book that would help wile away a few rainy days then you will be in for a shock as this tale will require your full and undiluted attention from the very beginning. That is if you want to understand what is going on...

As with many new fantasy novels there are a lot of new character and place names to come to terms with before you can fully enjoy the book. Gardens Of The Moon is more difficult than most in this aspect as many, many characters enter the story in a very short time period and there is a lot to keep up with. It is though, without doubt, worth preserving as the whole story comes together beautifully and the plot begins to make more and more sense. I should also mention that it is not just people and places that you will need to learn, there are also gods that interfere in mankind's struggle.

During the first chapters of the book, Captain Paran, one of the main characters comes into contact with the Empress' Adjunct at a scene of unexplained carnage.

It was when the birds scattered from their path that the Adjunct found herself envying the captain. Before her the roused carrion-eaters exposed a carpet of armour, broken bones and meat. The air was hot, turgid and cloying. She saw soldiers, still helmed, their heads crushed by what must have been huge, terribly powerful jaws. She saw torn mail, crumpled shields, and limbs that had been ripped from bodies. Lorn managed only a few moments of careful examination of the scene around them before she fixed her gaze on the promontory ahead, unable to encompass the magnitude of the slaughter.
Gardens Of The Moon: Book One - Pale

Amongst all the intrigue and battle there are a company of soldiers called the Bridgeburners. I would say that these are most interesting and easily identifiable characters in the book. Their fate is intertwined with that of Captain Paran, Tattersail the Mage and the myriad characters that appear in the tale. A large majority of the action centre's around a siege on a city called Pale where there is a great magical battle between the Empire's mage's and the Lord of Moon's Spawn, Anomander Rake. We are unsure as to who is good and who is bad and the story builds nicely and the characters are developed nicely and past happenings are mentioned that help us to understand how everyone and everything has ended up in the situation that they are now.

'As I said, things have changed,' K'rul said quietly. 'You have a choice, Raest. Onos T'oolan can destroy you. You have no understanding of what his title of Sword signifies - he is without equal in this world. You can fall ignobly beneath the blade of an Imass, or you can accompany me - for in one thing we are the same, you and I. Our time has passed, and the Gates of Chaos await us. What choice do you make?'
'I make neither, Elderling One.' With a soft, hollow laugh, Raest's battered, withered body collapsed.
K'rul cocked his head. 'He's found another body.'
Kruppe pulled out his handkerchief. 'Oh, my,' he said.
Gardens Of The Moon: Chapter Twenty Two

I can't overstate the importance of sticking with this book even if all seems to confusing, the book WILL make sense in the end as the author expertly brings all the threads of the story together and gives us a story to cherish. The imagination of Steven Erikson can only be marveled at as he breathes new life into the fantasy genre with his new ideas and creations.

This is a book that I think I will need to re-read as soon as possible due to the fact that I feel it make be enjoyed even more second time around and there is a good chance that there a parts of the book that I missed first time around.

I highly recommend this book, it is a work of great skill and beauty. Read and enjoy.

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39 positive reader review(s) for Gardens Of The Moon

161 positive reader review(s) in total for the A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series

Our interview with Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson's ongoing fantasy series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen has brought new life and originality into the fantasy genre. Steven Erikson kindly spoke to Fantasy Book Review in September 2009, shortly after the [...]

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Steven Erikson's A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series

Gardens Of The Moon

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 1

Deadhouse Gates

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 2

Memories of Ice

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 3

House Of Chains

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 4

Midnight Tides

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 5

The Bonehunters

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 6

Reaper's Gale

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 7

Toll the Hounds

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 8

Dust of Dreams

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 9

The Crippled God

A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen: Book 10

Gardens Of The Moon reader reviews

from New Jersey

This book and series is not for everyone, but not because you have to be intelligent to like it or anything silly like that. These books, and the series as a whole, employ a non-traditional structure that not everyone will find enjoyable. For those who do, these books will be an awesome, compelling, thought-provoking, humorous and emotional journey. For those who don't, these books will simply be a confusing, frustrating and boring mess. Both perspectives are valid (even for smart people). This series is neither linear nor chronological, and it holds its cards close to the vest. Most fantasy stories will establish several things in the first book, namely the central conflict, the conditions of resolving the conflict, and the stakes. Most stories let you know that the characters have to win freedom, avert evil or war, the end of the world, whatever. How do they do this? By overthrowing the evil king, the dark lord, or the invading army. By learning something, killing something, finding a thing, learning to use a thing or destroying a thing in the fires of Mount Doom, etc. My point is that the reader knows generally where the story is going, and the fun is in the twists and turns of how it gets there. However dark things may look, no one doubts that Frodo will get to Mount Doom, and the one ring will end up in the fires. This series isn't like that. Erikson does NOT identify the central conflict, the conditions of resolution or the stakes until book 10 ( out of 10 books). The reader is simply swept along with the events that are happening and must slowly piece together how they are all connected without knowing where the story is going until you get there. The books will jump around to different characters, in different parts of the world, sometimes skipping forward and back in time, and they will not seem connected until the plot points all converge. Some characters will be important from the beginning of the series to the end. Others will be important for a short time only, influencing and taking part in certain events before dying off or disappearing. Rather than a linear story of what happens to certain characters between point A (the beginning) and point B (the end), this story is a circular tapestry, with separate threads all leading to and converging at the center, which is book 10. Not everyone will enjoy this series, but it's a wild ride for those that do. Book 1 drops you in, gives you very few answers and tons of questions. It can be difficult to get into. It is better than it seems at first though, and although I liked it on my first read, I LOVED in on my second read through.

from USA

You'll see people complain and say it's boring, complicated, a mess, poorly explained, haphazard, slow, etc These books are not written for most people. If you are intelligent, perceptive, thoughtful, and have a good memory then you may feel none of these things I myself found the characters, magic system, plot, locales, etc all understandable, enjoyable, well thought out, and greatly explained. It simply is the greatest work of fiction that I have ever read in my life and nothing comes close. If you're someone who quickly understands things and can connect dots from page 30 in book 1 to page 270 in book 4, you'll love it too possibly. If you can't then I'm sorry for your loss.

from Belgium

Best series ever read, actually reading it for a 3rd time and enjoying it as ever. 2nd best is Iron Throne. That's so rich, breathtaking, it's an ufo in fantasyland.

from United Kingdom

So so good

from UK

Slow. And dark. I like slow.

from US

I've kept this series in my back pocket, all 10 books sitting on a bookshelf for the last 3 or 4 years, and I admit that in addition to being deeply intrigued, I was also intimidated by them, having read multiple comments about how difficult the series is to get into and how complex it is. I knew I'd need to be in the right place with my life when I started them & I also knew it would be something special. My experience in starting Gardens of the Moon isn't that I'd been dropped right into the middle of an overly complicated plot with no bearings or orientation, but rather that a window into a spectacular & fully realized world had been cracked open for me, and that it was up to me to crawl through. I admit to being more careful in my reading of Gardens than I am in most of the speculative fiction I read, however the list of persons in the front of the book & the glossary in the back work just fine in providing enough puzzle pieces to allow one to start to put this insanely massive & multi-layered tale together. The thing I didn't expect was how willing i'd be to put in the extra work, attention & care into studying this amazing series. This thing hooked me early, as soon as I encountered the High Mage Tattersail at the tail end of an epic battle during her first encounter with the Bridge Burners ("Who are you people??"). Simply stunning, and it never lets up. What a mind, what a unique imagination. Do yourself a favor if you are a fan of the genre and sink into this series, it's incredible, and Gardens of the Moon is just the beginning...

from UK

You have to stick with this book. It can be tedious for the first few hundred pages but I promise you that it is worth it. Having read a Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of the Rings including the Silmarillion and many other fiction series I can assure you that this is up there with the best of them. Erikson entwines various characters and plots throughout the series and it all begins here. I think of it like a stubborn door - you have to push fairly hard to get through but once you do you'll be fascinated by what is on the other side! A must read for any fantasy reader.

from France

A very imperfect start, confusing and dislocated into to many point-of-view characters... But this is enough to intrigue and lay the foundations of an incredible universe. Fortunately, Erikson improves his style and storytelling in the next book. Maybe the whole series deserves a 10 (I have not read it completely yet) but Gardens cannot be worth more than 6 - too many flaws, it's a pity, really... And I think it's not fair to overrate this book just because the following is great - most of the criticism I saw from disappointed readers is valid, without a shadow of a doubt.

from India

This series epitomises the saying "hard work pays". Stick to the series and you will be rewarded richly, from Coltaine's march to Trull Sengar's story you will find something which will relate to you.

from Cardiff, UK

You can't even BEGIN to think of yourself as a lover of fantasy until you've read this. Incredible!

from Nepal

Brilliant!! The sheer amount of data in the beginning is overwhelming... but no regrets once the characters are fully shaped. Its my favorite series now ahead of Song of Ice and Fire.

from USA

This book is brilliant! If you pay atyention and use your brain you will be rewarded greatly. I was turned on to this series because of the comparisons to asoiaf but what Erikson has created is something far more grand and complex. A series for smart people with a beautiful poetic aspect to it that I have come to enjoy as much as anything I have ever read. Amazing stuff if your willing to put in the effort.

from Manchester

Frustrating, tiresome, vague, complicated and to put the icing on the cake utterly utterly brilliant! I have never read anything by an author that can encapsulate such opposite feeling from chapter to chapter and book to book but once you have read the entire series you step back and simple marvel at the genius of Erikson. I have seen the references to shallow characters etc... to which I can only respond "you just don't get it" and that is the requirement, Erikson doesn't spoon feed, heck he doesn't feed in anyway, he simply throws you into the pool and lets you sink or swim to find your way and he gets a "Bravo" from me for taking that risk. I still think that Brandon Sanderson (imo) is the better author of the 2 but is is comparing chalk and cheese tbh, Erikson is a genius worldbuilder, Sanderson is a genius storyteller (and magic systems mechanic and an excellent worldbuilder in his own right) it is not easy to compare the two of the best writers of the fantasy genre so I read both :D

from Croatia

Best fantasy series out there! Don't miss it!

from Croatia

Gardens of the Moon is just the beginning of a mind blowing story, exceptional world, great characters, epic wars etc... which T highly recommend to everybody hungry for a great read... Steven Erikson will hardly be surpassed in years to come...

from Drift Avalii

Amazing, simply amazing. One of the greatest books I have ever read, second only to the other books in the series.

from Spain

A nice start for a really complex fantasy book.

from UK

I loved these books because they made me think full time. To say they are an easy read... they're not, so if your looking for a simple series read another set. But if you want something complex and well structured and a amazing diversified cast, read these books.

from UK

I've only started reading fantasy novels, and I've made a terrible mistake in starting with this series. Steven Erikson has set the bar too high.

from Vankoughnet

Only half way through the book but I am already hooked. Yes the characters are full of questions and I feel like I missed some back stories but I am willing to take on the challenge. I am a huge gamer and I plan to run my Dungeons and Dragons group in this new found world ( after I get to grips with whats going on) . I look forward to the next books in the series.

from Letheras

Words cannot express the sheer awesomeness of this series. It's hard to get into: Gardens of the Moon dumps you in the middle of action, among dozens of characters in an unknown continent and the first 200 pages will really see you struggle to figure out what's happening... but OH how it's worth it. Going from book to book you'll feel like learning a foreign language, understanding only little bits at first (but you HAVE to pay attention, no spoon-feeding here) and then more and more. At some point you'll re-read the first books and get BLOWN AWAY again as they'll feel completely different once you get the Malaz way of thinking. Not a book for everyone but I really can't see how Steven Erikson can be so underrated... so few people reading him and so many going nuts over a certain pompous fake who lately got a series on the HBO (any reference to events or persons is purely coincidental). BUY THIS!

from London

I'm still reading this book. I've read more than 60%, according to my kindle and I believe I can form an opinion on it. I have to admit that this book is one of the few books that made me miss my train stop. I completely love it. I don't agree that it is as complicated as other people say. For example other books, like the 'Song of Fire and Ice' have far more characters and POVs. Steven's writting is so captivating. I find that not knowing the background of the characters from the begining a very good thing. There are surprises in every corner that keep the reader interested. I usually don't like rating a book before the end. Hopefully I'm not wrong to score it a 9.

from Withernsea

Many people have doubtless complained that Erikson is a vague prose stylist, but this criticism is almost certainly based on the fact that Erikson deliberately rejects fantasy convention and seeks to achieve what can actually be called a writing style that extends beyond narrative and breaches (very slightly indeed) the poetic. Although fantasy writers tend to be superior users of language to, say thriller, crime, and mystery writers, they are rarely - with the exception of a few - possessed of anything that may be called aesthetic skill, they rely very much on an adequate style which adaquately conveys character psychology and narrative, with their books largely driven by the readerly desire to know ''what happens next''. Erikson strives for a comprehensive world history alongside the creation of complex humans whose motivations and lives are communicated in a method far more ambiguous than the almost child-like exposition and shallowness that is a well-established tendency in fantasy novels. Erikson should be praised not only for transgressing the bounds of character and narrative strucuture, hence creating a series which occasionally makes one feel as if one is witnessing a unique history develop, but for describing his world in a manner which dispenses with linearity. The Malazan novels are a genuine achievement. A piece of basic advice to the traditional fanatsy reader: you will find it difficult to gain an initial foothold 'Gardens of the Moon', but attentiveness to the history of its world and its numerous cultural aspects will prove rewarding. A

from england

amazing that all i can say.

from Stalyvegas

Hmmm, time will recognise Steven Erikson's genius. The Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series will be studied in school, college and University the world over for it's sheer brilliance in terms of narration, philosopy, ethics, character development, scene setting, dealing with complexity, blending depravity with violence and humour, breaking the rules etc etc. You are witnessing, my friends, a modern day Shakespeare. Forget all the dross in the Booker list Erikson is one of the most profound authors I've come across. If his books were not in the S&F genre he would have been far more widely acclaimed by now in the literary establishment. Time will show his true literary genius!

from Canada

Like Quick Ben from New Zealand said, these books are frustrating... but also incredibly rewarding. They're frustrating because they jump around through dozens of POVs and the enormous scope of the series makes it difficult to follow. Also, the way that Erikson writes is highly ambiguous, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. It makes the story more mysterious and adds a great deal of unpredictability and even a certain poetic quality to the writing. The series is rewarding because it is incredibly creative, there are tons of amazing battles involving powerful characters and even gods, and the climax of virtually every novel is mind-blowing, without fail. Once you make it to book 3 you'll start to see the bigger picture of what is unfolding... and prepare to be amazed.

from Dordrecht

For everyone who just don't understand anything about the story behind the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Well tough luck it is meant to be this way, Steve Erikson's meaning was to create an epic fantasy book. How did he do it? Well he didn't take the reader by the hand and introduced all the main characters piece by piece. No, instead he just throws storylines right in your face. Being very interested in history myself and knowing a thing or two about ancient mythology, the interweaving of tales is just brilliantly done. Finally I have to say "yes" these books are not for the lazy reader, the story can be murky but as the author says himself: "Naturally, I'd rather everybody loved it, but I understand why this will never be the case. These are not lazy books. You can't float through, you just can't. Even more problematic, the first novel begins halfway through a seeming marathon - you either hit the ground running and stay on your feet or you're toast" Well that about says it all doesn't it.

from Winchester

This series will no doubt receive 10/10 once I have read the final book - compelling characters and original plot.

from Bangor

Hm...these books are intelligent. They're well-written, intricately plotted, and have great world-building and characterization. They're also slow, pretentious, and self-important. To be perfectly honest, I don't understand the wave of love these books have received. They're good, I'll grant you, but there's little warmth in them and they only get more frustrating as time goes on. So good, but not great.

from Auckland, New Zealand

The book is not perfect... it is hard to read... and down right frustrating at times... it is also epic, smart, complex and one of the best novels I have read. Period. And I have read a lot. Across the genres. As a friend of mine who I enticed to read it said.. "it is like fantasy... for adults" and that is so true. You will have to work hard to get through it but its well worth it in the end. I've read up to book 7 then decided to start from the beginning again so that I can read the series right through up until the final volume is released. Second time round I appreciated so much more how epic this book was. There is stuff going on here that won't become obvious until you are well advanced in the series. My advice... read it... persevere... then at the end marvel at how incredible the ride was.

from Copenhagen, Denmark

Best fantasy series out there period!

from Netherlands

I just finished reading Gardens of the Moon and I loved it! You just get thrown into a world of which you know absolutely nothing about, a very abundant Fantasy world at that, full of gods and magic and whatnot! To make it even more interesting, Erikson doesn't even EXPLAIN anything. Nope, nothing at all. An ignorant main character then, that gets taught by some wiser allies? Nope, that isn't the case either!! You just get pelt by all sorts of terms that mean aaaaaaaaaaabsolutely nothing to you, except for the fact that they often sound cool ^_^ And while reading you slowly start to understand the world around you! You change perspective a lot, so much that it takes some time to find out who the good guys are and who the bad!! All kinds of major events take place, and the.... 'mood' of the story make sure that you realise this, however, you've got no clue what's going on!! The story takes your full participation, and if you can keep up with all the terms you'll slowly start to understand everything. But. Everything that happens gets defined by you, and you alone. Steven Erikson gives you the guidelines, it's up to you to visualise the story, and he leaves you pleeeeeeeeenty of room for that! :D About the story itself, it's about 'free will' mainly. The gods try to influence everything, everyone's struggling to survive. Nearly every person is a pawn to a major power in the world, be it gods or an empire. Yet the struggle against this being ordered around is what defines the book most I think. Fighting for your own cause, not for the cause that has been laid upon you. All in all an excellent read, and I'm proud to add the full series to my collection next time I order books again!

from UK

@Ana Seriously, have we been reading the same books. I teach philosophy and find there are deep moral outlooks that cover the characters and they events/life they find themselves in.

from London

I came across this book without ever having heard of the author. After 100 pages I nearly gave up, but something about the author's style made me keep going. Was I glad I did! This book blew my mind, although I had to re-read straight away to get everything straight. The best modern fantasy series and author today bar none. How Mr Erikson pumps these novels out at the rate of one a year beats me. This is exciting and intelligent stuff and having caught up with the series I can't wait for the climax. Developing the plot and characters across the series and keeping them fresh is a major achievment. Get into the world of the Malazans now, you won't regret it.

from Sydney

There is no other word more fitting for Steven Erikson, for his achievement with this stunning series. He takes an old format and tired genre by the throat and revolutionizes it with his creativity, his ingenuity and brilliant storytelling. A multitude of characters, grim and dark, struggle to survive in a world every bit as real and brutal as our own, if not more so. This is perhaps the only time fiction has made the real world pale into insignificance. This is a series that everyone should read. A lyrical master, Erikson fills his novels with lush prose and evocative descriptions without ever losing that hard edge; his characters distinguish themselves more distinctly than any I can remember - you will laugh, scoff and mourn with them as though you were best of friends or kin. Erikson proves himself as the best in the business with this series and Gardens of the Moon is a rip-roaring opener.

from Nottingham

With most modern fantasy being very much a "good vs evil" affair, I found this book very refreshing. By the end I was still trying to work out who the good guys and the bad guys were! It is an extremely well crafted story of war, politics and betrayal. The story flows well, despite the number of characters involved and builds up to an exciting climax. I get the feeling that this is very much the 'tip of the iceberg' in terms of the world that Erikson has created. I have wasted no time whatsoever in starting his second novel.

from Seattle

This is a perfect start to what may be the best fantasy series I have ever read. Complex fantasy, rich characters, involving story. I found that I had to re-read the book as I felt that I'd missed too much first time around. I'm glad I did, it was even better second time around, Kruppe is a great character.

from The Malazan Empire

Wow, what can I say. Fantasy like this does not come along all that often and I was blown away. The imagination of Steven Erikson is incredible, the world that he builds and characters that he creates are unbelievably good. Gardens of the Moon has a start and a finish so you could stop after reading it but I find it highly unlikely that anyone could do that. Brilliant, fantastic, exceptional, I'm running out of superlatives, so just buy it.

from Reading

Steven Erikson is the best fantasy author to come along since Tolkien. His narrative is spellbinding and the characters are as life-like as you could wish for. I did like Gardens of the Moon but thought that Erikson was cutting his teeth on this one and that the books improve with each release. Memories of Ice is very, very good!

9.3/10 from 40 reviews

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