GARDENS OF THE MOON By Steven Erikson – Reviewed

In the author’s introduction to this novel he says that he’s unapologetic for the “throw you straight in” style of the book and he leaves readers to either sink or swim. He also says that the book was always ambitious in scope, and readers will either love it or hate it. Well, I did both.

For the first hundred pages I loved this book, the richly portrayed fantasy world, the sheer depth, and the fast-paced action drew me in. Then we get to the second section of the novel, where the various factions and their plotting to take over the city of Darujistan come to the fore and things start getting complicated, very complicated, and I admit that I got lost. Not with the plot which is fairly simple, lots of factions attempting to take over the city or using whatever means necessary to stop someone else taking it over: from the Empress’ Adjunct; the Bridgeburners (Imperial Army but almost outcasts); a young girl being used as the pawn of a god; a thief, also being used; Captain Paran; the Council of Darujistan; the Ruler of Moon’s Spawn; the Alchemist Barak; The Guild of Assassins; and the list continues. It is the sheer scale of the story that gets in the way of its telling. Fantasy isn’t normally this plot-orientated, and in some ways this feels more like a science fiction epic.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the complete lack of characterisation means that none of the characters is even noticeable. The scale of names to remember and the fact that several characters have more than one name, and it just gets confusing.

As the various threads of the story begin to come together for the denouement, everything begins to make sense again, but Erikson chooses then to get the gods more heavily involved than they already were. A couple of hundred pages towards the end everything suddenly becomes clearer, although still muddied.

Ambition is no bad thing, but here the ambitious scale has meant good characterisation is sacrificed. Yes, we have one of the most in-depth worlds ever created, possibly due to Erikson’s gameplaying background, a world with several sets of humans, other species, gods, and a full background history. But we have no good characters to follow other than standard cardboard cut-out stereotypes, a young love-struck thief, a world-weary Sergeant, a ruthless Empress… Again a victim of Erikson’s gamer background?

For every plus with this first book of the tales of Malazan there is an equally important minus. Erikson’s sacrificed character for scope, he’s thrown away clever plotting, and thrown in everyone (including the kitchen sink) in an attempt to make the story more complex than it really is, just confusing everything.

The fact is this book shows great potential. I’m just not sure I’ll be willing to put in the effort to read another of the Malazan books to find out if Erikson can reach that potential.

Not the best introduction to a world, and not the worst. A shame that it wasn’t better, as I could have been completed hooked.

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3 Responses to “GARDENS OF THE MOON By Steven Erikson – Reviewed”

  1. I can’t exactly tell what the book is about from the review…. Could you give a little summary or something at the beginning? Your comments would make more sense to an interested reader 😉

    I’m intrigued to say the least…

    • That’s the main problem with the book! Basically, the Empire is trying to take over the continent, and the book follows various people and factions as they attempt to take over the last free city, or save it from the Empire… If you do decide to give it a try good luck!

  2. thanks! no really, even that dinky blurb helps out! 🙂

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