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Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
Book Name: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
Author: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
Publisher(s): Tor Books (US) Bantam (UK)
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / eBook
Genre(s): Epic Fantasy
Release Date: April 1, 1999

Get this: you’re a crack mountain climber, right, and you’ve overcome some of the world’s best peaks; you know, the ones that everyone else climbs too. Then you hear about a summit with vistas you will find nowhere else on earth. It has challenging faces and exhilarating overhangs; it’s a real climber’s climb, for sure. Yet, for some reason, you decide not to try it; maybe because you’ve heard basecamp is hard to find, or you’re waiting for enough of your friends to get together for a Groupon. If this is you then I say, what in the actual hell?

So it is with Steven Erikson’s epic series, Malazan Book of the Fallen, and its grand opening, Gardens of the Moon.

First, I need to declare my own bias. I bloody love this series and have read it many times. Sections of this story have seared themselves in my brain and into my soul: the chain of dogs, Anomander Rake, the Jaghut and the T’lan Imass, Mappo Runt and more. Pathos to make Alexandre Dumas chuck in his quill; intrigue to make Machiavelli blush; triumph to make Billy Elliott give up dancing. But I’m getting ahead of myself as, over the coming months and interspersed with some other guff, I’ll be reviewing all ten books of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

In re-reading Gardens of the Moon for this review I found myself reconnecting with it just as I did when I read it for the first time. From its opening pages you know you’ve stepped in the middle of something, for an empire is undergoing radical change and not necessarily for the better.

There are the Bridgeburners, a squad of soldiers who, as their name suggests, have found themselves on the outer in the new empire. From inclusion in the most trusted of circles to now being the most disposable of shock troops, they have failed to navigate the straights of changing allegiances; and yet amongst the veteran members of the Bridgeburners, there is loyalty and trust of an unusual kind. And they don’t take too kindly to their new recruits, or to their new officers, either.

There is Ganoes Paran, who we first meet as the boy with delusions of grandeur. Ganoes cannot be swayed from entering into the life of a soldier within the new empire, hoping to find for himself some of glory the Bridgeburners previously earned, as well as some of the ready trust they treasure between themselves now. Can you guess who is eventually assigned as the Bridgeburner’s new officer?

We also meet Sorry: a young girl swept away from her humble fishing community and into the armies of the Malazan Empire. Yet there is much more to this girl than just a pretty face and a quick or, should I say, a very quick knife, for she is a tangible link back to the empire of old, which may not have been swept aside as completely as the new empire might like. And, inevitably; guess who becomes the Bridgeburners’ newest recruit?

For years the Malazan Empire has been waging war on the continent of Genabackis, and in the opening part of Gardens of the Moon, we join the Malazan armies outside the fortified city of Pale, where strange and alien forces have allied to resist the Malazan advance. Yet the siege of Pale also provides the perfect cover for those seeking to eradicate the Bridgeburners, but an attempt at their destruction leaves a handful of survivors; all of whom are rightly pissed. Whiskeyjack, Kalam, Trotts, Fiddler, Hedge, Mallet, Quick Ben and the others set about to repay their betrayers, yet their plans must evolve for the stakes only become higher when powers, old and new, begin to converge.

Those seeking to eliminate the Bridgeburners are not content with their results at Pale and so a second plan is launched. For good measure, it’s always wise to have another contingency in place when planning to take down such storied soldiers as Whiskeyjack and his crew.

Ganoes Paran must lead the Bridgeburners on one last mission: one that on the surface is about destroying the defences of the exotic city of Darujhistan yet also has the squad’s ultimate destruction in mind. Will Ganoes survive long enough to become an officer the Bridgeburners can trust? Will the Bridgeburners destroy Darujhistan or prove unlikely saviours as the ancient and mysterious city becomes the playground for demons, magic users and alien races?

Erikson writes with great wit and great heart. There is pace and boldness to the plot, as well as the kind of depth to the backstory and richness in the characters that sets this book, and this series, apart from its peers.

So what is the key to a successful reading of Gardens of the Moon? Just like that climber–don’t look down and keep on moving.

Don’t worry that you might initially be left wondering; that you may need to employ a mountain climber’s focus to reach the story’s next handhold because, once the last page is read, you will indeed have had a thrilling experience, not only because of the story itself but precisely because you had to push through to get there. And if you do find that the going is tough, remember that you’re carrying the collected works of Dumas and Machiavelli in your pack, and that little toe-rag, Billy Elliott, is hanging on for good measure. There will be plenty of moments when you’re glad they’ve all come along.

Gardens of the Moon will reward you for your perseverance. You’ll begin to know Kelam and Quick Ben, a fantasy pairing for the ages. You’ll glimpse the tip of the iceberg that is Anomander Rake and experience the unending war between the Jaghut and the T’lan Imass. You’ll have also glimpsed deeply into Erikson’s world, where compelling characters take part in events that mean something not only to the principals involved but will also shake the very world around them.

Is this my favourite instalment of the Malazan Book of the Fallen? No. Is this the best first book of a series ever? No, but it is a pretty rocking first book. It’s also a great introduction into a series that will deliver on the promise to show you new dimensions to the epic fantasy genre.



  1. Avatar algon 33 says:

    Hmm. I completely disagree, but each to their own.

  2. Avatar Anup says:

    agree, Malazan series defined my life…epic world fantasy which had everything in superb balanced quantities…

    people say Tolkien was the father of fantasy i say duhhh…wait till you start reading Ericksson…

    though sometimes after a long hiatus picking up a new release sometimes spurred one to go back and revisit parts of previous ones as i could not always have the storylines straight

    • Avatar algon 33 says:

      Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy. That is undoubtedly true. But Erikson is the master of modern fantasy. Not my exact thoughts, but it serves well enough.

  3. Avatar Lucas says:

    Aha! One reason I love Fantasy Faction. I’ll usually check FF out for ideas on which book to read next. You have yet to let me down. I just started the Malazan series after reading this review and it’s awesome!

  4. […] World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2000) Fantasy-Faction’s Review […]

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