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Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire in this first book in a major epic fantasy series from Steven Erikson.

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. 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 cadre mage 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. 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...

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order--an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

666 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 1, 1999

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About the author

Steven Erikson

93 books12.8k followers
Steven Erikson is the pseudonym of Steve Rune Lundin, a Canadian novelist, who was educated and trained as both an archaeologist and anthropologist. His best-known work is the series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen.


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Profile Image for Petrik.
688 reviews46.1k followers
January 10, 2021
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

Here we go. This is my first review for Steven Erikson’s highly acclaimed epic fantasy series: Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Malazan Book of the Fallen has been in my TBR pile for one year seven months now. I’ve heard countless amazing things about the series, but the sizes, the fame of the complexities, the need for extra focus, the commitment, and the elitist jerks of the series have made me postpone starting it for a long time. Despite hearing amazing things about the quality of the series, it required me a promise to finally plunge myself into starting this grand tale. I told my girlfriend I will propose to her only after I finished Malazan Book of the Fallen; she has agreed to it and so here we are. It’s safe to say that my expectations for this series are unreasonably huge, and no, I don’t plan to change that for many personal reasons. Did the first book live up to the expectation though? The masterpiece quality aspect remains to be seen but the scope truly lived up to it, especially remembering that Gardens of the Moon is just the introduction to the series.

Gardens of the Moon is the first book in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Empress Laseen rules the Malazan Empire with an iron fist. After laying siege to Pale, she set her gaze upon Darujhistan, the last Free Cities of Genebackis. This is pretty much all I can say about the actual main plot without spoiling anything. In fact, as a warning, I’ll tell you this. My future Malazan reviews will consist of none or barely of what the plot is about. The main reason behind this is that there are way too many things going on inside the storyline that it would be practically impossible for me to summarize without writing a short story.

This is a GRAND tale, and from what I’ve read, it seems like Gardens of the Moon is merely an appetizer for what’s to come. As everyone said, there’s no benign compromise from Erikson here. Readers are immediately put in the middle of a gigantic war without any proper background given. However, was the story itself hard to follow? Not really. Now, I don’t claim that I understand everything that happened here; I extremely doubt any Malazan virgins can. Reading it for the first time, I noticed that some of the events happening in the book needed the power of hindsight in order to be fully appreciated; I’ve done my reread of this book, and it is so true. Some things just won’t make sense yet, and that’s okay; you’re not stupid. If the elitist of the series call you stupid for not liking the book or not understanding it, you’ll know that they’re the close-minded idiot you should avoid interaction with. I mean it, I have never encountered a more rabid bunch of man-child in any adult fantasy novel series than the one I’ve seen in the fan base of Malazan Book of the Fallen. If anyone said that Malazan isn’t the best fantasy series out there, they have this compulsion to throw insults at the speaker. That said, I will say that I do love the plot and the theme that Erikson put into Gardens of the Moon; there was a lot of themes going on here, but my favorites were the constant decrease of humanity because of drowning in war or power. The other theme is that when gods meddle, humans became pawns in their supremacy.

“Too many regrets. Lost chances—and with each one passing the less human we all became, and the deeper into the nightmare of power we all sank.”

Upon opening the book, you’ll immediately encounter a huge amount of characters in the drammatis personae. This should be able to give you an idea of how big the scale of the book will be. There were more than ten POV characters to follow, and there were more than one hundred names to remember. Once again, remember that this is only the FIRST book of the series; merely an introduction. As intimidating as that sounds, though, this is also where Erikson deserves his praises because despite the myriad number of characters, he managed to make sure that each of them has their own personality fleshed out. Their crumbling of beliefs, their responsibilities, the motivations, and their inner voices were distinct to read. One character doesn’t even have any POV chapter, and he managed to become the main highlight of the book. Yes, you know who I’m talking about; the mane of chaos, the lord of the Tiste Andii, the badass two-handed magic sword wielder, Anomander Rake. Suffice to say that he instantly made it to one of the coolest fictional characters I’ve come across so far. There’s one thing I need to say about the characters’ names, though. This first book alone contained some of the most memorable and ridiculous names I’ve ever heard. Whiskeyjack, Sorry, Quick Ben, Toc the Younger, and Toc the Older; seriously, how did Erikson and Esslemont come up with these names!?

“He’s loyal to an idea, and that’s the hardest kind to turn.”

When it comes to world-building, I don’t even know where to begin other than to say that it’s intricately complex and truly epic in scope. Almost all of these were an introduction to the world of the series, and yet it’s much bigger than most fantasy trilogy already. Hundreds of thousands of histories, many races, deadly and mysterious magic, the Deck of Dragons, the Ascendants; there was a LOT of information to absorb here. Honestly speaking, if you’re not a fan of extremely detailed lore and world-building, this book probably won’t work for you.

“No matter how benign the original rulers, no matter how generous the nobility, the word of Empire, weighted by might, twisted the past into a tyranny of demons.”

Let’s also take a look at one of the action scenes in the book just to give you an idea of how massive in scope the battle was.

Picture: Gardens of the Moon by Marc Simonetti

The scene in the picture above depicts the Siege of Pale, which happened in chapter 2. Sorcerous conflagrations, a floating fortress, giant ravens; the second chapter of this book could’ve easily be compared to the final battle in any other standard fantasy trilogy. Here’s another artwork on what kind of imminent battle and destruction to expect.

Picture: One of the interior artworks inside GotM Subterranean edition. Artwork by Michael Komarck

With all the ambitions and epic scope, it saddens me to say that I can’t give this book a 5 stars rating. For those of you who don’t know, I rate my books based on enjoyment and characters. Unfortunately, Gardens of the Moon was slightly lacking on that part for me due to a few imbalance characterizations. It’s not a surprise really, there are a myriad amount of characters here; some POV characters were just inferior compared to the others. For example, the assassin’s war storyline bored me because I didn’t care about the characters. On the other hand, characters from the Bridgeburners, Paran, Tool, Tattersail, and Anomander Rake deserves a standing ovation. Also, one other issue I had was that some of the battle scenes concluded too quickly that they end up feeling anti-climactic to read.

“Only if you fail at all else, son. Taking up the sword is the last act of desperate men. Mark my words and find yourself a more worthy dream.”

For all first-timer to the series, there’s a good chance that the fanatics, the sizes, or the complexities of the series will intimidate you, and it’s absolutely okay to feel that way. Even if you’re an epic fantasy fan, it doesn’t guarantee that this will be a book or series for you; all those negative and positive ratings were given for valid reasons. It took me a gigantic promise in order to finally plunge myself into starting this massive tale. However, if you’re ready to chain yourself to both Erikson’s and Esslemont’s ambitious tale, Gardens of the Moon will be the first avenue to test your imagination to its limit. I now move forward to open the Deadhouse Gates, a book that every fan of the series said will destroy my soul, make me cry, and I hope it does.

“Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat.”- Steven Erikson

On reread after being done with the series, Gardens of the Moon was a better reading experience. There are a lot of things in this book that simply won’t make sense yet until you've read further. Reading it now actually felt like reading a different book, in a good way.

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Profile Image for seak.
434 reviews473 followers
January 3, 2023
Hey, I have a youtube channel now and made a video based on this essay: Why Read Malazan Book of the Fallen

Why Read The Malazan Book of the Fallen, or A Love Note to Steven Erikson (Okay, not really the latter)

If you've even attempted to read Gardens of the Moon, the first book in the 10 book epic that is the Malazan Book of the Fallen, you'll see very quickly that you're not given much as a reader. It's confusing, it's complicated, it's full of mysteries and myriad of characters and magics that you can easily become overwhelmed. Not to mention, Gardens of the Moon isn't as well-written as the rest of the series.

Not the most ringing endorsement so far, but we're getting there.

The Malazan Book of the Fallen series is easily the most epic series I've ever read. The history is mysterious (and murderous) and vast, the races are plentiful and old, and the magic is as powerful as it gets.

How many times do you pick up a book that sounds epic, but you start to read and it really isn't? This happens to me all the time. Because of a drawback of the medium, there can only really be a focus on so many characters. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it takes away from the epic-ness. The consequences of a few characters may have far-reaching effects and the history and world may even be vast, but there's still no denying that the scope is limited. It can't really be anything else.

Steven Erikson does something that has yet to be seen in epic fantasy. He has created the standard for what is truly epic. Some claim his characters suffer somewhat from this, many seeming to be essentially the same, but he has truly created a world that is so vast and detailed you won't care if you think this, but I disagree. I have not been so devastated as I have been in reading these books due to what happens to some of my favorite characters. That doesn't happen if you don't fall in love with characters. Then there's Tehol and Bugg and so many others that keep me laughing.

This is also part of the genius. The characters don't even know what's going on, who's killing whom or why. They rarely even know who's actually in charge. And Erikson puts you right there with them. In addition, they're the ones narrating the story, which means you really have no idea who to trust. This is yet another aspect of his genius because as humans, we tend to want things to go our way, to see things our way, even to tell stories that go our way. Many characters are humble enough to see their shortcomings, but the story is told from very human people... well, and gods.

And like George R.R. Martin, Erikson has no problem killing off main characters. It IS the book of the fallen after all.

Another reason to read this series is what I call the Superman phenomenon. Erikson creates characters who have it all when it comes to magic or military prowess or swordsmanship or you name it. They are all-powerful and when they clash it will blow your mind.

At the same time, he creates tragedy filled with pathos that at one point had me devastated for weeks. This is not a bad thing, not only is it good for the soul, it's powerful writing that evokes emotions in you so strong you feel like you've lost a friend when all you did was finish a book. This makes me wonder how he can possibly be accused of having thin characters when he made me feel like that about them.

Finally, and fittingly, Erikson has written simply the best endings I've ever read. Any bit of confusion, and believe me there's quite a bit in every book of the series, is rewarded ten-fold with an ending that you will never forget.

For most books, you may get a hundred pages as you climax after 500 pages worth of build-up. Erikson gives you at least 200 and in some books even more than this. The Crippled God , the final book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen, starts a part of the climax with 400 pages to go in the trade paperback.

Simply put, read this series. When you're 400 pages in and you still have no clue what's going on, it's okay, I've been there too. It will be worth it, keep pushing on. How many authors really trust you, the reader, to put things together on your own? Have you felt how rewarding that is, have you even been given the chance? Now's your chance.

As Logan Ninefingers always says (or rather, his father), “Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than live with the fear of it."

Updated Review:

There are few books you put down and immediately want to reread. Gardens of the Moon is one of those books for two reasons. One, it's that good. Two, it's that confusing.

On a reread I already know I missed a lot the first time, but I quickly realized I missed SOOOO much that first time and most of it is because I wasn't used to having to use my brain as much. I was constantly amazed at how much foreshadowing is in this first book. So much is mentioned from the origins of the T'lan Imass and Tiste Andii to the Jaghut and even a little about the Forkrul Assail.

And the epigraphs made sense! They ACTUALLY made sense! I always thought they might, but they are tell quite a bit in fact. Some I was amazed actually give away events in the following chapter, but you have no idea when you first read it. You wily bastard, Erikson!

Hand in hand with the foreshadowing I'm amazed at the level of detail in this book, there's hardly a sentence without extra meanings behind it. But the problem is - you just don't know who to trust when you're going through this on your first time and it's so hard to catch it when so much is revealed in such an offhand manner.

I still remember being so confused the first time and then figuring something out. That's what sold me on the series and why I still consider it one of the best, if not the best out there. A second reading sealed the deal.

Having said that I also saw a lot of why people say it's the least well-written of the series. It's well done, leaps and bounds ahead of most I think, but it can be inconsistent. For most of the series it's told in third person limited, and while that seems to have been attempted for most of this book, there were instances where it drifts to omniscient within a section. The pacing is also a bit off, but that's not really any different from the rest either.

Despite that, I stick with what I said above. :) These complaints are drops in the bucket compared to this vast, epic tale filled with history and magic and plans within plans.

At the moment, The Malazan Book of the Fallen is my all-time favorite series. This may or may not change when George finishes his series (in 2113, zing!), but I have a hard time right now seeing how it will be possible to top. Yes, there's a similar level of detail and even camaraderie you feel with some of the characters, but how do you top this kind of epic? I don't think there's a better feeling in reading than figuring something out that the author withheld, that's what sold me on my first read and what continues to make this my favorite.

5 out of 5 Stars (Not even a second thought)

Note: I also highly recommend reading this with a group, or just checking out the discussions from the group read I've been participating in. Being able to toss around ideas and theories is priceless and having people to explain some of it is also very helpful.
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,126 followers
May 24, 2011
If only I hadn’t put on that little black dress. Perhaps that would’ve saved this one for me. I mean, not only did I put on the little black dress, the one cutjusttothere. I did the hair. I put on the heels too. Everyone who has that little black dress or is dating someone who does knows what heels I mean. You guys have been in that mood where you really just want to go out- paint the town red like you’re Sinatra and are just, as they used to say of kings, in the mood to be pleased, right? Whoever your date is that evening will probably have to make very little effort for you to have a good time, and indeed you’re just fine with being the entertainment. I would like to state here and now that I showed up for my date with Steve Erikson with the hair and the dress and the heels in this mood. And it turns out he’s that guy. The one who will manage to irritate you no matter how many times you try to grin and change the subject, no matter how many broad hints you might help him out with. As with most dates you’ve gathered information on solely from the internet and well-meaning friends, he turns up late, it turns out he has lied about his height, is awkwardly insistent on telling you excruciatingly uninteresting stories the entire night while not asking you a single question about yourself, and then is confused when you do not want to see him again.

Seriously, I PUT ON HEELS FOR THIS, ERIKSON. (Somehow that’s always the most insulting part, isn’t it?)

Everyone told me you were great! This was supposed to be my happy fun vacation time with a happy fun book that I could geek out with my friends about and finally have something to talk about with them that did not involve Foucauldian analysis, Marxist delusions, academic drama or a thesis of any kind! But nooooo. Instead someone’s evil twin shows up and now I have to awkwardly tell all these people I like that I do not like their favorite book.

It’s just that this isn’t a good book! And not even that it's not “good” in some literary way. It is clearly not “good” in that way, and it isn’t meant to be. I don’t hold it to that standard. It does seem to me to be trying to be good in a more old fashioned way more typical for fantasy- it just wants to tell a rollicking good story. But I mean… it is a bad story. I like stories. That’s why I read fantasy, in large part- I like that feeling of the archetypal coming to life in an interesting way that shows the inner workings of the recurring characters that I see everywhere in my reading. I like that sensation of a campfire at night and a bard repeating the history of a people, with flickering flames and drama and shadows and pronouncements that you can only take seriously in that setting and which you’d feel obliged to laugh at in the morning. This is a bad story. It’s cool that Erikson doesn’t need to spend a hundred pages explaining every detail of his world to us (and given how complicated it is, thank GOD for that), but the reader shouldn’t have to stop reading many times in order to try to straighten out what’s going on, who are these random people that keep showing up, how does this new demon or magic fit into anything, and most importantly, all important, why on earth should I care?

Erikson definitely did not manage to make me care. It’s largely a function of the fact that there is such a huge cast of characters, and he spends so little time developing any of their personalities. When there is some sort of “inner reflection” by a couple of them, or “feelings”, it seems shunted in there to give his epic quest one of the elements an epic is supposed to have- it feels like he’s impatient with people being, you know, people, and would rather get back to telling me about this super cool magic battle with a demon he just invented that just popped out of nowhere. It was almost like people were necessary vehicles for him to create his fantasy world, but that cool names, and “Houses” and ranks (Son of Darkness, Knight of Darkness, Queen of Light) were the real point of the whole thing. People are there for him to be able to have fights. Honestly? It seemed like it was kind of constructed like an RPG game a lot of the time. Here is an action sequence. After this, your hero may explore this world and pick up coins and treasure to increase his value, there is an epic quest, but you can choose to get sidetracked by a bunch of others that involve various gods and spirits. Then in between each quest there’s that part where the game stops to give you an expository scene that advances the plot and you just watch, and then you take control back and go on to the next action sequence. Eventually you come back to the big quest and kill off the Big Bad and YAY YOU WIN! I can certainly see the appeal of this construction as a game, but I think as a book it doesn’t work so well, at least, not for me.

It certainly didn’t help that in addition to the off putting construction and the poor character development, the dialogue was absolutely laughable (incredibly stereotypically exactly what satirists make bad fantasy writing sound like), the plot was ridiculous, he pulled a new thing out of his ass every five pages because… well.. because... His world building was incomplete, too. It felt like you could never trust it because he could just change it on you a minute later because he felt like it. He doesn’t hold himself to any rules. It’s like when you’re trying to make up an excuse on the fly for why you were late for something: “I forgot my keys, and then I got caught in a traffic jam, and then I passed that and there was some truck that had dumped bunnies on the roadway and I had to help save the poor things, and then I was almost here when all of a sudden Elvis appeared from the dead, riding an elephant and… well that’s why I’m late and its totally okay!” There’s no suspense because the main characters are sure to be resurrected (the alternate dimension rebirth had me laughing so hard I was crying), and the bad ones are either off screen, introduced late, or dumb. There’s some attempt at shades of grey with one character (the Adjunct) but he tells me what the point is, straight out, about five times, just to be sure that I get it, and its not that interesting a point anyway so it kind of ruins it. I liked the climactic end battle, but I swear to you even while that battle was going on, he was introducing new magic and people and not just going with the hundreds he already had after 600 pages of setting things up. If an author feels the need to do that instead of relying on the payoff from the 600 pages he already has… not good news. Not good news at all.

I don’t know, I almost kind of feel bad saying all this. It feels like I’m making fun of someone who’s just so excited to tell me about all this cool stuff he thought of that he forgot to put it in a coherent order. It doesn’t mean that the individual ideas he thinks of can’t be cool, he just hasn’t figured out the other stuff he needs to make it interesting as well as cool. But still… lest we forget. HEELS, ERIKSON. HEELS.

Yeah, still not over that. Next date, if there is a next date (I’m sensing some peer pressure coming my way from my crafty friends), I’m showing up in sweats, half tired and in the mood to watch reality TV. Something tells me things might go better that way.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,536 reviews9,961 followers
January 7, 2019
OMG! (Bloody Hell if I don’t finish this series!!)

I loved this book soooo much!!

"Anomander Rake, Lord of the Tiste Andii, who are the souls of Starless Night. Rake, the Mane of Chaos. That’s who the Moon’s lord is, and you’re pitting four High Mages and a single cadre against him."

There are things I don't understand but I have some lovely Goodreads friends I can go to if I need answers.

Also, this is a series I will be able to read over and over and find new tidbits! And, I did understand the majority of it 😄

Ye gods! I was a nervous wreck at the end because I thought someone might meet their
true death. < -- I think I got that from Tru Blood but I digress. Because in this book, not a lot of things stay truly dead! They come back or get taken over or some such thing. It's crazyyyyy! I love it 😄

There was so much going on in the book but I kept up with most of it! Yay! And I loved so many characters. Paran, Sorry, Tattersail, Lorn, Toc ... and not all of them are good or are they? I felt Sorry for Sorry, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the beginning.

Then someone I really liked, died by stupidity but they were brought back. I thought, yay, you idiot!


I'm totally in love with Anomander Rake! I can't help myself and omg! I will except you his description and as he's supposed to be pitch black, the image I found online like that made him look like a prune!! I liked the million other images of him, one being from Tor.

Anomander Rake's skin was jet-black, befitting Gothos' descriptions, but his mane flowed silver. He stood close to seven feet tall. His features were sharp, as if cut from onyx, a slight upward tilt to the large vertical-pupiled eyes.

A two-handed sword was strapped to Rake's broad back, its silver dragonskull pommel and archaic crosshilt jutting from a wooden scabbard fully six and a half feet long. From the weapon bled power, staining the air like black ink in a pool of water.

And he's also something else!!! Omg! Im shutting up now!

This book is one of the best epics I have read yet. I had no idea! I kept watching soooo many of my Goodreads friends reading this series and I finally took the plunge! I could have started this long ago but I guess now was my time 😊

I recommend to all fantasy lovers!

Happy Reading!

Mel ❤️

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51.7k followers
September 10, 2022
About ten years ago, around the time my first book was published, I pulled this off our shelves at home as we left the house to go to the accident & emergency department with my disabled daughter, who was having a seizure.

I had never heard of the book or the author before. I read a hundred pages or so in the small hours of the morning in a noisy, brightly lit A&E department. I didn't like it at all. The style didn't agree with me and a great number of characters were coming at me with very little context. I didn't continue reading it.

After joining reddit r/fantasy I saw what felt like several posts a day for year after year, with wildly enthusiastic fans clashing with others who found the book to be pointlessly complicated, replacing character-building with world-building, and basically a big splurge of 'stuff' that left them cold.

After 10 years of watching this minor culture war grind on, I thought I'd give it another try.

And the results?

Well, it's certainly true that 2am in an A&E department is not the ideal place to start this book. I got on with it considerably better in the comfort of my own home and at a reasonable hour.

On the other hand, the book has taken me 3 months to read, which although it's a long book is a strong indication that I was never particularly gripped with it.

It's often said that this is a complicated book, and it is. It's complicated because there are so many different things going on at once and so many different people doing them. The plot/worldbuilding encompasses hundreds of thousands of years, two continents, several cities, and dozens of characters. In addition to the several main races in action in the 'now' and the cultural sub-factions of those races, there are a number of previously dominant races constituting different strata of historical deposit, and reaching into the current story via members who've refused to die or at least to stop being involved.

Add to this the wide and diverse array of gods (some from previous ages) many of whom are involved in plots of their own, and the endlessly varied magics called upon through a dozen and more warrens each with their own flavour, through powerful magic or anti-magic items, through demons, through god-given favours, have a great many of the main characters be wizards/mages accessing up to seven of these warrens each... And there's a lot to keep track of.

Actually, I didn't find keeping track of it too burdensome. My main issues were +why+ I should want to - an issue of motivation to which I will return. And the fact that this then gave me a feeling of arbitrariness - as if anything could happen at any time, and it would be attributed to a new and hitherto unsuspected god, major power, item etc. In fact at the end there are three very major threats who we meet for the first time in the dying pages of the book, powers who could totally change the course of things for the characters we know. They throw around great life/world threatening energies and then are overcome.

Everyone has their own loves in storytelling. I'm firmly in the character camp. Others are more in love with world building. I can enjoy world-building when it's allied to great characters - and by great characters, I don't mean massively powerful characters with cool skills who can set the sky on fire or turn seas to dust, I mean characters whose personalities are interesting, real, and who are changed and shaped by the existential challenges the story throws at them. Tyrion in A Song of Ice and Fire would be a fine example.

For my personal tastes the balance between world-building and character development tilts too far towards world-building. I didn't find myself emotionally engaged with any of the characters. Kruppe was fun to read. Anomander Rake was cool in a brooding, super-powered way. But whether they lived or died, whether their plans prevailed or those of their opponents ... that never really bothered me. I was more of a neutral observer enjoying the fireworks.

In the end all the many, many moving parts converge on the same party and a metric ton of shit is shovelled at some industrial strength fans. That was fun. I enjoyed it.

All in all I seem to find myself positioned with the average reader of this book. I am neither in the wildly enthusiastic camp, nor in the opposite camp. I certainly don't consider my three months of reading to have been wasted time. I enjoyed the story. I was entertained. There was lots of imagination on display, lots of big explosive fights, lots of intricate build up as the many players slowly converged.

I can now appreciate what the evangelists for this series preach, without considering myself a convert.

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Profile Image for Luna. ✨.
92 reviews1,234 followers
March 21, 2017
full review now up


Buddy read with my soul sister and my pals at BB&B

“Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat.”

So I have stared at my phone screen for approx 96 hours trying to think of a review for this and I'm still left speechless, so I have vomited up some words for y'all to enjoy, description
if you want a proper review check Eriksons GR page there's only 3,000 of them...

“Too many regrets. Lost chances—and with each one passing the less human we all became, and the deeper into the nightmare of power we all sank.”

What even was this confusing mess of a book? I'll tell you what it was a goddamn masterpiece. I'm not even lying when I say that if you haven't read this you are missing out, if you call yourself a fantasy fan but you haven't started this series, well you must have something wrong with you. This was an epic ride and the actual bible of badassery. I love everything about this book. Erikson is clearly a genius to think of something so complex and unique. I was extremely apprehensive going into this book due to some statements from a few friends, apparently this book is confusing and the weakest of all ten. If this is the weakest then the rest must be so amazing that they are illegal to read, due to causing heart attacks from badassery overload. I'll be the first to admit I did find it confusing, but around page 50 I was able to follow the storyline, it's exactly what I expected from a world so large. The POV's switch back and forth and there's honestly like a 100 main characters, so yes it did get extremely overwhelming but the plot was so good that I didn't give a damn if I was confused, hell half the time I had no idea what was going on but I was okay with it because it was SO GODDAMN GOOD. Like it even had a puppet sorcerer. Not even joking that's how strange and epic this book is.

But what really drew me in was the immense world building with so much attention to detail, the details weren't over kill so I enjoyed reading all the descriptions (so unlike me). I could imagine everything vividly while reading. I also need to talk about that perfect and clever writing, Erikson is so fucking talented that it's ridiculous.

“High house shadow, and a knife in the dark. A new game's begun, or the old one's just turned.”

The characters? well there was many and when I say many I'm not even joking. A few stood out to me and I'm currently storing them in my book boyfriend harem. My favorite of all was Toc the Younger, I really have a thing for disfigured men I just find them so goddamn precious so i adored my one eyed solider.
fanart by Zsoszy on deviantart
“Toc the Younger, last representative of the Claw on Genabackis, one-eyed and half his face scarred by fire.”

I also love the marshmallow aka Kruppe. I loved his POV & I also loved his third person talk.

Rake was probably the most badass character ever created.
“Anomander Rake, Lord of the Tiste Andii, who are the souls of Starless Night. Rake, the Mane of Chaos.”

One thing I found extremely annoying was in the ebook edition Toc's name on nearly every page was spelt incorrectly.. Here's a few examples.

“Lorn smiled. 'You'll be sharing it for the next few days, Toe the Younger. We've a long walk to Pale.'
'Six, seven days,' Toe said. 'I expected you to be mounted.”

And another..
Toe's frown deepened, then he sat forward, his every muscle tensing”
And again..
And I was, for a time. Tell me, Toc the Younger, am I speaking to a Claw, or to a soldier of the Second?'
Toe's eye narrowed. 'That's a tough question.”

And again.
Toe's expression was grim”
Honestly my expression would be grim if I was called toe aswell. Sometimes I thought it was a new character named toe, but it was in reality just horrible editing.. Get your shit together editors !

And if my screaming and fan girling isn't enough to get you to read this book then your the one who needs to be punched. Recommended to all adult fantasy fans

Okay so this book promises lots of blood, death & heart shattering goodness.
Like I have HUGE expectations & this better contain badassery.


If this meme is incorrect I will punch someone.

New note: The meme was actually incorrect so now I feel stabby. I was not shocked or saddened enough in this book and that was my only issue.
Profile Image for Dana Ilie.
404 reviews351 followers
January 23, 2019
I began my journey into the Malazan series in a similar manner that I’m sure some others have. I was sure I’d fall on the side of those who didn’t like this. The reviews are so polarising, and so many people talk about how difficult this series is. I don’t have the time or energy for that, but all of my friends are reading or have already read this. Am I really going to be the only one who hasn’t?
Then I thought: maybe I’ll just read the first one, this world sounds so interesting, I feel like I’m missing out.
And what do you know? In my opinion, it is not as intimidating as some people make it out to be and I think you’ll not only enjoy it, but love it. I’ve been told that Gardens of the Moon is often thought of as the “weakest” in the series. If that’s the case, then I’m in for enjoying the rest of the series.
To be honest, I only experienced the “wow this is overwhelming” feeling that lots of people talk about when bringing up getting into the Malazan universe for about the first 50-100 pages. After that, the author does such an amazing job at placing clues, leading the reader where he wants them to go without holding their hand or spending 1,000 pages telling you about the world.

The world was rich. There were histories upon histories, incorporating beings of immense power. I felt that Erikson did a fantastic job at portraying the various power levels of individuals, explaining their weaknesses and still making you fell in complete awe at the creatures and beings that call this world their home. I just wanted more and more of the Lore. I want more information about the Bridgeburners, the magic system – warrens, on the different races such as the T’lan Imass and the Tiste Andii. I wanted a “guide” or something that I can take to work and read instead of doing real work.

I didn’t feel like there was a main character. This wasn’t the “coming of age” tale of some hero or the story of how a legend came to be, rather this was the story of the entire world and the pieces that came to play on it, all moved by their masters and the forces that willed them. Characters that you met were already who they had become, and I was able to easily understand and appreciate them without needing to be detailed their entire history.

The entire book felt fast-paced. Plots upon plots upon plots were woven as all of the puzzle pieces collided chapter after chapter. It was such an exciting writing style to be able to see all of your favorite characters converge together. Speaking of favorite characters, I have a lot of them.
Anomander Rake, Lord of Moon’s Spawn, Son of Darkness, Knight of Darkness.
I felt his power when reading of him. Erikson did an incredible job with all of his scenes and portraying such powerful characters. I could almost feel the pressure of the sword when looked upon, and hear the wagon and the chains. If there’s one character I want to read more and more about, it’s Rake.

Quick Ben
Probably the second character I want to know more about. Seven warrens can be used by him at one time and he is an ex-High Priest of Shadow? Where is this guy’s past and how do I get my hands on it? He was funny, exciting and powerful.

Here is a man who has become so numb to death and killing that he no longer questions it. It’s always, I wouldn’t say fun, but interesting to read about characters like this and how they handle themselves. I would say that occasionally I thought of him as similar to how I felt about Dalinar in the Words of Radiance.

Paran’s story is probably the one you read about most, as he is in the beginning and you follow him throughout. I think it’s pretty awesome that he now carries Lorn’s Otataral sword and I hope to learn more about how the anti-magic works in future books.

“Tattersail smiled. “The only death I fear is dying ignorant.”
Holy crap. Did that really happen? Did she kill her body to and become a baby again? She is far more powerful than I thought she was initially and was very good at playing the part. Can’t wait to read more about what happened with her and if she will be reuinited with Paran.

There are dozens of others that I loved. Kalam (I want to see his anger unleashed), Sorry (What is going on with that witch inside?), Crokus (Tossing the coin in at the end was pretty awesome), Rallick (Otataral inside of his skin? How powerful is he now?), Tool (Lots of feeling and emotion for a supposed three hundred thousand year old creature), Toc (The scratchy eye and visions through the Warren? Where did you go my friend?), Lorn (I loved her chapters, though I am not “sad” to see her go. If she truly stays dead.)

And let’s not forget…

I had mixed feelings about this guy. At first I couldn’t figure out who was playing who, but towards the end I started to see his real power and motives and ended up with positive feelings about the fat, dreaming bastard. His third person talking perspective is kind of annoying, but funny.

Gardens of the Moon is a great book that you will enjoy reading, as long as you like Swords and Sorcery style fantasy anyway. This is the type of fantasy I want to read. For some, it’ll be too demanding. I understand this. This book is not for everyone, but it most certainly is for me.
Profile Image for Daniel B..
Author 3 books32.5k followers
September 16, 2019
I get the feeling the entire Malazan series will benefit from a reread. I want to sit on this one and think before putting out a review sometime this week.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
719 reviews884 followers
February 6, 2020
Gardens of the Moon is the grand overture to Malazan Book of the Fallen, providing just a glimmer of what this massive, grimdark epic fantasy tale has to offer, which is best described below in the author's own words.

"Now these ashes have grown cold, we open the old book.
These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen,
a frayed empire, words without warmth. The hearth
has ebbed, its gleam and life's sparks are but memories
against dimming eyes - what cast my mind, what hue my
thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen
and breathe deep the scent of history?
Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath.
These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again.
We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all."

It was often said that Malazan Book of the Fallen flings the reader, whom will be expected to work hard, into the deep end. Armed with this knowledge as it is, I was still not prepared for what was to come.

Turn the first few pages and one will come across intricate maps, and a Dramatis Personae that has more names than a standard fantasy trilogy and this was just the first instalment. The characters were introduced at almost breakneck pace within the first few chapters as a sorcerous conflagration of epic proportions took place in a siege that one normally reads during the climax of a book. Structured into sub-books within a book, the second one opened in a completely new location with more new faces. Gradually though one can detect the inevitable coalescing of the various plot lines of all these characters onto a common path. By then, the story truly becomes engrossing, toil notwithstanding. It will be remiss of me, however, not to admit having to refer to the well-known Malazan Reread of the Fallen thread on Tor.com to assist me along the way.

The narrative was also not made for breezing through. There's substantive weight and pathos in the manner of Erikson's writing, which was further compounded with a lot of introspection and philosophical musings. Each sub-book and chapter were preceded by an epigraph, in the form of poetry or a passage from various in-world literature, with an allegory to the main story.

Even with the staggering cast of characters and its third person narrative, Erikson was able to imbue them with enough personality and individuality that made them memorable and, most of the time, relatable and likeable. It seems that the best kind of development always occur when people are thrown into a situation of conflict. I was particularly referring to The Bridgeburners in this case, a somewhat special elite squad within the Malazan Army, led by Whiskeyjack. The unshakeable love, loyalty and bonding between soldiers who have been through the horrors of war and insurmountable grief are truly compelling. The outer layer of sarcasm and humour threaded through their interaction with each other only intensifies the emotional resonance.

Whiskeyjack, a man pushed to the edge, or, rather, the edge creeping on him on all side, a crumbling of belief, a falling of faith, leaving as his last claim to humanity his squad, a shrinking handful of the only people that mattered any more. But he held on, and he pushed back - pushed back hard.

Quick Ben and Kalam, seeking to take responsibility from their sergeant's shoulders. It was their only means of loving the man, though they'd never put it in such terms.

Then there is that one character that personified the terms awesome and badass. Every single scene he appeared in was among my favourites - be it an epic scene of great power and sorcery, or a quiet and intimate conversation that bespoke patient despair and frustration.

Mane of Chaos. Anomander Rake. Lord of the black-skinned Tiste Andii, who has looked down on a hundred thousand winters, who has tasted the blood of dragons, who leads the last of his kind, seated in the Throne of Sorrow and a kingdom tragic and fey - a kingdom with no land to call its own.

The other characters were by no means lightweight but were too many to have a special mention aside from those I felt were the most memorable. The Bridgeburners alone comprise a host of fascinating characters whom, besides the aforementioned Whiskeyjack, Quick Ben and Kalam, can be found in the likes of Dujek Onearm, Toc the Younger, Fiddler, Hedge, Mallet, Trotts, Antsy, Picker, and its latest addition Captain Ganoes Paran - a young noble whom as a boy proudly declared that one day he'll be a soldier and did end up as one against the advice of a certain weary commander.

As for the worldbuilding, I cannot even begin to explain or describe how richly imagined the world of Malazan is. I have to use the term 'people' above very loosely to describe all the sapient beings that live on this world, which range from humans to various species, both mundane and magical. The magic is complicated to say the least and my knowledge of it only extends to that of warrens (which also appear to be portals of sorts) granting the user the patronage of particular sorcerous abilities. This depends on which 'House' or magical species the warren is aligned to. With its exceedingly deep history which spanned a few hundred thousand years, there are warrens of Elder magic which are more powerful, wielded by the first ancient living beings of this world. Even the names of all these warrens are pretty complex. Then there is the Deck of Dragons - the coolest yet most difficult to comprehend divination tool I've ever come across - like tarot cards except that it's definitely magical and from what I've discerned so far, only people with certain talents are able to employ the Deck meaningfully.

This review is written both from my initial impressions as well as my experience of reading this the second time around. As a rereader, I find that this book holds up very well for a revisit. With hindsight, one can better appreciate all the hints and foreshadowing and it makes for a slightly (only slightly) faster reading pace. For those who come into Gardens of the Moon and struggle with trying to understand the composition of characters and the intertwining subplots, my advice is not to try too hard. It will come together eventually and the payoff will be worth it. Of course, there is always the Malazan thread at Tor.com to help.

If you decide to embark on this journey through Malazan Book of the Fallen (and I'll wholeheartedly recommend that you should), I bid you welcome to what may be the most rewarding hard work you'll ever undertake for the love of epic grimdark fantasy.

You can find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books249k followers
January 19, 2018
"Every decision you make can change he world. The best life is the one the gods don't notice. You want to live free, boy, live quietly."


Great advice anytime, but even better advice when your world is in a constant state of war. Living large as the younger generation used to say. I'm sure I'm at least a few years out of date with that term. I think someone "living large" is exactly who the universe is most attracted to, not that it is above toying with the occasional poor bastard who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. For it does seem as if something bad has to be happening to someone all the time, and it only seems prudent to make small arm motions. In the Malazan Empire neutrality is nonexistent. You must choose a side, sometimes a different one depending on the prevailing winds, but being in the middle just means the whole bristling array of creative weaponry is pointed at you instead of half. Even if you choose wisely your ability to stay alive long enough to drop the next generation of squalling infants is based more on dumb luck than skill.

If I lived in Genabackis I'd be looking for the most inhospitable chunk of icy sheep shit encrusted land that I could find. I'd be thrilled about the sheep shit because that would mean that there is something shitting; ergo, something that could land in my stew pot. The point being, to be somewhere, that has little or no value...equivalent to say an Indian Reservation.

The emperor is dead and the empress is intent on bringing all the city states under her control. There are The Crimson Guards, The Bridgburners, The Claw, The Tiste Andii, The T'lan Imass, and The Barghast to name a few of the military organizations and different cultures involved in this conflict.


Did I mention this is an epic fantasy series? Is there magic you might ask? The air is absolutely nose twitching foul with the smell of casting spells. There are warrens that zip those of a magical aptitude from one end of the country to the other. There are mages, there are gods (bunch of ninnies), there are evil cast off creatures that are slumbering waiting for a chance to enslave the world, there are hell hounds, there are enchanted sword blades, magical coins, possessed marionettes, and assassins. I know, I know if I were reading this I would be thinking not for me. I'm not a Dungeons and Dragons kind of guy. I don't play video games. I don't as a rule read fantasy books. I absolutely LOVED this book; in fact, I loved it so much I think I may have been hit with a book love potion spell, so keep that in mind when you think about adding this to your reading list.

I've read the reviews, and one of the main points of concern to those that did not like this book is the massive, record breaking number of characters that are thrown at you. It is true. It is as if you have went over to Steven Erikson's house and there he is with his group of geeky (to not type cast they could be employed people too) buddies and they have been engrossed in this role playing game for the last 10 years with evolving rules and characters and you are dropped right in the middle of their latest epic struggle expected to assimilated ten years of evolution in ten minutes.

For the first few chapters my brain was reeling like a drunken sailor on leave in Shanghai. After I realized that I was drunk, I did what I always do when I find myself in such precarious circumstances. I relaxed and let Erickson's world flow over me, around me, through me, in me until suddenly everything starting clicking into place. For whatever reason Erickson with a few descriptive sentences locked characters into my head, so even when they disappeared for twenty chapters I could still remember who they were when they became crucial to the plot again. This could all be a residual symptom of the book love potion as well.

I think another problem that might occur for readers is to read a bit and leave it for a week. I could see how threads of the plot would become tangled or lost and the frustration for the reader would increase exponentially. It is a book that might be assumed to be a light pleasure read and that would be a big mistake. I read this book every day until I finished it. Family must be attended to. Work was an irritation that had to be endured, but these imposed absences heightened my pleasure once I escaped back to the Book of the Fallen . I had to find out what happened to Tattersail. Like the Mazalan Empire there is no way to be neutral on this book. You will either love it or absolutely hate adore despise relish it. My fingers... are not... completely... under my control.

I'll leave you with a scene from the book.

"Whiskeyjack's gaze strayed to one of the beds, on which lay his armor and longsword. Rust stained the hauberk's tattered chain like old blood. The links were missing in some places, torn in others. In his bones and muscles the memory of that damage remained: every cut, every blow now haunted him with aches, greeting him each morning like old comrades."
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews210 followers
January 26, 2018
Reread 2018.01.04-26.

Wow, loved this book even more. It was awesome meeting the characters I love from the first read, everything got clearer and all the tiny clever bits which weren't spotted the first time - blew my mind 😱💜

Original review 2016.11.12-23

Crokus studied Moon's Spawn instead...
'Do you see its oceans?' Apsalar asked.
'What?' He turned.
'Its oceans. Grallin's Sea. That's the big one. The Lord of the Deep Waters living there is named Grallin. He tends vast, beautiful underwater gardens. Grallin will come down to us, one day, to our world. And he'll gather his chosen and take them to his world. And we'll live in those gardens, warmed by the deep fires, and our children will swim like dolphins, and we'll be happy since there won't be any more wars, and no empires, and no swords and shields.
Oh, Crokus, it'll be wonderful, won't it?

My first encounter with Malazan world was reading the great review of Evgeny (thanks for the rec, friend :)). The review and the blurb really gripped me, but I was reluctant to start reading because the series contains ten books and I’m quite terrible in long-term relationships with books (with some exceptions! *sends love to Sigma Force (J. Rollins) and Kate Daniels (I. Andrews) <3 *) But I’m glad that temptation proved to be powerful enough to start my playdate in Malazan world. Btw I would like to thank all the faithful fans of Malazan books, who helped and supported me through my adventure in GotM. You’re the best, thanks! :)

Ah, “Gardens of the Moon”. To say it in one word – it is epic. Also it’s multilayered, sometimes difficult, but always gripping and surprising. I would like to spend one day in Mr. Erikson’s head, to know how the hell he manages to create such books as “Gardens of the Moon”.

When I started reading GotM, my first reaction was – wow, this will be smth peculiar. The gritty atmosphere was great as dark sorcery ages, humor, twists and scheming made this books a roller coaster for me. The unpredictability was awesome <3 The story is told from different POVs. There are no good or evil characters, the characters can be both good and bad and it doesn’t matter are they Gods, Soldiers, Empire's agents, spies, some ancient monsters or assassins, I could expect almost anything to happen to them. Though at first I had some problems with remembering who’s who and sometimes I had to read more pages to know why smth happened. But eventually I got used to it as peculiarity means skill almost all the time. Well, I eased the problem of remembering names by creating my own nicknames for remarkable characters :)

GotM’s cast ( the product of my crazy mind):

Captain P aka Captain Paran
Quick B aka Quick Ben
Fat lady with a spell (this one I found in the book already :)) aka Tattersail
Cute hell doggies aka Cute hell doggies
Miss Special aka Sorry
Lass aka the Adjunct
Mr. Bony aka Tool
Amun Ra aka Anomander Rake (he reminded me of Geralt, the Witcher <3)
Mr. Pastry (that’s the gem of Lee, thanks for the help ;)) aka Kruppe

I liked them a lot and I definitely rooted for most of them. There were characters, too cute or having cool names already so I thought I didn’t have to give nicknames for them :) I want to mention Crone, she was so cool, shrewd and mouthy, I would like to have her as my comrade <3

As I mentioned before, I liked the gritty atmosphere a lot. The worldbuilding is just amazing. I adored the author’s skill to use imagination, creating Malazan world with depth and accuracy. GotM joins several important stories to make the whole picture. The book just sucked me in. I was amazed often to see how easily Mr. Erikson knits his story entwining magic, chaos, action, danger, friendship, some history spices, fighting scenes, scheming and love. I’ve already mentioned before that sometimes I felt confused as the flow of information wasn’t even all the time. It seemed that Mr. Erikson wanted his readers to sweat a little bit trying to reveal the secrets. It kept me on the edge of my seat as I never knew what to expect next and it was awesome. What I also liked is that he added some humor to the dark episodes to ease the tension. I still giggle remembering the episode when Captain Paran rode on his mare into the chamber of the Empress by accident.

‘Did you imagine the Imperial Arch would exit in the stables, Lieutenant?'
'My horse was reluctant to make the passage, Empress.'
'With good reason.'
Paran smiled. 'Unlike me, she's of a breed known for its intelligence. Please accept my humblest apologies.’

I’ll definitely continue my playdate in Malazan world as I liked GotM a lot and I’m eager to know what interesting and mind-blowing stuff has Mr. Erikson prepared in further books :) Though, I think, I’m going to take a break from Malazan world for a while as I need to digest all the info and puzzle out my emotions regarding this book.

P.S. Samir: The answer to your question is yes ;))) I’ll eagerly wait for the invitation ;)
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
264 reviews3,972 followers
June 5, 2022
A confusing book with immense potential for the rest of the series.

I struggled a little with this book because of how confusing it is. I found myself at peace once you realize that you aren't supposed to understand everything, or even most things. You have to trust that the series will eventually make things clear to you, and it's obvious that this book is probably a 5/5 on a re-read after you are done with the series.

The foundation is there for a wonderful series.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews884 followers
October 28, 2019
Chapter 24: I am finished. On many levels.*

Chapter 23: I wish to say I understand everything. Alas, I do not.

Chapter 22: The most amazing thing about this novel is not the fact that it gives you the whole galaxies of protagonists and plotlines. The whole genius that has shaken so many readers with tremors of awe (count me in!) lies in how masterfully each of those shining stars is connected with the others and in how many minuscule surfaces of seemingly random details this is reflected.

Chapter 21: Damn, this book has dragons that even I like and admire.

Chapter 20: I want to know who the Circle Breaker is.

Chapter 19: #sorrynotsorry

Chpater 18: Oh, I am one happy, fluffy bunny!

Chpater 17: The fate of the Tiste Andii, the mercenaries of the spirit, is just too tragic to be comprehended. But then, you need love to have the zest for life, and what love can bloom in the darkness?

Chpater 16: While I find myself bloodthirsty as far as Lorn is concerned, I still cannot warm up to the walking convergence.

Chpater 15: Note to self: Never cross Anomander Rake. Also, if possible, try not to double-cross him.

Chpater 14: These chapters fly by like crazy. I don't want this novel to end!

Chpater 13: "They are not fleeing," Pearl said with a note of surprise. Note the stroke of genius to call a demon with a name fit for a Yorkshire terrier or a chihuahua.

Chpater 12: I have forgotten to tell you that this book also makes me laugh. I dread the moment when it will break me like a piggy bank and the tears will flow.

Chapter 11: I'll have you know Mr Erikson that I am now sitting at work surreptitiously reading your book under my desk. This is what you have done to me. Go for the throat, indeed.

Chapter 10 Only now have I realised that I have no idea who the bad guys really are. I dislike the sorcerophobic upstart with all her retinue and the vendetta against the old guard but this might prove unfounded since the endgame remains a mystery.

Chapter 9: Trying to decide which of the characters is the least dangerous is like organising a piranha beauty pageant. So, for now, I have contented myself with trying to guess who is double-crossing whom.

Chapter 8: At this point, I know that this is not only a series to reread but to own in hardcover. Preferably with all the instalments signed by the author.

Chapter 7: Coinbearer, huh? This has a lot of LOTR vibes to it.

Chapter 6: As if there were not enough characters to love and hate, we get to meet new exciting ones. However, an alchemist, a thief, an obese mage speaking about himself in the third person (how endearing!), a dandified fop, and a killer are altogether outshined by none other than a raven!

Chapter 5: My New Year resolution should be: always pick up a stray coin.

Chapter 4: I think I have it all figured out, therefore, I foresee a lot of "what the hugs" coming my way. Also, I don't want any Bridgeburner to die (can I enrol, please?).

Chapter 3: The intrigue is so thick and condensed I can use it as my bookmark. Making sense of that is happening is half the fun.

Chapter 2: Normally you see a siege like that in the grand finale not casually flung at you in the second chapter!

Chapter 1: I love this book already. What a great way to start the new reading year!

* I am not going to even pretend that I could in any way give a pale shadow of justice to this book or indeed a whole series in a proper review. There are many better than me, here on Goodreads (and many of those I'm lucky to have among my friends), who managed to grasp and convey the sheer brilliance of what awaits those who open the Malazan Book of the Fallen. All I can give you is a chapter breakdown of my own falling.

The Malazan Book of the Fallen:

2. Deadhouse Gates ★★★★★
3. Memories of Ice ★★★★★
4. House of Chains ★★★★★
5. Midnight Tides ★★★★★
6. The Bonehunters ★★★★★
7. Reaper's Gale ★★★★☆
8. Toll the Hounds
9. Dust of Dreams ★★★☆☆ (and the third star is a testament to my generosity)
10. The Crippled God ★★☆☆☆
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,105 followers
February 10, 2017
What a delightful larger-than-life fantasy novel!

I was prepared to assume that it was going to be filled with an army of confused characters mired in grit and blood and that I shouldn't expect too much from the first novel because the series gets seriously good later.

I might have managed my expectations a bit too much, because I was delighted, instead. I've been a fan of the Final Fantasy RPGs since the first one, so I'm quite used to a lot of these tropes, plus I'm also a fan of the Cthulhu mythos, so godlings and demons raining down from the moon and infecting dreams, elder gods breaking through to the waking realm, and the dying souls of a race of immortals willing to give up everything for a final rest is all pretty much awesome. I'm ready to flip a coin and kill some doggies. :)

The admittedly large cast of characters didn't seem at all confused, either. I rooted for all of them at different times and I was very willing and able to hang my hat on the magic system with all it's Warrens and barrows and subdivisions and unique associations of interested polities. (I jest, I jest. I really enjoy the idea that magic is associated with space outside of regular space, as implied in the naming system.)

Best of all, though, other than the fairly cool poetry and very well thought-out world-building that's obviously much, much deeper than what we see here, was the fact that there was so much damn magic! I think I enjoyed learning how it worked as much as I enjoyed watching it blow stuff up. I was duly creeped out by the puppets, the abilities manifested by soul-hopping, the shambling dead, Luck, and so much more. My interest was definitely piqued and I'm rearing to go.

I'm an old uber-fan of WoT and I've tasted quite a few other series. The one thing I see the most connection between, when it comes to like/like, is Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archives. That's high praise for both series, by the way. If you like one, you'll like both, even. :)

I'm going to continue with this series with great joy.
Profile Image for Markus.
476 reviews1,562 followers
January 14, 2019
"Now these ashes gave grown cold, we open the old book.
These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen,
a frayed empire, words without warmth. The hearth
has ebbed, its gleam and life's sparks are but memories
against dimming eyes - what cast my mind, what hue my
thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen
and breathe deep the scent of history?
Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath.
These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again.
We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all."

Dark times have set upon the Malazan Empire. Nine years ago, the Emperor Kellanved was murdered and his most loyal followers purged by a ruthless and ambitious woman called Surly, formerly the Commander of the Claw, now known as Laseen, 'thronemaster'. Under the rule of their new empress, the Malazans have spread their empire across the known world, and now the war rages in distant Genabackis. With the Siege of Pale coming to an end, Laseen's attention turns towards Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities...

The first tale of The Malazan Book of the Fallen takes place almost exclusively in the cities of Pale and Darujhistan, and their immediate surroundings. Yet despite of that, the book manages to encompass an enormously wide range of different characters and storylines, all occurring simultaneously. And not only that, but all the time, the reader gets subtle hints that are easily missed about events yet to come. Of course, Steven Erikson has become rather infamous for all this.

The characters were pretty standard. There were a few I enjoyed greatly (most importantly Adjunct Lorn, Kruppe and Anomander Rake), another handful I liked well enough, and a whole lot I found to be completely one-dimensional and uninteresting. Not that I'm complaining, mind you, for such a situation must be expected from a book with as many characters as this one.

The writing style is a matter for debate. I know many people like it (and I've also heard that there is a lot of development throughout the series), and while I wouldn't call it bad, I cannot say that I liked it either. Erikson's style, as stated by the man himself in the introduction, is both fast-paced and dense. That made this feel like a book I should have been able to read a lot faster, but where I had to force myself to go very slow in order to avoid missing anything. So sometimes reading the book caused a minor headache, not because it was confusing (I actually don't think it was), but because I had to read it like I would a university textbook. Looking away from all that, though, the writing itself is okay. Not particularly impressive, but still good. The chapter introductions, however, were simply amazing. I always like quotes and excerpts from in-world texts introducing chapters, and when those come in the form of poetry, it's even better.

Let me talk a little bit about the setting then, which is by far the greatest strength of this book. The continent of Genabackis is a land of many different nations and cultures, and it seems that each and every one of them has a developed history. From the Moranth to Darujhistan to the lands of the Pannion Seer, Erikson has created a setting that's astonishingly enjoyable to read and learn more about. Add to that the Tiste Andii, the T'lan Imass, the Jaghut and all the other non-human races, and the fact that there's a whole world out there waiting to be explored and nine more books to do it, and this reader for one is definitely happy with the latest fantasy universe he's been given the chance to see.

I also felt like there was an advantage in having read the whole Chronicles of the Black Company before venturing forth into this series. Glen Cook is according to Erikson his most important source of inspiration, and it is already quite easy to see connections between the two series in this first novel. Genre-wise Erikson follows in Cook's footsteps and both the setting, the writing and the characters are similar to the ones found in the world of the Black Company.

So in the end, I really liked Gardens of the Moon. There were intriguing stories, fascinating legends of old, epic duels between powerful wizards and mythic creatures appearing from the realms of the gods. I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would, but pretty close to how much I expected I would. It is still far too early to see if this series will become one of my favourites, but I certainly intend to find out.


Malazan Book of the Fallen reviews:
#1 Gardens of the Moon
#2 Deadhouse Gates
#3 Memories of Ice
#4 House of Chains
#5 Midnight Tides
#6 The Bonehunters
#7 Reaper's Gale
#8 Toll the Hounds
#9 Dust of Dreams
#10 The Crippled God
Profile Image for Samir.
111 reviews177 followers
November 12, 2018
25.01.2018. Re-read update:

A brilliant introduction to the greatest epic fantasy series ever. A bold statement isn’t it? And a true one, as well.

''Now these ashes have grown cold,
we open the old book.
These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen,
a frayed empire, words without warmth.
The hearth has ebbed, its gleam and life's sparks are but memories against dimming eyes - what cast my mind, what hue my thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen and breathe deep the scent of history?
Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath.
These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again.
We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all.''

On my first venture into the world of The Malazan Book of the Fallen I’ve reached the beginning of book five and sadly had to stop because life got in the way (Don’t grow up, it’s a trap!). It took only three books to convince me that this series is on another level and there is nothing like it out there.

Yes, I had troubles with GotM on my first try, but this time, it was a completely different experience. It was better in every way possible. The story was easier to follow and I wasn’t overwhelmed with the huge cast of characters. I took my time reading this, savoring every moment, soaking up the smallest details and realizing how many things slipped by me the first time; important hints regarding the characters and foreshadowing of the future events. Everything makes more sense now and I appreciate the writing even more. I made a great decision to start this series over and if you’re thinking about re-reading or starting this series, just do it, because this book holds a promise of a journey you will never forget.

''Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise.
Go for the throat.''

30.10.2016. First read impressions:

The Malazan Book of the Fallen is the series that can be found on almost every top ten list on fantasy book sites. And yet, opinions about this series are divided; some see it as the best series ever and some hate it, so i decided it was time to see what all the fuss is about.

When I started GotM I was overwhelmed, I felt like I was dropped in the middle of chaos and soon I found myself standing on the precipice and thinking: ''What in the hell have I gotten myself into?!'', but, since there was no going back I took a leap of faith and boy, am I glad I did!

Erikson's style of writing is an acquired taste but when you get the gist of it you realize how good it really is. It demands high focus and concentration so there is no skimming through pages here, everything is important and pay off is huge! If you pay attention you can notice subtle hints and clues that help you connect the dots in the story, really brilliant stuff!

As I mentioned in one of my reviews, I need a hero to root for and I had a problem with that because I couldn't decide on one. This is not a classic Good vs. Evil tale, there are good and bad guys on each side so I ended up rooting for characters on both sides of the story so it's suffice to say that the characters in this book are masterfully written!

I admit, I had some problems getting into the story because everything was so mysterious and it was a bit hard to track the large number of POVs but when I got used to it, everything came into place and it was mind blowing! I have yet to come across a story as epic as this one!

In the end I understood the love-hate feelings toward this book. This is not an easy read and it requires a lot of your time and attention so I understand that can be off-putting but if you choose to invest your time in this book, you will be amazed how rewarding it is!
Profile Image for Jody .
202 reviews141 followers
March 11, 2017
This was a buddy read with the gang at BB&B.

Gardens of the Moon is the first book in Steven Erikson's epic Malazan book of the Fallen series. The word epic may be overused when describing some books, but that is not the case here. Erikson has created one of the most vast world's I have ever read. The amount of characters, magic system, history, plots and subplots is on a level of its own. My advice when reading this is just go with the flow of the book. If you try to remember every detail it can be overwhelming. I say this not to dissuade you. Just to prepare you for the immense awesomeness of this book.

Erikson wastes no time dropping you into the action from the first page. The Malazan army has layed seige to the Genabackis city of Pale, but the empress has her sights set on a bigger goal. The city of Darujhistan. This is where most of the events of this book take place, and everyone from gods, mortals, mages, and Ascendants want to get involved.

"If ever there was a dire convergence of great forces, it was now, and in this place. The gods were descending to the mortal soil to do battle, shapings were being forged of flesh and bone, and the blood of sorcery now boiled with madness born of inevitable momentum."

As I said before the amount of characters in this book is huge, but it really wasn't as hard to keep up with everyone as I thought it would be.
Erikson does a good job grouping the characters and giving most of them unusual names that are hard to forget. Names like Whiskeyjack, Quick Ben, and Kruppe.

Erikson's ability to shape multilayered characters is genius. There are so many different personalities in this book. From the weird and crazy narrative of Kruppe to the powerful and mysterious Anomander Rake and everyone in between. I have my favorites, but they all stand out at some point in the story.

The book is broken down into 7 sections, also called books. Each book is proceeding the last, so there is no missed time in between. The first few books are mostly sectioned with different sets of characters. This helps in getting used to all of them when they converge later in the story.

There are many different powers at work throughout the book, and some of the gods and Ascendants like to be right in the middle of the action. In most stories you have two sides, good and bad. That is not the case here. Almost everyone has their own agenda, and will do what they need to survive, or influence someone to accomplish their goal.

"What I did was merciful. I used her, yes, but she knew it not. Can the same be said for you? Tell me, is knowing your being used better than not knowing?"

Needless to say I loved almost every aspect of this book. It really is a beautiful read. Not just the action and immense story line, but the writing itself is amazing. I have more Erikson quotes written down in one book than I do in the last 10 books all together. That being said, I will list a couple more of my favorites before closing.

"I'd hate to think," Kalam said, from the bed, "that evil was real, that it existed with a face as plain as the next man's."

"Do you blame the knife, or the hand wielding it?"

My only regret is that I haven't read these books sooner. I strongly urge everyone to give this series a try. You never know when you may just pick up your next favorite book that has been there all along. Just waiting on you!

5 stars *****
Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews448 followers
February 8, 2013
This is my second reading of Gardens of the Moon. I’ve long suspected that the best way to read Erikson’s Malazan series is to read it again. I can now confirm that suspicion has been proved correct as far as this book goes. I loved rereading this book. There were so many times reading the series initially that I felt certain information and story arcs and characters just came out of left field. But having read this first book again I am astounded at the sheer level and volume of foreshadowing contained right from the beginning.

As a first time reader it is almost impossible to conceive of the notion that the author trusts the reader to discover the mysteries of a story for themselves. One of the things I like about whodunit stories is the quest to discover the answers simply from the clues given in the plot. But even then, most such stories still end up withholding just enough information so that there was no way to discover the story from the clues. Well this book turns that idea on its head. You get ALL the pieces to the puzzle(s), and when you have enough pieces, Erikson assumes you also have the answers. Erikson spends very little time and often none with confirming whether you were right or not. Confirmation are mostly implied or inferred by dialogue and/or what happens next.

I remember on my first read that I spent about a third of the book thinking “this guy couldn’t write to save his life.” But around halfway when I figured one of the mysteries of the book all by myself the penny finally dropped. Erikson was trusting me to figure things out, but I hadn’t been trusting him to give me what I needed. And from then I was hooked on the Malazan universe.

Thankfully that first time around, during the initial phases of the book Erikson’s style of writing included some fantastic imagery as well as some of the most badass action sequences ever that kept me coming back. There are some fantastic scenes that you could paint in detail as picturesque snapshots I’m thinking in particular of the epic mage battle over the city of Pale with the sky fortress hanging overhead and waves of power reigning down carnage. I’m thinking of mage assassins battling on the rooftops of Darujistan. I’m thinking of lords of war free falling from the sky to engage their enemies. Dragons. Tyrants. A possessed puppet for goodness sakes! And my personal favourite for snapshot poses of pure awesomeness – Anomander Rake – with his two handed sword that sings with the sound of thousands of enslaved souls.

Apart from the snapshot imagery – there are also some very intriguing characters. The Bridgeburners in particular Quick Ben. Then there’s Shadowthrone and The Rope and the Hounds of Shadow. And who can forget Magnanimous Kruppe who has a weak spot for pastries and employs his vast talent and magery to lift cakes and sweets vacuum cleaner style as he walks through the markets of downtown Darujistan.

One of the difficulties I had the first time round is that I had trouble caring about any of the characters. Part of that maybe that there is such a vast cast and the narrative doesn’t impose on you who to side with in the conflict. But mostly I realise now was because I wasn’t paying attention. Very little of the detail in the writing exists purely for background or to simply set the tone of the book. Most of what you read is significant in some way. Erikson wastes few words. If a character briefly notices something in passing, it’s your cue to pay attention. By the time I cottoned on to this fact I had already missed so much and lost a lot of continuity. And I knew it. And I can tell you on this reread, the clues and the detail and foreshadowing I missed the first time round is staggering. I’m getting answers that alluded me through the series in this very first book. They were there hidden in plain sight all along!

So, I say all that to say, this re read was a different and far superior, more enjoyable reading experience than the initial read. And the level of detail is such that I think I could read this again and still get further revelations. As such I am re-rating this from 4 stars to a very firm ...

5 stars

Profile Image for James Tivendale.
317 reviews1,342 followers
June 27, 2023
I first read Gardens of the Moon eight years ago. This was a few years before I started reviewing books and I was in a very different mental headspace to the one that I find myself in now. I do not look back on this period fondly. That being said, I read and loved this series throughout this stage. However difficult or messed up my life seemed, there was always a Malazan Book of the Fallen entry close by that helped me escape and assisted me with feeling things that I did not get from the real world. I have opted to re-read this series, to see how it holds up and, additionally, to see what I get from it now being the person that I am today.

Gardens of the Moon is about Empress Laseen continually pushing for the expansion of the Malazan Empire. At her disposal, she has seasoned armies, powerful mages, Claw assassins, and many allies, both natural and unnatural. She is unforgiving, will backstab when required, and can go to what seem like absurdly risky lengths to get her way with domination. To commence, we join the action in Pale where the Malazan military are facing a confrontation from the impressive and capable combined forces of Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, Pale's army, warlord Caladan Brood, and The Crimson Guard.

My memories from the first read are hazy, yet, back then I remember I did not quite feel the sense of being lost as many admit to when starting Gardens of the Moon. I will admit that I found it tough going at certain moments and I still believe the first page is a difficult read and that the glossary and dramatis personae are required. The beginning sets the standard that follows in that this series does not welcome you warmly with open arms. When you arrive as a reader, this world is living and breathing, has histories that span millennia and vast continents, presents existing power struggles between gods and immortals, warfare and factions and ranks and reputations, a broad array of races and contingents, and a complicated magic scheme where the rules are not explained. There are a large amount of point of view perspectives in Gardens of the Moon yet, we often find ourselves looking and learning through the eyes of the young noble Ganoes Paran, who is the closest to a main character Erikson presents in the book.

‘Every decision you make can change the world. The best life is the one the gods don’t notice. You want to live free, boy, live quietly.’
‘I want to be a soldier. A hero.’
‘You’ll grow out of it.’

Malazan Book of the Fallen features some of my favourite characters in fantasy literature. When reading Gardens of the Moon, I tried to forget what I knew and wished to analyse them based on the actions and dialogues of this novel alone. With that in mind, there are still so many intriguing and captivating members of the dramatis personae. Anomander Rake, Quick Ben, Sorry, Shadowthrone, Tattersail, Adjunct Lorn, Kalam, and Tool are just a few names out of thirty-plus that truly stand out. A vast amount of the major players are complicated and mysterious, with varied motives, multilayered personalities, and past experiences. For example, with Anomander Rake, is he a villain as he is fighting against the Malazan Empire? Is he as honourable as people mention? Is he a High Mage or something all the more impressive and frightening? When reading his mannerisms including when he chooses to laugh or speak sternly or with who he engages or the decisions he makes, this is a character so deep that you can almost feel the weight and burden that his long lifetime and his god-slaying sword, Draginpur, have laid on his shoulders.

The magic system in Malazan Book of the Fallen is phenomenal. Essentially, mages or wizards can access warrens. The warrens are magical realms, which can be traversed as a type of fast-travel, and are sources of power that those with the necessary attributes are able to draw from. Each warren has an element or flavour, such as Denul (healing) Meanas (shadow) and Kurald Galain (darkness) and, although they are rare, some powerful mages can access more than one warren simultaneously, making them extremely formidable. Sourcing from these magical domains comes at a cost and those who dabble unaware or without caution can go mad, die, or be consumed. In addition, the warrens can be the residing realms of various types of nastiness, such as things best left forgotten, wanderers, ascendents, gods, and hounds.

I fondly remembered that during my first read, I adored following the actions and drama that featured the Bridgeburners. They are a squad from the Malazan army who are respected and made up of a wide variety of talents including an ex-commander, an ex-Claw assassin, a Seven Cities Mage, a pair of sappers, a healer, and a possessed young girl. I also reflected that I was frustrated when, after finally feeling content that I had figured out what was happening, (following the Bridgeburners et al), the reader is whisked away to another city entirely with a whole new cast of characters to learn about. (There was an element of this on my re-read but I readjusted to the new setting and players promptly.) In Darujhistan, there are a few great character creations to follow also, but this side of the story did not gel with me as strongly. In this city, there is a war of assassins and a variety of class and political infighting and intrigue. This section is a slower burn than the sieges and magical battles elsewhere, yet does pay off by the finale which features half a dozen standout segments, showdowns, twists, and deaths.

Having read the book twice now, I assess that Erikson has done admirably with the pacing of Gardens of the Moon. However, the first time I read this, my reading pace would not have been smooth at the beginning, as I was trying to get my head around the novel's many elements. On my re-read, it seemed easier and by the time I reached Book 4 Assassins, I was racing through the pages, culminating with me devouring over 150 pages in a couple of hours this morning. The ending is well-worked and has three or four moments that could be the finale before the novel finds another gear or twist, concluding in an exhilarating fashion. A huge plus is that I find the unpredictability of Gardens of the Moon and later series entries fascinating. Before the novel closes, it neatly sets up the journies and endeavours that are to follow for the cast in Deadhouse Gates and Memories of Ice.

For the most part, the writing in Gardens of the Moon is well-crafted and paints an excellent introductory view of the vastness and complicatedness of the Malazan Universe. Some moments may be over-descriptive and during my re-read, I noticed parts that would make extremely little sense to a fresh-eyed, first-time series reader. The dialogue presented in Gardens of the Moon is strong, and one of my favourite scenes is a fairly emotional farewell between a wizard and a demon. Knowing what follows, I can see that some elements of the humour, camaraderie, and philosophical musings present in Gardens of the Moon had not yet been perfectly honed by Erikson. Even with that considered, the potential and statement made by the author presenting this as a debut, looking back, is immensely impressive.

An element of my re-read that I hugely enjoyed, was the foreshadowing and seeing how aware Erikson was, even at this early stage of this series, where this story would lead. For example, he mentions, quite early on, the Tiste Edur, a race that does not feature until the fifth novel Midnight Tides. This is absolutely a story that is worth paying close attention to. A seer mentions something in the first few chapters that could sound, to a casual reader, like nonsense, yet is of great importance to a standout scene later on. I definitely caught more of these special nuggets understanding the world's jargon and history more on my second visit to this narrative.

I am wholeheartedly delighted that I decided to re-read Gardens of the Moon, which seems like an oxymoron when considering that this is often a brutal and unforgiving dark fantasy epic. My next steps are to review the rest of the novels in this series including Ian C. Esslemont's books Novels of the Malazan Empire when they fit chronologically.

If you have not yet read Malazan Book of the Fallen, I would recommend it highly. I also strongly encourage being diligent when researching it online as this is a series that is best to appreciate and be amazed by unspoiled. 8.5/10.

"Too many regrets. Lost chances – and with each one passing the less human we all became, and the deeper into the nightmare of power we all sank."
Author 1 book360 followers
January 20, 2018
Loved this to pieces. From characters and setting, to prose and pace, every single aspect of the book was magnificent. If I could give it 6 stars, I would.
There's no point of reviewing such a popular book though, so I'll simply share some of my thoughts for people who have already read it. Spoilers ahead!

While things seemed complicated at first, I knew that they would come together in the end, so I enjoyed trying to puzzle stuff together and figure out everyone's motives and whatnot. Unfortunately though, some things didn't make sense, and most specifically the Empire's plans.
We are about to face our biggest enemy atm, the Lord of the Moon's Spawn. Let's just kill our own wizards instead before finishing the enemy!
We want to hire the local assassins of a city to murder the city's leaders, so we will naturally assign this job to the only motherfuckers that we don't trust!
We will free a Jaghut Tyrant in the hope that our enemy will be forced to face him, but we won't unleash the most powerful demon in our disposal in the same time to call it a success! No! We will send them one after the other to make sure our enemies manage to defeat them!

It doesn't make sense at all. I loved it! Everyone is immensely powerful and scared of everyone else at the same time. It sounds stupid but it isn't - it keeps you on your toes at all times since you don't know what to expect, and who will come on top.

-Anomander Rake-
That's the second baddest motherfucker in the history of bad motherfuckers. He's immortal, he's overpowered as fuck, and he doesn't give a fuck.

-Ammanas and Cotillion-
My favorite characters! Interesting to see how while both of them are Ascendants with immense power they know not to fuck with Rake. I had trouble with the mystery surrounding them though. One on hand, Erikson pretends like their identity is a huge mystery, while who they are is clear to the reader from the very first chapter. On the other hand, their actions didn't make any sense. What did they try to accomplish in the first chapter? Why did Cotillion withdraw from Sorry after managing to infiltrate the Bridgeburners?

The most interesting characters among them were Kalam and Quick Ben. I love how Quick Ben pretends to be an average wizard for the whole book, and in the end he just casually opens 7 warrens all at once and fucks things up.

-Ganoes Paran-
Disliked him in the beginning, but he kinda grew on me in the end. Dude had the weirdest psychological profile - clearly mental unbalanced, which made for some interesting confrontations with the Gods.

-Phoenix Inn regulars-
My favorite bunch of misfits, except Crokus whom I hated with a passion. Wanted to bitch-slap that little fucker with every turn of the page. Murillio, Rallick, Coll and Kruppe made the best team though.
Profile Image for Choko.
1,221 reviews2,598 followers
January 8, 2018
My second read leads me to believe that this is a series that only gets better with re-reading!!! I find myself needing to bump my rating this time to

*** 4.44 ***

so it isn't full 5 stars - this way I have space to bump it more the next time I revisit it:):):)

A buddy re-read with the folks at FBR! Because once is never enough when it comes to Malazan!!!

"..."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."..."

*** 4 ***

A buddy read with the Epic Fantasy Warriors at BB&B!!! Because we need to get our Evil Magic On!

How the hell does a person do a review on a book like this??? This is the first book in a series, which in scope rivals WoT, SoIF, and TBC. I have found that on such books with multiple POV's and story arcs and multi-directional story-lines, it is almost impossible to even try an attempt at delving into the plot. So I don't think I am even going to try.

"..."“Through the gamut of life we struggled for control, for a means to fashion the world around us, an eternal, hopeless hunt for the privilege of being able to predict the shape of our lives.”..."

This little quote should give you all some idea of the tone of the book - it is dark, it is bleak and it is violent! With the first pages we are thrown into the action, no knowledge of what is going on or who the bad or the good guys are. We meet some of the main characters right away and see them later growing and changing through the years. This is where it really reminded me of TBC, where we hit the ground running as well, and all the characters had the potential to do good or bed equally. I think this is what makes this type of writing so compelling - you never stop wondering about the true intentions of the characters and the potential for betrayals and backstabbing are infinite. But this is also what makes the characters so human and relatable, since in real life we are all faced with "gray" choices - no black or white, no true right or wrong. They usually try, just like us, to do what they think is wright, until deeper understanding and seeing the bigger picture shows them which side of history their stories will be told on.

"..."«Such is the irony of life,» Kruppe proclaimed, raising one pastry-filled hand over his head, «that one learns to distrust the obvious, surrendering instead to insidious suspicion and confused conclusion. But, is Kruppe deceived? Can an eel swim? Hurrah, these seeming muddy waters are home to Kruppe, and his eyes are wide with wonder.»”..."

Kruppe turned out to be my favorite character, with his excessive flowery speech, spewing hyperbolies and riddles, and the obvious "more than he seems" place in the story. But I digress...

So, this is the tale of the Malazan Empire, which looses its Emperor in the beginning of the book and now, nine years later, the Empress Laseen is trying to take over all the free cities on the continent of Genabackis, and two of them seem to be giving the Empire a hard fight. After a very questionable takeover of the city of Pannion Seer, where the Empress made obvious that she does not give a damn about who and what she destroys, as long as she appears to be the winner, killing off thousands of her own troops using mages and demons to do so, as well as keeping the disgruntled survives under her thumb. As one of her enforcers she uses Adjunct Lorn, my second favorite character of the book. She was "the job" and she tried so hard to kill the person inside of herself, in order to be able to keep on being "the job". I was fascinated by her and looked with anticipation for every moment she got some page-time.

So, the Empress of this militaristic Empire, sends a team to try to destabilize and do as much damage as possible to the free city of Darujhistan in order to prepare it for a takeover. Even better if they can take it over with subterfuge or bribary, but they should be ready to do anything that is needed to accomplish their goal. Thus we get to meet the The Bridgburners lead by Whiskeyjack, the resident mage Quick Ben, Tattersail, the warrior mage lady, and the newly added Captain Paran, who seemed to be the character around whom most action seems to be happening. I would not call him the protagonist, because in this format I don't think there is a protagonist at all... There are many more characters on the side of the Empire, but it would be impossible to name them all.

"..."No soul can withstand the sun's bones of light and reason dims when darkness falls - so we shape barrows in the night for you and your kin." "Forgive my interruption, then," said I. "The dead never interrupt," said the mason, "they but arrive.”..."

The Free City of Darujhistan is described as a beautiful and prosperous city-state where a number of colorful characters live. First and foremost is the son of the city, the loquacious Kruppe, possibly a thief, who together with the members of the Thief Guild and the Assassins Guild tend to hang out at the Phoenix Tavern... Crocus is a young thief apprentice who unfortunately gets noticed by a god and his life takes on a very severe turn. They also have a City Council as well as a mage shadow council, The Alchemist being their leader, who seem to be the true strength behind the power in the place.

Those are the Human players. This is where this book becomes complicated. We not only have humans, but we have a bunch of other races, ascendant beings, gods and Elder gods... There are levels of magical warrens, which are the places that give magical power to the adepts who have the affinity to them... All of the supernatural beings seem bored and all of them entertain themselves by entering into wars, games of power and influence, and of course, the lives and politics of humans. They choose individuals as their pawns and strive to affect the narrative in such a manner as to harm or diminish others of their ilk. I am sure, that almost I got the gist of the story and understood what is happening, there were details I either completely missed or went over my head. However, I am not discouraged and am sure that things will crystallize as the series develops.

"..."“Those whom the gods choose, ’tis said, they first separate from other mortals—by treachery, by stripping from you your spirit’s lifeblood. The gods will take all your loved ones, one by one, to their death. And, as you harden, as you become what they seek, the gods smile and nod. Each company you shun brings you closer to them. ’Tis the shaping of a tool, son, the prod and pull, and the final succour they offer you is to end your loneliness—the very isolation they helped you create.”..."

So, overall, this story strongly reminded me of TBC and I feel that this made it easier for me to keep up with the action and not get lost in the forest from the get-go. I loved the world building and the characters were perfect for such a volume of action and developing legend for the series. Once past the middle of the book it read much quicker and it took a reader-friendly form. It all comes down to familiarity, which is always harder in the cases when the world and its systems are completely made-up and new to us. It is an Epic and Militaristic Magic and Gods world and if any of this sounds interesting to you, you should definitely give it a go. Only be prepared and in the mood to concentrate, because it does not spoon-feed you information and full attention to detail is needed. I personally am looking forward to the next volume!!!!

"..."Self-righteous wrath had planted more corpses in the ground than an empire could lay claim to,”..."

Mow I wish you all Happy Reading and may you always find what you need in the pages of a good book!!!!
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews3,857 followers
February 20, 2020
A unique series with the only flaw of being so complex that one really gets into flow in the second and third parts when the scenery is unfolding. Before, it´s close to a bit of work to get into this colossal epos. The best example for this is the rating, that gets amazingly high after the first part.

I am still very vividly remembering reading the first novel and permanently trying to internalize the plot, constellations, and context, something I automated to recall elements of books for a longer time, to dream and think about them and to get beamed away quicker as soon as I continue reading. In this case, it was really difficult, because there is so much, so many details, simply too much complexity and I don´t get it why Erikson didn´t distribute the amount of infodump in portions over the first two or three books. I understand everyone who says that she/ he doesn´t want to continue the series after the first part or even doesn´t finish it, because it´s just exhausting to read it and nobody would expect that it gets so much better. This obstacle was so extremely unnecessary, especially because Erikson visited the Iowa Writers Workshop and should know better.

There are so detailed and long descriptions of the world, the characters, the action, that it reminds me of some of those dozens of pages long description of super battles of Peter F Hamilton or G R R Martins´ love for details.

The authors' professions, anthropology and archeology, might play a role in the uniqueness of this circle, one of those once in a time wonders when the right person has the right idea and focuses all effort on creating one big creation of a world.

I am tinkering with continuing with the fourth part, but next to being extremely complex and well written, those novels are also pretty good doorstoppers and a few thousand pages aren´t an easy ride if one has to stay concentrated all the time.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,678 reviews5,253 followers
March 15, 2011
i feel like i'm being pretty generous in giving this 3 stars. okay, it is my good deed for 2011. now don't say i never did nuthin' for you, steven erikson!

the cons: so much, where do i even start. (1) the dialogue is a joke, a sad flailing uncomfortable joke, the kind that just goes on and on and i start to look away from the joke teller in embarrassment. corny corn, beyond belief. (2) and the characterizations - so flat! so trite. and when they weren't trite - just entirely unrealistic. there are literally no stakes to the character of Paran because he literally has no character. the attempt to establish him as a speaks-his-mind kinda guy falls totally flat when you see him act like a jackass to the number 2 most powerful person in the land and then to some kind of Master of the Assassins. he also acts like a jackass to GODS. there is a difference between admirable pluckiness and the kind of bizarre behavior that is a sign of mental unbalance. (3) i hate when non-human species act like humans in costume. that is lazy writing. or unimaginative writing, take your pick. this happens with at least a couple non-human species.

the pros: the imagination on display. except for characterization, erikson's imagination is actually a little breath-taking. this is a fascinating and incredibly complex world. so many fertile concepts, just one after another, almost overwhelming at times. for example: an insane wizard trapped in the body of a puppet, running around various dimensions... about a half dozen non-human species, many of whom seem genuinely alien (the two i mentioned above being the notable exceptions)....a great sense of scope, of so many larger things happening throughout so many places... a floating moon palace! the world took a while to understand, but slowly but surely i was taken in and reading the novel turned from a frustrating experience to, in the last third, a truly pleasurable one. the last part of the novel was read in a big rush - i felt like i read my eyes out that night. in the end, despite my issues, i am now really looking forward to reading more of this series. besides, depth of character & excellence of dialogue are not absolutely necessary for my own enjoyment.

also, the author clearly favors larger women. two big ladies are represented as very attractive, enticing even. that was unusual to read and i loved it. as far as the ladies go, i think erikson must have great taste!
Profile Image for Solseit.
350 reviews81 followers
May 11, 2023
This essay just came naturally to me and it rekindled the love for this series (and the willingness to explore the larger scope and next books!)

I never realized I would be able to read a book twice, let alone three times. Yet this is the first book I read for 4 times. And each time is a blast. It is also starting to feel like a new year resolution to try to get to the rest of the Malazan series reads. Let's see if this is the Malazan year for me!


- - - - - - - - - -
The third read confirms 5 stars. This is one of the best fantasy series; not only the complexity and the world building awards this rating but also the characters' development and empathy is uncanny.

I am looking forward to a lot of comments to sparkle the conversation!

- - -
This is a re-read of the Gardens of the Moon (GotM). Originally I gave this book 4 stars but this re-read made me love the series again, the details I noticed this time around were just more spectacular than ever.
Where to start? I would say that this is a series born out of a game that was developed by Erikson and Esslemont. This means really that the world was fully developed and the understanding of the same is clear in Erikson's head and it shows.
Now, this is a book that requires the reader to make an effort to genuinely understand this book. This is a complicated fantasy series yet a genuine gem. A high fantasy lover will appreciate this book and the series itself - I would go as far as to say that reading the first book of GotM will really determine whether you love the series or not. I felt in love with it, the details, the interaction among the characters, the plain(s) of interaction is all I was looking for in a fantasy book.

The characters are so likeable - they have depth and development. Magic is there - possibly the only flaw of the book is that the magic is not really explained so you have to take it at face value, which is not a bad thing to do here. There are new races - Tiste Andii blew my mind and I am in love with Anomander Rake, like with half of the great characters here. There are gods - Cotillion is my other favorite of all times - who interact in the human world to achieve their goals; there are several levels of interaction that will open a brand new world for you.

I am having a hard time to determine what to start with in discussing this book. All the elements I described above are essential to the success of this book.
Let's start from how much I get involved in the GotM. When I really like a book, I have always created a brand new character which would be me and I would insert her in the story to be able to interact with the world I am experiencing in the book. And what would l love to be in this book is actually a Bridgeburner ("... a bridge of stone, lit by ruby flames") working with Whiskeyjack and his team. Quick Ben and Kalam just are the almost inseparable added value, those who run the risks associated with the god plain and successfully bring the crew out alive. And I would love an interaction with Cotillion . Captain Paran has an incredible story .
Sorry is just incredibly scary throughout the book and she will be essential to so many elements of the story you should keep an eye on her, if you can.

The story is a story about conquest, an empire expanding its territory where it is not welcome, a military conquest; a story about political intrigue that goes way beyond the human plain, gods interact and love to interaction; this is a story about revenge and how to carry it with the most devastating consequences for the men and/or women responsible for the grief (in this specific detail, the series reminds me of the Count of Montecristo by Alexander Dumas; but only for this specific detail).
A story where magic loses to gods but magic uses gods powers and ability , where mad puppets can interact with the world and become your new nightmare; a story in which fat harmless men are the best mages and spies you will ever encounter.

The writing is also pleasant and you will find yourself vested in the lives and stories of all the characters, irrespective of which side you pick in the series. I can only wish for each and every fantasy lover to start the series and, hopefully, fall in love with it the way I did. This is a very high point of the fantasy community. I am also looking forward to when this series will become a TV show. I think it is time for this to happen (not a movie though I believe a movie would not be able to capture all the amazing details) and I wonder if there is a petition that can be signed.
I am actually already mentally tripping into actors who could portray the characters - oh my. Yes, I will elaborate on my blog about this!

What are your thoughts about the book? Did you love it? If not, what were your concerns about the series? I am genuinely interested in understanding why this book would not appeal!
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews235 followers
January 11, 2018
The second time through what stood out to me was my own idiocy in not seeing certain things the first time through. I think the things that makes Erikson tough to figure out is the pure volume of information he's throwing at you. There's one particular reveal in book 2, which I was blown away by in the first reading, that re-reading this it was so crystal clear if I just read between the lines.

Re-reading this two years later I was also shocked at parts I had forgotten completely. Part of that was I had no idea who some of the fringe characters of this book would turn out to be. The power of hindsight is mighty!

It was fun being reminded why I love the Bridgeburners. Why Rake is flipping awesome. How entertaining Shadowthone, Cotillion, Kruppe and the twins are with their cloak and dagger banter. The compassion of WhiskeyJack and others. Quick Ben and Kalam along with Fid and Hedge and their bromances.

The GOAT series holds up to a re-read.

Original Review:
I think the thing that made this so enjoyable was that I knew going in it would be a challenge. I embraced it and used the below references constantly at the start. I never felt lost and as the book went on I had to use them less and less but still did to make sure I had the story down. If you don't like this level of effort don't bother. However the payoff was insane. What an epic tale and this was only book one.



Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews807 followers
September 26, 2016
A year or so ago someone PM'ed me on Goodreads out of the blue, practically demanding why I haven't read the Malazan series. I was simultaneously pleased and annoyed, the former because somebody seems to think I am some kind of SF/F guru who can be presumed to have read every worthwhile book in these genres, the latter because it's a bit rude init? Still, a backhanded compliment is better than no compliment, or an actual application of somebody’s backhand on my person.

Gardens of the Moon has a reputation for being a “tough read”, which is intriguing because fantasy has always seem easily accessible to me. I seldom select books which are generally viewed as challenging, usually I just like to kick back and read (my idea of leisure reading). Still, the Malazan series is often included in lists of all-time great fantasy novels*, and I do like to keep up with the genre Joneses. So two years after languishing in my TBR list Gardens of the Moon arrived at the top of the pile, I think it’s something to do with stars aligning.

This is indeed a tough read, not in the sense that Ulysses or Mrs. Dalloway are tough. Those are post-modern novels with experimental narrative style. While it is quite well written there is nothing particularly experimental about the prose style of Gardens of the Moon. The difficulty lies in how the author, Steven Erikson, throws the reader in at the deep end of his complex world. I could not make heads or tails of the prologue. Who? Why? What? I suspect that if I had simply soldiered on through the next few chapters things would have gradually fallen into place. However, I am somewhat impatient, I wanted to understand the book right from the first page. I already knew there are online sources for this series so I went to Tor.com’s “Malazan Reread of the Fallen”, where they have done chapter by chapter summaries and analyses, which I found to be extremely useful. So I read their summary of the confusing prologue, and then went back to read Chapter 1 of the book, then read their summary of that chapter, the same back-and-forth process again for Chapter 2 and 3. By the time I was reading the fourth chapter the training wheels came off, I no longer felt the need to keep referring to Tor’s summaries any more.

Gardens of the Moon is set on an unnamed world mostly dominated by the expansionist Malazan Empire. The narrative is told from multiple characters’ points of view, some working for the Malazan Empire, some working to defend their homeland against it. Fortunately for me, the novel is not about armies clashing on battlefields, but about individuals doing their duties for their side, be they spies, assassins, mages, alchemists, or thieves. Beside warfare on the mortal level, there is also a concurrent warfare between gods and immortals. It is not clear who are the “good guys” because there are central “POV” characters from both sides of the conflict, and they all have understandable motivations.

A lot of modern epic fantasy series tend to be “low fantasy”, which simply means “not much magic", so little of it around that a lot of characters don't even believe it exists. Wizards and dragons seldom show up and when they do the mundane characters are generally flabbergasted. This current trend** seems to have started with A Game of Thrones and followed by the likes of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series and Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard Sequence. The world of the Malazan series bucks this particular trend. Magic is everywhere in Gardens of the Moon, most fights involve magic usage, and at least half the characters seem to wield magic of some kind. The way magic functions in this series is quite interesting, magic requires a power source called “warrens” which are both power conduits and hyperspace-like shortcut passages.

Gardens of the Moon features a huge cast of characters, so big that Erikson felt obliged to provide a “dramatis personæ” at the beginning of the book. Some detractors of the book say that the characters are flat or not well developed, this surprises me a little because some of the main characters are vivid, complex and believable. However, as there are so many significant characters that some are inevitably less successfully developed than others.

Though this book is a little hard to get into once I became familiar with the setting and the characters I find Gardens of the Moon to be quite fast paced without a dull moment. I imagine the next book in the series Deadhouse Gates will be much less challenging because I am already familiar with the setting and the author’s style now. I can’t say I feel committed to reading all ten books in the series, but I am looking forward to the next one. Gardens of the Moon is a lot of fun and I am tempted to rate it at five stars but in all good conscience I cannot because it may require more patience, effort and concentration than some readers are willing to allocate. I have to admire Erikson’s moxie though, for writing such an uncompromising first book in a series, I like that he credits the readers with quite a lot of intelligence (probably excessive credit in my case!). It is a gamble which seems to have paid off as the series is one of the most popular of the epic fantasy genre.

* Sample lists:

** I suppose I could be wrong about this trend as I read a lot more science fiction than fantasy and may have gauged the trend incorrectly.

Update Sept 2016: Tor's A Beginner’s Guide to Malazan Characters: Gardens of the Moon
Profile Image for Kaora.
585 reviews282 followers
April 26, 2023
This was a tough book to get into.

There is no spoon-feeding here. You are thrown into the world that Erikson created with no back story or explanation. Although there is a glossary of important terms and people. I suggest putting it to good use, like I did.

Nothing is clear from the start, but once you start getting invested and reading between the lines, you start to notice how truly amazing this book is. There are a lot of characters, and despite finishing this mammoth book I feel like I have barely begun to scratch the surface of who they are.

However there is a lot of action, and it is done well. After struggling with the start of the book I suddenly found I could not put it down.

Stick with it. It will be worth it. I truly enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the next one!
Profile Image for Jen - The Tolkien Gal.
458 reviews4,464 followers
November 19, 2021
Disclaimer: I listened to the audio book so if I spelled the names horribly wrong, forgive me.

So I decided a belated review (about three months belated) was necessary before I start with Deadhouse Gates

So this book hit me so hard I stumbled, spontaneously combusted and subsequently melted into my own puddle of goop.

Shake your first all you want, but dead is dead

Here's my erudite review of this book:

Plot: fucking awesome
Character development: fucking awesome
Writing: fucking awesome

Haha. Jokes. I can't review this book.

Image result for i think im dumb gif

So that's why I've decided to review this book solely based on characters, because words cannot express the complexities and awesomeness of it.

So I'm going to sell you on the characters:
How else am I supposed to get you to read this epic series with 1000 000 million reviews?

Crokus: He would be the baby brother I protect. He's a thief who has no reason to be a thief, so he's just...there. Oh, my sweet summer child.

Kruppe: Cherubic and refers to himself in the third person, but is much more cunning and deceptive than others think. Also an assassin - people underestimate him. He's the Varys of this series

Whiskey Jack: What a badass at kicking ass and taking names grumpiness. My favourite quote from him: *being awesome* grumpgrumpgrump *being kind* grumpgrumpgrump *being assertive* grumpgrumpgrump *marry me* grump grump grump

Rallick: If he had a dating profile on Tinder it would have gone something like I'm an assassin by day, sleeper by night. I love sipping pina coladas and killing people in the rain. Dislikes: magic.

Tattersails: Curvy, magically gifted gal who is my absolute favourite character in this book. She's a mage who loves too easily and hates even more easily. Literally me if I had magical powers

Murillio: I'm just a gigolo and everywhere I go, people know the part I'm playin'. Murillio is a lady lovin', smooth-talkin', good-lookin' adonis whose speech seeps with sarcasm and wit. And all sorts of schemes.

Paran: A raw recruit who suddenly becomes captain of the Bridgeburners. His mottos range from I'll show them!/Dad and the other guy were so wrong about me/Wowee look at the pair on Tattersails

Kalam: Basically the hulk. Job description: can crush your puny body.

Quick Ben: Your resident bald mage. Like Kruppe, he tends to be underestimated. They tend to forget that the "quick" is in front of his name for a reason. He's a very, very clever dude and a fun character.

The crazies:

Anomander Rake: your neighbourly gardening tool He's the literal Son of Darkness and Leader of the Tiste Andii, these really bad ass people. This guy has charcoal skin and moon white hair. Bad assery is thy name and kicking-ass thy game.

Sorry: She's like that girl from the Ring but much less predictable. 15 years old, a wet-behind-the-ears Bridgeburner with the eyes of an old waif...

Fiddler: Well, he carries a fiddle.

Toc the younger: son of Toc the elder. I'm pretty sure that in the Malazan langauge Toc must mean "unlucky bastard"

High King Kallor: Don't underestimate speech clipping and poisonous talking. A sarcastic old man, a lot like The Hound from GoT. Grumpy but deep. He's pretty awesome. He reminds me of my grumpy grandpa.

Tool: Tool's no fool. He's a huge ass undead man with the wisdom that accompanies his years:

Adjunct Tavore: UUUGH. Kill her. Someone kill her.

What dominates your thoughts, Tool?
Do all Talai-mass think that?
It is futile.

I may have missed out on some characters, but these were my absolute precious babies
Scram! Go! Get a copy of this book NOW!

Link to some fantabulous reviews of my friends who expressed things much better than I did:

Melissa's review

Mayim de Vries's review

Gavin's review

Twerking to Beethoven's review

Deborah Obida's review


Image result for tattersails malazan
Profile Image for Gavin.
886 reviews398 followers
November 27, 2014
Over the years a lot of my old favorites have failed to stand the test of time and have disappointed me when the time for a re-read has rolled around. I'm happy to say that, despite the near 14 year gap between my two reads, Gardens of the Moon was as good value for its 5 star rating this time around as it was the first time I read it. It was an incredibly entertaining book. It had almost everything a fantasy fan could wish for. Fantastic world building, a complex plot, a huge cast of characters each with their own set of motivations and goals, an incredibly cool magic system, fantastic action scenes featuring battles that were both mundane and sorcerous in nature, dragons, demons, strange non-human creatures, and a whole bunch of meddlesome gods! To top it all of Steven Erkison has a fast paced and engaging writing style that makes this an incredibly enjoyable read.

It is often said that Gardens of the Moon is a hard book to get up to speed with initially, and I'm not going to argue with that assessment. Erikson provides a Dramatis Personae at the start of the book which I found very helpful to consult for the first third of the book just to help me keep track of the vast multitude of characters, places, and how they all related to each other. Once you get to know the characters and the settings the book progresses at a fast pace.

The story featured a whole host of great characters. I found Paran the most likable, Kruppe the most entertaining, and Anomander Rake and his sword the most intriguing. That said Quick Ben, Sorry, and the dead god Krul all deserve an honorable mention.

I loved this book and have been totally sucked into Erikson's Malazan world. I'm glad this is a lengthy series as I cannot wait to see how the various ongoing story arcs develop.

Rating: 5 stars!

Audio Note: I was not a big fan of Ralph Lister to begin with, but I warmed to him as the story progressed. I'd have chosen different voices for some of the characters, but his Kruppe was perfect.

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