Title: Gardens of the Moon
Author: Steven Erikson
Publisher: Tor Books
# of Pages: 489
Book One of the Malazan Book of the Fallen
Amazon review available here.
Favorite Line: "Every god falls at a mortal's hands. Such is the only end to immortality."
In the first of a projected 10 volumes of the Malazan Book of the Fallen, the Malazan Empire is up to its eyebrows in the intrigues of mage Anomander Rake and his sorcerous minions, the Tiste Andii. The empress Laseen pursues her grisly ambitions with the aid of the Ninja-like Claw assassins, but Erikson focuses on the grunt-level fighting of military engineers Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his Bridgeburners and the field-grade mage Tattersall, who are more than ready to go home, when the empress commands a battle in and around the Free City of Darujhistan. Erikson portrays this hurly-burly--something very like the Lord of the Rings' Battle of the Pellenor Fields--from the perspective of those who had to get out of the way of the charges and exchanges of spells and sometimes died anyway. It remains to be seen whether Erikson's excellent writing will carry through nine more volumes of this gritty, realistic fantasy in the manner of Glen Cook's Dark Company series. Wager on fantasy readers' robust appetites, however.
Well, if you like epic fantasy full of magic, war, violence, action and political intrigue, then Erikson is your guy. I have heard a lot about this series on a fantasy board I frequent, and I decided to take the plunge and buy the first three books (of a projected 10) on bookcloseouts.com.
The first half of the book was slow-going. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. In fact, even in the second half, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. You are dropped in the middle of the action in a massive war, surrounded by mages using some sort of "warren" of magic that you don't understand, and then you meet about 25 major characters. It's thoroughly overwhelming and I really was ready to give up the book.
However, people say that the book gets better, and even if you don't like the first one completely, the series gets better and better as you continue. So ... I perservered. Around page 250, things began to click. And then I read about 200 pages in one day, after taking well over a week to get to the half-way point of the book. When this book picks up, it really picks up. Finally, I realized what the plot of this PARTICULAR book was, rather than trying to figure out the plot of the entire series. And I realized which the "important" characters were. And I began to really care about what was going on. So that when I finished Gardens of the Moon, I immediately picked up the second book in the series, Deadhouse Gates, and am currently reading that one. (Yes, it's good, too.)
Comparative to George R. R. Martin? I can see where that idea comes from. Epic fantasy with massive political intrigue. At any rate, I think people who enjoy GRRM would also really like Erikson, if they were to give him a try. He's difficult at the start. For me, GRRM wasn't difficult to get into at all. Right from the start of A Game of Thrones, I was sucked in. So Erikson perhaps requires more commitment and effort- but I think he's worth it. And I think I now have another series to get sucked into and awed by.