Book review – “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen vol. 1)April 18, 2009
The Empress Laseen, who has recently taken the throne of the Malazan Empire, continues the expansion started by her predecessor, through the continent of Genabackis. The rich city of Darujhistan is the objective, but Pale and its mages are on the way of the Malazan 2nd Army. This army counts with the experience of their High Fist (army General) Dujek One-Arm, the “sapper” brigade of the Bridgeburners, and a cadre of High Mages, but the Tiste Andii lord Anomander Rake does not intend to let Pale get captured easily…
Thus starts “Gardens of the Moon”, first book of the “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series, pre-reviewed here.
Despite the apparently standard premiss of the book, as the reader goes through its early stages, many questions arise. What really happened to the previous emperor? Who are Amannas and Cotillion, who seem to be ready to thwart Laseen’s plans? Why are the Gods so interested in Ganoes Paran, new leader of the Bridgeburners? What really happened to the mage cadre during the fight in Pale? What is the secret plan of the Adjunct of the Empress?
The book quickly takes a fast pace, and all these threads become caught in each other. It becomes hard to put the book down, as surely something interesting is bound to happen in the next pages!
Then there’s a fantastic finale, where several of the book’s protagonists meet and face each other. This ploy, often used by Erikson throughout the saga, is called a Convergence, which basically means that powerful characters get attracted to each other and to powerful events, like moths to a flame.
Overall, this book is excellent, and starts my favorite saga since “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever”. If I had to point any negative sides of it, I’d say some of the interesting threads are left loose until later books, and also that some parts of the story are better understood after reading the follow-ups. Mind, this isn’t necessary a negative, since a few of the happenings of the book are described by the “opposing parties” in later books, revealing very interest other-sides-of-the-coin. For example, one of the most “hateable” characters in this book, will become one of the readers’ favorites after at least other books in the series.
Final score: 8 (first read – 8.5 if re-read after other books of the series)
Best character: The book introduces us to many interesting characters that will have interesting roles throughout the saga, like the mysterious Bridgeburner mage Quick Ben, the consciencious Daru assassin Rallick Nom, or Onos T’oolan the First Sword of the T’lan Imass. But it’s the Lord of Darkness, Anomander Rake, and his highly original sword that becomes central to the magic (pun intended) of this book.