on July 7, 2001
After finishing the final pages of Gardens of the Moon, it is difficult for me to appreciate the expanse of critical acclaim that this book has garnered. Unlike many of the other reviewers, I felt this story sorely lacking the richness and magical quality that other writers such as Tolkien, Jordan, and Martin have delivered. While throwing the conventional storyline, stereotypical characters, and magical farce of traditional fantasy into the backseat in a refreshing attempt to create something new of fantasy, this effort falls short of the goals it reached for. While Erikson's world of Genabackis and Malazan seems complex and exciting, the intricate world is hardly explored in depth and seems lacking in its history or feel. A multitude of 'main' characters plague the storylines giving you hardly any chance to become comfortable or understanding of any one character. With a possible twenty-four different characters supplying their POVs at least once to the story, the static characters not only have no depth or complexity, but the omnipresent feel of seeming to know absolutely everything that is going on leaves no room for any sort of surprise or excitement of what may happen next. And though action seethes throughout the book, the storyline runs totally rampant and leaves you behind wondering if there is any sort of plot to the story or what is going on.
Unlike many of the other reviewers, I believe that the beginning of Gardens of the Moon, or perhaps the first 'book', Pale, is the best written and most interesting. While not exactly overflowing with action sequences, the first book introduces you to the characters with the most, or should I say, the only characters with depth to them. Paran, Tattersail, Whiskeyjack, and Lorn show promise in the first chapters. However, upon entering book 2, Darujhistan, the previous plot and its characters in Pale are lost to be replaced by a multitude of pathetically-rendered characters many of whom seem like reflections of one another. Any sort of storyline or direction flops all over the place as the story passes through the POVs of nine different characters. Perhaps if six of these characters were not introduced, the plot may have gone somewhere or shown some steady track, yet the farce of switching characters every other page or so leaves the reader feeling confused and choking on a storyline with no seeming purpose.
Though some of the characters do seem realistic, there is never enough time to become involved with any characters or understand why they do what they do. This quality makes that most of the characters seem unnecessary, and it takes away from the story because it causes you to not really care what happens to any of the characters. All of their own subplots seem so insignificant and aimless that upon finishing the story, I could not have cared if Darujhistan blew up and took all the characters with it.
And while Erikson seems to tell much of the story without direction or focus, the parts of the story that do contain some sort of straightforwardness add nothing to the book and make you wonder why they were added at all. What was the point of Hairlock? Why was the Jaghut Tyrant added and then so effortlessly blown away? The story doesn't revolve around any sort of centralized plot or plots and as the story comes to an absolutely open ended, eventless end, it leads the reader to ask themselves "what actually happened in this book". I have heard that this book is supposedly just one of many in a series, but this book had absolutely no sort of wholeness or conclusion to it that you question why that book doesn't just keep rambling on. The book has no sort of beat or rhythm to it at all. Instead of each chapter bringing about a certain event or idea, each is chopped apart and scattered between characters making it really unnecessary to even start another chapter. So many things aren't explained, whether it be history, or character background, or even the ascendants and warrens, that the reader has nothing to hold on to in order to understand or recognize things.
Though I have felt Gardens of the Moon to be only an adequate debut, I feel Erikson will be an author to watch. While this first story was lacking and confusing, I do have a feeling that things may be explained and cleared up perhaps in the upcoming novel. I do wonder what will become of Tattersail, Paran, and Whiskeyjack, so I will perhaps read on. However, to those of you reading this review, this Gardens of the Moon doesn't come close to the quality and intricacy that is found in series like the Wheel of Time or A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet however, it is a league up from much that fantasy has to offer these days.
on August 3, 2005
On a recommendation from a friend (and claims that Erikson easily surpasses Martin), I gave this one a try. It took quite a long time for me to get interested in what was happening--I had to slog through nearly 300 pages before I began to feel truly entertained by the story, and it wasn't "work" anymore.
Upon its completion, I have many mixed feelings. Erikson is an excellent writer--most of the time. His scenes are well described, the scope of his world is immense, but sometimes his dialogue and character motivations felt decidedly flat. I at last realized that I cared very little for these characters. Take Whiskeyjack, for example. The sergeant is repeatedly painted as a world-weary man whose gone through hell and back, grim, gruff, and guarded. Readers are reminded of this constantly, and it is obvious that Erikson would like to evoke some sort of pity or compassion--it just never happens.
Another point where Erikson falters with his characters is their abilities. Nearly all of them are super-characters--they can essentially accomplish anything with their limitless powers. Meanwhile, the weaker ones are constantly saved via deux ex machina--divine intervention, or quick changes to an assassin's plan. I mean, come on--it's okay maybe once, but it happens constantly, and becomes far too convenient. On a related note, Erikson also likes dropping important plot devices necessary to resolve a conflict. For example, I'll mention Azath--you'll not hear of it until it appears, and effortlessly solves a previously monumental problem. Try looking for it yourself before it pops out of nowhere. It's ridiculous.
His magic system is my last major nitpick. Many shower praise here, drawing attention to its unique flavour and complexity. Frankly, while Erikson easily trumps Jordan's Wheel of Time, I prefer the latter's magic system of the One Power. People had limits here, and their power and spells were confined to what weaves they had a talent for, and how complex the person could thread them. With Erikson...everyone just opens a Warren, and blasts everything to bits. What CAN'T his magic do? Why don't mages control the whole world? Why are there even militaries and expansive campaigns? Just lump a group of magic-slingers, and the army with the most should win. Truly, while his battles are very well done and full of the wonderful things that make a great action sequence, it's always earth-shattering, city-flattening sorcery.
This book is much overhyped, and does not come close to Martin's work, not nearly. I really don't understand the insistence that Erikson far surpasses A Song of Ice and Fire. Oh well. There's no accounting for taste. Myself, I've got zero interest in continuing, and will move happily forward through my reading list without a single, regretful look back.
on August 16, 2001
If you took out the words grin, grinned, and grining, this book would be about half as thick as it is.
on July 9, 2004
This is my first review (or if it isn't, it's been so long that I don't remember the first), so let me start by saying that in a ranking system, I consider the lowest possible ranking to signify anything that isn't worth spending time on. Here, one star would mean "don't ever touch this book." Any rank from two to five is thus worth reading for some reason.
Erikson's Gardens of the Moon is an ambitious beginning to a ten-volume cycle called Malazan, Book of the Fallen. He introduces characters and storylines in rapid-fire fashion. We meet about half of the major players quickly; five chapters later we meet a host of new central characters, and then it's off to the races. New characters, cultures, factions, and influences continue to reveal themselves as the story moves along. There are scenes where monumental powers collide and vast armies wither, where (supposedly) majestic and terrible creatures battle for supremacy, where men fight for honor or power, and where women make quiet decisions in their hearts that change their lives. Judged solely as a work of imagination, this book is a triumph over and over.
My problem is that I don't read books, even fantasy books, solely to have my imagination stimulated.
I don't want to pick at this book piece by piece, with comments like, "Erikson could have developed this more," or, "This character really deserved more depth," because I don't feel that this would be helpful to anyone. People who like the book will disagree with me, people who don't like it will already know what I'm talking about, and those who haven't read it won't understand anything I'm getting at. So, let me try to summarize what I don't like about it most: it doesn't have real heart.
This is most obvious when Erikson tries to deal with love, which he wisely stays away from for most of the book. At one point, Erikson attempts to conjure a kind of instant soul-bonding between two of his main characters, born of loneliness, mutual understanding, and despair. Think of Paul Newman's "romance" in The Hustler. The problem is that the cynicism and despair here feel kind of obligatory, defunctory. Instead of earning the world-weariness of Ben Willard (Martin Sheen) in Apocalypse Now (which is exactly what I think Erikson was going for: a soldier tired of death and more tired of life), he earns the world-weariness of a dirty cop in a made-for-TV movie playing on a Tuesday afternoon. Because the cynicism doesn't feel real, neither does the connection that is supposed to spring from it.
A further problem is that this faux grim determination permeates almost all the major characters. Everyone is tired of doing what they do; there is almost no joie de vivre in this entire book. From young men who have already tired of the things they chose in their passionate younger days to creatures ancient beyond reckoning who can't even remember their passionate younger days, everyone is very . . . melancholy. People have been very hasty to drop names in their reviews of this book; let me just suggest that Tolkien's elves, who have been alive for thousands of years, some for hundreds of thousands, and who still love to be alive, still cherish beauty in themselves, others, and the earth, are far more compelling than the half-realized Tiste Andii and other near-immortal races herein. As to Publishers Weekly's casual ranking of Mieville, Martin, and Erikson in its review of this work, there is so much amiss with that statement that only those who already understand this review will know how misleading it is. Publisher's Weekly also implies that it is the pace of the book that leaves little room for depth, but I don't feel that this is true. We get to know characters through their actions, and through small details and casual words. All of these abound in this novel, but rarely do they conjure a real person, or seem to come from a real heart.
Even when the story isn't awkward or unconvincing, it's still not that interesting. I found myself reading, not to find out what will happen to the characters, but to see what "cool" thing will happen next. To some readers (myself included), as soon as you realize that this shift has happened in your mind, the death knell of the book has sounded. When dialogue all becomes filler, new characters become merely obstacles in the way of the next battle or duel, and "tension heightening" becomes "resolution avoidance," I know that I won't read the book again, and I might not even finish it. I finished this one, but only just. Even the most engaging character, Kruppe, is interesting insofar as he is a reflection or interpretation of a character (Cugel) from a far more interesting book (Tales of the Dying Earth) that Glen Cook puts under the heel of this novel in his blurb on the book cover.
It's not as embarrassing as Robert Jordan, with his characters posturing, pining, and play-acting like a daytime soap; it just feels flat, and if anything, it's kind of depressing. Do you know that feeling you get when a book keeps trying to sink its hooks into you, but they can't ever get deep enough to draw you closer? They just slide over your emotional skin, scratching and annoying, leaving you sad that you don't care even when you know you should.
So if you seek unflagging inventiveness, characters with awesome powers (each greater than the last), thieves, assassins, secret guilds, cynical manipulation, power struggles, dark lords, anti-heroes, strange magic, Eldering gods, and much noise signifying nothing, this book is for you. If you want heart and life in your fantasy, then keep waiting for A Feast For Crows (assuming you've read every other good book on the planet).
on June 9, 2004
I was attracted to Gardens of the Moon after reading reviews likening it to George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series. Specifically because people referred to it as a complex story filled with political intrigue and convoluted plotting. I bought the Advanced Reading Copy with Tom Doherty's (President of TOR books, which is releasing Gardens of the Moon and the other books in Malazan in the US) letter in the front also comparing it it Martin's work. After starting with much anticipation, I found myself slogging through this poorly written book. All I have to say after finishing it is that Mr. Erickson is no George R.R. Martin. My main gripes are: 1- The characters are half-assedly hashed out. It was hard to get a good picture in my head of what was going on, what people/places were like. Relationships were skimmed over. It was obvious that Mr. Erickson had a dictionary on hand, which is good. I like expanding vocabulary. But the sloppiness that he used to cobble this book together just made it annoying. 2-The dialogue seems so unnatural at times. Continually I would find myself wondering at the words coming out of character's mouths. "Why would a god say THAT?" It just sounds stupid!" There was an inherent wrongness to much of the dialogue. 3- Logic breakdown. There were several times in the book I would find myself going "Huh? That makes no sense." I didn't keep a log book of every time this happened (it would have been long), but one example that comes to mind is when Crokus and company are attacked by Adjunct Lorn near the Gadrobi hills by the barrow of the Jaghut Tyrant. She and Crokus came face to face, and she could have easily killed him then. The author is always going on about Lorn's "special sense" in regards to things arcane (Crokus is chosen of the twin gods Oponn, and bears their mystically imbued coin), and almost immediately after she lets Crokus and friends go back to Darujishtan, she makes a direct beeline to assassinate him in Darujhistan using her said "arcane spidey senses" that apparently failed to detect and recognize him just outside the city. There was no explanation as to why. Obviously the book is fantasy, of which I am a huge fan. I understand that a fantasy book is not going to mirror reality, that's the whole point. But if it's not INTERNALLY CONSISTENT and the people inside of it don't act like people would, it's going to drive me nuts. Gardens drove me nuts. The whole books is just chock full of weak premises and weak logic.
Many of the ideas in this book are interesting. Perhaps if Mr. Erickson had taken more time with this book and had better editors it may have been worth the read. However, I think there's a reason it has taken so long to be released in the US. And it has nothing to do with the alleged fact that it's "Too complex for Americans". Rather I think that up til now they've called a spade a spade, and let the Brits keep Gardens of the Moon, in all it's sloppy glory, to themselves.
on January 6, 2015
When i started to read the book I realized I had had the book a couple of years ago, I find it turgid and not very execiting. Sorry I wasted my money on both books
on February 7, 2011
I read a Game of Thrones, then moved to this book by Erikson. I tried... really tried to get in to the book, but the writing was just convoluted. It didn't flow together for me, and thus I didnt enjoy (or finish) the book. Maybe I'll try again later, but I doubt it. It also seemed a bit uber-nerdy off the start. but maybe that was just because I came from Game of Thrones, which was more gritty and strayed away from a lot of the magic stuff. I never like when books begin with a list of "Dramatis Personae"--which is what this book did-- if you have important characters to introduce... do it where it matters... IN THE BOOK!
Just my two cents. Maybe try Game of Thrones first... if youre not a kid (that book is not suitable for younger readers!). Also, I always recommend the Prydain Chronicles by lloyd Alexander. I think they are geared for young adults (I started reading these in grade 4), but they are great books!
Best of luck.
on August 15, 2007
I was told, on this site, that if I liked George R.R. Martin and Robert Jordan's work, I would love this book.....not so.
It was like watching the Godfather without having any previous knowledge of organized crime, Italians, or the English language.
Was it any good? I have no freaking clue. This book gets a shrug of the shoulders and a confused look on the face. Maybe after a couple of reads it would make sense but life's too short as it is.
Don't waste your time.
on March 14, 2013
I will NOT be giving away any spoilers in this review.
I gave this book a 2 out of 5 star rating because the first 450 pages (or so) were awful and deserved 1 star while the last 200 pages (or so) were decent and deserved 3.
Where to begin? Well, the reason I chose this book was because I was told in a few reviews that the world and characters in this book should remind me of George RR Martins books (A song of ice and fire) and that I should like it as a result of liking GRRM's books. First problem: Steven Erikson is NOT George RR Martin! The writing style doesn't flow like GRRM's, the characters aren't nearly as likable, and the story itself doesn't even come close.
Now here are my thoughts on this book and a few responses to a few points in online reviews that made me want to read this book in the first place:
1) the book does not get better after 100-200 pages. It takes around 450 pages of a 657 page book to get decent (at best).
2) This book is in no way, shape, or form "more complicated" than a song of ice and fire. That seems like an excuse by fans who did enjoy this book to legitimize such mediocre writing. A lot of the five star reviews say something along the lines of "you can't stop reading this book." This is NOT true. I love reading, and I've been getting into fantasy books lately. I'm a student so I don't get many opportunities to read so I usually try and take advantage when I can. With this book I found myself making excuses NOT to read. This reaction was completely new to me. I started reading this book excitedly on February 6th when I got it in the mail and finished on March 14th. A 657 page book normally wouldn't have taken me that long (I consider myself a decently fast reader) but it did, and I want my February back!
3) I enjoy fantasy books with small amounts of magic. This book had a lot of it! Basically everyone in the book is magic... and the amount of magic made the book pretty bad. Any twists and turns in the book were a result of magic that came out of nowhere. All the characters who could use magic are essentially "super characters" who accomplish anything with magic. I didn't like this at all!
4) The characters were, for the most part, hard to like or care about. As the story progressed there were a few characters that I grew to like. Due to this I believe Steven Erikson did a good job. He took an awful story and gave me a few characters that I cared a little about, and that made me finish the book.
5) The only problem with the characters were the names! They were either ridiculous or silly. Kruppe? Crokus? Sorry (yes... a name in this book)? Tattersail? Hairlock? And the list goes on. Just awful.
6) Speaking of Kruppe... what an awful character. The way he talked (both to characters and to himself) was ridiculously annoying! I can compare him to Jar Jar Binks (or however its spelled) In Star Wars. What a terrible character to include, and what a waste of time. Idiotic and annoying character. Definitely made the book worse with this one character!
7) Like a lot of people say, the story DID get a little bit better. Did it do its job (as the first book of a series of books) and make me want to read the next book? NO! I don't even want to get within a 10 foot pole of the next book in the series. In a series each book should make me want to pick up the next one ASAP after reading (such as Lord of the Rings, a song of ice and fire, millennium trilogy, etc.). Steven Erikson failed in this.
To Steven Erikson: You didn't waste much of my money ($9.99) but you wasted a lot of my time. Can I have my February back so I can read a better book!?