Steven Erikson's first entry in the ten book series The Malazan Book of the Fallen
is a promising opening entry for the series. It is also to me a masterclass in how to create entertaining gritty fantasy fiction. There were visible flaws in dialogue and it took a brief time to adjust to the novel's unique method of showing events but once I did it was very much worth it. I feel that over the next nine novels everything will improve even more and have some sense of wrapping up in a conclusion. That said I am not sure that Gardens of the Moon
is for any reader, but if you like fantasy try this book. If you particularly want something a little different from the standard Tolkienesque fantasy and liked Martin's Game of Thrones
then try this for something a little between the two.
When I say between the two this is what Gardens of the Moon
is: a precisely calibrated and well balanced novel with a lot of potential in terms of vision and scope. Erikson creates a world with history, magic and mythology that runs according to its own laws and precepts, and he does a brilliant job of writing such a world.
The premise for this initial book is that the Malazan Empire holds control of most of the known world save for one area which resists. A long and brutal war is being fought to overthrow this final bastion against the Empire: the city of Darujhistan. The Empress sends her Adjunct to see that this final city falls. And so the Adjunct plans to unleash ancient and uncontrollable sorcery to see that this occurs. But of course the old gods have different ideas and so they pick characters to perform roles for them. Think of the political scheming of Game of Thrones
but on the level of deities rather than kings.
The writing style of this book was interesting. For the most part Erikson writes like many other fantasy authors, at times reminding me of Martin or Sanderson but certainly writing in his own way. Every so often a more fanciful piece of prose would enter the story and I would notice with interest (particularly after just having read [b:How Fiction Works|1355465|How Fiction Works|James Wood|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1312030908s/1355465.jpg|1345179] which mentions how prose sometimes slips in which does not adhere to the rules of the narrative). In many ways this revealed that the book was certainly a first novel by a talented author; minor flaws existed but the story idea was strong and so I look forward to seeing the improvement. I quite liked the poetry that begun each new chapter I must admit also, this fascinated me and added to the legend or epic feel of the book.
Why read fantasy if not for the fantastical elements? This is a question that I would ask of any fantasy reader. Erikson's world certainly has many fantastical elements whether it be the various human and non-human races, the assassins, the magic weapons and the magic system with warrens. Or more fascinatingly the list of gods and heroes. I loved the fact that this work made the gods such a physical and intangible presence at the same time.
If you want to read epic fantasy reminiscent of ancient mythology but with a definite contemporary feel then Malazan's opening chapter is the way to go. I for one will be reading the following books and enjoying every chapter.
As for a brief update I wanted to reflect upon the fact that while some may believe Erikson's writing to be terrible I disagree. He is certainly, at least not from this first volume, a natural storyteller (at least, his prose reads a little awkwardly and he lacks a little talent in building a hook to pull the reader in). Also calling it complex is a let off for Erikson when compared to far superior epics or philosophical ventures. That said, the scope of his story is interesting and there is far greater depth to my view than as with other fantasy authors - not that that excuses Erikson either. I was ultimately willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for the main reason that in the end it is part one in a long series and many people in the loop have advised me that. However, there is a warning, if you are not the kind of person who wants to read books in the long spiralling or winding vein of G.R.R Martin or Robert Jordan then I recommend wisely staying away. While I do believe it is snobbish to look down on certain books and readers I do also believe that to ignore a book with the understanding that you would not appreciate it is not snobbish but rather, wise selection of reading material.