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Gardens of the Moon, book #1 of The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson

Review by Arakasi

Now to start this off this will be a rambly review since this is the first one I have ever written. This book is epic which I think really attracted it to me. Similar to the scale of GRRM's asoiaf series and Jordan's WOT series. It is also huge in the writer's ambition. He has planned the series out for ten books. But the way he has it set up makes that less worse than that might seem. I know you freaks are all pumped about waiting for another author to finish his series. The thing about the books is that more or less each one is self contained. No annoying cliffhangers. Although of course there are plot threads that go from book to book. I'm going to avoid any spoilers here and just list what I like about this book and what perhaps people might not like. The ten books are supposedly centered around the lives of three siblings of the Paran family. Ganoes, the eldest son of that family, plays a prominent role in this book.

I'm not going to go into the plot here because to actively talk about it I'd have to give away spoilers or it would take too damn long. Lets just say there is a war going on between the Malazan Empire and the 12 cities of Genebackis. Genebackis is aided by the forces of the alien Tiste Andii as well as that of the Crimson Guard. The free city of Darujhistan is the only of those cities still left independent. The book centers mainly around that city and the fight for control of it, along with some other sideplots thrown in there.

-Engaging characters. Lots of interesting people. Good interaction between the characters. Its not split like ASOIAF is but there really is only about 8-10 povs. It just jumps around a lot more within chapters. There are some characters that are just awsome. I love stories with characters of immense power as long as they are not used as Deus Ex Machinas too much. Like Rand from Wot for instance.

-Vast history to the world. The only one I've seen with as much of a backstory is Tolkien or Wot. And Erikson puts it in the story in a way that doesn't overwhelm you. It just makes you want to read more and find out more about the past history of the world.

-Erikson has a very creative mind and it is easy to see that after reading this book. The ideas he has stuffed in this 700 page book leap out at you sometimes.

-Starts you off in the midst of ongoing events. Don't expect something like the hero starting off in the villiage town and then from humble roots going off to save the world. Erikson has said if a character like that appeared in his story he would likely kill him off within a few pages for the humour value. I like this style of storytelling and its rare that I read a book laid out like this. No boy saves world this time.

-Lots of magic. Very cool magic. Extremely brutal and vicious magic at times. In a way I guess magic is a bit similar to Wot stuff. Erikson stated that he didn't want the traditional fireball type of magic but magic where the power eminates in waves and such. I think he succeeded.

-Gods are involved actively in the story. They are sometimes referred to as Ascendants. Cool thing is that gods "can" be killed and I think there is also ways for people to make it to godhood. Hence the term ascending..

-This story is very gritty at times. Expect to read a few scenes that might make you go "ewwww". It gets worse in the second book for sure. That one has some nasty parts in it but for the most the first book is fairly gritty, on par with Martin in that sense. Very much in the trenches sort of feel to it.

-Sometimes the story, well and the people in it too are not terribly happy. They're not terribly sad either, but if you're looking for lots of humour this is likely not the book for you to be reading. This is not pratchett. Heck this is not even Wot in the humour area. Not that wot is terribly funny, but at least the books there make more of an attempt at humour. There is humour in the book, but just expect it to be dry, or perhaps a bit sarcastic at times. Its certainly not a light hearted fantasy tale though. Expect a story similar in tone to Martins. But the difference between the plots of Martin and Erikson is quite vast.

Anyways I really enjoyed this book as it broke me out of my reading slump. I guess the amulet system is 5 amulets for a top book and that is what I'd give this one. Or maybe halfway between 4.5 and 5 amulets. Its very excellent and I recommend it to anyone who likes epic fantasy.

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