Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) – Gush review

Gardens of the Moon
by Steven Erikson

Gush review

Now these ashes have grown cold, we open the old book. These oil-stained pages recount the tales of the Fallen, a frayed empire, words without warmth. The hearth has ebbed, its gleam and life’s sparks are but memories against dimming eyes – what cast my mind, what hue my thoughts as I open the Book of the Fallen and breathe deep the scent of history? Listen, then, to these words carried on that breath. These tales are the tales of us all, again yet again. We are history relived and that is all, without end that is all.

Erikson, Steven. Gardens Of The Moon: (Malazan Book Of The Fallen 1) (The Malazan Book Of The Fallen) . Transworld. Kindle Edition.

It almost became a tradition for me to start the year reading Gardens of the Moon. And every single year I find myself loving the book a little more, seeing a detail I missed (or forgot about) almost in every page. Reading this book just makes me happy – and it is a reminder of my failed attempts to go through the whole Malazan world. During the past years I opted to read a book a month; after two unsuccessful tries, I will go for a different approach, starting the following book right away, without hesitation. If you are interested in writing – and/or are a writer yourself – or if you enjoyed or want to learn about the Malazan world, I think this post by Steven Erikson will actually be very illuminating on his process. And on one of my favorite characters of all times, Anomander Rake.

Cover from the Spanish version of Gardens of the Moon, portraying Anomander Rake

Concluding the Solseit’s reflection of the year, let’s just dive into the book itself. And why I love it so much.

The Emperor is dead.
So too his master’d companion, the rope cut clean.

Erikson, Steven. Gardens Of The Moon: (Malazan Book Of The Fallen 1) (The Malazan Book Of The Fallen) (p. 2). Transworld. Kindle Edition.

Probably some of the most interesting quotes at the very beginning of the book. The series starts setting the tone to the entire adventure, an epic journey!

World building is just exceptional and the mastering of the world by Steven Erikson is uncanny. It is clear that the world has been developed extensively way before the book even starts. There is a confidence in how things work, for lack of broader terms. The world, the magic system, the races and their capabilities and skills (acquired or inherited), the gods, elder or new, ascendancy. It is all so well structured and balanced, nothing left to chance (yes, Oponn, you had nothing to do with this story, besides being a key player in it – I guess players would be more accurate). It has a complexity in the stories that interact that is unparallel. There is mystery and, even when there is no action, there is a lot of content to think about and digest. In essence, nothing like a simple book – yet, extremely rewarding if one decides to put up with it.

The story and the characters are so compelling to me that I felt immediately part of the Bridgeburners, since the first time I realized what they were. It is difficult to describe unless one has gone through an assimilation process while reading books, I love to participate in the story and almost be another character to the story. And, if that was possible for this series, I would strongly advocate to be part of the Bridgeburners.

On his dark grey shoulder-cloak was a silver brooch: a bridge of stone, lit by ruby flames. A Bridgeburner.

Erikson, Steven. Gardens Of The Moon: (Malazan Book Of The Fallen 1) (The Malazan Book Of The Fallen) (p. 4). Transworld. Kindle Edition.

In other words: You either love this book (and the series) or you hate it, according to Steven Erikson.
I am not sure whether I agree with that statement; I would rather say that the book requires some “work” by the reader – or maybe I should talk about faith in the story – and it might scare/annoy/displease readers. Finally, let me add that if you get a recent published version of the book you will also be able to read an introduction by Steven Erikson; it is worth spending few minutes reading it. I found it inspirational. Always shoot for the stars. Set backs are probably going to be part of the journey, yet keep your course. You will be able to achieve what you wanted to.

Mages by nature never commanded loyalty. Fear, yes, and the respect born of fear, but the one thing a mage found difficult to understand or cope with was loyalty. And yet there had been one mage, long ago, who had commanded loyalty – and that was the Emperor.

Erikson, Steven. Gardens Of The Moon: (Malazan Book Of The Fallen 1) (The Malazan Book Of The Fallen) (p. 294). Transworld. Kindle Edition.

The story revolves around the conquest of the Malazan Empire of the Genabackis continent. The Empire is slowly conquering all the free cities; while dealing with a change of regime and the methods to execute (almost literally) this strategy. A change in the empreror’s seat would demand a change in leadership too. Therefore assassinations and attempts to lives are the daily business of the empire, in and outside of the empire. This is not the only dimension that generates complexity. In fact, there are gods who like to meddle with humans, by changing their odds, helping surviving or escape death, by controlling them. The sky is the limit here. Some gods also want to make a statement (to other gods and/or humans) and, possibly, work on a plan to exact revenge against humans.

There are several races – Anomander Rake is not a human – and a relatively simple magic system. The simplicity, which probably has more to do with how intuitive it is, allows the reader to focus on everything else that is happening. Yet, the magic system allows for one of the most interesting magic battles I have read – and I would love to see it on the screen.

Thinking about the screen, I have advocated in the past a tv show for this series. While I still think it would be one of the best stories to see on tv, I am also developing a particular love for anime – I wonder if this would be the perfect story to create an anime series from it? It would be intriguing – and allow for spectacular magic effects.

In essence, I am in love with this story and the characters; I love the potential they have, the potential the story has and the magnitude and scope of this work. On one more personal note, I am hoping that this will be the year of the Malazan for me. Deadhouse Gates, you are next!

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