Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
17 May, 2011
I thought it was a good idea to go back and re-read Gardens of the Moon once I finished the 4th volume in Steven Erikson’s epic Malazan Book of the Fallen sequence just to refresh my memory regarding how it all began. So far, in volumes 2 (Deadhouse Gates), 3 (Memories of Ice) and 4 (House of Chains), we followed the different trails of the main story, all connected and set in the same time frame. The cast of characters is huge and Erikson keeps introducing new ones in each volume. I toyed with the idea of continuing on to volume 5, Midnight Tides, straight after House of Chains, but I thought I’d better take stock first. And I’m really glad I did. I hadn’t actually forgotten the plot in Gardens of the Moon, which I first read over two years ago, but so many things began to make sense and fall into place.
So, Erikson kicks off his sequence by setting his first volume just before the Empress Laseen usurps power. He then fast-forwards nine years when she has set her sights on the city of Darujhistan on the continent of Genabackis. We follow Captain Ganoes Paran, working for Adjunct Lorn, Laseen’s second in command, who is on the trail of one of the Bridgeburners, the legendary Malazan corps, whom they suspect is not who they seem. We also meet the Bridgeburners who survived the siege of Pale, Dujek One Arm, Whiskeyjack, Quick Ben, Kallam, Fiddler and others who are given orders to infiltrate and sabotage the city. Opposing them are the T’iste Andii led by Anomander Rake and Caladan Brood as well as the mercenary Crimson Guard who are sworn enemies of the Malazan Empire. We are also introduced to Kruppe, a bumbling figure who is not as scatter-brained as he seems and his friends Rellick Nom, Murrillio and Crokus Younghand who live in Darujhistan. And then there is Sorry, the newest and youngest recruit of the Bridgeburners, deadly and possessed by a God.
This isn’t just about the human characters, but also the gods who are itching to enter the story including Oppon, the twins of chance, who have chosen Ganoes as their pawn in their game of power. Shadowthrone and Cotillion, the two newest Gods are looking for a way to get their revenge on Lasseen for taking their mortality. As I keep saying, the Malazan books are really hard to summarise as Erikson keeps introducing new characters. But I enjoyed re-reading Gardens of the Moon because I felt like I was meeting old friends. The T’lan Imass, the immortal ancestors of men who can vanish into dust, the Jaghut Tyrants who laid waste to continents because of their hunger for power, the T’iste Andii, beings from another world, who live in perpetual sorrow. And the mages and sorcerers who get their power from the magical warrens or paths, each different and separate, and in which they can travel. Everything makes a little more sense.
In Gardens of the Moon, Ganoes Paran escapes his noble heritage by becoming a soldier, leaving behind his two sisters, the cold and ambitious Tavore and young and innocent Felisin. He sets off to Darujhistan looking for Sorry. But before he finds her, he is ambushed and drawn into a game of gods, escaping death by forfeiting a life not his own and tasting the blood of a Hound of Shadow which will forever change him. His lover Tattersail, an army mage, and her gamble to wreak revenge on the Imperial mage Tayschrenn will lead to events which no one can foresee. And Quick Ben’s deception of Shadowthrone and his intricate plans to ensnare the crazy wizard Hairlock will lead to Sorry’s liberation. And we are always drawn back to Lasseen, inscrutable, deadly and the cause of it all.
Re-reading Gardens of the Moon has once again re-awakened my astonishment at Erikson’s scope and intricate plotting. You can see how cleverly he’s set up the story right from the beginning. And going back to the beginning a second time, it’s even more heart-breaking as you know the choices made by the characters will have such significant repercussions. And really, I can’t believe how I didn’t pick up on how amazing Quick Ben is the first time around. I guess I was just dazzled by Anomander Rake’s long silver hair and cold demeanour.
This may not be a series you want to dive into if you haven’t read any fantasy before. I would recommend reading a few fantasy books before starting the Malazan Book of the Fallen which is aimed at adults. I grew up reading Terry Pratchett, Raymond Feist, Katherine Kerr, Janny Wurts and Stephen Donaldson, all of whom I recommend highly.
If you want to be challenged and to enter a rich and exciting world, I urge you to give this book a try. Really, you won’t regret it. It’s even better the second time around, which is quite rare for me as I tend to do a lot of skimming. But I didn’t here. I even read all the poetry that sets up each chapter as I now know they are relevant to the story. Erikson doesn’t spoon feed you. He makes you work. And that makes it even more rewarding.
After Gardens of the Moon, you may want to read Erikson’s collaborator Ian C. Esslemont’s Night of Knives which is set at the beginning of the events of this book.
I’m now reading Midnight Tides and I’m just happy that I’ve got a further 5 more thick volumes to read. I want to know what happens, but I don’t want it to end! Absolutely brilliant.
This is my first book for Carl’s Once Upon A Time V Challenge!