Gardens of The Moon by Steven Erikson
Cover Concept by Lorenzo Princi, 25 May 2013

Gardens of The Moon

Author: Steven Erikson

Reviewed by Lorenzo Princi

When researching The Malazan Book of The Fallen after having it recommended, I found many comparisons likening it to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice. Both of these epic fantasy series came out of the 90s and both centred around a fantastical war and conquest on a medieval earth-like world. However, once I began reading, I soon found that comparing Erikson to Martin, is not just unfair but somewhat incorrect. 

Martin is purely character focused, everything else, regardless of how large in scale or deep in detail, ultimately serves to strengthen and expand his character arcs. Erikson on the other hand, is pure world building. The narration is focused on things that are happening, fast and furious. Epic battles are detailed, magic is cast in a whirlpool of words and masses of characters come and go to serve the history he is re-telling. An imagined history of events that have already happened in his mind.

Like that which is found in historical writing, the key characters are depicted as figures of myth and legend and therefore we never seems to scratch the surface of them as people. It felt as though one  needed to be from the world itself and have a pre-existing knowledge of them to fully appreciate who they were and what there motivations were. This is unfortunate as there is much potential to flesh out characters such as the Sergeant Whiskeyjack, who we know as a great warrior but not so much as a man.

Gardens of the Moon focuses on the exploits of key figures in the Malazan Empire's invasion of Darujhistan, and at face value reflects our own East versus West history. The Empire is old, powerful, corrupt and vast, continuing to push it's expansion through conquest. Lead by tyranny, corruption and Machiavellian political tactics, the Empire is far from secure and taking the last free city of Genabackis will be anything but simple.

Erikson has split readers into columns of those who love and hate his work. I found myself somewhere in the middle, confused by what was going on and never becoming attached to characters yet continuing to give the book a chance to win me over. Sadly I couldn't quite commit. I'd take nothing away from Erikson, who has created an immense and technically precise work but the opening volume couldn't grab me emotionally. Perhaps better suited to those who enjoy military history and fantasy battles.