Gardens of the Moon

Coming hard on the heels of my disappointment with Hidden Empire, Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon was very much in contrast. This is the first of a series; The Malazan Book of the Fallen, and I'm going to be looking for the second book, Deadhouse Gates, in short order.

Erikson writes a complex, even tangled storyline, with numerous protagonists, and almost no heroes. In a style reminiscent of the old Thieves World shared setting, he mixes powerful magic and the intervention of gods with a grim and gritty feel more familiar from low fantasy settings. There's also a sense of history about the setting and the characters, so much so that I stopped reading early on to check that this was the first book in the series, and that I hadn't accidentally picked up one partway through.

Erikson's world-building is excellent, and he does the right thing in leaving it to explain itself in small details and dialogue, rather than "info-dumping" in large chunks of text. There's definitely a well-developed magic system, geography, history, and theology there, and I'm still adjusting parts of it in my mind - and making notes of ideas to pilfer for my games. About the only criticism I'd level at his world is the use of the dreaded apostrophe in some of the names - and even those are reserved for the older words and phrases.

The characters are tough - they have to be, for this world - and usually interesting, if not sympathetic. Some of them have a definite charm about them, others lack it completely, and are more interesting for it. Erikson manages to steer clear of sterotypes, for the most part, while still staying close enough to archetypes. Whiskeyjack as the sergeant, and Crokus as the boy thief are the only ones that stand out as familiar - and even they're comfortably so, rather than walking clichés.

Gardens of the Moon will bear re-reading, too, and I think I might be doing that again in the very near future - this time with a notebook in hand.

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Posted by Drew Shiel at July 1, 2005 1:57 PM

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