Malazan: Gardens of the Moon, Steven Erikson (Review)


Wikipedia Commons

The original mass market cover of Malazan: Gardens of the Moon.

“Malazan,” written by Steven Erikson, is an epic fantasy saga spanning multiple series. The “Malazan” series is known as an important landmark in the fantasy genre, expanding the conception of what fantasy could be. With the next Malazan book, “Forge of the High Mage,” coming out in early April 2023, it seems timely to revisit the first book, “Malazan Book of the Fallen: Gardens of the Moon.”

“Gardens of the Moon” is the first book in a series of ten, though the saga itself is not contained to just that initial series. I was hesitant to read it at first, having heard that it was difficult, but “Gardens of the Moon” hooked me in and got me yearning to dive into the rest of the amazing world that Malazan had to offer.

One of the biggest make-or-break aspects of Malazan are the characters. They are complex, morally gray and numerous. There are not just side characters to keep track of, but dozens of perspective characters that switch from book to book. There is no clear protagonist of the series. “Gardens of the Moon” itself has 33 separate points-of-view. Erikson weaves his way between all the perspectives in a way that enhances the story. Even so, if you are a reader who tends to attach yourself to just one character, this book is not for you.

A draw of Malazan is Erikson’s writing. The prose of “Gardens of the Moon” is full of concise but imaginative imagery and natural dialogue. It is not too plain nor too flowery. When reading the book, I felt as if I was transported into each and every scene as a spectator to the grand events unfolding before me, moving seamlessly between all the perspective switches.

Malazan drops you right into the action, straight into a world full of convoluted politics, intricate magic systems and elaborate mysteries. There is no exposition, or a “Harry Potter” moment where a wizard sits you down and explains the plot to you. Each of the 33 perspective characters have their own backstories, motivations and plots.

“Gardens of the Moon” is a challenging read, And the series only gets more complex as it goes on. If you are new to the fantasy genre, or do not have the time to sit down for hours at a time and concentrate on comprehending a story that you will not truly understand until your second or third re-read, this book is not for you. However, if you are a fantasy veteran, ready to venture into a new epic saga, give “Gardens of the Moon” a try. It will not disappoint.