I’m so glad that I finally read Gardens of the Moon. It was every bit as lush and intricate and well written as I had been told, and it’s so exciting that this is just setting the stage for something bigger and even more elaborate. Malazan is a series that has been on my list of things to read for years, since before I became active on Goodreads and made all of my wonderful bookish friends. I bought the complete series sometime in 2014 (Brand new! For $50! Thanks, eBay!), and they’ve been just sitting on my shelf staring at me ever since.
Why have I waited so long to read them, you might ask? Well, the reason is twofold. Firstly, it’s an incredibly intimidating series to tackle, both in length and reported complexity. I didn’t feel I had the dedication or mental fortitude to even begin something like this, much less stick to it all the way through. Secondly, I was turned off by the fanbase. A lot of Malazan fans I’ve come across online have been pushy, judgmental, and conceited, positive that their favorite series was not only the best thing out there, but that all other series and authors sucked by comparison. I didn’t want to support that kind of negativity, so I kept pushing them further and further down my priority reading list.
However, some trusted friends convinced me to give Malazan a try anyway. After all, it’s not Erikson’s fault that the loudest segment of his fanbase tends towards rabid. And thanks my friend TS there was some guidance to be had if I started floundering. Also, thanks to Tor’s “The Malazan Re-Read of the Fallen,” I have the freedom to not have to jump immediately into the next installments for fear of forgetting what I just read. These things took the pressure off, and I was able to really enjoy my first excursion into Malazan.
I’m not going to go into any kind of specificity in this review, as there are a plethora of amazing reviews out there and I have no idea what could be considered spoilers. Instead, I’m going to explain in broad strokes what worked for me and what didn’t. First and foremost, I am just so immensely impressed with Erikson’s writing. It’s deep and rich and intricate, and the prose had a stark beauty to it that worked incredibly well with the setting.. I’m in awe of the complex plot and vast cast of characters he created, and I know things only get more mind-blowing from here. I’ve also heard that things get incredibly philosophical as the series progresses, which is one of my very favorite things in fiction. While some philosophy was present here, I look forward to getting more of that depth in later books. I was also really inspired by Erikson’s foreword, and what he had to say about writing and pursuing your passion. It’s something I’ll definitely be going back to when I’m feeling discouraged.
I also love how things start in medias res. Unlike most stories that start in the middle of the action, very few things are actually explained later. There are no side diatribes filling in readers about why the world is as it is and how it got that way. Instead, we’re just expected to roll with it and pay attention, to remain on the lookout for any tidbit of information that might be important. This makes the book more difficult than most, but also more rewarding as readers have to work for their understanding instead of having everything fed to them. I have over a hundred highlights in my Kindle edition of the book of things I thought might maybe be important later. It was like a treasure hunt!
The only thing that hindered my enjoyment of this book wasn’t actually the book’s fault at all. When I started reading, I was excited and in the exact right mindset. However, life happened. Some small real life tragedies made reality difficult to handle for a while, which just threw me completely out of the proper frame of mind for this book. I needed to escape into something easy and comforting, which meant I opened Gardens of the Moon less and less. But while life hindered my enjoyment, it in now way affected my objective appreciation for the book. I’m going to have to set the series aside for a while, but I will definitely be returning to Malazan in the future.
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