Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Title: Gardens of the Moon.
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen #1.
Writer(s): Steven Erikson.
Publisher: Tor Books.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: May 12th, 2009 (first published April 1999).
Pages: 494.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13:  9780765322883.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.


Lives and faiths intertwine, destiny prevails, fortune strikes. There is so much left to intangible forces that is taken for granted and so little that can be seized on a whim by the most common of mortals. What if nothing is ever actually arbitrary? What if everything was simply dictated by unknown powers? Leave it to author Steven Erikson—a pseudonym for Steve Rune Lundin—to illustrate this mischievous premise within his epic ten-volume high fantasy series known as the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Unguided and mistreated, readers are dared to embark on a riotous quest counted through a non-linear narrative that rewards the persevering lot who lust after a challenge like none other, especially those conceived within a spectacular overarching storytelling vision and a breath-taking cinematic scope.

What is Gardens of the Moon about? The Malazan Empire craves to rule the continent of Genabackis. With Empress Laseen at the throne and the Claw—a covert organization composed of deadly assassins—by her side, they set their eyes on the most resource-rich Free City, Darujhistan, to further establish their dominion. Although the powerful Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii remain unpredictable obstacles in their pursuit of absolute power, other players peeking through the threads of manipulation seem to have an invested interest in this war that could prove devastating if not dealt with quickly. As a bewildering power struggle simmers in the horizon, squadrons, thieves, politicians, High Mages, and Elder Races fight to see another day while Gods surreptitiously play their cards behind the scenes.


The cast is irrevocably extensive. Weaving together multiple points of view without warning, the story teleports from one set of characters to another as it surges forward in its exposition of a multi-layered universe scarred by its countless godly figures, complex historical background, and terrifying wars for territory and power. Flexing his indisputable creativity muscles, author Steven Erikson also presents one of the most exhilarating ability of masterful puppeteering in literature as he beautifully pulls the strings at will to tie his characters together in an intricate web of deceit and betrayal. Although they are numerous and endowed with elaborate motivations, they all remain relevant and consequential in their own individual way within the epic scheme at play.

The world is likewise meticulously complex beyond a shadow of a doubt. Left to decipher the intricacies of the magic system—e.g. the myriad of Warrens used to beam one’s self from regions to regions—while surviving the suffocating and bleak beauty of the world conceived by Steven Erikson and Ian Cameron Esslemont, the reader scours the lands of Genabackis, praying that vice and vertu can be distinguished amidst the chaotic and callous plotting of powerful figures and enigmatic characters hiding their true motives behind empty words and deceiving actions. As the story progresses, masks are pulled off and divine beings emerge from the shadows unveiling their machinations as pawns suffer from their pleasantries and further substantiate the illusory possession of free will. While the somewhat muddled execution is notable at first, the tale remains addictive and enthralling, promising a rewarding journey brimming with questions on life and death.

Gardens of the Moon is a visionary tour de force in epic fantasy literature heaving readers into a grim and relentless world where creatures, sorcerers, and gods are playing three-dimensional chess.





41 thoughts on “Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Lashaan! Great review 😀
    And now there’s a long and twisting way ahead of you, I feel, but one that turns out immensely rewarding (well, most of the time ;)) The cast gets bigger and bigger, but certain names are recurring, and to these you should pay attention. I’m pretty sure that you’ll find your favorites along the way, if you haven’t yet, and that it will gradually start making much more sense as you progress through the next installments. The worldbuilding ideas here are brilliant; the addition of Neanderthals, sentient T-Rex equivalents and the use of Tarot, as well as the idea of Warrens and what they really are are all absolutely fascinating. But there are also some hitches and bumps along the way, and a bit of sensible editing would not be amiss 😉 So, beware – this series will consume a lot of your time! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Ola! Wow, those things you mention as part of the world-building are making me want to read the next book even more hahahah I’m thinking of keeping this series as my side-project for the year because… any pause in between books will probably make every book tougher to read and that’s the last thing I want to do with this one hahaha I’ll definitely remember your warnings regarding what’s to come though. This definitely the epic fantasy series I’ve always wanted to indulge in my life! 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I will finally read this, I promise.But I’m a bit scared of the scale of the endeavour… and my first encounter of this tome was not very good, mostly because of a bad translation.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Well, I guess you liked it 😉

    From what you wrote here, my guess is you’re going to really enjoy the series. And as Anonymous above said, things only get bigger, so keep on taking those notes 😀 You will probably need them.

    With you reading the paperback edition, do/can you take notes right in the margins or do you keep a file for that?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, I’m trying my best to hunt down the paperback edition (since hardcovers are almost 100 bucks a tome…) but I don’t write in the margins. It’s also too tight for any coherent notes too. I use a journal on the side that I fill up as I progress, whenever I deem necessary to note something. I tried doing it “digitally” through One Note on my phone or even Word document but I find that it makes the reading experience heavier than necessary when I’m actually forced to PUT DOWN the book and type with TWO hands. I’m still in a kind of learning curve with how I note though but so far it has been pretty good! 😀

      Thanks again for putting this series on my radar. Do you, by the way, share a similar opinion as Ola on Esslemont’s side of this universe? I think I remember reading a couple of reviews for it on your blog but I’d have to revisit to remember hahah

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I liked Esslemont better than Ola, mainly because by the time I got to him I was so sick of Erickson’s pseudo-philosophy and “appeal to the teen crowd with ideas” that anything that was more action oriented was immediately appealing. I found Erickson fell into the “pretentious” ditch and Esslemont stayed away from that. I’d re-read Esslemont’s books again but besides Gardens of the Moon, not Erickson.

        What you describe is why I never take notes. It is just too distracting for me 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  4. The Malazan books are another of the well-regarded epic fantasy series I’ve had my eye on for some time. But considering the length of the series (I guess it’s multiple series) I’ve been reluctent to try until I get through a little more of my stack. I suspect I’ll try Forge of Darkness first, but it’s good to know the books and series continue to hold up. Enjoyed the review, Lashaan!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I definitely understand and I think it’s one of those series that needs to have a good chunk of your attention if it is to work for the reader too since the complexity of it all won’t allow too much “forgetting”. I do hope you get the chance to dive into this universe someday. I’ll continue my journey in it and maybe with each book I’ll give you more reason to try it sooner than later too! 😉 Thanks for reading, Todd! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a series I’ve looked at with curiosity for some time now, while being at the same time somewhat scared because of its scope: your comment about the commitment it requires did not exactly ease my concerns, but on the other hand your enthusiasm gave me some encouragement… Maybe, one of these days… 😉 Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep. I think it’s one of those series that NEEDS to come with a warning so that readers know beforehand what they’re getting themselves into. But once you’re reading to tackle it, knowing its difficulty, it’s probably going to have loads of appeal for you! Thanks for reading, Maddalena! 😀

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  6. Possible meddling gods will get me interested in just about anything. This sounds intriguing. Will add it to my TBR. Can’t remember if it’s already there because I have seen it often mentioned on fantasy blogs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It reminds me a lot of Black Leopard, Red Wolf’s complexity. You’ll have to be ready for that kind of “mental effort” if you’re to tackle this series. Otherwise, I think you’ll enjoy it for that element in particular too, them meddling gods are quite awesome in their own ways! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I have to admit that reading this first book was a chore! Lol
    There were definitely elements that I loved, but I don’t know if there were enough to make me read the next books in the series. Everyone says that it only gets better and better.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I find that world building is perhaps the most important aspect in Fantasy and it’s great to hear that the author handled this so well. I don’t read much Fantasy but your review has certainly piqued my interest!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Amazing review, Lashaan! 😍 I’m so happy we started to read this book, even if I’m far from finishing it! Your review made me so excited to finish it and keep on reading all the other volumes! 😊 Even if it’s hard to remember all of them, I like the fact that there are so many characters!

    Liked by 2 people

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