Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

First published in 1999, Gardens of the Moon dramatically opened what would end up being the ten book Malazan Book of the Fallen. This is the story of the Malazan Empire, its soldiers, and others who would influence its history.

I won’t delve into specifics, since it would take *ages* to do so. GotM follows the actions and events surrounding members of the Bridgeburners (Malazans) and several people from Darujhistan (not Malazans) as well as others who are in a bit of a grey area. There are SO many different characters that it’s a bit overwhelming at first, Erikson seems to have realized this so he included the Dramatis Personae which tells you who stands where.

The Malazans are planning to invade Darujhistan, which is the last city to remain out of Empress Laseen’s grasp. Darujhistan is a wealthy, beautiful city and has lovely little blue gas lamps to light it up once night falls. The Bridgeburners, an elite squad, are sent in to make contact with the assassin’s guild, covertly work to undermine the city’s defenses, cause chaos etc. Seriously, this story is so complex that you really have to read it to understand.

Erikson developed a pretty cool system of magic- the mages use warrens to harness their magic. Each warren has its own aspect- fire, sea, sky, healing, death etc. Most of the warrens have a god or ascendant that sort of rules them. The warrens can also be used to travel hundreds of miles rather quickly. On the down side, sinister beings lurk in the warrens and if they happen across you, you will never be seen again. Or at least your body won’t be around.

The pantheon is also really unique- as far as I can tell, many of the gods/ascendents were mere mortals. In Gardens of the Moon it remains a bit foggy as to how they became gods. This becomes a little more clear as the series progresses. Each member of the pantheon is aspected towards a certain warren. For example, Hood is the god of death and his warren aspect is Hood’s Path. There is an incredible amount of what seems to be irreverence from every character in this book. Its quite amusing, really.

Overall, I would recommend this book to any fan of fantasy type books. Gardens of the Moon is a little hard to get in to at first because its complex and a bit confusing. If you keep reading and use the handy little guide in the back and the Dramatis Personae, you’ll see where everything fits together and it becomes really enjoyable.

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