Well well, I have finally mustered up enough courage to read Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon, book 1 in his epic fantasy Malazan Book of the Fallen. But it’s just a book, you say. So why do I need courage to read it? Read on to find out.
Malazan Book of the Fallen is a 10 book epic fantasy series. That alone made me hesitate before starting the series because, as you know, once I start I have to finish. Another thing that made me hesitant was that I had read that this series is extremely complex. Though I guess that shouldn’t have been a surprise, considering it spans 10 books. Lastly, I had read that many believed you should read book 2 before book 1 because book 1 would be too far above people’s heads who are first introduced to the series.
Ok, so here we go. The prologue and chapters 1 and 2 were indeed extremely complex. Erikson throws you right in the mix of a war without background knowledge or information. You just simply have to go with it. To add to the complexity, the scenes of the first 2 chapters are so short and continually jump back and forth as you are introduced to the main cast of characters that you don’t really get a chance to orientate yourself. And lastly, the narrator is all kinds of different. This book is kind of written in 3rd person, but it never takes on the point of view of any character. I want to call it a 3rd person omniscient but that doesn’t really fit either.
It literally took me all of the prologue and the first 2 chapters to figure out what was going on. I plan to re-read the prologue and the first 2 chapters now that I have a better understanding of Erikson’s style as well as who the characters are.
All in all, once you get past the first 2 chapters you are golden. The story seems to slow down just a tad as the scenes get a little bit longer and you start figuring out who is who and what is going on. There are bits and pieces of information that you must grasp onto greedily. I think this particular quote from chapter 3 is a nod from the author to his readers who made it that far without putting the book down,
“Out of your depth, Captain? Don’t worry, every damn person here’s out of their depth. Some know it, some don’t. It’s the ones who don’t you got to worry about. Start with what’s right in front of you and forget the rest. It’ll show up in its own time.”
Talking with other people about this series, the sentiment seems to be everyone is confused at the beginning but all will make sense eventually and you will be thoroughly rewarded for sticking with it.
There are so many characters and magical beings in the Malazan world that I’m not even going to try and describe them all. I’ll just give here a few of the key players and add more details as I read through the rest of the series: Shadowthrone and Oponn seem to be the two primary competing gods and yet neither can really be considered good or bad I don’t think. Laseen is the Malazan Empress and Anomander Rake is the Lord of the Moon Spawn who appear to be the two competing “mortal” forces. I put mortal in quotation marks because I honestly don’t know what is considered mortal and what is not in this world. That’s neither a knock or a compliment of the series so far, it’s simply a question to be answered at a later time. Then we have Kruppe who is just all kinds of strange.
Each being that is mortal or otherwise has agents trying to accomplish various tasks. Some agents are assigned to free a Jaghut Tyrant who has been imprisoned by its own people for three thousand years while others try to strike a deal with the remaining free city, Darujhistan. There are still others whose sole task is to prevent the other side from accomplishing whatever it is they want. Some seem to be guided by the gods and others are not.
Oh yeah and we have Dragnipur, Anomander Rake’s sword. At the moment this weapon is only shrouded in mystery for the reader. Everyone else who is worth any mention knows enough to stay away from the blade. Paran also has a sword which he has named Chance that has the ability to severe magical bonds and wound magic creatures. Is a big fight scene between the two swords inevitable? We can only hope.
Hmmm……I will have to read more of the series before I decide if I will recommend the series or not.