What a beast of a book. The writer claims to throw the reader into the deep end and that is exactly what he has done. It is not an easy read. There are so many facts, people, links, histories and theories to keep track of, at times you find yourself flipping back to recall where you had heard of it before. The funny thing is, the characters in the book are doing the exact same thing. In essence, you know what they know, and what they know is fractured and incomplete. By no means a simple read, with ten parts (which are all out btw … here’s an author who knows the importance of completing an epic before the Hood claims him *cough*G.R.R. martin*cough*) it does feel like biting off quite a bit more than one can swallow but in my opinion totally worth it.
Now to get to what it is about … and that is the hard part … war mostly … as the power hungry Malazan empire with the Mage Assassin Empress Laseen at it’s helm expands into free continents swallowing cities and lives in it’s path. Throw in the fray various gods of many persuasions, multiple races (some immortal), conspiracies, spies, assassins, thieves, conflicting loyalties, alliances of convenience and complex, almost scientific system of sorcery and one finds oneself struggling for purchase. The story is essentially a telling of life in the Malazan Empire’s complicated, efficient and inexorable war machine. A rag-tag group of soldiers: soldier-sappers, soldier-assassins, soldier-mages, soldier-nobles, demoted-soldiers, possessed-by-gods-soldiers, corporals, sergeants and commanders all bring their own personalities and back stories to the front, operating primarily in the 2nd Malazan Army as it marches across the continent of Genabackis on a mission to conquer the last two standing free cities: Pale, and the proverbial crown jewel: Darujhistan. While the storyline is important, what makes the book special is hints and throwbacks to obscure histories, past wars and tales of millennia past, which promise to make it a magical, mythical lore, something which will be slowly unveiled in the course of the next nine books.
The story progresses from the point of view of the main characters, crisscrossing but seemingly unrelated threads, that ultimately converge as we reach the climax. Curiously the writer invests a lot in supporting characters, which he then summarily dismisses, some permanently, but I suspect a few will make a comeback in some magical manner later in books, given the sorcerous manner of their seeming demise. In terms of the story the book is merely the ‘opening gambit’ and doesn’t give many hints to the grand scheme of things. The book will rather audaciously raise questions, e.g. “Where did Shadowthrone come from?” but will not satisfy your curiosity … not just yet.
Gardens of the Moon is also July 2013 TwitBookClub selection
Cover Image via Goodreads