I know what you’re thinking, not a very heavy hitting title for the beginning of an epic fantasy series spanning 17 novels to date. I thought so as well, but believe me when I tell you- you couldn’t be more wrong. Gardens of the Moon is the brainchild of Steven Erickson. He and his partner, Ian C. Esslemont, created the world of the Malazan Empire and originally made it into a board game in the 80s to rival Dungeons and Dragons. I somehow doubt the game ever took off, but Erickson was convinced to begin writing about the world they created.
The book begins during the opening stages of the weakening of the Malazan Empire. The emperor is dead, along with his chief assassin and advisor, Dancer. Killed by one of their own. In their place stands the Empress Laseen, known as Surly to the men who once served with her. She needs to consolidate power and remove any of those loyalists to the dead emperor (only she doesn’t know he is not dead- he and Dance ascended into godhood on the empty Shadow Throne.)
The opening act is set on the continent of Genebakis outside of the city of Pale, where the infamous Bridgeburners are attempting to subdue the city and claim it for the empire. Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his men are the only survivors after a disastrous turn of events that set in motion a massive series of books spanning three continents and numerous races.
Friends, this is no elf and dwarf fantasy. Instead we have races like the almost immortal Jaghut- rulers of the ice. There giants of men called Toblakai and the mysterious Moranth- whose munitions are more destructive than an army of catapults. Ancient repitilian warriors called the K’chain che’maelle. The Soletaken are perhaps my favorites, for these are men and women who have become one with beasts, some capable of turning into dragons. The gods play a head hand in this book, for a struggle between the old gods and the new rages in the background. If you are looking for a good, long read, I highly recommend picking these up. You shouldn’t be disappointed.
The series is called the Malazan Book of the Fallen- but you won’t discover why until the 10th and final book. Only then do you learn that it is all a tribute to the men and women who…nope, not going to give it away. Gardens of the Moon is but the opening act of a wide story arc and absolutely the smallest book of the series. Some of the later volumes are well over 1000 pages long. I highly recommend picking up your copy today.