Gardens of the Moon is the opening volume of Steven Erikson’s acclaimed Malazan Book of the Fallen. Many others have said this before but I cannot reiterate enough that this series is the high watermark for contemporary fantasy.
While excellent in its own right, Gardens of the Moon may not be the best part of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Still, it sets the tone for all that follows and introduces some of the most memorable characters I have ever had the honour to meet – not just in fantasy novels but in literature in general.
The Malazan Book of the Fallen does not simply avoid the trap of presenting a clear-cut battle between good and evil: it encourages readers to throw in their lot with flawed creatures of every ilk and explores the concepts of courage, guilt, shame, honour, friendship and love with relentless abandon. The result – thanks in part to Steven Erikson mastery of (poetic) language – is a plethora of emotions, ranging from laughter to gut-wrenching grief, that turn the tale into an experience unlike any other. No other series or book (all 11,000 pages of it ought to be considered one book) has had such a profound impact on my reading. I have since abandoned many a novel because it felt too bland or unambitious: unfair, perhaps, but it appears I am far from alone in this. Read at your peril.