Book Review: Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon

My original plan was to get all my summer reading and ARC’s out of the way before getting into Malazan so I can read all of them back to back. However, the constant stream of people posting in various fantasy groups on Facebook about how Gardens of the Moon is so confusing and asking whether they should keep on reading stirred up my curiosity to the point of dropping the WoT #4 and everything else and grabbing this, and I am so very glad I did.

Gardens of the Moon has the reputation for being one of the biggest Marmite books of fantasy genre. I didn’t care much for Marmite, but I totally fell in love with Gardens of the Moon and looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Even Erikson laments about it in the foreword, you can see the pangs of regret between the pages. But I think GOTM is just fine the way it is.

People who are used to reading books with a clear beginning-middle-end and linear story arc where the world and magic and how everything works is explained in detail are going to find GOTM confusing as hell. People who have enjoyed ASOIAF books -preferably more than once- won’t have much trouble. I was warned about paying attention to detail so I watched everything like a hawk from the very beginning. Tiniest details and pieces of dialogues from the prologue comes back to you with a bang later on, but if you miss it in the beginning, you miss out and end up getting lost. This is true for everything else, not only the beginning parts. Just pay attention! Even the seemingly insignificant and unimportant minor characters are there for a reason and serve a purpose.

I have read a number of medieval chronicles and some early modern fiction, so I was no stranger to the format of the book. Erikson doesn’t explain things with infodumps, he doesn’t hold your hand, so you figure things out by paying attention. Some people say Gardens of the Moon requires a lot of effort, but I beg to disagree. It requires no effort other than paying attention. It’s just a book, not some rocket science manual as some folk make it out to be, only it is structured in a rather unusual way. Unusual for the fantasy genre, that is.

Gardens of the Moon is more like the medieval chronicles and early modern fiction. Sort of like Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabeleis, which I highly recommend to fantasy lovers of high brow tastes (there is some irony to be found here) and I talk about in detail in this post here. Gardens of the Moon structure is quite similar to that. It is also somewhat similar to medieval Byzantine chronicles.

Those chronicles start with the reign of the current emperor, maybe his predecessor, but they throw you right into the thick of things without holding your hand. They don’t explain the state institutions and how things work and how the framework of the whole empire is structured, you are supposed to know it. Those books were written as a record of the history, and after 1000 years many things got lost. Historians were not able to make sense of some of the jokes, alliterations and references. Some they deciphered by cross-referencing other books and documents of the period, but what’s lost is lost for good.

I have read the chronicles depicting the city I was born and raised and spent the first few years of my adult life in, but it read more like an alien city in some imaginary fantasy land most of the time. Only because some of the edifices present in the period still stand today it is possible to even recognize the place. There are footnotes in almost every page, explaining names, terms, references, military terminology, government positions, measurements (they used different reckoning of hours, calendar, distance units, weight units, nothing like the stuff we use today.) For example, they talk about the time of the day like “third hour of the night” which would be roughly 9 pm of a couple hours earlier or later depending on the season. They measure all distances with stades, which is about 1/10 of a mile. You read the footnote where it’s used the first time and do the conversion in your head through the rest of the book. You convert all those things in your head to the modern units you are familiar with, and if you forget, you have to go back to the footnotes. Now this is something that requires effort to read. Gardens of the Moon certainly does not fall into that category. There is no math, no calculations. You only need to pay attention to things and remember them, that is all.

If you are having trouble, there is an excellent read-along guide recapping every chapter of every book. You can check with it after you finish a chapter or few. Here is the guide: Malazan Reread of the Fallen.

But like I mentioned, if you are an ASOIAF fan, you should have no trouble comprehending Gardens of the Moon. There is a big cast of characters, but even if you aren’t an ASOIAF veteran you eventually get used to it if you stick around. Chapters are short and POV changes within the same chapter sometimes, so it takes a while to get attached to any of the characters. But once you start following them, you will find your favorites. Some of the best ones don’t show up or start revealing their badassery until later.

The sheer number of main characters may be overwhelming for people who aren’t used to that kind of setup, so here is an excellent guide made by my lovely friend Laura M. Hughes to help out: Laura’s Guide to Malazan Characters (Gardens of the Moon)

Some of those characters start out as ordinary folk, but they turn out to be hell of a lot more than what they seem. It’s great fun to watch it unfold, I’m telling you!

Now, if you are a big fan of Riftwar books and Elder Scrolls Games, there is a good chance you will totally love Gardens of the Moon (and the rest of Malazan I suppose.) There are thieves, assassins, rooftop wars, heist scenes, alchemists, cool artifacts, and an epic tavern/inn where all the ruffians meet up and hang out. I’m a huge fan of the thieves’ guild and Dark Brotherhood in Elder Scrolls games, as well as the thieves of Krondor in Riftwar books, so all those scenes were more than reason enough for me to love this book to death before even reaching half of it. Oh, and magic. There is awesome, bombastic, kickass magic. The awesomeness of it is slowly revealed, layer by layer.

More than anything, Gardens of the Moon is a political intrigue and military action book. There is a number of political factions and complex political plots. It was hell of a lot of fun to read as a big fan of political intrigue.

Now let’s get to the characters: There are total cunts you will love to hate, as well as some charismatic guys, silly boys, strong women, loveable ruffians, mysterious elder races, funny dudes, sinister politicians and the legendary Bridgeburners. Brigeburners is the elite military squad everyone respects and their enemies are doing everything to decimate them. Those guys are so damn cool and they have epic tricks up their sleeves and some hilarious bickering moments as the icing of the cake. Gardens of the Moon and the Bridgeburners got me so hooked, I ordered a Bridgeburners t-shirt before I even finished reading the book. That should tell you something.

And then there is the glorious Anomander Rake. I didn’t think I would ever fall head over heels for a character and go all fangirl after R. Scott Bakker’s magnificent Cleric character in The Judging Eye, but Anomander Rake totally caught me off guard. He is ambiguous, mysterious, melancholy, supremely charismatic, has a killer magic sword called Dragnipur unlike any magic sword I have ever read in fantasy books, and badassery level off the charts. I’m smitten! Can’t wait to read more.

And then there is Kruppe, who is the funny uncle with the silly ramblings, but he has some neat tricks up his sleeve and some more. That is all I can say to stick with the spoiler free premise.

There is this Deck of Dragons, which is like a magic level +10 version of Tarot cards. If you are into Tarot, you will definitely enjoy it. Another thing I absolutely loved about Gardens of the Moon is the lack of sappy romance and ridiculous love triangles. There is one case of a dude having a crush on a girl, but it’s hilarious rather than sappy. There is no annoying pining and all that jazz.

It might be a bit confusing to some readers who are not used to this kind of structure, but the payoff is massive. Trust me on that! Not only that but there are excellent companion guides to help out if you are having any trouble, which I linked above. If you love fantasy, this book has every element of fantasy without being cliche and derivative. Steven Erikson is a professional anthropologist and it shows in the realism of the cultures and different lands. It’s incredibly rich in detail. If you are a history buff, you will most probably become a fan.
Then again, it’s known as the Marmite book and you might not like it at all. There is only one way to find out!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Books I Added To my TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is the most recent additions to TBR and here goes my list of ten books I recently added to my ever growing mountain of TBR:

Faithless

Swarm and Steel

Godblind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faithless by Graham Austin-King has a stunning cover and promises one hell of an epic adventure in the underground mines. I loved his Riven Wyrde Saga books (check my reviews here) and have high expectations of this one after reading the excerpt.

Swarm and Steel is a Manifest Delusions book, I loved the first two and looking forward to the release of this. Michael R. Fletcher has a track record of delivering top notch grimdark, I can’t recommend his books enough!

Godblind is a totally random discovery, recommended by a friend from the FB fantasy book groups I frequent. He showed me the first chapter posted on a giveaway contest page, I absolutely loved it and pre-ordered Godblind. It’s a debut, grimdark as grimdark goes, brutal to the core, and written by a female author if you are looking for diverse books.

 

Valley of Embers

Smiler's Fair

The Glass Gargoyle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valley of Embers is a SPFBO contestant this year, I grabbed it from the free promo cause the cover is great+I liked the sample excerpt on Kindle store. It sounds like a nice, original epic fantasy with cool battles and magic.

Smiler’s Fair is highly recommended by a friend who told me the cover looks like YA but the book is gritty, awesome fantasy. She knows my tastes more or less so I trust her rec and added it.

The Glass Gargoyle is another SPFBO contestant, the author announced free promo, I totally loved the sample excerpt which features a nice tavern setting and hilarious banter. This book promises a great light reading and funny fantasy experience, plus I like gargoyles and never read any fantasy books featuring gargoyles.

 

A Gathering of Ravens

Assassin's Charge

The Traitor Baru Cormorant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Gathering of Ravens sounds like my cup of tea since it’s set in a world of Norse myths and features an Orc protagonist, plus Scott Oden is a cool guy and writes cool blog posts waving Orcs into the world history in a clever way. The blog posts sold me on his writing and the whole Norse myths and grimdark Orc protagonist surrounded with morally ambiguous side characters sold me on the book.

Assassin’s Charge was a finalist in last year’s SPFBO, the blog reviews and the premise got me to put it high up in my TBR since I’m a huge fan of assassins, guilds and pre-modern city environment.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant is a book folk speak very highly of on Reddit and Fantasy book groups all over the place, my grimdark fan friends said it’s a grimdark masterpiece and I would definitely like it, so I have quite high expectations from this book.

The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids

 

Amra Tethys books sound exactly like my cup of tea and some of my friends highly recommended the book. Thieves, rogues, immortal sorcerers, epic artifacts, gods, demons -this book sounds like it will be hell of a lot of fun to read! I’m a total fan of thief fantasy with lots of magic and fantasy elements, so I expect grat fun from this book.

What is in your TBR? Link to your post and let me know!

 

Exciting New Releases This Summer

These will be my summer reads.

The Unholy Consult
I have been waiting for the Unholy Consult forever, even held off on reading the Aspect-Emperor books for ages until the release date was certain for TUC. This series is such a magnificent masterpiece of grimdark and epic fantasy, one of the best examples of the fantasy genre in fact. You can read my reviews of all the books in the series here: https://leonahenry.wordpress.com/?s=bakker

 

The Court of Broken Knives

I have beta read a very early version of this book ages ago, I can’t tell you how excited I was to hear about the publishing deal and finally getting a publication date. This will probably be quite a bit different from that very early version I think, can’t wait to read and find out. It’s super grimdark but without a setting mostly covered in puke, piss, rot and other gross things. There is dazzling architecture, grand temples, palaces, beautiful gardens, spiced with utterly savage violence and serious nightmare fuel acts. The characters are so grimdark it’s not even funny!

 

Godblind

 

A friend of mine told me to check this new debut out, and showed me a giveaway page where they had a free sample from the very beginning of the book. I was mighty impressed by the grimdarkness and how Anna Stephens made the characters so memorable in such a short space, I pre-ordered a copy. I heard the book delivers the top notch quality promised by the sample. I can’t wait to read it!

 

 

A Gathering of Ravens

 

Historical fantasy with an Orc protagonist and Norse myths pretty much sold me on that one. Not to mention the grimdark and all of the characters being morally ambiguous. I love books where no one is good or evil. Also I’ve never read any historical fantasy, this should be a good way to begin. It sounds like a pretty solid read judging from the Goodreads reviews.

What are you reading this summer?

Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Most Unique Books I’ve Read

toptentuesday

Top ten tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish and this week’s theme is the most unique books.

1. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

The great Silmarillion remains one of a kind to this day, even after gazillions of fantasy books published since. Its format is like a holy scripture and it is not the kind of thing casual fantasy readers could get into, but the stories are captivating. It remains an all time favorite for the cult fans, and for good reason.

2. Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

This book was a total shock and awe package for me as a fantasy fan who got the taste of grimdark with A Song of Ice and Fire. Even after reading a number of grimdark books, it still remains unique with the villainous, messed up protagonist who ended up being one of my all time favorites. See my review here.

3. Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher

This book is horribly underrated due to its terribly dull cover (it’s not just me, quite a few book blogger friends also found it a total turn off) and it is quite original and unique for fantasy and grimdark. All of the main characters are horrible people, yet still likeable, and the source of magic being delusions makes an original and fresh magic system. See my review here.

4. The Darkness That Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker

A criminally underrated grimdark masterpiece, The Darkness That Comes Before is the first book of an awesome epic fantasy series without any of the tired tropes and cliches of epic fantasy. In other words, this series has Tolkien-Tier worldbuilding without ripping off Tolkien’s races, tropes and quests. Folk think Asoiaf is the revolutionary fresh breath that changed the fantasy genre, but Bakker’s series does the realism without sacrificing the magic and fantasy elements, and without making it 100% human like Asoiaf. I am a huge fan of Asoiaf, don’t get me wrong, but The Second Apocalypse books are nine kinds of awesome and it’s a crime they aren’t selling hundreds of millions and getting a TV show. See my review.

5. Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

I discovered this book after SPFBO review and Mark Lawrence’s recommendation, and I must say it is quite a fresh new breath in the genre. I’ve read a lot of fantasy and literary fiction, never seen anything quite like Senlin Ascends. It’s kind of a genre bender blending Steampunk fantasy with magical realism with an amazing literary prose, memorable characters and entirely original and fascinating worldbuilding. See my review.

6. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t think there is anyone who reads my blog that hasn’t read this one since it was such a huge hit. It was perhaps one of the most unique I have read in any genre: It has no plot at all, no relatable characters and an unreliable narrator, but still makes you turn pages well into the wee hours cause of the interesting adventures, superb worldbuilding and beautiful poetic prose. See my review.

7. Fae – The Wild Hunt by Graham Austin-King

This was one of the few indie books I’ve read and turned out to be surprisingly unique and original. It overturns cliches and features a neat setting with different cultures and shades of grey. Fae appear to be the bad guys at first, but as you read the rest of the trilogy, things turn out to be far more complex than they initially seem. See my review.

Now that I ran out of unique fantasy books (there are sequels to pretty much all of the books I listed so far, but the first ones are always the unique ones you know!) the rest of the list is going to be the books I have read when I was much younger and before I got into fantasy genre.

8. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

This is not a fantasy book. It’s a rather thin, 112 page literary classic and remains as one of the most unique books I have read in my lifetime. Partly because the protagonist and all the characters were seagulls and it wasn’t a children’s book.

9. Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais

This one is not a fantasy book either, it is a superb tome of classic early Renaissance literature, first published in the 16th century and caused a huge scandal for brutally satirizing the church, state, law, education, pretty much all aspects of the civilization of its day and featuring vulgar scenes.
The most unique aspect is the unusual, no holds barred use of language, including but not limited to Rabeleis using made up words such as morecrocastebezasteverestegrigeligoscopapopondrillated, the prose is awesome even in translation (if you happen to pick one of the better translations, that is. People who speak French are lucky they can read this masterpiece in its original language. How I envy them!)

The word “gargantuan” originates from the giant protagonist in here, not to mention Aleister Crowley named his occult order after the Temple of Theleme depicted in this awesome book. Crowley also took Rabeleis’s motto “Do What You Will” as the motto of his Thelemic order. The book is in the public domain and can be downloaded free from Project Gutenberg or you can buy it super cheap from the second hand market.

Despite its age of whopping 6 centuries, it remains incredibly entertaining, unique and timeless. Many parts of this book could have been written yesterday, for many issues it satirizes sadly still exist today. Also it is notorious for featuring tons of fart jokes and toilet humor, along with philosophical discourses, booze propaganda and unicorns.

You can read this vulgar, grotesque and hilarious book and look cool & intellectual cause it’s a 16th century classic 🙂

10. The Trial by Franz Kafka

This is a weird, dark, gloomy and disturbing book, it’s nothing like a normal novel. There is no regular plot and nothing much happens, but it is quite obvious that the layers of allegories and metaphors take a snipe at totalitarianism and brutal bureaucracy on the surface, and the society as a whole. It has an abrupt ending which seems to make no sense, but if you sit down and think about it, it does. I’ve read this book as a teenager (when everyone else was reading Dragonlance, Conan and Elric books, this was the sort of stuff I was reading back then!) and this is really not the kind of book teenage girls read, but it kept my ADHD riddled mind turning the pages, and my mother’s then extremely gloomy workplace with the mechanical calculator machines, endless typewriter clicks and shelves full of dusty folders and ancient tomes re-enacted the setting of the book so the effect was highly amplified – as I mostly read it after school at my mom’s office. I highly recommend this book to people who love grimdark, cause Kafka wrote grimdark before grimdark was cool.

What is your top ten? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s theme is Spring TBR and here goes mine (though I highly doubt I will manage all of them in spring, it’s more like spring+summer TBR!)

The White Luck Warrior

The Great Ordeal

Ghosts of Tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m planning to finish all of Aspect-Emperor before the next one (The Unholy Consult) comes out in summer. And there’s the grimdark new release from Michael R. Fletcher I will squeeze in, I normally don’t read western fantasy but Fletcher’s Manifest Delusions books were so damn awesome, I will read everything he publishes cause he writes some of the most messed up and complex grimdark characters out there.

 

The Shadow Rising

The Fires of Heaven

Lord of Chaos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m aching to get back to the Wheel of Time world after reading the first 3 books, but some exciting new releases came out and the news of Unholy Consult coming out got me to grab Aspect-Emperor books. I am really dying to read the rest of the WoT!

 

Danse Macabre

The Falcon Throne

Sword of Destiny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course I’m ever the impatient one, which means sometimes I get way too hyped up about certain books and I will grab them before finishing the series I have at hand, no matter how awesome it is. I’m bad like that!

Best Served Cold

 

I have been meaning to read the standalone First Law world books by Abercrombie since The First Law trilogy felt too short and left me with a big book hangover. This is the first of the three standalone First Law world books.

What is in your TBR? Link to your post and let me know!

 

WWW Wednesday: 8 March, 2017

WWW Wednesday weekly blog meme

WWW Wednesday is hosted each week by Taking on a World of Words.

What are you currently reading?

The Judging Eye

The Last Wish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Wish, Witcher book #1 and The Judging Eye, Aspect-Emperor Book #1. Both are excellent so far.

What have you recently finished reading?

Red Sister

This was one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. Review coming soon!

What are you planning on reading next?

The White Luck Warrior

This is the second book of Aspect-Emperor, I need to catch up by the time The Unholy Consult comes out!

What have you been reading lately?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Most Charismatic Fantasy Characters

toptentuesday

Top ten tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish but they are on a winter break and this week is a freebie. I had a talk with a friend about how I love charismatis characters and how some books would be so much better with such. So I am going to list my top 10 charisma lords & ladies this week.

1. Fëanor from The Silmarillion

One of the earliest ‘grey’ characters with no moral compass whatsoever, he is perhaps one of the most badass characters Tolkien has created. LOTR characters have nothing on this guy, trust me on that one. He made the legendary silmarils that drove everyone into batshit insanity and stood up to Melkor aka Morgoth, the most powerful of the Valar at the time, with a zero fucks given attitude:

‘Get thee gone from my gate, thou jail-crow of Mandos!’ And he shut the doors of his house in the face of the mightiest of all the dwellers in Ea.

He took on an army of Balrogs without fear, not to mention he single-handedly changed the fate of the entire world along with the race of elves. He is the reason elves moved to the Middle Earth in the first place.

2. Jorg Ancrath from The Broken Empire

Not going to lie here, I hated his guts at first, but he became one of my all time favorites by the time I finished Prince of Thorns. Oh boy. That young man racks up serious charisma points where is lacking in the moral compass department. He is a legendary badass in every sense, broken and messed up as he is.

“Dear lady, I killed them from youngest child to oldest woman, and when I was done I blunted three axes dismembering their corpses. I am Jorg of Ancrath–I burned ten thousand in Gelleth and didn’t think it too many.”

This quote may not quite do it on its own, but when you read it in the context of the book, it makes your jaw drop. Seriously. He isn’t all that bad, though. You gotta read the books to see for yourself.

3. Jaqen H’ghar from A Song of Ice and Fire

My friends know he is my biggest book crush along with Fëanor. Now you know, too. He has a very small part in the saga but boy is that man dripping charisma and leaving a trail of it as he walks. Tom Wlaschiha playing him on the TV show naturally added +50 charisma points. He is one of the few characters I fangirl about with my BFF on a constant basis.

4. Nona Grey from Red Sister

If you love Arya Stark, I can say she has serious competition now. Nona is taken from the gallows by Abess Glass of the Sweet Mercy convent when they are about to hang her for the attempted murder and severe maiming of a 7 foot something giant of a pit fighter who happens to be the son of the richest and most powerful nobleman of the empire. And she is nine years old in the beginning of the book, go figure what a little badass she is. Nona gets bullied, beaten within an inch of her life and picked on all the time in her new life, but her inner strength and perseverence is mind-blowing. And her intellect too. She is one of the most charismatic young female characters ever. You think Hermione is great? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

5. Sand dan Glokta from The First War Trilogy

Once a dashing cavalry officer and star fencing champion, Sand dan Glokta is now a hideous, broken cripple working as an Inquisitor for the King’s Inquisition. He tortures criminals and traitors for a living and he has developed an exquisite torture-interrogation style after he has been tortured in the Gurkhul prison and got slowly mutilated into his current crippled form. His sharp intelligence, gallows humor, cynical and bitter attitude and extreme cunning combine into a huge vat of charisma and make him one of the most memorable characters of modern fantasy literature.

6. Alica Kendeth from Red Queen’s War

One of my favorite charismatic female characters, she is a side character in the series but when she makes an appearance, she steals the show. She is one tough cookie whom all the big rough dudes fear and for good reason. She isn’t a tyrannical bully, no. She was a ruthless warrior and kickass strategist in her youth, and she is a charismatic no-nonsense grandma in her old age.

7. Mara from The Empire Trilogy

Mara was my first all time favorite female fantasy character, and she is the epitome of charisma. Her political intrigue skills are second to none. In fact I am missing her so much I can’t wait to re-read these books. She is not a badass shieldmaiden or anything, but boy can she beat everyone with her incredible wits and glib tongue!

8. Drizzt Do’Urden from The Forgotten Realms

R.A. Salvatore’s iconic drow character is featured in a load of books but I linked the first trilogy in the reading order. You must have already noticed I have a thing for morally ambiguous, broken, stone-hearted male characters, but Drizzt as the ultimate good guy with a heart of gold is the exception to the rule here. I’m quite the fangirl always surfing Deviantart for Drizzt fan art and post it around to share with my friends. Drizzt with his dual scimitars and his magical black panther Guenhwyvar will always have a special place in my heart.

9. Arakasi from The Empire Trilogy

Mara’s spymaster is not exactly a grey character, but since I have a thing for well written spies and assassins, I’m a big fan of this dude. He is a creation of Janny Wurts (as she stated in numerous interviews and Reddit AMA’s) and the best spy character I have read in fantasy to date. He is not just a badass spymaster, but also a complex character with a traumatic past and emotional conflicts.

10. Anasûrimbor Kellhus from The Prince of Nothing

A lot of people hate this character, but I find him quite charismatic, even though he is a horrible person. Thing is, you don’t realize he is horrible until much later. He isn’t exactly the type I’d fangirl about, but the charisma is there. Most everyone loved the barbarian Cnaiür dude, but the barbarian killing machines are so not my thing. Kellhus is a heartless bastard but he has superhuman qualities, cold and supreme intellect, and mind-blowing manipulation skills. He is one of the grimdarkest of grimdark characters out there.

Who are your favorite charisma lords? Let me know in the comments!
I hope some of y’all have some common with mine, I want to know I am not alone!