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!

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Book Review: Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Red Sister
Genre: Fantasy/YA Fantasy/Grimdark
Series: Book of the Ancestor
Author info:http://www.marklawrence.buzz/

Release date: April 4th 2017

I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of Red Sister from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Warning: This book is going to leave you with severe withdrawal symptoms, but good news is Mark Lawrence is a prolific author and delivers the next books in the series like clockwork, judging from his established track record.

Red Sister completely blew my mind, bringing back the magic school environment I missed from Harry Potter and Kingkiller so much, with a kick and some serious action. It’s not only the magic but the teachers with all kinds of different personalities, friendships, bullies, assassination plots, mysteries, friends sneaking out and cooking up mischief, the whole package. But it’s dark, much darker than any book with magic schools.

Now, I’m a big fan of Mark Lawrence and I’ve read all of his books, but this one is quite different. It’s very much Mark’s style, but written in third person and I think that’s one major element making it different from the others which were all in first person. There is the amazing prose of Mark Lawrence, if you are not familiar with his previous work, let me give you an example from Red Sister:

She left nothing but an echo of her lantern light, soon consumed by a night so ancient that it never truly left such places.

And another:

I have been too young to know, and I have been too old to care. It’s in that oh so narrow slice between that memories are made. So enjoy it.

And my favorite of them all:

A long blade, thin, carrying a slight curve, its edge cruel enough to cut silence and make it scream.

Now if those won’t make you hit that buy button, I don’t know what will! For those who are not familiar, this is the typical Mark Lawrence prose. So beautiful, poetic and magical.

The story is heavily character driven, as Mark Lawrence’s other books, but with an awesome magic system to boot.

The main character, Nona, is the best female lead I have read in the fantasy genre along with Mara from the Empire trilogy. If you love Arya Stark, you will definitely love Nona. Even if you are no fan of Arya Stark, you will still love Nona, cause she is a no-nonsense girl, the kind of character everyone can root for.

Another thing worth mentioning is the friendships between the girls, something that was missing in the Harry Potter books and pretty much every fantasy book I have read except for the Wheel of Time. Friendships, loyalty and betrayal in Red Sister is so realistic, it took me back to the middle school and high school years.

Nona starts off as the bullied outcast but she turns out to be a serious badass who doesn’t take BS from anyone. She had no friends but one until she got sold to a child trader by her mother and village folk, and she values friendship a great deal. I found her reflections on friendship, and her relationship with her closest friends Clera and Hessa quite touching.

Hessa is disabled, left with a withered leg after an infectious disease. She is such a sweetheart and a smart cookie, also incredibly heroic, which made her one of my favorite supporting characters.

One thing I loved about Red Sister was how even the minor characters were fleshed out so well. The teachers all have their distinct personalities, and some of them reminded me of teachers I had in school back in the days of my youth. The classes were great fun to read, but my favorite was the martial training parts.

The magic system is quite original and intriguing as I mentioned. The migrants who populated this world had four tribes with different kinds of traits, and those of them with magic could wield the different sorts of magic powers depending on their bloodline. The tribes had to intermarry and mix their blood to survive the harsh conditions of this alien world. Children showing the traits of more than one bloodline are highly prized by the people who train them as fighters, assassins, battle nuns and what have you.

Another thing I loved was how Nona’s mysterious backstory slowly unfolded along with the mysteries of the strange world Abeth. The curiosity kept me turning the pages well into the wee hours. Last few chapters of the book are outstanding with superb action and plot twists.

Abeth is an alien world, but the characters being so realistic makes you forget that at times. It has its own rules, strange laws of nature, a dying sun and a falling moon, and is covered with glaciers except for the fifty mile corridor at its equator. There are mysterious remnants of an older and seemingly extinct civilization, I suspect we might find out more about it in the next book.

The fight scenes are quite original, though I can’t say much cause it would be a spoiler, but as someone who is easily bored of typical fighting scenes, I loved these since they are from a completely different perspective. Kind of like the special effects in movies, but the book version, which is something very difficult to do in writing. I think that was one of the things where you realize what a master wordsmith Mark Lawrence is.

Another thing I absolutely love about Red Sister is the lack of irritating love triangle cliches and the forced romance plots you see in the overwhelming majority of YA books and coming of age storylines. No sir, no romance here, and no love triangles. These girls literally kick arse left and right and have serious things to worry about, and Red Sister gets the big bonus points from me for the awesome political intrigue with the female villains having motivations stemming from political ambitions not involving shallow romance drama.

There is another kickass thing here which I can’t mention cause it would be a spoiler, but it should suffice to say I enjoyed reading -with a huge grin in my face- how Mark Lawrence upended some of the most annoying coming-of-age cliches and showed the real girl power here.

My other favorite supporting character was Abbess Glass, who is a snarky and sharp-witted middle aged female character. This sort of character is so rare in fantasy -at least the books I’ve read so far. She reminded me of Olenna Tyrell from A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones and queen Alica Kendeth from Red Queen’s War, she’s awesome like them. I have a feeling she will do serious damage in the next book.

And the ending… Gods above, what an ending that was! I really, really hope this series becomes a mainstream hit and they make movies or TV series of it, cause this story with its superb action scenes would be so great to see on the screen.

I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a superb fantasy novel featuring amazing characters -especially female characters!- an awesome magic system, great plot twists, killer action, political intrigue, sans the annoying love triangles and tired cliches. Such a great book with a fresh new perspective and impressive depth.

I really don’t have time to re-read books with my rather massive TBR, but I put this in my re-read list cause it’s the special kind of great. I have to thank Mark Lawrence for bringing back my youth with such a mind-blowing magnificent story.

Luckily I have such a massive TBR, or else it would be painful to wait for the next book, which I know will be even better judging from Mark’s established track record.

YA Fantasy Books With No Love Triangles – Part 7

This is a multi part blog post series featuring the YA Fantasy books without love triangles, where romance is minimal or not central to the plot. I did my best to include the books which would be enjoyable reads for the grown up YA Fantasy lovers and inspiring for the young people, where they could read about heroic adventures, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, survival, consequences of decisions, etc something other than romance and ‘which lover should the protagonist choose’ stuff.

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See Part 3 here

See Part 4 here

See Part 5 here

See Part 6 here

I included the Goodreads links to make things easier so clicking on the image will take you to the Goodreads profiles of the series/books.

Warriors: Power of Three series by Erin Hunter


Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones (Standalone Novel)

There are wizards and magic in this one and it’s by Diana Wynne Jones!

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones (Standalone Novel)


A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones (Standalone Novel)


Magids by Diana Wynne Jones


Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones



The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones


Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull


This concludes Part 7. See you next week in Part 8!
If you have any recommendations, feel free to let me know and I will add them too. The only requirement is non-romance plot and no love triangles.

YA Fantasy Books With No Love Triangles – Part 6

This is a multi part blog post series featuring the YA Fantasy books without love triangles, where romance is minimal or not central to the plot. I did my best to include the books which would be enjoyable reads for the grown up YA Fantasy lovers and inspiring for the young people, where they could read about heroic adventures, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, survival, consequences of decisions, etc something other than romance and ‘which lover should the protagonist choose’ stuff.

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See Part 3 here

See Part 4 here

See Part 5 here

I included the Goodreads links to make things easier so clicking on the image will take you to the Goodreads profiles of the series/books.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

This series is set in alternate Londons, one with no magic, the others with magic and completely different realities. I have seen it on many book blogs and it has received great reviews. There’s plenty of adventure, thieves, cutthroats, conspiracies and interesting characters. I’m quite intrigued by the reviews and planning to read this series soon.


The Twixt series by Dawn Metcalf


The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

This is hyped to death on every book blog featuring YA books and people swear up and down this is an awesome series. It’s set in the far future, so it’s a different kind of fantasy than I read. The main character is a Cyborg Cinderella, which sounded quite interesting and I decided to give it a shot even though I prefer medieval and ancient world kind of fantasy. There is romance but people told me there’s so much more and great worldbuilding, so I’m including it here.


Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Standalone Novel)


Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

This is a scifi-fantasy blend with alternate history, featuring dragons.

Sand and Blood by D. Moonfire (Standalone Novel)

If you are looking for something not set in medieval Europe or the Western world, this may be just the book for you. It’s set in the desert clan culture, features rite of passage and ancestral magic.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This one is high up in my TBR and I’m planning to review it as soon as I can.

Maradaine series by Marshall Ryan Maresca

The first book of this new series came out in February 2015. The blurb got me interested and some book bloggers I highly respect gave it great reviews so I added it to my TBR. Here is the first paragraph blurb:”Veranix Calbert leads a double life. By day, he’s a struggling magic student at the University of Maradaine. At night, he spoils the drug trade of Willem Fenmere, crime boss of Dentonhill and murderer of Veranix’s father. He’s determined to shut Fenmere down.”
I’m sold!

This concludes Part 6. See you next week in Part 7!
If you have any recommendations, feel free to let me know and I will add them too. The only requirement is non-romance plot and no love triangles.

YA Fantasy Books With No Love Triangles – Part 5

This is a multi part blog post series featuring the YA Fantasy books without love triangles, where romance is minimal or not central to the plot. I did my best to include the books which would be enjoyable reads for the grown up YA Fantasy lovers and inspiring for the young people, where they could read about heroic adventures, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, survival, consequences of decisions, etc something other than romance and ‘which lover should the protagonist choose’ stuff.

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See Part 3 here

See Part 4 here

I included the Goodreads links to make things easier so clicking on the image will take you to the Goodreads profiles of the series/books.

Shattered Sea by Joe Abercrombie

This masterpiece series by the Lord of Grimdark has been the talk of the town for quite some time. It’s YA grimdark and a lot of people love it to death. I haven’t read it just yet but planning to read it this year. Judging from his First Law trilogy -of whcih I’ve read the first book- I expect it to be an awesome read. You can’t go wrong with Abercrombie!


Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

This one is in my TBR list and I’ve heard a lot of good talk about it too. Only the first book is out yet but the series sounds quite promising.

The Queen’s Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

This award winning series has received tons of great feedback and some people are saying it’s on par with the Patrick Rothfuss books. It’s a historical YA fantasy in an ancient Greece inspired setting, features a thief main character and sounds like a superb story. Well I have a thing for heist stories and ancient Greece so I’m sold. I will definitely review this series soon!

The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo

This one shows up in a lot of book blogs I follow and it’s being hyped, but it sounds quite intriguing unlike some other hyped up books out there. There is romance but judging from the blurbs and the reviews it’s not the main plot and also there are no stupid love triangles. The plot and the setting sound interesting, it has some Russian culture elements which is a nice change. I also loved the covers so I placed this series high up in my TBR list. The beautiful covers only get the books into my TBR, but the blurbs that intrigue me, recommendations form my bookish friends and the reviews move them to the top.

There are a bunch of extra stories in this series, be sure to check them out when you click on the covers below and go to the Goodreads page of the series!

Curse Workers by Holly Black

This is a paranormal YA urban fantasy series set in an alternate reality. The magic concept sounds interesting, I’ll certainly give it a try.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (standalone novel)

This one is a vintage-contemporary type of fairy tale theme and received a lot of good reviews. There is a bit of a romance but it’s low profile and not central to the plot.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (standalone novel)

This is a paranormal thriller, a ghost story in a contemporary setting featuring two best friends. Not exactly fantasy but sounds like it might be interesting to some of my readers so I included it in the mix.


This concludes Part 5. See you next week in Part 6!
If you have any recommendations, feel free to let me know and I will add them too. The only requirement is non-romance plot and no love triangles.

How many of you would read this?

I just realized I haven’t plugged my book in my own blog so I will remedy this now: My debut novel is going to be published by Realmwalker Publishing Group.

Here is the info from the official press release:

The Coin of Liberius, is a dark epic fantasy in the tradition of George R R Martin and R. Scott Bakker, dealing with the collapse of the fictional Lagharian Empire and the consequences of power, corruption, and betrayal, as well as the nature of salvation. Unlike the majority of epic fantasy, the novels are set within a Near-Eastern culture, rooted in the political and cultural elements of the medieval Byzantine, Seljuk and Persian Empires, Turkic-Mongolian shamanism, and the folklore of the Near East. This gives it a unique perspective very different from the more Western European cultural perspective of most epic fantasy, while providing an interesting new twist to the highly popular tropes of political intrigue and conflict central found within epic fantasy.

I wrote a blog post and gave a glimpse of the research I have been doing for this book, you can see it here.

I have been doing world building and research for this series for years and showing only a fraction of this in the first book. But both my editor and my beta readers loved the original world. It’s quite alien but also a lot like our own world in some ways and the people who have studied Near Eastern history will recognize some elements.

It’s a gritty setting, it doesn’t start out that grim but becomes grittier and creepier as you go. It’s a multiple point of view story with a number of main characters as point of view, similar to Asoiaf in that regard.

Magic exists as a part of the reality, just like the weather phenomena such as the thunderstorms and the rainbows -and the northern lights for the occasional bang. It’s there but not all over the place. There is no set magic system, it’s different from what you read in most fantasy out there but quite similar to the real world magic, as in shamanic practices and the eastern occult.

My magic is not that of a D&D player and fantasy reader, but rather the magic of an occult practitioner in the eastern tradition. I have been an occult practitioner for a number of years, mainly the Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucian traditions, though I prefer the way of the shamans, without all the elaborate tools, implements and formality.

I have original non-human races and one human race with a twist (in addition to the humans.) There’s no good versus evil, no big bad villain. I have a bunch of antiheroes with ambiguous morals who grow and change for the better or the worse. I have a genuine good guy who is mysterious and intriguing (according to my beta readers, most of whom are total strangers.)
No chosen ones, no big prophecies, no poor orphans saving the world, no damsels in distress. There’s the journey, though. Some characters go on journeys and face strange things along the way.

There’s a bit of philosophy in the story. There’s also plenty of Greek tragedy without butchering my characters en masse. Not saying I am not killing anyone, but I kill sparingly.
I also have no romance in book 1 unless you count bromance.

This is the long and short of it. Now, would you read that kind of book?

YA Fantasy Books With No Love Triangles – Part 4

This is a multi part blog post series featuring the YA Fantasy books without love triangles, where romance is minimal or not central to the plot. I did my best to include the books which would be enjoyable reads for the grown up YA Fantasy lovers and inspiring for the young people, where they could read about heroic adventures, friendship, loyalty, responsibility, survival, consequences of decisions, etc something other than romance and ‘which lover should the protagonist choose’ stuff.

See Part 1 here

See Part 2 here

See Part 3 here

I included the Goodreads links to make things easier so clicking on the image will take you to the Goodreads profiles of the series/books.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

This series is a classic and a must read for any YA fans out there. I’m guilty of not reading them myself, but planning to remedy that as soon as I can!


The Jelindel Chronicles by Paul Collins

This series is about the epic journey of a rich girl whose family gets killed. She dresses as a boy to survive on the streets and finds herself in a heroic adventure. I added this to my TBR, the heroine sounds great and the whole series looks like an interesting read.

The Laws of Magic by Michael Pryor


The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes (Standalone Novel)


The Heir Chronicles by Cinda Williams Chima

This sounds like a very intriguing and different series, quite promising.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor


The Heroes Fall by Zy J. Rykoa

This is a modern fantasy book, quite different from the typical urban fantasy out there centered around romance. It god great reviews on goodreads and even though modern fantasy is not my thing at all, the reviews convinced me to read it anyway. The characters and the worldbuilding sounds so good!

This concludes Part 4. See you next week in Part 5!
If you have any recommendations, feel free to let me know and I will add them too. The only requirement is non-romance plot and no love triangles.