Audiobook Review: Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Series: The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1
Publisher: Tor Books (April 1999), Brilliance Audio
Author Info: malazanempire.com
Narrator: Ralph Lister
Wendy’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
“I have no idea what the hell is going on in this story.”
I picked up this audiobook because it was on sale and it looked interesting. I’m always up for a good dark fantasy read, so why not, right? Little did I know what I was truly getting into. And the truth is, I still don’t know what I’ve gotten into, and yet, I am still here, tentatively wanting more. Normally, when I’m listening to audiobooks, I’m doing other stuff at the same time. Sure there are things that I might miss from time to time, but generally, I can pick up the gist of the story in those moments. Not so with Gardens of the Moon. Pressing play for this book felt a lot like this:
Unlike most epic fantasies, this series does not gently let the reader ease into the cold pool. It shoves you right into the middle of battles and kidnappings and assassinations and political scheming and mage hunts and prophecies and various other stuff, with a myriad of characters popping up in every chapter, each playing a key role in a story that …does… stuff…
After about nine hours, I decided that maybe this book wasn’t for me. I figured my brain was just not in the right place to handle everything that was going on. That’s not unusual, and while I dislike not finishing a book, I just don’t have enough time on my hands to justify pursuing something I’m not enjoying. And yet, that’s just it. I was enjoying it. Ralph Lister’s narration was amazing (well, except for his breathy and indistinguishable female characters) and certainly helped alleviate some of my confusion. And the writing really is superb. The battle scenes–especially ones featuring mage battles–are incredibly detailed, and yet so fluid and fast-paced. There are dragon and killer puppets and sword fights and then all these gods turn out to be involved…
And all these characters seem like they should be awesome and I’m sure they totally are but hol’ up.
I still don’t know what’s going on.
Like I said, I almost gave up after nine hours, but after a chat with Tiara and a look over the other reviews, I see that my concerns are not unique. Many of the reviews express concern over the way Erikson drops the reader into the middle of a vast world of rich lore that he does not spell out for us. I’m not a fan of info dumps and show don’t tell is great, but this is definitely a huge risk for an author to take in a first book.
The other reviews and fans of the series agree that the first book is troublesome for this. There is a suggested reading order, but ultimately, the recommendation is to read it as the author intended, which is the publication order. I decided to continue, taking it on faith that everything would fall into place. But every time I thought I was hitting an epiphany moment, I was denied.
And yet, I am still going to give this book five stars because dude, I not only listened to all of it, in spite of my continued ignorance over what the hell is happening and who is doing what for whom and why, I have full intention of continuing the series because surely it will all make sense to me by the next book, right? Right?