Since I've already read the Song of Ice & Fire series several times, and pickings were getting slim in terms of the books in my bookcase that I hadn't yet read, I decided to finally give in and start reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. It had been suggested to me by several friends who love ASOIAF, and one friend in particular who kept saying "OMG it's even BETTER than ASOIAF".
The Malazan series is already over twice as long as ASOIAF, and when I saw that I thought "awesome, this will keep me busy for a while!" I looked up the reading order and dove right into Gardens of the Moon.
I started reading the forward written by the author, but after just a couple of pages - in which Erikson mentioned that this series was basically originally created as a role playing game a la Dungeons & Dragons - I'd gotten a bigger picture than I would have liked and decided that it would be best to skip the rest of the forward and focus on the novel itself.
At first, this seemed to have been the right choice. Throughout perhaps the first 20 pages of the book, I was intrigued. The writing was good, the imagery was amazing, and the conversation between the boy and the soldiers really hooked me.
Unfortunately, it was pretty much all downhill from there. I never had any problem keeping up with characters or places in ASOIAF, but Erikson tends to throw locations at the reader, giving these places next to no context, and not even visiting most of them more than once. He does the same with far too many of the characters that he introduces, and it wasn't until the last third of the book - when he really started focusing on what I could actually call a "cast of characters" - that I finally began to see some personality traits (and shoot, even physical traits, which Erikson is not very good at describing) of many of the "main" characters emerge.
A bit of a spoiler alert, here, for the next paragraph only...
And the magic. Ohhhhh the magic. It's everywhere. It trumps everything. It wins battles between armies that are made up tens of thousands of people, totally negating the necessity of having all those people in an army in the first place. It brings far too many of the characters who die, back to life. It forced other characters to change, and by the way, that's about the only character development you will see in this book - that which is forced upon those characters by outside (read: magical) influences. I doubt I was even halfway through before I realized that I really should have taken what was written in the forward to heart - because while playing an RP style game - with other people - may be fun, reading one entirely written by another person/other people is decidedly not.
I'm the type of person who has to finish something once I've started it, but finishing this novel was rough, to say the least. I keep wanting to remind myself that structurally, the writing was sound. That again, the imagery was great at times. But really, Gardens of the Moon is made up of an out-of-control plot, characters I couldn't bring myself to care about, and twists and resolutions that seem forced more often than not. I was so exhausted/burnt out after reading this novel that the only books I could bring myself to pick up for weeks afterward were light reads. Seriously, I had never before read a book written by a celebrity, and after Gardens of the Moon I had to read three of those before I could pick up something more "serious".
Now, I do hear that the series gets better, around the third book or so. Maybe someday I will force myself to pick up book two and give it a go...but honestly, I think I'd have to be really, really desperate for something to read. (1.5/5 stars)
"'Every decision you make can change the world. The best life is the one the gods don't notice. You want to live free, boy, live quietly.'"
"Hunger for vengeance poisoned the soul."
"Is it not wisdom to conclude that other lives are of less importance than one's own?"
"'The easiest thing to break is a man's heart.'"
"'He's loyal to an idea, and that's the hardest kind to turn.'"
"Was war all there was? Would they bow to it in immortal servitude, no more than deliverers of death?"
"'I'd hate to think...that evil was real, that it existed with a face as plain as the next man's.'"