I’m not gonna lie, Steven Erikson’s MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN series is a tough, tough sell. The first book, GARDENS OF THE MOON, is kind of a hot mess, even though it pushed all the right buttons for me. I know this because I’ve placed copies of GARDENS OF THE MOON into several people’s hands, and not one of those people has ever finished reading it. Oops!
It’s a shame really, because the Malazan series is something special. A mammoth–ten volumes! with each volume pushing toward 1000 pages!–fantasy series that spans not just thousands, but millions of years. In retrospect, DEADHOUSE GATES, the second book in the series, is probably the best place to start. The story is much more focused, and events in this book are so significant that nearly every book following deals with its repercussions in some way.
One of the primary characters in this book is an historian, but whose kind and considerate thoughtfulness impressed me, these being traits not often present in epic smash ’em, bash ’em stories like this one. Not a wizard, or a warrior, or an assassin, but a scholar who spends his time in the book bestowing small kindnesses on those around him. Shocking, I know.
I started reading this series in my second year in graduate school, and it was a welcome distraction from my schoolwork. In spite of my hesitation at starting an (at the time) unfinished, multi-volume fantasy series, there was something about the title of that first book that intrigued me. GARDENS OF THE MOON seemed like a such a strange title for a fantasy novel.
To be sure, this series (or this book) doesn’t pull any punches. “Book of the Fallen” is a pretty big clue to how grim and sad these books tend to get. That being said, I spent a lot of time with these books, and I’m very glad that I did so.