by Aaron Gacs
Gardens of the Moon is the first of a ten-book series known collectively as the Malazan Book of the Fallen. The novel introduces a vast array of characters and locations in the world of the Malazan Empire, a place of powerful magic, rich history, and complex cultures. Although the genre is undoubtedly fantasy, similarities to other great works of popular fantasy (such as Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings) are limited. There are no heroes or villains, no noble quests, and no simple morals to be drawn from this story. The plots are complex and varied, the characters are often morally gray, and the world itself feels like a living, breathing character with deep historical roots.
Reading Gardens of the Moon is not for the faint of heart. The writing is beautiful and rich, but also occasionally difficult to follow, and it can be hard to keep track of the many characters as their stories intersect and meander through the various times and places the novel visits.
But making a commitment to this book and the other nine in the series is incredibly rewarding. In reading them, I have often laughed out loud at the characters' conversations, and I have just as often been brought close to tears by the poignancy of their suffering. If you like fantasy but wish it were more like serious literature, this book is for you. If you like being drawn into an epic work so deeply that you wish it would never end, this book is for you!