Malazan Book of the What Now?

Years ago I grabbed a book by the name of Gardens of the Moon. It was first published in 2005 by an unknown author within the reading side of the fantasy novel world. Even when I was younger, I was still consistently reading the genre; and also fairly well versed in who was who, and what I liked. I had no clue as to what I should expect from this book, but “What a cool title,” I thought. It would be years until I bought the book, and even longer until I would read it.

It can sometimes take me a while to pick read a novel I buy. I have a tendency to collect a massive bookshelf of unread books. Sometimes a trip to the bookstore will result in seven or eight books, and only two of those purchased will be read within the next month or so. I enjoy having a selection to choose. If in the middle of the night I cannot sleep and want a new book, well, I have a huge selection that I might spend a few minutes perusing before remembering that I would love to read X.

Steven Erikson’s book Gardens of the Moon was not originally intended to sit on my shelf at all. It was epic in scope, almost seven hundred pages of smaller text, and promising to be a large series. I immediately laid down on the couch and began to read the first prologue.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I can tell you that what was in that prologue was nothing close to it. Military fantasy right off the bat, with an odd style of the narration. The words laid out in great sentences, and I was thrown into it mid-story with no explanation. “Alright, it’s just a prologue,” and thus I continued.

Nope. Chapter One was just like the prologue. I felt puzzled and had no energy to invest in such a huge and new experience. Some of the places being explained weren’t on the map, and I quickly realized that this world was so massive and old that the book didn’t have room to show all the places. That was the final nail in the coffin for that experience, and so I threw it back on my shelf where it would sit for at least another year, perhaps two.

I eventually hit a dry spell in my fantasy reading list. I went almost four months without picking up a single book, getting most of my reading done with a few stray short stories here and there, but mostly that was it. Mark Lawrence and his debut novel Prince of Thorns would be the story that set me back into my fantasy groove. The two styles are completely different, and while Lawrence is more sparse with his words and straight forward in his storytelling, it had me wanting something broader in scope.

Enter Steven Erikson once again.

That first half of that first book I keep talking about, the one with the cool title? Man, it was a slog. I was confused and trying to keep all the names straight, the vast cast of characters and the strange magic system along with the political games and military strategies. I couldn’t be sure if I hated it, or loved it. I was totally engrossed, and couldn’t put it down. But was that me not wanting to admit defeat or having fun?

In the end, the action picked up, and the hours of slogging through text paid off. Once the action set it, it set in. I saw what I thought was going to happen, and the pace just kept quickening. I put the book down, actually feeling drained. I kept going over the last plot threads in my head, just smiling.

Books can impact your mood. While that first book, one of ten in the main line, plus a slew of others, wasn’t anywhere near perfect it still impacted me significantly. By the time I picked up the third book I was ready for the dense stylings of Steven Erikson. That one was even better, and each one successfully became greater as the plot twists, the world and my understanding of everything increased.

Today, just before I wrote all of this, I was scrolling through some Audible books. I saw Gardens of the Moon and thought, “Hmmm, I would love to re-read those books,” and picked it up on audio. One day I will actually “re-read” those novels, but for now, just to try and experience the story, maybe with a fresh perspective, I will listen to it instead. I hope that with an understanding of the world and characters that maybe I will pick up on something I missed, or at the very least enjoy the book anew.


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