Gardens of the Moons is intrigue fantasy of the highest kind. Steven Erikson, an accomplished archaeologist, mimics his profession in his writing by adding layer upon layer of meaning, history and suspense to his characters and story line.
The story starts in the ruined city of Pale where a massive conclusive battle takes place between the mages of the Empire and the Lord of Moon's Spawn. Caught in the crossfire of this titanic engagement are the Bridgeburners who were busy sapping the walls of the city. After losing most of their battalion to rockfall Whiskeyjack and his crew head to the next target on the Empire's list, Darujistan. It is in the city of lights that the Bridgeburners will have their revenge.
Meanwhile on the coast of Itko Tan a fisher girl is possessed by the god Cotillion who also seeks revenge against the usurping Empress Laseen. This girl finds her way into the company of the Bridgeburners and on her trail is the Empress' righthand and a nobleborn captain named Paran.
In Darujistan the locals prepare for the immanent battle with the Malazan armies and stay on the look out for the Empress' claw assassins sent to pave the way. Amongst these locals is Kruppe, a rotund and feverishly annoying individual who is wholly not what he seems and has a grubby finger in every pie. It is in the landscape of his dreams that gods unite to put their selfish plans into motion. Is Kruppe just a unwitting pawn?
Gardens of the Moon is the first in the Malazan series and introduces us to some of the most remarkable characters in fantasy today. Such as Sergeant Whiskyjack, the leader of the sabateur squad of bridgeburners. Though a Sergeant we understand from the start of the book that he once held a much higher position under the previous Emperor. Every character will stick in your mind and though the story crisscrosses between the mulitude of storylines you will never be found wanting to go back. Erikson is a master of the slow reveal and over the course of 700 pages you will be constantly amazed by the secrets that are unveiled.
Though every character seems to possess some extraordinary quality the reader never feels like these characters are above them. Though in possession of remarkable gifts and talents they still daily struggle with the everpresent realities of guilt, anger and sadness. Nearly all of the characters are low born and at the point in their lives that they realise something grand must be acheived to make those lives meaningful if not to history then just to themselves.
In a world where immortals are less than happy with their vulnerability and where mortals seem always to interfer with divine plans chaos ensues and ultimately it is the innocent that suffer. GOTM is the quintessential novel for lovers of fantasy who have been desiring something more. The old favourites of dragons are given a new twist and all of Erikson's races are rounded and interesting. Consider the T'lan Imass, a race of undead soldiers who thousands of years ago underwent the Ritual to make themselves immortal so that they might forever war with the Jaghut. The Tiste Andii are the firstborn of mother dark and are lead by Moon's Spawn the Knight of Darkness Anomander Rake. Thought the mighty and the magical abound in this groundbreaking novel, learn that they are no match for a well aimed brick.