There are very few books 1 that can motivate me to read every single word of text.
Regardless, I tend to not take points off of a book if I find that I am compelled to skip a paragraph or two (and in some cases whole chapters). However, there are three classes of books that I find troublesome 2:
Gardens of the Moon represented all of these classes. That is, the first 100 pages were difficult reading, and the final 100 were passed over in a fury of speed. I know many people who love the Malazan series, but I simply cannot see why based on this first installment. Scratch that; I believe that I know exactly why people love this series, that is, many fantasy genre fans adore world building. If you too love world building, then this is a great book for you. Erickson is an anthropologist by trade, so he well versed in world building, and it shows in excruciating detail. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against world building, but I do not like it to be the central goal of a book – especially when minor things like characterization suffer as a consequence. I like my world building to be incidental.
The final reason that I disliked this book is that it read like it belonged to a series. That is, the author is clearly trying to tell a grand epic, but this goal comes with a cost in that the story seems scattered and not altogther complete. Perhaps the series as a whole shines, but the first in the series does not stand on its own in my opinion. I will not, lest I suddenly find myself with a wealth of time, continue the series.
note By my estimation Gardens of the Moon has further found success within a certain dubious niche of the fantasy world: the downtime series. Most of the recommendations that I have come across for the Malazan series have come from fans of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Now, it is my theory that the reason for this is that people are desperate for anything that even vaguely smells like GRRM’s epic work between installments – thus lies Malazan.