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Gardens of the Moon: Malazan Book of the Fallen #1    by Steven Erikson order for
Gardens of the Moon
by Steven Erikson
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I read Gardens of the Moon when it was first published and appreciated the characters, but was somewhat irritated by the complexity of plot threads. The Malazan Empire has been steadily expanding, through a series of desperate battles, since the death of its Emperor and the succession of Empress Laseen, once a serving wench named Surly. Now she exerts power through acolytes of the cult of the 'Claw'.

Laseen seems to be systematically eliminating all whom she suspects of lingering loyalties to the old regime, in particular the Emperor's Úlite army unit, 'the Bridgeburners', led by Sergeant Whiskeyjack (who was once a much more senior officer) - 'They carried with them like an emblazoned standard the madness of this unending campaign.' Whiskeyjack's team includes sorceror Quick Ben, assassin Kalam, and Sorry, a young woman turned into a ruthless pawn of the gods. Both gods and 'Ascendants' are in play throughout this tale, in particular the twin gods of Luck with their spinning coin. Powerful sorceress Tattersail also gives the Bridgeburners her loyalty early in the story.

The cast of significant characters is large. There's the Empress's Adjutant, Lorn, who seems to have sold her soul to her mistress, and is tracking Sorry. Seconded to Lorn is young noble Ganoes Paran, eventually assigned as Captain to the Bridgeburners, a role he only manages to take on briefly during this first book. There's the wonderfully engaging Adept Kruppe, young thief Crokus who loves unwisely, a 'Great Raven' named Crone, sorceror Hairlock who soul shifts into a wooden puppet and goes mad, and many more. Mysterious powers - including Anomander Rake, lord of the floating city, Moon's Spawn - resist the Empire, and the dead don't always die.

Most of the action focuses on 'the last free city' of Darujhistan, with Macchiavellian betrayals, and the unearthing of an ancient and potent evil from the Gadrobi Hills. I enjoyed Gardens of the Moon much more the second time around, enough to look forward to Book Two with anticipation.

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