Not really going to write a full review, but more express a bit of resentment towards the author.
Gardens of the Moon is a notoriously difficult book to get into. Both my wife and I have started it and given up before. The internet abounds with similar stories. Now some of the more ardent fans will call such people simpletons with short attention spans. What I didn’t expect is that the author would be one of these people.
My copy of Gardens of the Moon has a preface by the author. In it he is unapologetic regarding its inaccessibility. In his words, it’s so ambitious that it has to start off nearly incomprehensible and even throws in a snide remark that a lot of fantasy authors talk down to their readers in order to garner success. However, overweening pride only covers up mediocre writing so much, which is to say not at all.
The beginning of this book is just an incoherent mess filled with a bunch of crap that is bewildering and ends up being largely superficial to the plot. For instance at the beginning you might puzzle out a young women is inhabited by a god of Shadowthrone. Does anything come of this? No. The god is pushed out before anything interesting happens. In fact the beginning of the book makes you think the gods are meddling everywhere, inhabiting any mortal they set their eye upon, yet by the end it is not clear that they accomplished anything. Mostly you just feel annoyed that all that confusion you suffered through has absolutely no payoff. Maybe this was intentional, but I think it’s just the author’s inability to focus.
Once you get about 150 pages in things become more grounded in a plot you can follow and characters that you understand. In fact the middle of the book is quite good. Then he decides to once again smash your face with a dizzying number of plot twists, failed plots and magical happenings. He wants so much cool shit to happen that he is rushing between things and never doing any of it right. The ending is just overflowing with plot. There is an ancient mage (supposedly extremely powerful) reawakened but he is taken out by an Elder God and something called an Azzat. Neither of these are adequately set up. The Coinbearer that everyone talks about for the entire book and seems to be a pawn of the god of luck does nothing interesting. Just one among a number of aborted plot points. There is a demon lord just so the bad ass elf dude can kill something. Speaking of which everyone loves Anomander Rake, the bad ass elf dude, but he is basically a Mary Sue type created to play out the author’s power fantasies. Pretty boring so far.
Then there is stuff that doesn’t make a lick of sense. One group mines the city and then one of the saboteurs near the end suddenly realizes that they put them near gas lines and it will blow up the entire city. Why the fuck didn’t you think of that earlier? So he has to stop his allies from blowing them, but there is no tension here and his allies turn out to be fleeing instead. Also, I challenge anyone to explain the sequence of events involving Paran when the Jaghut attacks. He seems to flit between three worlds including death’s door and none of it makes a lick of sense.
The irony is that the book was written years before the others and even the author can’t keep track of everything. Most notably the gender of a certain character changes between books. Furthermore, his prose could use some work. He flits from terseness to sentences full of grandiloquence and meaning nothing.
I wont let the fact that Steven Erikson is another pompous author that attacks his critics deter me from reading the rest of the series. I just hope he overcomes his lack of focus on what is important.