«There is no point in beginning something without ambition.»— Steven Erikson.
I started reading this saga many years ago when a reader, regarding my first published novel THE LAST KING, commented, not in the best way I might add, that my book «looked like Malaz.»
It is not uncommon, in the universe of mostly epic fantasy, for novels to bear some resemblance to each other, but I was equally intrigued and acquired it (at the time, published in my native language by La Factoría de Ideas). To date, except for a couple of specific situations, I still do not find the kinship between the two, but my curiosity was then rewarded with one of the most gratifying readings I had in years: GARDENS OF THE MOON, the first book of a promising decalogy. However, I could not advance further in it, partly because not all the books arrived in Chile in translation or I started reading them late, partly because, after the closure of La Factoría de Ideas shortly after, the saga remained unfinished in Spanish. Until Nova took up the challenge of relaunching the complete saga.
This time, I was not in for surprises: I decided to buy and collect the nine available books (the tenth and last one, defying quarantine and economic crisis ad portas, will be published in September) before starting a re-reading. And after a little more than five years, I must say that the impression I have of GARDENS OF THE MOON has not only been maintained, but improved. Not only is it a wonderfully written book, but it has the rare quality (which not all fantasy books enjoy, though most pretend to achieve it) of taking place in a universe of its own with a historical past consistent with its present, alive in its ruins, intact in its memory even if it has been partly forgotten. A great variety of races and cultures are distinguished (and appreciated), not all of them human, and a wide knowledge of the consequences of war and power, and of human servitude immersed in the midst of historical processes. Magic merges with the miraculous, in a mixture of fantasy and ancient religion that add to the verisimilitude ingredient of the whole story.
Steven Erikson is an anthropologist, by the way, and his training partly explains the reader’s approach to the first installment of this saga: by fragments. Just as when an excavator finds a series of pieces of pottery and enjoys the find trying to understand how they are put together to take shape, so the reader must be attentive to what is not an easy read, but not impossible either, and which certainly grows scene after scene.
If I had to criticize something it is the huge cast of characters, which prevents getting involved with any of them in particular as protagonist, but being an opening novel it is too early to make a judgment about it in which, anyway, it is not a novel like most of those circulating in the publishing market.
GARDENS OF THE MOON has earned a place among my favorite reads and I give it a solid five star rating.
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