Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen: 1) [main] [about] [features] [reviews] [interviews] [link] [search]
Tor / $24.95 / 496p
If you follow fantasy closely, you will already have heard of
Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon. First published in 1999 in the
U.K., this debut fantasy novel caused some stir with both readers and
critics. It's taken almost five years to make it to the U.S. Meanwhile,
across the pond, four more books (including the latest, Midnight Tides)
have been published. Don't get put off by the idea of an epic fantasy
that is only halfway through its planned sequence with volume number 5.
The author, a Canadian with a degree (among several) in anthropology who
writes under a pen name, is working so far beyond genre convention you
need to measure the distance in light years. We'd sooner attempt to
reduce the history of China to a logline than try a plot synopsis in
this limited space. Enter Malazan and find a fully-realized universe
complete with history, mythology, sociology, and thaumatology. It is
peopled with characters who are neither black nor white but patterned of
gritty grey and shadows and wade through oceans of blood. Erikson gives
more than a gentle push to established fantasy boundaries, but, since he
is working on such a huge scale, his radical departures are less
immediately noticeable than in the work of new fantasists like China
Mi&eague;ville. This may well be the reason U.S. publishers took so long to
pick-up the books. Profits lie in fluffy fantasy and costume melodramas
and there's nothing safe about fantasy like this: intriguing, complex,
thought provoking, exceedingly well-written, and, for the intelligent
reader, exhilaratingly satisfying.
--review originally appeared in Cinemafantastique June/July
I didn't have room to rant about the cover in CFQ, but will here. The Tor cover, to use the technical term, sucks.
Oh, it's not the fault of the talented artist -- it's a gorgeously executed painting. It is just so insulting wrong for this book. It's worse than the old
fashioned "stick a barely clad chickie on the front" school of sf/f/h art -- at least that approach
is honestly prurient. If U.S. fantasy readers reject Malazan, it may be because this cover will
attract exactly the wrong readers: those looking for "fluffy fantasy and costume melodramas." I, for one,
would never have bought this book with this cover had I been browsing.
Here, below, are the U.S. cover (left), the original U.K. cover, and the U.K.
paperback cover (right). The U.K. versions are striking and appropriate for the book.
Will Tor redeem itself with the mass market pb cover (due out January 2005)
or the second book Deadhouse Gates (to be released February 1, 2005)? Probably not. Meanwhile, here's
the U.K. cover (left). To the right is an all-purpose sf/f "cover." Let's just hope Tor does
better than this.
Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights