Bloodsquirrel wrote:I just got finished with Gardens of the Moon.
I honestly couldn't tell you what the book was about. I could describe the plot, well enough, but not what any of it was supposed to mean or add up to. It was just a bunch of stuff that happened. There was very little to the characters, and the few moments of character development that occurred tended to feel out of nowhere and little lasting impact. I've heard that the second book is better, but then again, I hear that about everything.
Yeah, that's Malazan, for you. I've been working through the audiobooks for that series for... about the last five years
or so. I'm stalled somewhere into Book 7 out of 10. Which is, coincidentally, probably about how I'd rate the series, though it'd really depend on when you ask; I've got a bit of a love-hate relationship with the series.
Malazan is the Dark Souls of fantasy novels. It's got an absurd difficulty curve: it doesn't hold your hand at all, it'll just throw you into the middle of a plot and cast and expect you to start putting the pieces together yourself. (And, then at the start of the next book, it'll do it again) But, for that difficulty, you get something of a unique experience: the scope of Malazan is unique, with a world that feels incredibly expansive and lived-in, and plots and characters that span books and millennia.
(And, just like in Dark Souls, if that happens not to be your particular cup of tea, and you try to explain this to a fan, then you're just a scrub who just needs to git gud.)
I'd definitely agree with the "Gardens of the Moon is weaker than the rest of the series" sentiment. But I do think Gardens of the Moon is a pretty fair representation of the series, overall: the rest of the series is different in quality, but not different in kind. The rest of the series is going to continue to throw you in the deep end, it's going to continue to have you spending a lot of time thinking "is this plotline going anywhere anytime soon?", it's going to continue changing the characters on you all the time. Like, you know how you hit Part 2 of Gardens of the Moon and the entire cast changed? That's going to keep happening. Book 2 has an almost entirely different cast than Book 1, and is set on a different continent.
The formula for a Malazan book is that about 80% of the book is fairly plodding with the narrative spread over about 4-6 largely independent plot-threads, and then in the last 20%, the plot threads will converge into some big climax. Gardens of the Moon has a pretty weak climax, and there's just not much of an overarching plot to it, otherwise. Later books generally do better in one, or both of those categories. For example, the second book has a great climax, and much more of an overarching plot as it's about (slight spoiler) a content-wide revolution against the control of the Malazan empire
. But I'm seven books in, and I still only have vague ideas where, if anywhere, the series as a whole is going.
The author's background in archeology and anthropology doubtless contributes to their depth of world-building... but it doubtless also contributes to their tendency to go on ideological tangents, where random minor characters will suddenly start having a deep discussion about their their particular culture's deeply-rooted ideological assumptions about the value of the military force as a justification for expansion functions as a tool for the hegemony to exert control over the bourgeois and how this has contributed to the current state of affairs with regard to their current conflict with the Wu-Tang Clan and yadda, yadda, something, something dark side
. It's like every random guard in this universe aspires to be a anthropologist, and it's especially jarring when their opinions sound overly modern.
So, yeah. Like, I said, it's a love-hate relationship for me. On the one hand, I really don't think there's anything else on the same scale; it makes Wheel of Time feel small and simple. But I had a hell of a lot more fun reading Wheel of Time than I ever did reading Malazan. Malazan often feels like a chore to read, it's incredibly epic at some points, but I generally lacked any sort of emotional connection to the characters to pull me through the story, the rest of the time.
So, yeah, I'm probably the wrong person to ask for a recommendation (not that you were asking anyway), but I would say if you really didn't care for Gardens of the Moon, don't keep reading, but if you think you'd like it if it were just a bit better executed, you might try the second book. If the second book (one of the best regarded of the series) doesn't hook you, definitely give up.
Or you can keep reading so that you can grow more conflicted about the series over time, to the point that you drop huge walls of text on the topic whenever someone as much as mentions the series. ...Sorry.