Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson (Audiobook)

A very artful, atmospheric fantasy where “stuff happens.”

Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1 by Steven Erikson

Published by Tor Books. Read by Ralph Lister. Produced by Brilliance Audio.

The Malazan Empire simmers with discontent, bled dry by interminable warfare, bitter infighting and bloody confrontations with the formidable Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, ancient and implacable sorcerers. Even the imperial legions, long inured to the bloodshed, yearn for some respite. Yet Empress Laseen’s rule remains absolute, enforced by her dread Claw assassins.

This is a fantasy book that is not quite grimdark but nowhere near high fantasy, either. Somewhere in the realm of low fantasy I suppose, except that there is a lot of magic. I guess there was a lot of fighting and dying so maybe it’s classified as grimdark after all. It wasn’t really “on screen,” though, and there’s magic of a distinctly high fantasy sort (teleportation), so maybe not. I don’t know what it is, to be honest. :)

Listen time: About 4 out of  the 26 hours, 1/23/2018 – 1/24/2018.

After four hours of listening I couldn’t identify a plot or any characters that I cared about. I would describe this as a fantastic book where “stuff happens.” The stuff that happens is relayed to the reader very artfully, with interesting sentences and dialog, but I wasn’t hooked by any of it. Perhaps it is a long, slow burn, which makes some sense because it’s a long audiobook, and it’s the first book of a series. I intentionally listened for a long time (four hours) because I figured it would start slow, but then I remembered that I had tons of other books in my backlog.

I will admit that my attention faded in and out while listening to the first four hours, so I’m not terribly clear on the story. There is a war, but I don’t know what they are fighting over, for, or against. I’m not even sure *who* is fighting. It’s hard to get invested in a book when you don’t know the stakes.

Ralph Lister is a very good narrator and I would definitely listen to more of his work. His narration is probably the main reason that I listened to four hours of a story that wasn’t really grabbing my attention. He reads the material as if it is the most important work of our generation, and really brought the character’s voices to life, far more than the text did, I think. I was also very interested in the way he pronounced certain words, like “swathed” (swaythed) and “migraine” (meegraine). (I always thought they were swahthed and mygraine. I will concede the first but I’m reasonably confident of the second.)

Perhaps another time I will return to this book and finish it.

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