Review: Gardens of the Moon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the things I really quite liked about this book was the way everything isn't explained. One of the characters will mention some complexity of life in their world, that we don't get but any native should, and that's it. It gets mentioned in passing, and we readers just have to scramble to keep up. There's no convenient hick / amnesiac that needs everything explained to them so that some character has an excuse to turn to the camera and deliver a lecture on the Warrens, or Empire politics, or who the T'lan Imass are. Trying to figure out the world by watching the character live in it makes it feel much more detailed and real than if we had it all spelled out.
Unfortunately, Erikson takes this a little far when it comes to the end of the book. When the big baddie that the entire book has been working towards finally arrives, and struggles a bit with some of our other characters (I'm going to fall short of calling anyone in these books a "hero") and then escapes laughing... that is the story that I've been reading for 600 pages. When, 5 pages later, the baddie is summarily eaten by something that has never even been mentioned before in the book, and one of our characters looks at another and says, roughly "An Azath? Didn't think those existed anymore..." and that is almost literally the last mention of the event in the book? That's... a bit much for me to have to fill in on my own. Fine for me to have to struggle to fill in the background, but it'd be nice to have some idea what's driving the plot.
Side note, that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the story, but did make me laugh, frequently. I read this immediately after Neal Stephenson's Reamde, which contains a character who writes prolific fantasy novels which make random and frequent use of "the F'antasy A'postrophe" and comes in for a certain amount of good-natured mocking on that count. Stephenson might well have been writing about Erikson there: every second proper noun has an apostrophe in it to make it exotic, and every one made me think of Reamde and giggle.
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