Gardens of the Moon

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Not to be confused with Garden on the Moon, the English-language title of a novel by Pierre Boulle.
Gardens of the Moon
Three Gardens of the Moon.jpg
Author Steven Erikson
Country United Kingdom & United States
Language English
Series Malazan Book of the Fallen
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Bantam (UK & Canada) & Tor Books (USA)
Publication date
1 April 1999
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 712 pp (Bantam paperback) &
496 pp (Tor Paperback)
ISBN ISBN 0-553-81217-3 (Bantam paperback) & ISBN 0-7653-1001-5 (Tor paperback)
OCLC 42953978
Followed by Deadhouse Gates

Gardens of the Moon is the first of ten novels in Canadian author Steven Erikson's epic fantasy series, the Malazan Book of the Fallen. It was first published in 1999, and nominated for a World Fantasy Award.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

The sequence details the various struggles for power on a world dominated by the Malazan Empire. It is notable for the use of high magic, and unusual plot structure.[citation needed] Gardens of the Moon centres around the Imperial campaign to conquer the city of Darujhistan.


The novel opens in the 96th year of the Malazan Empire, during the final year of the Emperor Kellanved. A young boy, aged 12, named Ganoes Paran witnesses the sacking of the Mouse Quarter of Malaz City. Paran wants to be a soldier when he grows older. Commander Whiskeyjack disapproves, as does Claw leader Surly (Laseen).


Erikson skips seven years from the Prologue, during which time the Emperor and his ally, Dancer, have been assassinated and supplanted by his chief of the secret police. Empress Laseen now rules with the aid of the "Claw", a shadowy group of assassins whose function is to further her ambitions. The story opens several years into a series of wars by the Malazan Empire to conquer the continent of Genabackis.

The Malazan 2nd Army under High Fist Dujek has been besieging the city of Pale, one of only two Free Cities left in the Malazans' path in Genabackis, for several years. Pale is holding out thanks to an alliance with the powerful Anomander Rake, Lord of Moon's Spawn (a floating fortress), leader of the non-human Tiste Andii.[2] Pale finally falls when Rake withdraws his fortress following a fierce battle. Even then, the Empire suffers severe losses, including the near total destruction of a legendary infantry unit in its 2nd army, The Bridgeburners. Several characters speculate that someone higher up within the Empire may be engineering the elimination of various people who were loyal to the late Emperor.

The Empire then turns its attention to the other remaining Free City, Darujhistan. The few dozen surviving members of the Bridgeburners, led by Sergeant Whiskeyjack, are sent to try and undermine the city from within. Once there they attempt fruitlessly to contact the city's assassin's guild, in the hope of hiring their betrayal. Adjunct Lorn, a high ranking representative of the Empress, is sent to uncover something in the hills east of Darujhistan, in the company of a T'lan Imass, a member of a race that once dominated the world before humans. Meanwhile Tattersail, one of the few mages to survive the Battle of Pale, and Captain Paran head toward the city to determine the reason for the increased involvement of several gods and other magical forces in the campaign.

At the same time, a group of con-artists and underworld figures within the city work to oppose members of the civic government who are considering capitulating to the Empire; while Anomander Rake offers his alliance to the true rulers of Darujhistan, a secretive cabal of mages. The plots collide when Adjunct Lorn releases a Jaghut Tyrant, a massively powerful ancient being, with the aim of either damaging Anomander Rake seriously or forcing him to withdraw from the city.


A substantial subplot involves a young Bridgeburner recruit named Sorry, who is in fact possessed by Cotillion, also known as The Rope, patron of assassins. When Paran and Rake negotiate The Rope's withdrawal from interfering with the events of war, Sorry is freed and falls in with Crokus, a young Daru thief. As the novel ends Crokus, a Bridgeburner named Fiddler and the Bridgeburner assassin Kalam volunteer to take Sorry (now called Apsalar) back to her homeland of Itko Kan and they depart (their story continues in Deadhouse Gates).

Meanwhile, Dujek and Whiskeyjack lead the 2nd Army into rebellion against Laseen's increasingly monstrous rule. Now called Onearm's Host, the 2nd Army calls for a truce with the Tiste Andii and the Crimson Guard, a mercenary army that has been working against the Empire. Dujek is also concerned about the declaration of Holy War called by the Pannion Seer, whose empire is advancing from the south-east of Genabackis. Darujhistan has evaded conquest by the Malazan Empire, for now, but may be in danger from this new threat. Elsewhere, it is confirmed that Seven Cities has begun a mass-uprising against the Empire. These and other plot developments are continued in the third novel, Memories of Ice.

Characters in Gardens of the Moon[edit]


  • Whiskeyjack – A Sergeant in the Bridgeburners, former commander of the 2nd Army. Demoted due to his suspected loyalty to the late Emperor.
  • Quick Ben – The Bridgeburners cadre mage. Good friend of Kalam.
  • Kalam – Assassin in the Bridgeburners, a former Claw agent and friend to Quick Ben.
  • Sorry – (a.k.a. Apsalar)a fishergirl possessed by Cotillion and recruit to the Bridgeburners.
  • Hedge & Picker – Sappers, or munitions experts in the Bridgeburners.
  • Fiddler – A Bridgeburner [sapper].
  • Ganoes Paran – The new Captain of the Bridgeburners, only son of a powerful Malazan noble family, and aide to Adjunct Lorn.
  • Lorn – Adjunct to the Empress, survivor of Laseen's massacre in Malaz City. Carries an otataral sword.
  • Laseen – Empress of the Malazan Empire. Formerly Surly, a serving wench in a tavern and later commander and founder of the Claw.
  • Tayschrenn – High Mage of the Empire.
  • Topper – The current head of the Claw.
  • Toc the Younger – Claw agent and scout of the 2nd Army.
  • Dujek – High Fist of Genabackis and commander of the 2nd Army.
  • Tattersail – The commander of the 2nd's mage cadre.
  • Calot & Hairlock – Members of the 2nd's mage cadre.
  • Onos T'oolan (a.k.a. Tool) – Once First Sword of the Logros T'lan Imass, he is now clanless.
  • Tavore Paran – Ganoes' sister, a year younger than he, living in the Paran Estate in Unta. Hard-edged and contemptuous of weakness.
  • Felisin Paran – Ganoes' younger sister, living in Unta. Soft and fond of horses.
  • Kellanved – The self-proclaimed Emperor and founder of the Malazan Empire, Kellanved was assassinated in a coup by Laseen.
  • Dancer – High Assassin of the Empire and Kellanved's companion, said to have been slain by Laseen.
  • Dassem Ultor – The former First Sword of the Malazan Empire and former servant of Hood, the God of Death. Slain outside Y'Ghatan, Seven Cities, after betraying his god.


  • Kruppe, a fat man fond of his comforts. Works for Baruk. A Phoenix Inn regular.
  • Coll, former nobleman fallen on hard times. A Phoenix Inn regular.
  • Rallick Nom, a skilled assassin with a conscience. A Phoenix Inn regular.
  • Crokus Younghand, a young thief. A Phoenix Inn regular.
  • Murillio, a courtier and a Phoenix Inn regular.
  • Meese & Irilta, regulars at the Phoenix Inn.
  • Baruk, High Alchemist and member of the T'orrud Cabal.
  • Derudan, a Witch of Tennes and member of the T'orrud Cabal.
  • Mammot, a High Priest of D'riss and member of the T'orrud Cabal. Crokus' uncle.
  • Travale, a scholar of the Cabal.
  • Tholis & Parald, High Mages of the Cabal.
  • Turban Orr, Lady Simtal & Estraysian D'Arle, members of the city council.
  • Challice D'Arle, daughter of Estraysian, Crokus' beloved.
  • Vorcan, head of the Assassin's Guild.
  • Ocelot, assassin and Rallick Nom's clan leader.
  • Circle Breaker, an agent of the Eel.

Tiste Andii

  • Anomander Rake, Lord of Moon's Spawn, Son and Knight of Darkness.
  • Serrat, second-in-command to Rake.
  • Korlat, Orfantal (both soletaken in the form of dragons) & Horult, night-hunters.

Further Players

  • Ammanas (a.k.a. Shadowthrone), an Ascendant, the King of High House Shadow.
  • Cotillion (a.k.a. the Rope), an Ascendant of High House Shadow, the patron god of assassins.
  • Crone, a Great Raven and Rake's courier.
  • Silanah, an Eleint (dragon).
  • Caladan Brood, the warlord opposing the Mazalan forces in the North Campaign. Rake's ally.
  • Kallor, second-in-command to Brood, once the High King of a powerful empire, now accursed.
  • K'azz D'Avore, commander of the Crimson Guard, a mercenary group of extreme capability.
  • Jorrick Sharplance, Cowl, Fingers & Corporal Blues, members of the Crimson Guard.
  • Baran, Blind, Gear, Rood, Shan, Doan & Ganrod, Hounds of Shadow.
  • Raest, a Jaghut Tyrant.
  • K'rul, an Elder God, the Maker of Paths.
  • Oponn, the Jesters, the dual-aspected God of Luck.

Style and Themes[edit]

Stephen Moss writes in the Guardian of Gardens of the Moon, "what does it exactly mean?"[3] He adds: "And what about the sentence, 'The winds were contrary the day columns of smoke rose over the Mouse Quarter of Malaz City'? Shouldn't that have a preposition, I ask Mr Erikson politely?" [3] And for the uninitiated Moss parses a paragraph from the novel:

"It was midday, but the flash and thundering concussion of magery made the air seem dark and heavy. Armour clanking, a soldier appeared along the wall... The man leaned vambraced forearms on the battlement, the scabbard of his longsword scraping against the stones. 'Glad for your pure blood, eh?' he asked, grey eyes on the smouldering city below." Coming to terms with this 523-page book is clearly going to take a while, though the seven-page glossary explaining the structure of Malazan civilization, the mores of the Barghasts, Darus, Gadrobis and Jaghuts, and the geography of Darujhistan will undoubtedly help.[3]

Additionally, Moss compares Garden of the Moon's complex plot to Joyce's Finnegans Wake: "...I don't want to be unfair to him. Was James Joyce ever pressed for a detailed textual analysis of Finnegans Wake?"[3]

Andrew Leonard, writing for, explains that the complexity of Gardens of the Moon offers the reader the opportunity to explore a rich and varied new world:

Erikson is a master of lost and forgotten epochs, a weaver of ancient epics on a scale that would approach absurdity if it wasn't so much fun. His time span ranges over hundreds of thousands of years. Races (both human and nonhuman), cultures, empires and even gods rise and fall. Vast struggles range across multiple continents and dimensions of time and space. There are so many fragments of myth, so many hints of back-story unending, and so little explained, that it is all the reader can do to comprehend what is going on, to hang on to the narrative as if clinging by one hand to the underbelly of a flying dragon. (And yes, there are dragons, and magic swords, and quests, too. But not a whole lot of teenagers.)[4]

Erikson trained as an archeologist, which is apparent in the world he creates in which ruins abound, and history goes back for hundreds of millennia.[4] The concept of time, and epochs spanning eras and ice ages are apparent in the plot of Gardens of the Moon.[4] Moreover, the span of time is so great that tribes are long lost, some characters, once gods, are "themselves living fossils", and others have been at war with the gods for a long time.[4]

The world Erikson creates in the first book of the Malazan series, is immense and immensely immersed in time. Leonard writes: "One character, Icarium, 'a mixed blood Jaghut wanderer' who pops up from time to time wreaking havoc, and who has lived for eons, suffers from his own devastating memory loss, trapped in an eternal search for the truth of his own identity. Everyone, it seems, must at one point or another struggle with the immensity of this world's past."[4]

Gardens of the Moon opens with a war scene and continues to follow the ebb and flow of war across the Malazan empire. Leonard writes about the series: "War is a constant – from continent to continent, century upon century. Erikson's universe is a violent one, Gothic in intensity, without clear demarcation between good and evil. It's perhaps more like the real world, then, than most fantasy, which so clearly differentiates between light and dark."[4]

Furthermore, Leonard believes summarising the plot is "cheating."[4]


F&SF reviewer Charles de Lint gave the novel a mixed review; while praising Erikson's craftsmanship in writing and "world-building," de Lint faulted the novel's "lack of any believable female characters" and characterized Gardens as "a fantasy novel that evokes [no] sense of wonder or awe."[5]

Sci-fi and fantasy blog Keeping the Door praised Gardens of the Moon in a 2009 review, ten years after the book was first published, as a "remarkable" book, but flawed: "It’s not a masterpiece like Assassin’s Apprentice or The Eye of the World that will appeal to everyone. Instead, it’s a breath-taking experiment in fantasy – perhaps along the same line of power as R. Scott Bakker’s The Darkness That Comes Before – that experienced fantasy readers will want to add to their collection and ponder deep into the night."[6]

Fantasy literature reviewer Patrick on his blog Pat's Fantasy Hotlist gave the novel a very positive review and a score of 9/10, calling it "the beginning of something truly special", and concluding "Imaginative on a scale that's almost frightening to consider, absorbing, thoroughly complex -- that's Gardens of the Moon in a nutshell. This, folks, is -- in my humble opinion -- about as good as it gets. This book deserves the highest possible recommendation. If you like big books with convoluted plotlines and fully drawn characters, then this one is definitely for you." [7]

Errors in the Book[edit]

Although published in 1999, the novel was written in 1991–1992, eight years before the rest of the series and a number of minor inconsistencies can be found between this volume and the following. Orfantal, one of the Tiste Andii, changes gender between Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice, and the pre-ritual T'lan Imass are referred to as the T'lan, whilst the correct name is Imass. The former error was corrected in the US edition of the novel, but the latter one was not.


  1. ^ Walsh, Neil (1999). "Gardens of the Moon: A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen". Sf Retrieved 18 July 2009. 
  2. ^ Green, Roland (May 2004). "Gardens of the Moon". Booklist 100 (18): 1604. 
  3. ^ a b c d Moss, Stephen (1999-10-14). "Malazans and megabucks". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Leonard, Andrew (2004-06-21). "Archaeologist of lost worlds". Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  5. ^ Books to Look For, F&SF, September 2000
  6. ^ LeMay, Renai (2009-11-22). "Gardens of the Moon: Review". Keeping the Door. Retrieved 2009-11-22. 
  7. ^ "Gardens of the Moon: Review". Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. Retrieved 2011-06-17.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)