Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson is on an undeniably epic scale with battles, betrayal and all the rest of that good stuff. Oh, and a very healthy dose of magic. It’s also a very interesting book in how it divides readers into that those that love it and those that don’t. There is never going to be a book that is guaranteed to make all readers happy, but there are some that are more likely to have a wide range of reactions. This is definitely one of those books, a marmite book. Reading along with a group reinforced this and also gave opportunity to see (and understand) the other readers’ reactions.
One of the key things that really divided those readers who love this book and those who found it a chore to read is the reader’s expectations about how much they needed to understand and/or connect the various ongoing storylines. Gardens of the Moon takes no mercy and no time with the backstory, it just drops you in and shows you what is going on through various points of view. There are no info dumps in this book, no extraneous information, just the story that is unfolding, and in the process, you learn the larger story. But it can be a slow process. This works for some, but not for others. What I may find mysterious and intriguing, another reader would find strange and random. It’s the same story, but I am completely fine with not understanding the big picture and letting the pieces fall in place as the story progresses. Go with the flow. If you can’t do this, you’re not likely to enjoy Gardens of the Moon.
Now, it might be a hard book to read, there is a ton going on, many pieces to fall in place, but is it worth it? Should you try to figure out if this is a book for you? Absolutely, give it a shot and keep in mind that you will have to just take the story as it comes. There’s no hand holding and no spoon feeding for the reader. For those that can handle the way Erikson unfolds the story, it is a very fun read and I can understand why it has such a large set of devoted readers. It features war, spies, assassins, magic, and oh yeah, meddling gods. You can’t forget about them. I also really enjoyed the range of characters. There is so much in this book that makes it worth reading, that it seems to me, you have to at least try.