Scene Challenge of the Week

houseofchainsWe’re all idiots sometimes. This is one of the basic rules that I live by, actually. Everyone sucks sometimes, especially me, and everyone’s an idiot, especially me. If you expect people to always be kind, generous, wise, etc, you will often be disappointed. If you expect people to be selfish, greedy, and stupid, you will rarely be disappointed and might sometimes be surprised. However, this outlook comes with a couple of drawbacks: if you expect people to be selfish, greedy, and stupid it is 1) easy to treat everyone as though they are selfish, greedy, and stupid, even when they’re not; and 2) it is easy to justify your own selfishness, greed, and stupidity. So, the policy I have tried (am trying?) to live by is this: expect people to be selfish, greedy, and stupid, but treat them like they are kind, generous, and wise, and try to be those things yourself. I’m honestly not sure if this is a good policy, but it seems to be working fairly well for me (for the most part at least).  I’m rarely disappointed, even by the worst of people, and people rarely seem to be disappointed in me (of course, this could be because they’ve adopted a similar policy). Anyway, this actually has nothing to do with your challenge today. Today is your scene challenge, and you all should know the rules, but just in case: I provide you with specific rules for how to write a particular scene.  Try to keep your scene under five hundred words, and try to keep it in the same tone as the introduction.  If I give a line that is very dark and depressing, then I don’t want to see a scene about a drunken monkey in a tutu…it just doesn’t fit.  If I do give you a line about a drunken monkey in a tutu, then you should probably try for a funny scene.

Your challenge: Choose one of your favorite scenes from a novel. After reading the scene a couple of times, rewrite it in your own style and voice. The characters and basic elements of the scene should remain the same, but the way it is written should reflect your voice and style of writing, rather than the original author’s. This can be very challenging, so don’t be too disappointed if you need a few tries to go it well.

Transitioning Perspectives

minor-characters1-e1342304827186A few years ago I had the distinct pleasure of finding one of my favorite authors on Facebook and friending him. Not following him, not joining his page, but friending the actual man himself. As I was working on my first novel at the time, after I thanked him for his contributions to the written word, and explained how his work had impacted me (I imagine that I must have gushed at the time… most of the people who know me will tell you that I don’t gush…), I asked if he had any advice for new writers. I’ve know plenty of people who would give some pat, simple sounding answer like ‘don’t give up’ or ‘just do your best’ etc. However, this man didn’t. Instead, he gave me a simple piece of advice that has saved my stories time and again. Today, I hope to pass that on to you.

Succinctly stated, what this man told me was that, when he got stuck at some point in his writing, he generally found that the solution to the dilemma lay in his minor characters. Sometimes the block could be removed by simply doing something different with one of the main characters, but often the problem was that a minor character needed to be more fully developed. In developing his minor characters he gave himself pieces to work with that removed the block, and created a deeper, more complete story. I might add that this particular man’s character development is some of the best I’ve ever seen, up there with Marron Shed in Glen Cook’s Shadow’s Linger or Karsa Orlong in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. So, keeping this in mind, how do you actually do that?

Developing minor characters isn’t actually that hard, and there are a few ways to do it, depending on the kind of story your writing. For instance, at the moment I am working on a story that is written from multiple perspectives. For three days now I’ve been stuck on a single scene: writing, deleting, rewriting, deleting, etc because I couldn’t find a perspective that worked. I couldn’t find the right character to tell the story of that scene. Then I did. The key to writing the scene was to keep trying it from the perspective of different characters until I found one that worked.

00311Of course, if the story your writing only has one perspective (say a first person story), this is much more difficult. However, you can still do something similar. When writing a single perspective story you obviously can’t write from the perspective of a minor character. You can’t delve into the character’s thoughts, but you can delve into their motivations through their words and deeds. If you’re having trouble with a scene, try focusing on a different element of that scene, and then building it outwards from there. For instance, if your writing a scene in which two detectives find are examining a crime scene, and you can’t seem to get their dialogue quite right, try beginning with a third party in the conversation. Perhaps the detectives stop to chat with one of the uniformed officers, or with the doorman. Bringing in a minor character adds a new element to the scene that can make it work and can push through a stubborn section of the story that just doesn’t want to work.

If you don’t believe me, try it. The next time you find a scene that you’re struggling with, instead of getting frustrated, shift the focus to a previously minor character, and let the scene develop from there. It might take a few tries to find the right minor character, but once you do you’ll be surprised how quickly and easily the scene develops.

The Woods

Today we have another post from Abbie Brubaker. This one is an interesting take on making a setting element into a character element:

(Photo Credit)
(Photo Credit)

My previous post began a series on faerie tale tropes with a deconstruction of the villainess – the evil witch, stepmother, or queen who appears in a number of time-honored stories and can be aptly appropriated for use in your own writing. This week’s focus switches from a character type to a setting: the woods. In faerie tales, the woods are literal forests, natural wildernesses of towering trees and shadowy undergrowth; such regions are somewhat removed from the modern, developed world we live in, but the significant timbre of “the woods” as a concept constitutes a setting in its own right, independent of an arboreal landscape.

Often, the woods act as a mysterious, ominous place, home to any number of bloodthirsty creatures or malevolent forces. Notably, Little Red Riding Hood’s trip through the woods brings her into contact with the wolf who attempts (and, in some versions, succeeds in) the consumption of Red and her grandmother. For Hansel and Gretel, the woods conceal a similarly-intentioned witch. In other cases, however, the woods offer shelter for characters fleeing domestic troubles. In the case of Snow White, the heroine finds sanctuary (however briefly) in the secluded home of the seven dwarves. The lesser-known story of “Brother and Sister” also portrays a forest setting as providing safety for the young protagonists.

(Photo Credit)
(Photo Credit)

The woods, then, can be described as a location with some element of danger and enigma, large enough to lose oneself in – for good or for bad. Evil may lie concealed here, but unexpected good as well; the woods are layered and deep, with niches for all manner of folk. Often a journey is associated with this place, a journey to it or through it, sometimes a flight from an abusive home life to anywhere which might be better. A life can be carved out in the woods, if you set your mind to it. There may be predators lurking around the corner, but for the savvy soul, the woods present a varied and vibrant setting to explore or settle into. The woods are not usually a permanent residence, however; they are a place for the young, the in-between, who eventually move on to build a new and happy domestic realm elsewhere.

(Photo Credit)
(Photo Credit)

Although “the woods” may be incarnated in any number of places, the most prominent correlation is to an urban setting, where a protagonist may encounter villains as menacing as any cannibalistic witch but also may find a safe haven amidst the bustle and daily rigmarole of the city denizens. The essence of the woods is their otherness – which can mean the threat of the unknown or the promise of a break from an unsatisfactory situation. This dichotomy can be written with equal emphasis on both aspects of the setting, or can be weighted in either direction to suit the nature of the story in which it is being employed. A coming-of-age narrative might feature “the woods” as downtown New York City where the hero rents a shoebox apartment to take time away from what seems an oppressive home environment; a thriller might show the opposite take on “the woods,” displaying the dark, crime-riddled underbelly of a futuristic metropolis.

For characters in a faerie tale, the woods are composed of firs and ferns, with perils as likely to be animal as human; the essence of that setting can be transplanted to a more modern story by playing with the elements of menace and refuge beneath the superseding sense of otherness.


(Photo Credit)
(Photo Credit)

Tobias say: Abbie isn’t familiar with this particular work, but I think an excellent practical example of this concept would be the Azath houses from Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen. The Azath are mysterious buildings that seem to connect all of the different realms of Erikson’s world, and perhaps even more beyond those realms. The houses clearly have a being and will all their own and are capable of making choices, and they can serve either as a prison: sometimes imprisoning, and sometimes possibly consuming, even the most powerful of gods. Or as a place of refuge: in Erikson’s world the Azath are possessed of immense, if possibly dormant, power and thus it is impossible to enter one unless the house chooses to allow a person entrance. It is also clear that within the Azath houses time/life/being doesn’t exactly work in the same way. It is apparently impossible for a person to die while inside an Azath house, which allows the houses’ chosen guardians to become effectively immortal. There are also a couple of instances where time is apparently stopped, though it is unclear if time is stopped only within the house, or if time is stopped everywhere, and it is also unclear if it is the house itself that stops time, or a particular character within the given house that stops time. Thus the Azath houses represent the concept of ‘the woods’ that Abbie addresses here quite well, and they also become one of the most interesting setting/character elements in Erikson’s novels.

A Review of Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson

This is definitely a book worth reading!

Midnight Tides is the fifth book in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series (I have reviewed the first four here, here, here, and here), and it is also my favorite book of the series (so far).  Midnight Tides works well as a stand alone novel, and (while this is not true for later books), there is no need to read any of the first four books in order to understand the events in Midnight Tides.  Erikson is know for his myriad characters, and in Midnight Tides the author introduces us to an entirely new cast of characters, along with a new continent, new nations, new everything.  In fact, the only relation that Midnight Tides has to the first four novels is the character Trull Sengar (whom readers will remember from House of Chains, and a few characters from the Crimson Guard Mercenaries (who were briefly mentioned in Gardens of the Moon and Memories of Ice).  However, while Midnight Tides can be a stand-alone novel, it isn’t.  Instead Erikson uses the book to introduce the other half of his meta-narrative that is woven throughout the series.  In the first four books we have grown to know, and either love or hate, the Malazan Empire.  In Midnight Tides we are introduced to the Letherii and the Tiste Edur.  To use a valuable cliche, Midnight Tides introduces the other shoe.

Overall: 10/10

Midnight Tides is, simply put, one of the most effective books that I have ever read.  All of the technical details, from writing, to plot, to character, to pacing, are strong, and on top of this the book is filled with a copious amount of social commentary largely focused on the materialistic nature of modern society.  Midnight Tides is also the only novel in which I have ever see economic commentary effectively presented.  While it has been attempted in a few places (Star Trek and Star Wars off the top of my head) it generally comes across as contrived, idealistic, or ridiculous.  Erikson manages to make his points succinct and realistic, while still making them clear, and obvious.

Writing: 9.5/10

Midnight Tides is one of Erikson’s shorter books, and much of the wordiness that causes problems for some readers is not present.  This is not to say that it is a short book, it weighs in at nearly a thousand pages, and is still a monstrous read for most people.

Trull Sengar, as pictured by slaine69, whose page is here.

Characters: 10/10

I love Erikson’s characters, and I’ve never had trouble keeping track of who is who (although I know a number of people who do), so a whole new cast struck me as a wonderfully pleasant surprise.  Characters on both sides of the line, Letherii and Tiste Edur, are well developed, interesting, and each has his or her specific purpose.  My favorite characters in the novel are most definitely Tehol Beddict and his rather incredible man-servant Bugg, who provide some of the best comic relief in the entire series.  My least favorite are Rhulad Sengar and his rather horrific wife.  However, even the characters that I didn’t like are well done.

World: 10/10
Erikson has a gift for developing his worlds within the novel, and the continent of Lether is no exception.  With an entire new land to develop, Erikson is able to recreate some of the ideas in his world, delving into the deeper history of the world and how it became what we have seen in the first four Malazan Novels.  Early on there was some speculation that the events of Midnight Tides took place in another world, or in the distant past of the world of Malaz, but these ideas have now been thoroughly quashed by the contents of later novels.  However, much of the book feels like a look into the history of Erikson’s world, and this will delight many careful readers.

Plot: 10/10

The war between the Tiste Edur and Letheras is a strong plot, and it well formed, developed, and executed.  Erikson is known for complex plots, but this one is fairly simple – though it certainly has twists and turns in its execution.  While the basic plot is simple, there are many subplots that lend complexity to the story and serve to develop each important character very well.

Pacing: 10/10

Erikson’s books are not thrillers, and so you should be ready for the long haul.  However, this book is not nearly as difficult as either Memories of Ice or House of Chains, and this makes it feel like a much faster read.

This is actually an alternate cover, but its such a great picture without the text!

Commentary: 10/10

I love the depth of Erikson’s commentary, and the commentary in Midnight Tides is both excellent, and directly applicable to modern society.  I won’t ruin the story by giving away all of his points, but Erikson has some very strong ideas about current trends in society, religion, and economics that are clearly expressed in Midnight Tides.  While strong social commentary is evident in each of his Malazan novels, Midnight Tides is by far the most obvious.


Midnight Tides is worth reading whether you have followed the series or not.  Honestly, I encourage everyone to read this novel, even if you never think twice about any of Erikson’s other works.  It is both an excellent story, and an excellent source of much needed social criticism.

A Review of House of Chains by Steven Erikson

Press on, press on.

Well, I’ve promised you Steven Erikson, and I am delivering you Steven Erikson.  House of Chains is probably the hardest book in the series to get into.  Once you make it past the first three to four hundred pages then the reading gets much easier.  However, the first two hundred plus pages of the book are a painful introduction to Karsa Orlong, one of the best characters in the series – and one of the best examples of character growth that I have ever seen.  That being said, if you don’t hate Karsa in the beginning of this book, then there is something seriously wrong with you.  When you have what amounts to a regular size novel all about a character you hate doing horrible things – well, it makes the book hard to get into.  Honestly, I almost gave up on the series while reading House of Chains because I hated Karsa so much. Now, in Reaper’s Gale, Karsa has become one of my favorite characters.  Like I said, he is an amazing example of character growth.

Overall: 7.0/10

House of Chains is very difficult to get into.  It is also one of the least memorable books of the series (in my opinion).  In fact I think House of Chains is probably my least favorite book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  However, it is a necessary book.  House of Chains introduces Karsa Orlong, one of the most important characters in the series, and develops the character of Icarium, another of the most important characters.  House of Chains also ties up many of the plot threads opened in Deadhouse Gates and/or opens new ones to replace them.  All in all, if you are going to read the Malazan Book of the Fallen you have to read House of Chains, and there is a lot to value in this book. However, it is not the most enjoyable book in the series.

Writing: 9.0/10

Erikson’s writing is very wordy again.  However, while I could tell that it was wordy, it didn’t feel as wordy as it actually was…if that makes any sense.  The writing throughout the book is generally strong, and it is difficult to read because of the content, not because of the writing.

Icarium is one of the most important characters in the entire Malazan Book of the Fallen. You will get to know him better in this book.

Characters: 10/10

Alright, let me warn you now.  You will HATE Karsa Orlong in this book.  If you don’t hate him, then you are a very twisted person – and it’s me telling you this, so that should add a little emphasis to it, because I’m pretty twisted already.  However, by the end of this book if you don’t like Karsa, you will at least respect him.  Karsa Orlong is one of the best examples of growth in a character to be found in the fiction market.  The changes that his character goes through are not only completely real/believable, but also extreme. Add to this the fact that some of the best characters (i.e. Fiddler, Iskaral Pust, and Heboric among others) return in this novel, and you have a win in the character department.  While I love Erikson’s characters in general, this novel definitely stands out.

World: 9.0/10

You will see a little bit of Genabackis in House of Chains, but like Deadhouse Gates this novel takes place primarily in the Seven Cities.  Seven Cities is one of my favorite locations in the world of Malaz, but most of House of Chains takes place in the desert, or in Raraku. Because of this, you don’t actually see that much more of the Seven Cities than you do in Deadhouse Gates.  However, you will get a much better picture of what it is like to be a part of the Malazan military.

Plot: 7.0/10

What can I say? House of Chains is pretty much about marching to a war that never happens, and Karsa Orlong turning from an evil S.O.B. badass into an awesome badass.  This novel is necessary to understand the rest of the series, but it is generally about wrapping up old plots and opening new ones.  House of Chains is a transitional novel that would not stand well on its own.

Pacing: 6.0/10

Like Memories of Ice, House of Chains moves back and forth between intense action, and very little action.  When combined with the difficulty of reading Karsa Orlong’ s beginnings, this makes it a novel that is easy to put down.  That being said, it’s worth it to keep going.

Karsa Orlong is another very important character. This book not only introduces him, but is fundamental to his development later in the series.

Commentary: 5.0/10

House of Chains opens a lot of questions, but it doesn’t answer many.  Again, this novel is primarily about character development, and moving the overall plot of the series forward.  However, there is some commentary in it.


While Memories of Ice  was the most difficult book in the series to read, House of Chains is the hardest book in the series to not put down.  It probably doesn’t feel like there should be a difference between these two, but there is.  Memories of Ice is a challenging book that makes you consider your preconceptions.  House of Chains is a painful book, necessarily so, that exposes you to a lot of evil, and then allows you to watch as that evil turns into something good.  While it is very easy to put this book down early on, it gets easier to read as you go – and it is worth it in the end.

A Review of Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

I know, fantasy artists have some very odd ideas about what usable armor looks like.

Last week I reviewed Deadhouse Gates, the second book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  This week’s review will be the third book in this series, Memories of Ice.  Like Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice is one of the strongest, and hardest, books in the series.  These two book fit together very well, both are dense, graphic, and deal with extremely difficult issues of human nature and being.  Both emphasize the horrors of war, and the best and worst of which mankind is capable.  However, they do so in very different ways.  Where Deadhouse Gates was primarily a novel about survival, reminiscent of the Trail of Tears, Memories of Ice is a novel about victory.  Memories of Ice is less reminiscent of the Trail of Tears (or Vietnam for that matter), and more reminiscent of trench warfare in World War I.

Overall: 9.0/10

Like Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice is an excellent novel overall.  It features strong characters, an excellent plot, a little humor, and advancement of the overall storyline of the series.  However, I have to give it a 9.0 because I am not as fond of the theme of this book…and because Erikson kills my favorite character in the entire series…I won’t tell you who.

Writing: 9.0/10

Erikson’s writing is excellent throughout his series, however Memories of Ice tends toward wordiness, which makes the novel a little longer than it really needs to be.  While this is not a huge problem for me, it may be for some people.  If you really hate extra words then you might give this an 8.5.

Characters: 10/10

Like Deadhouse Gates the harsh events of Memories of Ice allow the best and worst of Erikson’s characters to come through.  We see nobility, sacrifice, bravery, greed, hate, and desperate need clearly through this novel.  Erikson’s characters, both good and evil, are fantastic.

World: 9.5/10

Memories of Ice returns the reader to the continent of Genabackis, and this time we see much more of that continent.  The detail that Erikson gives his cultures is always amazing, and never fails to impress.  In this book he also includes several new cultures, including the Segulah (which I’m sure you will love), and gives real depth to some of the others.  Again, I have to give this book a slightly lower rating than Deadhouse Gates because I don’t like the continent of Genabackis nearly as much as the Seven Cities.  There’s something about the desert that I just fall in love with.

It's work, but it's worth it.

Plot: 9/10

Memories of Ice suffers from a slightly over-convoluted plot.  I love this book, and I generally don’t have trouble keeping track of things.  Even with Erikson’s host of characters, I rarely have to look at the back to remember who somebody is, and I never had to look up any of the important characters.  However, the number of twists and turns in this plot are truly spectacular.  If you hate convoluted plots…well, you really shouldn’t be reading this series in the first place, but deduct some from the rating here.

Pacing: 8.0/10

Memories of Ice is a novel that jumps back and forth between intense action and introspection.  Some parts of the novel move very fast, while others are trudgingly slow.  While this doesn’t hurt the novel too much, there are some places where you will have to force yourself to keep reading to finish the book.  It’s worth it in the end though.

Commentary: 10/10

Memories of Ice has some of the best commentary on the nature of man, and the nature of war, that I have ever seen.  It is powerful, sometimes deceptively so, and parts of the book are deeply moving.


Memories of Ice is probably the most difficult book in the series to finish.  However, it is definitely worth reading, even though sometimes that reading feels like work.

A Review of Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Think of this book as a test. If you finish it, you will have to read the rest of the series. If you can't finish it, then the series is probably not for you.

Last week I reviewed Gardens of the Moon, the first book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  This week’s review will be the second book in this series, Deadhouse Gates.  While Gardens of the Moon was, though a great book in its own right, the worst book in this series, Deadhouse Gates is one of the best.  However, Deadhouse Gates is also one of the two most difficult reads of the series.  Not only is it long, 943 pages, but it is extremely heavy reading.  I won’t give you any details, don’t want to spoil the book, but the story follows a small army of refugees known as the Chain of Dogs, as they attempt to make their way across a continent in the midst of rebellion.  This book and the next in the series Memories of Ice contain the most difficult, and most mature, thematic material that I have come across in the series, and it would not be entirely inappropriate to compare them to works such as Schindler’s List or events like the Trail of Tears (in my opinion a possible source of partial inspiration for the story here, though I am not privy to Erikson’s mind).  That being said, Erikson handles difficult subject matter beautifully, and what results is a deeply moving, emotionally trying, and ultimately uplifting reading experience.

Overall: 10/10

Where Garden’s of the Moon was the easiest of the series to read, its immediate sequel, Deadhouse Gates, is possibly the most difficult.  However, though a difficult read, it is also a phenomenal examination of both the best, and the worst, of human nature.  You will find yourself enamored of characters like Coltaine and Duiker, hurting for Felisin, and laughing at the antics of Iskaral Pust.  All together this book weaves several storylines into one, like most of Erikson’s work, while still keeping each story distinct and important.

Writing: 9.5/10

Erikson’s writing is at its best in Deadhouse Gates.  While it lacks the flowing grace of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, Deadhouse Gates is written in a masterful style that manages to be both simple and meaningful at the same time.

Characters: 10/10

Erikson’s characters are always wonderful.  However, the devastating events of Deadhouse Gates truly allow his characters to shine.  Like Whiskeyjack and Quickben in the first novel, you will find characters here that you will never forget.  However, they will be all the more meaningful because of the situations through which they shine.  Coltaine and Duiker stand out as my two favorite characters in this novel, both because of their intense realism, but also because of their overwhelming humanity.  Through these two characters Erikson shows us some of the best of which men are capable.

World: 10/10

While we do not see much of the continent of Genabackis (the setting for Gardens of the Moon), Deadhouse Gates takes the reader on a long, and sometimes meandering, tour of the Seven Cities, a large and very barren continent.  The world that Erikson creates here is not only broad, but real (often devastatingly so), and humbling.  Erikson’s world truly begins to take on the shape that it was missing throughout Gardens of the Moon, and this draws the reader in that much further.

This really is an incredible book.

Plot: 10/10

Deadhouse Gates is not only original, epic, and realistic in its plot, but it sets the tone for the series as a whole.  Erikson’s work in this book feels complete, but it is not until two books later, at the end of Chain of Dogs, that you realize how much he begins here that he does not end.  This ability to provide a complete story, while creating foreshadowing, and unknown anticipation for what is to come, becomes a hallmark of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  I have never before read a series that allowed me to feel that the story was complete, while at the same time knowing that there must be more to come – to be satisfied, and yet yearning for more.

Pacing: 9/10

While the pacing in Deadhouse Gates is excellent, it is a slow novel overall, and this will make reading it even more difficult for those of you who lack patience.

Commentary: 10/10

Deadhouse Gates has some incredible commentary on the nature of man, both good and bad.  Erikson also offers us brief comments on the value and place of academia, and the purpose of power.


If you can finish Deadhouse Gates,  then you will want to read the rest of the series.  If you can’t finish it, either because of length, the nature of the content, or the depth of the content, then the rest of the series probably isn’t for you.

A review of Gardens of the Moon by Stephen Erikson

This really is a great book. You can buy it here.

I want to start out by saying that, of the 7 books of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series that I’ve read, I think the Gardens of the Moon is by far the worst.  Now don’t stop reading, because this statement becomes meaningful when you realize that Gardens of the Moon is a truly great book…and it just gets better from there.  I intend to review every book in the series, eventually, but…that could take some time after I review number six…and a lot more reading, for now, however, on to the review.

Overall: 7.5-8/10

Gardens of the Moon is probably the easiest read in the Malazan Book of the Fallen.  The TOR version of the book (it was published by both Bantam and TOR, but I have only read the TOR edition) weighs in at a mere 496 pages, that’s right, I said mere 496 pages.  I know that this is average length for the majority of fantasy novels (although it is short for ‘fat’ fantasy), but when the average length of a book in a series is 1000 pages, well…you get my point.  Gardens of the Moon is also easier to read because it does not have the same level of social commentary as the rest of the series.

However, the latter is also one of the reasons it gets a lower rating.  In a series that is generally saturated with social commentary, this lack stands out in Gardens of the Moon.  The book also has some issues of compatibility with the rest of the series (it was written in ’91, but not published until ’99).  While not significant, some of these stand out.

Writing: 7/10

Let me first say that Stephen Erikson’s writing is generally excellent.  While his sentence level writing runs the verge between excellent and merely good, his paragraph structure more than makes up for this lack.  This being said, Gardens of the Moon was written long before it was published, and this shows to a certain degree.  While the writing in this book is very good, it could be better (and gets better in his later novels).

Characters: 10/10

Erikson’s characterization is far beyond par for your average fantasy novel.  His characters are interesting, believable, detailed, and deep.  Even characters that could be shallow without drawing significantly from the novel (such as Hairlock or Tattersail) are well developed, and pique the readers interest.  Several of the characters in this book are mainstays for the series as a whole (Croaker, Quick Ben, and Kalam in particular), and most of my favorite characters are introduced in this book.

World: 7/10

Again, I wind up comparing Gardens of the Moon to the rest of the series here.  Though Erikson does a great job of presenting Darujhistan, and small portions of Genabackis, in this book, its limited scope significantly impacts the depth of the world that he can present.  While his later books often present large portions of one or more continents, along with the myriad of cultures found in them, Gardens of the Moon is generally limited to a single city and some of the surrounding lands.  While this city is very well presented, the world of this book pales in comparison to the world presented in the rest of the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

What a pretty sky...

Plot: 8.5/10

The plot of Gardens of the Moon is interesting, and draws the reader into the book.  However, it is distinctly separate from the overall plot of the rest of the series and, again, this stands out.  While the Malazan Book of the Fallen series has a generally epic scope into which every novel weaves a significant theme, Gardens of the Moon feels more like a bad prologue to the rest of the series.  While the impact of the book on specific characters is apparent, and significant, throughout the series, the plot of the book itself is very different – and much smaller in scope.  That being said, when taken as a stand alone novel, the plot is interesting, effective, and well-developed throughout the book.  However, with the exception of introduction to certain characters, Gardens of the Moon is not necessary to the larger Malazan Book of the Fallen series.

Pacing: 10/10

The pacing in Gardens of the Moon is excellent.  There was no point at which I felt bored, or questioned why I was still reading the book.  The plot and characters develop well and the reader does not feel rushed into events either.

Commentary: 4/10

As I said above, social commentary is important to me in my fiction and this is one area in which I think Gardens of the Moon is significantly lacking.  While it is obvious throughout the rest of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series that Erikson has a lot to say, about a lot of subjects, this is not evident in Gardens of the Moon.  However, I think that this likely reflects more on the editors and publisher than on Erikson himself (just a guess really).


Gardens of the Moon is a great book that you will enjoy reading (as long as you like Swords and Sorcery style fantasy anyway), but lacks the deeper value of the rest of Erikson’s series.  If you plan to read the entire series, then you should read Gardens of the Moon because it is a necessary introduction to certain characters in the rest of the series, even though the plot of the book is quite seperate.