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Gardens of the Moon

The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1
Written by: Steven Erikson
Narrated by: Ralph Lister
Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1
Length: 26 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (245 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Vast legions of gods, mages, humans, dragons and all manner of creatures play out the fate of the Malazan Empire in this first book in a major epic fantasy series

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. 

For Sergeant Whiskeyjack and his squad of Bridgeburners, and for Tattersail, surviving cadre mage of the Second Legion, the aftermath of the siege of Pale should have been a time to mourn the many dead. But Darujhistan, last of the Free Cities of Genabackis, yet holds out. It is to this ancient citadel that Laseen turns her predatory gaze. 

However, it would appear that the Empire is not alone in this great game. Sinister, shadowbound forces are gathering as the gods themselves prepare to play their hand....

Conceived and written on a panoramic scale, Gardens of the Moon is epic fantasy of the highest order - an enthralling adventure by an outstanding new voice.

©1999 by Steven Erikson. (P)2012 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved.

What the critics say

"Erikson is an extraordinary writer. My advice to anyone who might listen to me is, Treat yourself to Gardens of the Moon. And my entirely selfish advice to Steven Erikson is, write faster." --Stephen R. Donaldson 

"I stand slack-jawed in awe of The Malazan Book of the Fallen. This masterwork of imagination may be the high water mark of epic fantasy. This marathon of ambition has a depth and breadth and sense of vast reaches of inimical time unlike anything else available today. The Black Company, Zelazny's Amber, Vance's Dying Earth, and other mighty drumbeats are but foreshadowings of this dark dragon's hoard." --Glen Cook

"A world that is both absorbing on a human level and full of magical sublimity...a wonderfully grand conception...splendidly written...fiendishly readable." --Adam Roberts

What listeners say about Gardens of the Moon

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Sink or swim

Oddly, this first book threw me right back to high school English class, where reading was more about struggling to parse and understand, and less about simply relaxing into an easy, accessible and well-loved fantasy novel. This series was recommended by a few people in my life, and was praised and lauded as being one of their favourite series of all time. I took a stab at it a year ago, and found myself a few chapters in, and still not knowing which way was up. Recently, I took another stab at it, having been told that the start is ‘slow,’ or something to that effect. The start isn’t slow. It’s different - atypical from most other books in general. I had the thought out of the blue one day, as I was listening, that maybe I had accidentally purchased and was many hours into the SECOND BOOK. But no. And that’s when it clicked. The world is built well before you get to it. You just need to patiently wait until you’ve stumbled along enough to understand. This could easily have been a book plucked from the middle of an existing series, in my opinion. There are a few characters sprinkled here and there that act as that clueless entrypoint for the reader, who need to have things and plots and magic explained to them. But 90% of the time every character is all-in, and they start expounding and freaking out over implications and subtext that was completely opaque to me, who could barely make heads or tails of the magic system, races, military, countries, character dynamics, or subplots. It did, in a lot of ways, come together in the end. About 3/4 or 4/5 of the way in, I was confidently sure that I knew what was happening. Reading this still made me feel vaguely like an idiot, and I’m sure some people breezed through it quiet comfortably, but for those of you who are worried, and would prefer an easier read, maybe this isn’t for you? But otherwise, keep treading water, because at some point you’ll figure out which way the shore is. It seems to be an interesting world so far, and I’m willing to see where it will go from here. ***Update I did start reading the next booked after I wrote this review, and finally gave up. The second book starts in a similar 'in media res' of a completely different set of characters in another part of the world, so you basically start from scratch with almost no support from the knowledge you gained from the first book. I get that once you get into the series, the later books are FANTASTIC. I, however, read for escapism, and have a hard time wanting to wade through the depths of confusion for so long, so I've give up. Maybe I'll return in a few years.

18 people found this helpful

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Thought it would be a good listen

This review is my own opinion and does not reflect the quality of this book or other listeners experiences with this series. Simply put I did not enjoy the audio version of this book, however I will give it a try and purchase a hard copy of the book to read. I personally find it very difficult to follow the narrator, he seems to switch to a new character without any indication and I found that was causing me to constantly rewind to understand the story shift and that broke the immersion for me. I did find the quality of the story to be rich and entertaining, well the parts I could follow anyways haha. Overall I did enjoy the content to this series enough to be willing to purchase a hard copy and give it a try the old fashion way. Id say give this book a try and you may be able to follow the narration better than I. If you don’t like it you could always return it.

12 people found this helpful

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well done all around

I enjoyed this a lot, but found that there were little bits in both the writing and reading that could have been a little cleaner, that said, a very enjoyable listen and highly recommended.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Taking epic fantasy to a whole new level

Such an amazing series of books - it changed how I felt about all of my previous favourites. The sheer scale of Erikson's creation is unbelievable. The narrator, Ralph Lister, did a phenomenal job bringing the huge cast of characters to life. Very highly recommended! #Audible1

3 people found this helpful

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Good story

This is a good story. Ralph Lister had some inconsistent voices, and also had some trouble creating differing voices over such a large cast, but he does a good job at reading it. Near the end chapters things got kind of confusing and I found myself listening to segments over and over again to discern what had actually happened. But overall this was a very enjoyable listen.

1 person found this helpful

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Great Book !!

Don’t give up on it takes a while to get into a little confusing with character development. A really worthwhile story over all though. I’m downloading the second as I write this fully hooked lol.

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic

A Great story, the narration was fantastic. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

1 person found this helpful

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The narrator had me rapt.

The narrator did an amazing job. The pronounciation of some names and the voices for some of the characters did surprise at times, however.

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Fantastic Fantasy

The descriptions, plots, and characters were incredible. Highly recommend this epic fantasy novel to anyone looking to escape!

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Complex and well crafted

The book takes us to a world of complexity rendered in detail. Some of the perspective and concepts are new to me and i gound this a highly original book. I aso enjoyed many of the characters. I enjoyed this book and will continue to read the series.

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  • Brandon M. Salazar
  • 2019-03-29

A Good Story Told Very Badly

Try as I may, I can not get through this book. I’ve tried on multiple occasions but it’s just impenetrable. The most I was able to endure was 8 hours before couldn't take it anymore. This is the epitome of a great story absolutely ruined by horrible pacing. A lot of crazy stuff happens right away when the book opens. The problem is, I just. Don't. Care. The best parallel I can think of is if you came in on the 6th season finale of a TV show you haven't seen a single other episode of. This guy just found out his brother died, this woman suddenly betrayed her best friend of the entire series, a ton of s*** is popping off at a crazy pace. The problem is, you don't know these people so as significant as it all seems to be, you just can't elicit any sort of emotional response to any of it. It's the same with Malazan. Many times throughout the book, you're thrown into the middle of a scenario where a ton of stuff is happening to characters you haven't met before, and that Erikson makes no effort to introduce. Then, once you've nearly been with a character long enough to start to form some semblance of an idea of who they are, the time, place, and characters all change again and the cycle of disjointed storytelling starts anew. The result is, after 8 hours in which enough different things happen to fill several books in an average fantasy series, every bit of it had all the emotional resonance of a news headline. Less so in fact, since the complete lack of any worldbuilding didn't even give me a clue as to why I should care about where any of it took place either. The monotone voice of the reader doesn't help things much either. That coupled with the awful pacing meant that I have never, in my life, been so utterly bored by something more story-driven than a textbook

28 people found this helpful

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  • HyLids
  • 2018-07-04

What was that about?

I had to buy the book to see if I could better understand this book with all the nice reviews. I think it was a story about some people who didn't like each other and there was castles and maybe magic, but I'm not sure. I can't believe I paid for this.

13 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Thomas S Carr
  • 2018-09-06

This is a perfect example of an editor's failing

I actually tried to read this book twice....the second time took me looking back and reading chapters again to understand what Steven was telling us. Steven is gifted and has a tremendous ability to tell a story, but he clearly had no editor. This could have been an epic sires, but with no guidance...this gifted writer was left out in the cold. Easy stuff like let the reader know that you are looking back or forward were overlooked and left us guessing...That is the only job an editor should do, beyond punctuation....makes me feel bad...keep it up Steven...just get an editor that knows their job next time.

38 people found this helpful

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  • Celeste
  • 2018-09-11

The writing style is not for me.

I saw the reviews and since I believed I was a good listener I figured I could follow a complex plot - no problem. I was wrong in this case! I tried for hours and did lots of skipping thinking I could get it further into the plot but it just didn't make sense. Some of it was the narration, hard to tell when a chapter ended and another began and character voices sounded the same. It might read better, but not very likely. The editor should have helped the author ensure he developed a cohesive story line that pulled the reader or listener in.

8 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Adnan
  • 2012-11-20

An engrossing yet demanding high epic

This book demands attention from the reader/listener that I had to frequently skip back secs / mins to catchup on things which I missed or did not understood because I was not paying needed attention. Partially it is due to the nature of the book the way it is written, and a lot of it is due to narration. The narrator though otherwise did a great job, did finish one chapter of the book and start the next one seemingly in same breath causing confusion at times. I had to get use to this style, but once I was in synch, I had a great time.

Book has mix of great elements such as mage assassins making it an entertaining listen. Even though there is free flow use of magic, author manage to maintain the intrigue of such things while combining it with great character development. Characters are very well flushed out, and combination of interesting skill set makes the plot lines very interesting.

Book does demand attention as mentioned above that not everything is spelled out for the listener. Events are taking place which make no sense at the time gets explained as user continue to read through the book.

Book sets ambitious goal for itself in terms of complexity and quality, and I have to say that it almost achieved it. Though not easy to listen, it is very entertaining sometimes awesome epic. I plan to next book in the series when it arrives. I would recommend this book for seasoned epic fantasy fans.

106 people found this helpful

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  • George
  • 2016-04-07

The best Worst book there is

NO SPOILERS

This is the weirdest book. I just spent 26 hours listening to it and have no idea what the overall arcing story was. There are so many characters and story world items/concepts in the story that it was hard to keep everything straight. It would have been easier to do if the style of writing explained something.... anything! Its like almost every book I've heard/read has said "John Doe the spawn of darkness was resurrected by Jane because" and this book just says "John Doe the spawn of darkness was resurrected"

That explanation might not make any sense and I seem to be a loss for the correct way to describe the situation. I read the reviews before buying this book and knew going in it was going to be a bit harder to follow. My opinion is that it is so hard to follow and in the end I didn't care about any character nor did I care about any story line.

The narrator was fantastic. I will say that. He is probably the only reason I finished this thing.


Not sure I'd recommend this audio book to anyone.

You know how when you start a new book you feel discombobulated until you lock on to a character or a story line and you finally feel centered? That never happened in this book. It seems like it could have been good but the author is too imaginative and not structured enough to adequately put the whole story into a cohesive block.

I wanted to like this book.

225 people found this helpful

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  • tashat
  • 2018-04-10

Impossible to follow

At times you don’t know if the name they are talking about is a person, race, religion, food, region, planet, or just an expression. You will be distracted working on figuring it out for the entire chapter only to never figure it out. I am still not sure what the conflict is, who is on which side or if there are even sides at all. The magic system is never explained, you don’t know if the dialogue is real, imaginary or a flashback.

18 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • 2012-10-11

Small quibble with a few choices for voices

This series is one of my absolute favorites, with complex characters, an engaging plot, and a fantastically rich world full of seemingly living, breathing cultures that really show off Mr. Erikson's education in anthropology and archaeology.

I love the lack of initial exposition in the narrative, and that Erikson trusts his readers enough to just dump them in the middle of a story as complex as this with the hope that we'll hang around long enough to get our bearings. It's well worth the attention it demands of its readers (listeners), though, and close attention to details rewards the audience tenfold later in the book, and one hundredfold later throughout the series.

Mr. Lister is an excellent narrator. His cadence and delivery make for a very easy listen, and his ability to establish different and distinct voices for the characters throughout the book is superb. He pronounces a lot of the vocabulary of the world a little differently than I have in the past, but I wasn't too put out by that.

The only real problem I had with Mr. Lister's narration was that a few of the voices he gave to the characters were nothing like I had imagined them when I read the books myself. This is completely a me problem, I know, but I just couldn't seem to get over it. Dujek and Whiskeyjack's voices were problematic for me, but every time Kalam spoke I was pulled out of the narrative and forced to scream "That's NOT what Kalam sounds like! He's a powerfully built, kick-butt assassin out of Seven Cities, not a nasally, anemic rat-catcher from south Bristol!" (Apologies to all nasally, anemic ratcatchers from Bristol.)

I would have liked to have given Mr. Lister's performance 5 stars (and really, it does merit 5 stars), but I just couldn't get over those voices. Well, Dujek and Whiskeyjack stopped bothering me by about the 15th hour, but I never got over Kalam. I am an evil and spiteful person.

I am so excited to hear the rest of the series, and am so glad that Audible has made these available to me.

In closing, I really do hope they keep Ralph Lister as the narrator, but I'm going to warn you right now; if Coltaine is given a sufficiently non-heroic voice by the time his story comes around, I will find whoever is responsible and kick them right in the shins!

You have been warned.

107 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Deziderata
  • 2015-04-04

A struggle to finish

Any additional comments?

I took heed of the reviewer' warnings about the complex plot and long character list. I read chapter summaries on wiki as needed. I understood that the story wouldn't really reach its stride until the second book. In short, I was prepared. I love epic fantasy, and complex plot lines, and rich characters. I was willing to invest the time.

That's not the problem. The problem is the author's style. Yeah, I said it. I seems that he writes scenes and dialogue to be intentionally obfuscatory, thinking that makes for intelligent prose. It's not that the reader has to pay close attention to understand what's going on in the scene; the reader has to be PSYCHIC to do so.

One review on audible said something like, 'you have to make me care. It's your job.' That about sums up how I feel. Yes, the story is interesting. The characters are believable.And the narration is good. But I wouldn't recommend this book; it had no heart. Maybe it does get better with the second listening, but I just don't are about the characters enough to slog through it.

27 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2012-12-04

Probably best to read on paper/kindle

Would you consider the audio edition of Gardens of the Moon to be better than the print version?

No I doubt it. It's a VERY complex book and I am someone who listens to my ABs while jogging, lifting, doing housework, driving etc. There are so many characters in here and so many factions it's easy to get confused. I love GOTM but I wish I had a non-spoiler crib sheet that would have told me who was who and who was aligned with who.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Gardens of the Moon?

Fall of Pale.
Interactions between Wiskeyjack and his team.
Rake fighting the hounds.

What about Ralph Lister’s performance did you like?

It was great.

Any additional comments?

This is a fantastic epic fantasy book, but it is so complex that sometimes the audio format makes you lose track of what is going on.

Probably the biggest problem for me was that I couldn't even keep track of which way the factions were aligned.

The magic is incredible.

74 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Paul-Antoine
  • 2018-01-25

not always clear

i am a non native english speaker /listener and the geography of the malazan empire, as well as the race and what are those races inside the story aren't clear to me . otherwise it is very good, i loved the humour , the characters and the depth of the story

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2019-07-14

A master piece

A freaking gem! A fantasy must read. An epic start to a mind blowing serie.