I reread Gardens of the Moon. The initial was 4 years ago. I thought I should go back to the beginning if I aim to complete the Malazan series this year, and have a cohesive grasp on it because…all the characters… I recommend reading the dramatis personae section, it helps.
One thing that seems to make epic fantasy EPIC is the large cast of characters. Erikson pushed the envelope on this one, thus achieving an incredibly epic story. (disclaimer, I’ve read the first two books and the intro to the third so I have an inkling of the scope of this ten book tale.) I’ve read other reviews where readers were pulled out of the story because there were too many characters. I have high expectations for all of the characters by the end of the story. More to the point I’m hoping that Erikson won’t kill them all off like George R. R. Martin does in the A Song of Ice and Fire books.
The Malzan story is dense. Erikson crams and wedges endless plot points and connections into each chapter. With all the characters running around, many with their own agendas, it’s easy for him to do this. In one scene, if you read carefully, you watch one character’s disaster play out, and to another character it is an ancient prophecy coming true. I wonder if Erikson wound up telescoping some characters from early drafts…
Dense story aside, it is fast paced and quick reading, with only a few forgivable lulls as he sets up either new characters or new locations.
One aspect Erikson contrasts nicely in this one is characters away from home versus characters who are at home. The motivations that drive these two categories of characters offer wonderful three dimensional tensions. The story has likable point of view characters from both sides, so readers can watch the fallout with carefully crafted suspense.
As far as the locations go, the story I’ve read so far covers multiple continents, and hints at other continents with characters who plan to stir up trouble in future books.
I’m going to keep Garden’s of the Moon handy as I read the rest of the series. It dropped too many names that I know will pop up later, and I’m going to want to remember what happened.