So, this book. It took me a few weeks to get through, and although I’ve finished it, its still on my mind. The biggest reason is because I don’t know if I liked it or not. And part of the problem is there are so many good and bad things that I can’t make up my mind.
The first thing about the book it’s sheer size. It’s 700 pages plus a little over a hundred pages of appendix and preview and such. That’s about the size of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Except that is a whole story, and this is the first of nine books (or more, only nine were listed in my copy). That’s much too big for a paperback, I feel. Like, physically it was difficult to hold.
Now, Gardens of the Moon introduces a whole huge sprawling fantasy world. Unlike Lord of the Rings, it jumps in with both feet. The first few chapters start to set the scene fairly well, but every five pages a new character, or school of magic, or god, or group or race is introduced. And that continues for like, three hundred pages. That’s the length of most whole books.
Once all he introductions are complete, a there’s lot of really neat action and plot development as the characters fight to find out what’s going on. Each section is written from the perspective of a different character, so it does some really cool fight scenes in the middle of the book where mid-fight it changes perspective to reveal something else tabout o change the tide of the fight.
Now, I say sections because the book isn’t divided into chapters the way normal books are. I mean, there are chapters, and there are collections of chapters called books, but the physical chapters don’t seem to have a clear definition. The ‘books’ do, but the chapters have very little definition because the actual writing is constantly jumping around between characters and Scenes as the plots go on. I think it’s because the book was originally written to be a TV show, that it’s broken down this way.
Which is the next thing. There is no single plot to this book. I guess there is kinda the question is “does the empire tconquer he clast free city”, but the real problem is that this is not actually the goal of any of the main characters. One of the antagonists wants it to happen, and a bunch of minor characters are working towards it in the background; but everyone is worried about what the gods are doing.
And the gods are trying to convince or force or guide mortals to… Win? It’s not entirely clear, except that everyone keeps trying to kill the god of luck. The god of shadows wants to kill the empress, but while it says that’s what it’s trying to do the actions it takes seem entirely unrelated. “I’m going to kill the empress” it says, sending its strongest assassin to the front lines of the war, on another continent.
There are a lot of smaller plots. Paran, one of the main characters, wants to be a hero. Then, he wants to kill his boss and maybe the empress when someone (who was lying to him) tells him his boss is trying to get him killed.
Ben and Kalim want to kill the character Sorry, because she has been possessed by the god of assassins. Then, 3/4 through the book, another character causes Sorry to become unpossessed and that’s the end of that plot, they spend the rest of the book trying to conquer the city like all the minor characters were doing.
WhiskeyJack and Tattersail (the characters mentioned in the back of the book) are planning something. Their plans aren’t featured in this book, although maybe Whiskeyjack wants to overthrow the empire because the new empress is trying to kill him. He spends most of the book being a generic rebellious captain character until it’s revealed in the last two chapters he has a magic connection to a rebellion on another continent. Tattersail dies not even halfway through the book, but gets reincarnated and you see her for three lines two hundred pages later.
Kruppe and a bunch of other named characters whose names never stood out enough to clearly remember… They’re in the last free city. They each have different goals, but the only one that gets resolved is that the fallen noble gets his land back because someone kills the people who took it from him in the last scene.
Baruk the alchemist and Murtallio the writer want to keep the last free city free. However, almost exclusively they serve as devices for the reader to learn what the arantagonists e up to. Crone the giant magic crow wants to be the antagonist of book four or something. She’s around a lot asking questions but basically doesn’t do anything.
Then there are the antagonists. The Adjunct wants to kill Whiskeyjack, and Sorry, and capture the last free city. She uses Tool, who belongs to one of several ancient, dead races who get mentioned way too much, because both of them have antimagic powers. With Tool she wants to free The Tyrant, who could probably destroy be last free city, and would probably be able to stop Rake.
The Tyrant, by the way, gets four chapters of build up, then kills five dragons in two pages and escapes a god trying to catch him before getting killed by a minor character using a weapon that wasn’t mentioned before it blew the Tyrant up.
Rake is a member of another ancient dead race. He has a flying palace, everyone is scared of him. He wants the empress dead because she keeps trying to kill him. He also wants to stop anyone else from killing her. Partway through the book, he kills two demigods and scares away a god. Then, he later turns into a dragon. He spends two chapters preparing to fight the Tyrant and then ends the book by fighting a summoned demon who was never mentioned before the fight scene but could destroy the continent.
As you can see, there’s a lot of plots. And most of them don’t tie in together. Yet. There was a forward that explains the series was always intended to be eight books long. Which is too much, IMO. Because every time something big is mentioned you know it’s going to be the subject of another book.
Now, all this complaining aside, I think wthere as a lot of good in the book. It was all well written, and there was a very good middle. But the ending was seriously marred by things that never got explained stopping god-powered threats, and new elements coming out of the woodwork.
For instance, the book builds up to a fight between Rake and the Tyrant, but then never pays off, as the Tyrant is stopped by plot hole A and Rake fights plot hole B. I don’t see any reason the fight that was foreshadowed couldn’t have replaced both plotholes.
There’s also the ofcomplexity the book. It gives the world a ton of flavor and depth and uniqueness, but it happens to overshadow that no character or group of characters was interesting to deserve their own book.
If they closed that plot hole ending, and cut out all those characters whose names I forgot, the book would have probably been only 450 pages, and much more engaging and clear.
And now that I’ve written it down, hopefully I’ll be able to get it out of my head.