What is the best book I read in 2010? This question is a little difficult for me, a large reason being I had a hard time remembering when I read what book. One book popped into my head instantly, and even after scouring my shelves trying to determine the finish date on some of my novels, I returned to the same book: Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Volume 1) by Steven Erikson.
I was looking for a new fantasy series and came across this one, and am certainly glad I did. As an avid reader of the genre, I am a little disappointed in myself that I was so late in finding Erikson. His subject matter is most easily compared to George R.R. Martin (although Erikson finished his books in a timely fashion), but he has a style all his own. The book jumps right into the thick of things, and continues at that pace. I find it very different from any fantasy novel out there, mixing high magic with military action. I enjoyed it so much, that I have since read up to the 5th novel in this 10 part series.
The book starts out after the fall of the Emperor, who has been replaced by one of his former top leaders, Laseen. And by replaced, I mean assassinated. Laseen has set out to conquer the continent of Genebackis, having only two free cities left to dominate. The siege of the city of Pale brings the near destruction of Whiskeyjack’s squad, the Bridgeburners, as well as leaving one surviving cadre mage, Tattersail. Despite this, Laseen orders them to set out and infiltrate the last free city, Darujhistan. Ganoes Paran, a young noble-born, is appointed officer of the Bridgeburners before they set out. Many other forces are at work, some even suspect the immortal ascendants and gods are playing a role. The plots are complex, so much so that I would find it hard to explain them without divulging interesting details that might spoil the excitement.
At first, I remember finding the book difficult to follow. I was constantly checking the list of characters at the beginning, glancing at the map so nicely printed within the pages, and going over the names of the ascendants and races found in the index. There is a lot going on, but about a fourth of the way in, I really got it down, and then I became completely enveloped in the story.
What is great about this novel, and many fantasy novels, is how developed everything is. The entire world is intense, the characters deep, and the plots thick. People underestimate the genre and what it takes to write a novel of this caliber. The author creates something completely new. A new world. New dieties. Magic. Sometimes even a new language. Reading a novel like this transports the reader to uncharted territory, immersing them in something they had never imagined possible, and challenging their imagination to fill in the blanks. I get frustrated when people think of the genre as mere “child’s play.” Read a novel like this one, and I think you will be swayed. But I suppose that is a subject best left for another day (or post).
Even just thinking about this book makes me want to run to my Kindle and immediately download the 5th book in the series, something I have been putting off because of the library project. No wonder I immediately thought of it when thinking about the best book I read last year. You should make it a book you read this year.