Over the last year or so, I've been on a Sci-Fi/Fantasy kick. Along with that, I usually read mysteries, sports biographies, leadership/coaching books, and parenting/family/spiritual growth stuff. But lately its been mostly fantasy. I've read almost all of Brandon Sanderson's books (waiting on Way of Kings in paperback), Patrick Rothfuss and Scott Lynch (long waits for really cool and inventive characters), Steven Boyett's Ariel and Elegy Beach, Ken Scholes's Psalm's of Isaak series, and Daniel Abraham's The Long Price Quartet. Somewhere in there I read some reviews of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I'm hesitant to dive into long, drawn out series, for fear they will never be completed, but Erikson's 10 volume series is nearing the end (book 9 is out; 10 is on the way). So anyway, I decided to read Gardens of the Moon, the first book in the series. It was awesome.
Erikson drops the reader into the middle of the action as a world conquering Empire is working it's way through another continent. Several groups of characters are introduced within the first 100ish pages (it checks in at 650+). The reader must work to understand and connect the dots as the story unfolds, with hints of past history dropped every now and then. Erikson very ably juggles the multiple characters, and includes a very handy index of names to help out. The story moves swiftly, without ever feeling rushed; and it doesn't give too much away too quickly. I never felt like I had it all figured out, but (after the initial adjustment to a new and unfamiliar world) I never felt lost, either. One thing that stood out about the characters is that I never was quite sure who to "root" for. So many books in this genre have a clear delineation between good guys and bad guys, that it's easy to know who to "like" and who to "dislike". Erikson paints his characters with broad gray strokes. Until the very end, it's hard to know who's motivations are good, and often it depends on the particular character's viewpoint.
All in all, I really enjoyed Gardens of the Moon. I will definitely be reading the next book in this series, Deadhouse Gates.