How does one critique a book? Examine the writing, the mechanics, the beauty of the written word? Or, does one take another approach and view the enjoyment and pull of the narrative?
Steven Erikson‘s novel, Gardens of the Moon, was enjoyable. It ventured away from that staid plot device: the young hero from nowhere who defeats an empire. Instead, Gardens of the Moon shifted perspective among a cast of characters that included various factions from a powerful empire and a mixture of people from a rebel city. As the series moves forward, Erikson has given himself a lot with which to work. The series (Malazan Book of the Fallen) seems ambitious in breadth. From my understanding the series moves in such a way that some characters carry over, while others fade away. This seems like a smart move and allows Erikson to focus on the story he wants to tell. The end of Gardens of the Moon was fairly complete as well. While it certainly leads into the next book, it’s not dependent on what happens in the future. In other words, one can read this first book and feel satisfied.
Satisfaction comes at a price though. While I mentioned that Erikson avoided some of the pitfalls of fantasy, he did manage to fall into a another trap: poor writing and mechanics. I liked the story; it’s true, but I found it hard to read due to Erikson’s writing. Transitions are few, descriptions are flat, changes in perspective are disorienting, and Erikson does not seem to understand the usage of commas and semicolons. Those items are what’s stopping me from reading the second book.
In the cost/benefit ratio of reading, do I want to put up with all those deficiencies for the story? Is it too distracting? If you’ve read the this novel or others in the series, let me know what you think. Does the writing get better?