I want to talk races. But this isn’t an easy thing to do without spoiling, so I’m going to make a compromise. I will list only the stuff that’s relevant for reading Gardens of the Moon. Whoever doesn’t quit that book will be more than prepared to learn about the rest through the act of reading.
Informally, Malazan races fall into one of three categories: founding races, the offspring of founding races, and the invading races. Here are the relevant ones:
Founding Races (And Their Offshoots)
Ancient civilizations. Most of these are no longer present by the time we tune in for the story. Those that are have either changed or mixed with something else. As said before, I will only list those that are relevant for Gardens of the Moon.
Imass: The Imass are the ancestors of humans, as well as a lot of others. Examples are the Barghast (token barbarians) and the Moranth (a weird caste-based civilization whose members are never seen without being fully covered in chitinous, insect-like armor).
This is a very, very minor spoiler, but the majority of Imass didn’t really die out. A long time before the series’ start, they undertook a huge ritual that transformed them into the undying T’lan Imass. The passage of millennia was not easy on these immortals. The physical deterioration was bad enough, but the mental strain of having to exist forever has made most of them choose to stop thinking independently. They now voluntarily comprise the Malazan Empire’s undead legions.
This negative effect of immortality on one’s psyche is one of the series’ recurring themes.
Jaghut: Visually, these are basically orcs, with tough, grey skin, and prominent tusks. The Jaghut were a peaceful people, but had their share of bad apples. Occasionally, a so-called Jaghut tyrant would emerge to subjugate other, weaker races. This eventually spelled the Jaghuts’ doom, as the Imass grew tired of having to deal with these tyrants and turned themselves undead in order to gain an edge in the war. The T’lan Imass were successful, and pure-blooded Jaghut were exterminated.
Jhag is a catch-all term for those born with Jaghut blood, but Jhag aren’t technically a civilization.
The other founding races don’t feature heavily in the first book, but I will mention the K’Chain Che’Malle, who are intelligent dinosaurs. With blades for hands. Yes. There’s a bit more to it than that but yes, Erikson actually put this into the series. Genius, I know.
These aren’t technically invaders (at least by this point in the story), but they did arrive from another world, so they are at the very least foreign and alien.
Eleint: Dragons! Anything else would be spoiling, but they’re in the series!
Tiste Andii: Ancient and immortal creatures of immense power, visually similar to dark elves, minus the pointy ears. They originate from the Warren of Darkness, and their existence predates the current shape of the world. They even predate the very existence of light!
By nature, the Tiste Andii are a melancholy and introspective people. They know that their time has passed, and the zest for life has left them a long time ago. No pleasure of this world or any other is new to them, and they rarely even bother to procreate anymore. In essence, they are waiting to die out. Their leader, however, keeps trying to invent new ways to shove them out of their funk.
There are other Tiste races, but they aren’t relevant to the plot of Gardens of the Moon. I’ll say this much: I have an immense dislike for elves, but I love these guys.
This should be enough for now. Have fun learning the rest!
Next time we will talk about some important characters.
M. T. Miller