on February 2, 2004
The Belgariad is Eddings' first and best fantasy series. First published in the mid-1980s, the Belgariad differed from other fantasy fiction because: (1) it was not based on the elf-dwarf-human creature structure like Lord of the Rings and its various copycats (Terry Brooks, Weis/Hickman, Dennis McKeirnan, etc.); (2) it had mature and defined political systems (including a country that popularly elected its king), international relations and ethnic patterns, unlike even the more mature fantasy offerings of Donaldson (Thomas Covenant) and LeGuin (Earthsea); (3) it had a unique formulation of magic -- the will and the word; and (4) it inverted the purpose of the fantasy quest -- the EVIL ONE sleeps and the heroes seek to prevent his awakening BEFORE he begins his attempt to take over the world (again).
Eddings narrative is sly and occasionally slick -- the characters balance seriousness with humor and the dialogue is often very funny. His world is believable because the political and religious interactions make sense. The best feature of the Belgariad is its relative tonal change -- from reflecting the innocent wide-eyed view of young Garion (the hero, farmboy, of course) in Pawn of Prophecy, the next two books become darker and more serious as Garion begins to realize who he is and what is at stake, and he comes to grips with who his "Aunt Pol" and his "Grandfather" really are.
Eddings' books are also something of a quest story with a travelogue in the world he created -- in the Belgariad he leaves no country untouched in the western continent; in the Mallorean the characters go to every major district in "boundless Mallorea" and his other series (Tamuli, Elenium) are similar.
If they sound repetitive, that's because they are -- Eddings repeats the same formula with some variations in his other series and the various wisecracking and irreverent humor that is refreshing in the first Eddings series you read becomes tiresome and predictable thereafter.
That said, the Belgariad is the first, the most original and probably the best farmboy-saves-the-world quest of the genre.
on April 16, 2004
I'll tell you why David Eddings' Belgariad and Malloreon series are among the best in fantasy. THEY END. Both series are confined to five books: they have distinct beginnings, expansive middles, and satisfying conclusions. This may sound like an odd thing to praise, but anybody who has waded into (and become hopelessly mired in) Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" or Terry Goodkind's "Wizards First Rule" series will know exactly what I'm talking about. Tolkien didn't make us slog through - and this is quite literal, in Jordan's case - tens of thousands of pages of pointless verbosity before bringing his opus to a rousing crescendo, and Eddings...though certainly no master like Tolkien...gives us the same courtesy.
Aside from this most appreciated of gifts, Eddings is also an imaginative and engaging author. Terry Brooks' "Shannara" series, for example, was a barely, thinly, poorly veiled ripoff of Tolkien. Jordan's glacial repetitiveness has caused his once-promising series to run completely out of steam. Goodkind has the same problem. But Eddings keeps things fresh. He also writes some of the most engaging and multi-dimensional characters in fantasy. He writes real growth and dotes loving care on his characters: the changes they undergo through the course of the ten novels of the Belgariad and the Malloreon are believable, understandable, acceptable, rather than visceral and awkward (Terry Goodkind, take note).
All too often, fantasy is given short shrift in serious literary circles. It would do well to remember how much utter trash there is across ALL genres of fiction, not just fantasy, and to accept Eddings' for what he is: a talented and engaging writer. Give these a try.
on February 4, 2003
I first read this series (and its followup, The Malloreon) when I was about 8 years old. With my best friend, we devoured up to 20 scifi/fantasy books a month apiece over the next 5 or so years. Of all those, this series is one of the ones that stands out the most, and that, to this day, I still love to re-read for the 20th+ time.
David Eddings writing style has been said to be formulaic, a statement that is undeniable....his series in alternate worlds all run parallel to each other...This is indeed his downfall in the large scope of things. However, if contained within a single world, the formula is not a problem at all. Eddings is a skillful enough writer that he is able to begin with what may seem to be a sterotype- archetype is a better word- and evolve that character to have as many complexities and contradictions as any real person. Eddings rarely leaves characters one dimensional. While reading the books, you grow to love them...
I remember conversations where Id have people asking if I was speaking of a real person or a character in the series...
To this day, I still have phrases from the narrative in my vocabulary ('Don ya know ;P)
Characters aside, Eddings world is one of the best researched in Fantasy today. He has elements for every major historical civilization reflected in his world, from the Romans to the Mongols....and the corresponding sciences to go with them. One great thing to watch as the story goes by is how the different groups "invent" things that are taken straight out of our past. Aside from being a great story, this series is a treatise on human civilizations and the way we evolve as cultures....mad gods and monsters aside, that is. It is also an interesting commentary on religion.
All this other stuff aside, Its great fun as a story. The banter between the characters will have you splitting your side laughing, and nodding because so much of it is so true. The story is inventive and well laid out. The only book I ever found a bit boring was the first one, because once I had read the rest, I couldnt wait to get through it to read them again.
I highly recomend this series, along with its continuation, the Mallorean. His other series are fun, but basically a copy of these two with the names changed. Its worth it to read the prequels: "Belgarath" and "Polgara", more for the back story than because anything new really happens. For the truely fanatical, there is also the "Rivan Codex" which contains the research texts and histories....
While Eddings is not master craftsman like Tolkein, (though his worlds are in many aspects as complex) he is a solid and comfortable writer, humourous, endearing, and ultimately, in his own way, quite original.
You either Love him or hate him.
on August 27, 2010
...I'm not terribly impressed, to be honest. Oh, don't get me wrong, Eddings spins a good yarn, and I enjoyed the Belgariad, but I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept thinking "surely it can't be this obvious. He's not actually going to play this as straight as it looks. Got to be a twist in here somewhere..."
Well, no, actually. The series proceeds pretty much exactly as you expect it will after reading the prologue and chapter one. Which means that anyone with half a brain will have figured out every revelation and plot point long before they occur, and the only real pleasure is in seeing them played out. It's like watching a movie as an adult that you already saw as a child: you know the main points of what's going to occur, and just stick around for whatever entertainment is found in the details.
In fairness, the details can be entertaining. Eddings has a charming, folksy style, and his characters (while a bit shallow) are generally at least amusing as they bounce off one another. I laughed out loud at some of the things Aunt Pol said, and the depiction of the genial kings, Silk the sly thief, and the Mandorallen the stereotype Arthurian knight are always fun. Even Belgarath, for all that he's channeling a heck of a lot of Gandalf, has an amusing personality all his own. While it's true that none of these characters, Garion included, feels as though they might truly surprise the reader, there's a certain enjoyment in just watching them. They're like reminiscences about a bunch of kindly characters met a long time ago: the company never fails to feel good-hearted and easy-going.
The flip side of the coin is that, once again, this isn't helping the suspense at all. There's no real instance of two characters being at odds (at least none that Aunt Pol can't fix with a motherly tongue-lashing). None of the characters are threatening or spine-tingling. None of them ever makes you wonder about their motives, and NO ONE ever moves too far from that sort of aw-shucks-we're-all-good-fellas-here attitude that seems to sustain them as a group.
I suppose the word for this series is charming. It really is. If we put aside the fact that Eddings as a writer is so damn likable and his characters are so cute, it becomes fairly clear that The Belgariad is just a lesser son of greater parents (i.e. Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Rings, and let's not forget...Lord of the Rings), much like the Shannara series. It's also, as I said above, almost unbelievably predictable.
Fortunately, Eddings IS a likable author, his character ARE cute, and so despite its flaws this story ends up being a fun, if not particularly riveting, diversion.
As a final note, this seems, after the manner of the Drizzt or Shannara books, like a good introduction to epic fantasy for younger kids, say the 10-14 range. If possible, get them into the Hobbit first, but the Belgariad would make a solid (and nonthreatening) stepping stone between "kid's fantasy" and "adult fantasy".
I was glad they started publishing this series with more than one book per volume. It is much better to have a few books lying around than ten unnecessary ones. This of course in the first of the combined format and includes Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery and Magician's Gambit.
This, to be honest, is one of my favorite series, especially when you consider the next five books, after these first five which are the Melloreon which include an additional five books. A reviewer has already pointed out that one of the strong points of these two series is that they have a beginning and an end are not like the Wheel of Time which goes on and on and on and on.
The plot here has been addressed quite well in other reviews so I will not linger all that long on it. The book, and indeed the series, is a quest story, beginning with a small lad living on a farm in a distant land. You have your good guys, bad guys, magic swords, magic stones and a plethora of characters that become quite endearing quite quickly. One of the strongest parts of Eddings' writing is his humor. The banter between characters in this work is amusing at the very least. Yes, the plot is pretty simplistic to the ultra-sophisticated reader, but hey, sometimes a person just needs a good story to take their minds off things, i.e. escape. These books fit that need perfectly.
As I have pointed out in other reviews of this series, if you go through all ten books, and read quite closely, you will find error after error and inconsistency after inconsistency. That is part of the charm of these books! It does not really matter and does not hurt the story one bit. Finding these little quirks has become a bit of a hobby for me, one I delight in.
For a good simple read, a read that is fast (yes, these are page turners) and one that is simply fun, you could do worse.
on December 5, 2005
My first experiance with Eddings came in the form of 'The Redemption of Althalus', a stand-alone novel by David and his wife. At the time I found it interesting, so I promptly moved on and - by sheer luck of the draw - hit on the very first book in the Belgariad series.
I am competely flabbergasted!
The characters leap from the pages and drive themselves straight into your blood so that you actually care what happens to them. David's talent for creating compelling, dynamic characters from almost anything - even steriotypes (Age-old wizard? Thief? Ranger? Yea...) - comes into full swing in this, his first five-book series. When it comes to the characters and their personalities, he did a commendable job.
Many people will inevitably compare this to Tolken: There are some reviewers in the world that, with any book whatsoever, seem to scream 'Tolken! Tolken!' like horribly scarred and broken records. Don't let them fool you - this book is a must-read for any fantasy fan that values the overt simplicity that a good story brings, yet craves the subtile plot-twists that make a series like this so compelling.
The Redemption of Althalus (Which, by the way, I will also reccommend if you're bored) got me interested in this writer, and I wanted something to pass the hours. Something that rings with that old-time high fantasy; it's rare to find somebody who is so darn good at portraying what he wishes that he can take almost any plot - and this is an intesting plot - and put a good spin on it. To put it frankly? I wanted good fantasy, David delivered.
If you've got a library card, check it out.
You'll thank me later.
on November 14, 2002
When I first started reading Pawn of Prophecy (Belgariad part 1) I was instantly drawn into this fantastic world that David Eddings created. The story is full of wonderful and intriguing characters, and that is what moves this story along. The plot has been done before, but it's slightly reinvented for this story. Garion is expertly written, and as I read his story I felt as if it were me who was taking this journey. Not many books have done this. Belgarath is reminiscent of Tolkien's Gandalf, only more down-to-earth. Polgara is an AMAZING woman, overflowing with personality and so much fun to read. The sorcerers' power, called The Will and the Word, is very cool and probably the best form of wizardry I've read. Its concept is fresh and interesting. No magic words or anything...just will something and command it to happen with a word. But using it could alert those evil sorcerers of your whereabouts from the "noise" that magic makes.
All in all, this series rocks! Also check out the prequels, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress. These are amazing books. The only modern fantasy books that have come close to creating this same excitement for me has been the Harry Potter series.
on January 7, 2015
I really wanted to like this book. It's in NPR's top 100 fantasy and sci-fi books, it's rated so well here, but I didn't enjoy it.
Here's why. The group of adventurers is made up of 2-3 all-powerful wizards, an all-powerful assassin and trickster, some all-powerful warriors, and various others. They face off against regular people for the most part, with a few tougher foes thrown in, but after the first few encounters, it became clear that they had not been and would not be in any danger at all. After dispatching foe after foe with a single sword thrust or single word, without any harm coming to them, it began to resemble a PG-rated made-for-kids adventure. There was simply no drama, no danger. In the first half of the book, the only thing that hurt any of them was a mishap with a tree.
The shape of the quest is strange, too. They're chasing after someone, trying to catch up with him, but then they stop on more than one occasion to take months-long side trips for various reasons. The fate of every world in the universe hangs in the balance and.. they decide to head to a different land and visit with so-and-so for a while? And more than once?
There is also little character development. Nobody is changed from the person they were when they started out. And why would they, if there is nothing harrowing or dramatic to cause a change? It feels like episodes of a show. There are many encounters and adventures, but most last only a short chapter or two. The danger is easily conquered, has no lasting consequences, and for the most part doesn't come back again. With nobody powerful enough to affect our heroes, the quest is never thrown off track for long, and there's no need for the characters to rethink anything. There are no real surprises, no consequential twists and turns.
That said, I think this might be a very satisfying read for young readers. I prefer my adventures a little more realistic, challenging, dramatic, and gritty.
on February 17, 2003
Part of the joys of reading these books is that they deliver what they promise, and that is an entertaining reading experience. Never once does Eddings promise that these stories are meant to be anything more than that.
Eddings knows enough about the hisotry of the fantasy novel to know that there is no such thing anymore as an original plot or characters. And whereas Tolkein placed his emphasis on the (prudish) Vicotrian ideals, Eddings goes back to orgins of the fantasy novel (which is medieval romance). Importatntly Eddings also recognizes that writing genre fiction is about selling books (any author who tells you other is full of it).
Since Eddings knew that fantasy was based on archetypes, he didn't take the pretentious route of an author who claimed that what they were doing was say somehting like "creating a new mythology" (the pretentiousness of Tolkein really bugs me). He alos knew that at the time of the book's first publishing (1982) that the main consumer of fantasy novels was the teenage male, so he wrote his novels accordingly. This doesn't mean that he employed a juvenille writting style, even as I read these novels as an adult there is never a feeling of Eddings talking down to me. It's just that he used a more simple approach (simple doens't mean bad, there is genius in simplicity). The characters were based upon easily recognizable archetypes, but Eddings gave them individuality. For example, even though they are both based on the same archetype, Belgarath is different than Gandalf or Merlin. Since these characters would already be somewhat familiar to the reader, he/she could more easily identify with them. The same could be said for the different races that populate the world Eddings "created". They are all based on cultures that are pretty easily identifiable...the Vikings, Romans, Monguls, Huns, Visigoths, Egyptians, etc.
I believe two of the most important contributions that Eddings has made to the fantasy genre are (1) his (and his wife's) creation of strong, fully devloped characters, esp. female characters. They are complex, fully developed characters. Whereas too many fantasy novels I have read either relegate females to that damsel in distress role or if the females are put into a lead role their femininty and sexuality are usually greatly compromised. This never happens with the Eddings female characters (in any of his novels). (2) His emaphasis on diaglouge. This things his characters say to each other and the way they say them just adds an extra dimmension of realness to them.
While these novels aren't meant to be philosophical treatise on the nature of man, relgion, magic, etc.; there are some interesting points that are brought up that did cause me to do a little extra thinking. Those would be the the role of religion in society and how it can utterly control a society. The idea that your "god" could be a mistake. Free will vs predetermination. The nature of time and mans need to compartmentalize it. The fundamental differences between men and women. And the idea that there is a world out there beyond what can be seen with our eyes.
on February 18, 2003
I was first introduced to this genre by my husband who only reads fantasy and sci-fi. I never cared to read any of his books; I preferred the "Oprah" list or something literary like the Bronte sisters. However, I found my husband so keenly engrossed and absorbed in this series that I picked up the first book and after the first chapter alone, I was hooked. Eddings has a way of endearing the characters to the readers so that you truly feel as if you are on the journeys with each of them. Moreover, I was impressed with the fusion of humor and sensitivity that these characters imbue. There were times throughout the entire series of books that I actually laughed aloud at some of the antics and commentaries of the characters. Eddings made them so "real" and human that the reader forgets that it's fantasy. I loved this entire series and found the storylines easy to follow, comprehensible and plausible. Not a moment of tedium exists in any of these books; each is indeed a page turner. I fell in love with all the characters and even found one I could identify with. Enjoyable. Fun. Highly engrossing.