Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
|Book Name:||Pawn of Prophecy|
|Publisher(s):||Del Rey Books|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Release Date:||April 1982|
If you’d asked me ten years ago what I thought of fantasy, I’d have told you I wasn’t a fan anymore. That’s changed now (thanks to Abercrombie and Lynch), but at the time I’d grown weary of reading about the young man in a menial job who turns out to be the Only One capable of defeating the Evil Villain. Of course, he’ll have to undergo a quest for a Magic Item, aided by a team that represents every character class in Dungeons and Dragons, just to make sure that all the bases are covered. Oh, and one of them is probably the Most Powerful Sorcerer who ever lived.
Admittedly, that’s a bitter and cynical view, a poor opinion that’s based purely on cliché. Yet, at the time, I was convinced it was the truth; all fantasy novels followed the same tiresome formula, and there was nothing new or exciting about the genre. Wrong, of course, but that opinion had to have been borne from somewhere. In my teens, I devoured the likes of Feist and Eddings as well as their contemporaries and imitators; perhaps this over indulgence was merely too much for me and, unable to take any more, I had to step away.
When the opportunity to revisit the Belgariad recently presented itself, it was met with mixed emotions. Would it rekindle the old flame from thirty years ago, or fill me with regret for having started it? There was only one way to find out: admittedly, after opening Pawn of Prophecy and finding a map, I felt sure it would be the latter. When the text begins, it’s with a prologue that informs the reader about the history of the Orb of Aldur (there’s your Magic Item right there), while also detailing and describing the major players involved; including, of course, that Powerful Sorcerer. This did not bode well, especially as the prologue felt like a clinical retelling of author notes that read like non-fiction.
The story moves forward a few centuries to introduce us to Garion, a boy who lives with an aunt remarkably like someone described in the prologue. Other characters appear, also very similar to these ancients. Yet, Eddings treats his readers with respect and never tries to hide this from them; it’s Garion who remains unaware of their true identities, although by the end of the book he’s thankfully worked out exactly who they are. As I progressed through the pages, I began to be grateful for the map, which I referenced a lot as Garion and his companions set off on their quest. It also made me appreciate the depth of Eddings’ world-building, although there are parts where his descriptions are so dry they make the book feel like a travel guide rather than adventure story.
The dialogue can be equally as flat. Too often, it is pure exposition as characters reveal to each other (and therefore the reader) what the next cunning plan is going to be, or summarising what has just happened in case the less observant have missed it. There’s little to differentiate between the voices, making each character sound much like the next, and it can become tiresome when the same character always speaks ‘slyly’ or ‘grandly’.
So, I hated this book, right? Oddly enough, no. For all the flaws, it’s a great story told through the eyes of a teenage boy, which Eddings does extremely well. I couldn’t put it down, always needing to know what was going to happen next. It wears its heart on its sleeve – you can spot the bad guys a mile away, just by what they look like – but it’s written in such a way that I found myself inwardly cheering the heroes and hissing at the villains.
It’s also possibly due to the nostalgia element creeping in. It was great to meet the likes of Silk again, a character much like those I’ve always tended to play in Dungeons and Dragons, and there were scenes I could remember reading for the first time all those years ago during school holidays; others were from later books, which I’m now looking forward to revisiting.
Like it or not, Eddings’ work is a massive part of the genre. His influence is still felt now, even if it’s just because writers are rebelling against his kind of story, adding further depth to characters or creating situations where all is not as it seems. A discussion on the internet referred to Eddings as the Star Trek of fantasy, meaning you know exactly what you’re going to get. I’d agree, and at times this is the kind of book you want to read, one where you don’t have to think too much and just enjoy the spectacle as it unfolds. Taken as such, it’s quite refreshing.
I’ve seen Pawn of Prophecy in a few bookshops lately, and it appears to be marketed as a young adult novel which, given the age of its main protagonist, feels right; that’s the age I was when I first read and loved it. Now I’m older, I’ve still enjoyed it, although it feels more like a showcase for the potential of the genre rather than the pinnacle of what can be accomplished. Not brilliant, then, but good enough that I’m suitably intrigued and want to finish the series.