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The Belgariad by David Eddings – Over Thirty?

Pawn of Prophecy (cover)Hands down, one of the greatest fantasy series of all time.

You’re still here? Great.

The books, the first five that make The Belgariad, are over thirty years old and still in print. There are many a book, and series, that has gone out of print in that time. Clearly, this series has long term appeal. People are still buying it and journeying through the world of prophecy.

Why? Let me tell you now, and I am not going to put these books down, to denigrate them and point out the flaws – you can find them any and everywhere. People are always willing to speak in negatives; it gets good press and we’re almost programmed to enjoy it these days. Instead, I am going to try and focus on the many, many positives. The door is over there if you need it.

Queen of Sorcery (cover)The Belgariad is not Grimdark. Thank the deity of your choice for that. There are, for you gore fiends and lovers of treachery, self-indulgence and selfishness, some ugly scenes in the books. A man torn in half by a demon. A gentle boy assassinated. Scenes of sacrificial slaughter with open chests and hearts torn from the cavity within. All of that is there in books. There is a feeling of disgust and sorrow raised in the characters who witness these scenes. No one shrugs it off, but it determines their actions in the future and reaffirms their desire. However, there is humour too that carries through many of the scenes and chapters.

Let me be clear, and stake my own bias here. I’m a human who believes we can be a better species. We can treat each other with respect and kindness. That our future is not one of constant wars of religion, resources and wealth. At some point, we will put differences aside and create a better world… and you may say, he’s a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.

Darkness begets darkness. We need to see the light and I’d be prepared to meet anyone* inside the ring to argue that even grimdark has a light within it… somewhere, most of the time. It has to have hope or what is the point?

Magician's Gambit (cover)At the heart of The Belgariad is relationships. Not desire and lust, but love. It echoes all the way through the series. Here is a family, extended and full of friendships, that functions. They argue at times, but they forgive and understand. One of my friends and fellow FF mod on the Facebook page mentioned how everyone hugs it out and he’s right. But I’ll tell you this, when my own family argue, kids blow a gasket at being asked to clean their rooms for instance (messy buggers), it is all forgiven and ends in a hug. That’s what families do; care, argue, love, forgive and move on.

You find you just want to spend more time with the cast of The Belgariad. I’d give anything to sit in a tavern and listen to Mr Wolf tell a story of the past. Listen to the kings bicker and complain, then get drunk on ale. Practice archery with Lelldorin or help Garion learn to use his powers. Go on a business trip with Silk or eat food cooked by Aunt Pol. I remember the first time I finished Book 5, before the Mallorean had been released, and I was devastated that this group of people would no longer be in my life.

Castle of Wizardry (cover)Garion is a (mostly) orphan boy and we grow with him. From callow and shallow, a small boy whose world is constrained by his Aunt and the border of Faldor’s farm all the way through the world of The Belgariad. We are with him when he confront his loneliness, when comes to terms with what happened to his family, his discovery of his extended family, learning to read and write, his struggles with his own morals and his falling in love.** Every step of the way, we are inside his head and his worries.

More than anything it is an adventure – even in the moments of quiet, things are happening, foreshadowing, hints, building relationships. There is good and evil, wrong and right, but there are shades of grey too. I’m never going to argue these are the darkest of books, but they are not the lightest.

The story is old, but great… just like all good stories. It stands the test of time. Gone are the days when I must prove my manhood by eating the hottest curry, downing fifteen*** pints and belching out the tune of land of hope and glory.****

Enchanter's End Game (cover)If you haven’t read them, go and do so. Don’t be high and mighty about… don’t go looking for the meaning of life***** but go looking for a great story that will keep you entertained and enthralled. And if you don’t find that, I’m sorry, you’re dead inside.******

And when you finish those, you can start on the Mallorean.

* Anyone much, much smaller than me.
** Strangely, I married a lovely young lady who is very reminiscent of Ce’Nedra… I am reading nothing else into that.
*** Those who know me would never say I could drink fifteen pints… 3 maybe. At a push.
**** And I can’t hold a tune either.
***** 42… come on, really?!
****** Maybe not, but it made a good ending to the article.

Title image by Fatih Öztürk.

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Rating: 8.7/10 (9 votes cast)
The Belgariad by David Eddings - Over Thirty?, 8.7 out of 10 based on 9 ratings
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2 Comments

  1. I am utterly with you. Absolutely and utterly in pretty much every single thing you have said here.

    One of the things Eddings is great at is characterization. There are a ton of tiny little scenes–parts of scenes really–that make you love these characters. I’m thinking in particular of a time when Polgara catches Durnik in some sort of shenanigan (involving fishing, I’m sure) and as Durnik is turning away, Garion catches the slightest bit of a smile on Durnik’s face, and knows that Durnik did it intentionally so Pol could catch him.

    That, and there’s a scene on the beach when they’re shipwrecked and Pol makes illusions of the whole crew from the first five books to scare off, well, the crew from the ship and she and Belgarath have a moment. It’s really quite lovely.

    Also, this: “A gentle boy assassinated.” is one of the two things in the whole series that always seem to make my room dusty–even when I’m outside. The other being the very, very end.

  2. adam says:

    lovely. i think i read these at exactly the right age. the part about the darkness being afraid of the light bc even if the light is small it is still opposing the dark has stayed with me my whole life.

    what do you think of the mallorean, then?

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