As part of my quest to work through the best selling fantasy books/series of all time, “The Belgariad” was one hurdle to be crossed… and a big hurdle at that.
Let’s just start off by saying the books are big, very big. Even though there are only 5 books in the series, each paper-bound adventure holds a wealth of character development, world building scope and epicness. As an obvious fan of high fantasy I can not help but recommend these books to anyone who wishes to explore the genre.
I find it very hard to write book reviews… mainly because I am a noob writer myself and therefore know how I fail to compete with the literary giants whose works I study. I am no critic, I am a fan. I am no commentator, I am a student. I am no expert, but I am an adventurer, and from the adventure I have in these books I explore, I will try to break down my own experience into logical points:
Who will enjoy The Belgariad?
- Did I already say that the books are big? Well they are. If you are the type of person who smashes out a book a weekend and loves to rush through to the end, then these books might not be for you. Not only are they big in volume, but they are also very slow paced. So if you are not someone who focuses on the journey and rather focus on the destination, then these might be hard to swallow. The flip side is that if you are someone who loves the journey, who loves to get to know people better, then you will absolutely love the series as it is packed with character interaction and adventure.
- Eddings’ strength lies in character development. Of all the fantasy books I worked through, this series (thus far) trumps the others in the development of characters. Most of the time in the books are spent on (seemingly) pointless wandering all around the world in which honestly nothing else really happens but you spending time with the characters. You get to learn their personalities, their secrets and intrigues, and their personal journeys to some form or another of personal redemption.
- A great thing about The Belgariad is that it’s not too overly tropey. Yes, it does follow the heroes journey of the one who is destined to save the world… but at least it doesn’t have dwarves, elves and dragons. So while you will pick up the general scent of the chosen one’s destiny, the world and systems are creative enough to not make you feel like you are reading another Tolkien ripp-off.
- Do you like Gandalf, Macros the Black or Allanon by any chance? Well then you will love Belgarath (aka Mr. Wolf). As much as he is not the hero of the story, Belgarath is that unmissable larger than life character who always makes you feel like there is much more to the world and magic system then what you see. The quirky, funny wizard is not only epic in battle and wisdom, but also great for comic relief throughout the story-line.
Who might not enjoy it… as much :)
- Whilst the world is full of intrigue and mystery, the action is few and far in-between. I might be able to count on my fingers the amount of times in the books that swords (or spells) meet. Most times the heroes try to avoid battle and confrontation as far as possible and the writer rather focuses on developing their characters more. I personally missed the action. My personality enjoys the characters, but if I know they are so bad-ass then I prefer to see them in action.
- The story is very predictable. In the greater scheme of things a hero’s journey will always be predictable to some extent… but that is bearable if you are side-tracked with enough other fluff and side-quests to take your focus off the main story arc. As this story lacks action, you are always painfully aware of the greater arc and can therefore become frustrated at the fact that the heroes themselves do not see what is so obvious to you as the reader.
What did I really like about The Belgariad:
- Silk (aka Prince Kheldar) is one of the coolest characters I have ever come across. He is absolutely devious, sneaky and sly, and he is super proud of it. I have had many a laugh about Silk in the stories. At first he is a very sly tradesman who talks himself into the best deals, leaving his poor victims dumbstruck as to how they gave in to his bartering. Then later it is revealed that he is not only a merchant, but also a prince who plays at politics better then all the rest (whilst he will never admit it). And then finally you learn that he is also a spy for his king and an assassin. Yes, Silk is the super intelligent, totally bored A.D.D villain hero who basically dabbles with everything for the hell and adventure of it. And to top it all off, in spite of his blatant moral deficiencies he still manages to live by a code of honor and conduct. Silk was a wonderfully imagined and engineered character and really enjoyable.
So in summary. If you have the time, read it. They are good books but long winded. They have great characters and an interesting world.