Thoughts After Re-Reading “The Belgariad”

So, I recently finished re-reading “The Belgariad” by David Eddings. What I found was that the work was interesting and generally entertaining, but that the end seemed both rushed and to drag, which is a marvelous achievement for an author [grin].

The reason, I think, is that we had a relatively long, slow-paced, and lore-enriched opening quest, where Garion leaves the farm where he grew up and sets off with Polgara, Belgarath, and the rest to retrieve the Orb from Torak’s minions and return it to Riva, which then gets settled … and then almost immediately thereafter after some small plot events — the betrothal to Ce’Nedra, for example — Garion, Belgarath and Silk head out again for the final confrontation. Which is, as we all know, the main event driving the entire series, which means that it has the most importance of pretty much everything. Unfortunately, it can only involve a small number of characters and there isn’t really anything all that interesting to do in that quest; the whole point is for them to get to Torak as quickly and silently as possible, with as little fuss as they can. Throwing major obstacles at them would both pad out the length — and Eddings says in the intro to the Mallorean that there were length constraints on the Belgariad that were relaxed for the Mallorean — and start to get a little ridiculous given how few people they had; either Belgarath and Belgarion blast their way through all enemies, making the obstacles not obstacles, or else their problems would be ridiculously constrained to the non-magic skills that Silk, Belgarath and Garion happened to have.

So, to avoid this and to keep everyone else in the mix, Eddings instead seems to take a page from “The Lord of the Rings” and has Polgara, Ce’Nedra and the Western kings muster a large army to distract the enemy from Belarion and the others. Which isn’t a bad idea, but we know that this army is nothing more than a distraction, but it takes up a lot of space in the book without us finding out all that much that’s interesting. There are moments of humour and characterization, but they are few and far between and the battle itself is a bit anti-climactic given what its nature was. And, again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but it seems to take up too much time relative to the important quest, which then gets short-shrift. And then having Polgara, Errand, Ce’Nedra and Durnik arrive at the final confrontation for reasons of Prophecy seems to make the battle scene even more pointless. All the really important stuff happens in the final confrontation, and so the details of and lead up to the battle seems like padding, while the part where they travel to the final confrontation seems like it just happens with little build-up or attention.

However, as I said, the book is still enjoyable. What Eddings does really well is build lore around the world, which is why he managed to squeeze two five book series and two prequels out of that world and that lore. The characters are generally archetypical but interesting, and fit into the world well. Eddings does manage to fit a good bit of humour into the work, which is nice.

I’m now re-reading “The Mallorean”.

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3 Responses to “Thoughts After Re-Reading “The Belgariad””

  1. Ilion Says:

    As I recall it (from a many, many years ago reading of them), *all* the books set in that world are one single (short-ish) story told over and over again and at great length … albeit not as badly and as repetitively as “The Wheel of Time”. For that matter, the “Elenium” series was also the *same* story, was it not?

    • verbosestoic Says:

      Sort of. He pulls the “All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again” line in the Malloreon to explain away simply reusing the same characters and similar plots, but Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress are mainly “And now you know the rest of the story” if I recall correctly. And while the Elenium had similar elements — jewel vs god, adding in jewel vs jewel in the Tamuli — there’s a different focus and even relationship between all the relevant powers in those books. For example, politics and religion are deeply intertwined into the plot in the Elenium and Tamuli, while they’re just asides and minor plot points in the Belgariad and Malloreon. Also, the Elenium starts with trying to save Ehlana’s life, while the Belgariad starts with trying to retrieve the Orb.

  2. Re-Reading the Malloreon | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] after re-reading the Belgariad, I have now moved on to re-reading the Malloreon. I was really interested in seeing what my […]

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