Thoughts After Re-Reading the Malloreon

So, I finished re-reading the Malloreon. As expected, as the quest shifted away from simply chasing Zandramas and instead trying to fulfill the necessary conditions for their “side” to win, things went a lot better. Unfortunately, though, a lot of the things that happened in that quest seemed a bit pointless. There were only a few real plot points to chase in the quest, and the rest seemed like doing things because Eddings wanted to do them, not so much because they were important overall. The “repetition of events” part particularly suffers from this, because often it seems like the events happen only to support the idea of repetition, and not because they fit into the story as a reasonable and necessary repetition.

It also suffers because Zandramas is an utterly uninteresting antagonist. Both Urvon and Agachak have more interesting backgrounds and a better link to the main characters and overall plot, and yet they only appear as hindrances to the main characters and as potential hindrances to Zandramas despite ultimately being no real threat to anyone. And Zandramas’ constant attempts to circumvent the choice just ended up being really annoying. She’s not particularly powerful, clever, or even has an interesting personality to play off of. They don’t really interact with her on any level until the end — there are a few short scenes before that — and she has no real history. Facing her at the end is utterly anti-climactic, and that could have worked if after the final skirmish she had accepted her role and waited for the choice — and so faded out of the story — but instead they are constantly defending against her schemes. This even hurts the final choice because it wasn’t established what the big choice was and it is implied that Zandramas attempts to influence Cyradis’ mind and thus make her doubt what the choice ought to be, which is a really shallow way to have the choice be in doubt. And given how much Zandramas cheats and how evil the Dark Spirit is supposed to be, there’s really no reason for Cyradis to be wondering about the choice, especially after traveling with Garion for so long. There is a hint that evil might pretend to be good, but the evil side is flat-out evil and Garion and Eriond are obviously good, so that doesn’t work. There’s a hint that the choice is a problem because Cyradis, for the first time, can’t rely on looking into the future to settle it, but that’s glossed over so quickly that it really doesn’t add to the choice at all.

That being said, I think the side characters and discussions are better here. Zakath is an interesting character and foil/companion for Garion, Sadi and Zith are interesting, and the Silk/Velvet interaction is interesting . Beldin and Belgarath get into some interesting banter, although at times it seems out of place since what they are really interested in is other things, and so it’s a distraction. But simply reading parts of it works really well.

At the end of the it all, despite the flaws, it’s better than pretty much all of the works I read in my Hugo Award analysis (parts of the Imperial Radch trilogy work as well as things in the series, but overall this one is still better). But the real question is: which of the Belgariad and the Malloreon do I now find to be the better work? There are definitely parts of the Malloreon that I like better, and it seemed less rushed at the end, but then again it seemed to use the extra length poorly, making things seem to drag and be irrelevant. I really like the lore parts of the Belgariad, which are missing in the Malloreon. At this point, my conclusion is … neither. I can see why someone might prefer one over the other, but it seems to me that they are both good and bad in different ways, mostly, despite having similar styles, the same characters, and similar stories. I’d re-read them both again, but they both have serious flaws.

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