Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings (Belgariad 1)

True fantasy. Not the high stuff with elves and dwarves, but gods and destiny and detailed lineages and magic and politics, mystery and intrigue. And characters that you want to reach through the page and shake. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that feeling towards the titular teenage petulant protagonist.

This series was recommended to me on the grounds that “it was highly enjoyable as a teenager, as that was the target audience”. A little unfair (but only a little). It’s fantasy, and that’s always been the realm of young men. (We dream of heroic deeds. It’s in our DNA. I don’t think that’s a big surprise to anyone!)

Author stuff: David Eddings was an American fantasy writer. His Wikipedia page is here and his Amazon page is here. Along with his wife Leigh (she gets co-author credit in his later works) he wrote more than twenty fantasy novels, most of which were best-sellers. He is regarded as a staple of the fantasy genre.

Pawn of Prophecy is the first novel in the five-book Belgariad series. This was the first of his novels in the first of his series. There were plenty of other Eddings books set in this universe, with his next series, The Malloreon, acting as a sequel. The books follow the exploits of Belgarath, Belgarion, Polgara, and their family and companions. I’m going to borrow from the Wikipedia page for a background summary: One of the seven gods, Aldur, creates an orb from stone and creates within it a “living soul”. One of the other gods, Torak, seizes the Orb from Aldur and tries to have it submit to his will. The Orb retaliates, burning and maiming Torak. The Orb of Aldur is later recovered by Belgarath the Sorcerer, King Cherek, and his children. Cherek’s youngest son Riva, is able to hold the Orb unharmed; wherefore all of his descendants are responsible for guarding the Orb from Torak.

So, over the course of the book (and its sequels) we are introduced to the lore of the land: gods squabbled, mysterious artifact was created, stolen, used, betrayed, given the a line of humans to protect. There are Heroes (with a capital H), destined to control and shape the effects of the world. To meddle. Belgarath, an ancient sorcerer (who of course wanders the land as a storyteller vagabond) (maybe there’s a school pumping out Gandalf figures for use in fantasy stories?) seeks to protect the Holy Macguffin (check TV tropes if you’re uncertain as what a Macguffin is), lest the god Torak awakens, and seeks to destroy the world. His daughter is also part of the job, but it a much more emotional manner.

Our protagonist is the young (time passes, but let’s take him as a teenager) Garion, whose role in this book is to be young, angry, petulant, moody, bewildered, lost, and generally kept in the dark for his own safety. This is, of course, anathema to a teenage boy. He doesn’t know who he is, he is ignorant of the Big Picture, and manages to be in mortal peril at nearly every turn. It’s exhausting just reading about it. He brings a lot of it upon himself, as is the way of teenagers.

The Important Object is stolen by an unnamed thief (who will remain unnamed, as he can hear his name when used, another standard device), and our story involves the storytelling vagabond (really the most powerful sorcerer alive), the over-protective aunt (the daughter of the sorcerer and immortal), the village blacksmith (ah, actually the village blacksmith), and two scruffy ruffians (a prince skilled in espionage, and a brother-to-another-region’s king who is magically connected with the bear-god of his people). And Garion, whose main purpose is to be overwhelmed.

The story gallops along, is perfectly fun, very light (I read half the book on a three-hour ferry crossing between the south and north islands of New Zealand), and was very clearly intended as part of a series. A lot of pieces are now on the board, and I’m sure that the next book (Queen of Sorcery) will advance the game.

For fantasy, it plays a lot of the tropes, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily. The characters are very much hero builds, but again that’s a standard fantasy arrangement.

Eddings’ books can generally be found in second-hand book shops, or in dead-tree editions in most book shops (or can easily be ordered in, most of them are still in print), or you can click on these Amazon links! Here to look at some options for the series, or a collection of the first three books of the Belgariad series:

Buying through Amazon, you support this writer (ie. me), and it costs you nothing extra. In fact, if you ever plan on buying something through Amazon, let me know, and I’ll get an Associate link for you :)

5 thoughts on “Pawn of Prophecy – David Eddings (Belgariad 1)

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