I love fantasy. I love everything about it. The escapism, the creatures, the characters, the magic ... all of it. Now, I’ll get it out of the way now and say that I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings. Yes, I know… It’s terrible. I will read it, I promise. I don’t know how I’ve grown up without reading either it or Harry Potter, but I have. It’s on my reading list and I shall see to its removal off my reading list as soon as possible. Whilst I have not read them, I understand a fair amount about them; their concepts and content.
Moving swiftly on, this love of fantasy, however, has led to some other fantasy literature - The Wheel of Time series being one of them. Before I embarked on Robert Jordan’s epic, I was entirely engrossed in David Edding’s Belgariad series (I have not moved on to read The Mallorean, yet, for those of you in the know, but I will… After Lotr… and The Wheel of Time… and some other stuff. I have a big reading list, okay?). Eddings does not stray too far from the ideas and world creation that Tolkien introduced, but he does a fair old job of trying.
Whilst the story may be cliche and not dissimilar from what you will have read before, it has enough originality to hold its own and demand a read. It has conflict between deities, political intrigue, character development, an individual magic system, and an array of characters and beings for you to sink your teeth into. This high fantasy epic walks a line between being for adults and children, when concerning its target audience. That being said, it is intriguing enough to hook you, regardless of your age, if fantasy is your cup of tea. The creatures and beings that have been dreamt up are worth it on their own. If you simply like fantasy for fantasy’s sake then dive right in.
Occupying ‘The Kingdoms of the West’ are varying races or ‘types’ of humans. There are no dwarves, elves, or the like, but rather a plethora of human beings with their own quirks and traits - which brings me neatly onto the characters themselves. Each one is individualised to the max. They have clear archetypes, but are fleshed out to a satisfying extent, making them people rather than just characters or fillers to inhabit the world around the protagonist.
What adds to this, and what Eddings does exceptionally well, is introduce, develop, and play with the relationships between the characters. The banterous nature of their travels are some of the book’s highlights and the fluidity of the dialogue adds to the intrigue and relatability of each member of the core ‘cast’.
If you’re open-minded and don’t care too much about ideas being stolen, then this next part should not bother you. I myself do not care too much that things have been borrowed from Tolkien's masterpiece, as my brain computes them as extensions of the series I fell in love with (films, of course). With this, I refer to the map and geography of the work - further to this, this route taken by our cohort of heroes. Aside from the fact the ‘good-guys’ start in almost the exact spot they do in Lotr (northeast), the ‘baddies’ are also situated in the western side of the map, not too far from the heights of Mount Doom in Middle-Earth. The route taken by Garion, our hero, is also relatively similar, minus a couple of detours here and there.
But this doesn’t bother me. The people that are met and passed by on the way make the story - and therefore, the books. Eddings has truly spent a great deal of time turning characters into people you would share a bottle of wine with, go canoeing with, or just sit and gaze at the stars with. I feel like I know half of them.
All in all, it is easy to pick up and hard to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed the series, hence the recommendation, and would encourage anyone who enjoys a slight twist on the fantasy genre to give it a go. Think of it like a toned down Tolkien piece, or magical Game of Thrones.
If you’ve already finished it and have some thoughts you’d like to add then let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog