Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When my husband and I got married, we merged our personal libraries. Most of his books were not anything I find particularly interesting. The Belgariad Volume One by David Eddings is one of the few exceptions. Even then, it took me almost five years to start reading it. Brandon Sanderson’s mention of David Eddings in his Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction class is what finally pushed me into giving it a shot. This omnibus includes the first three books of the series: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician’s Gambit. In today’s post, I review Pawn of Prophecy.

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews

Description

Garion has lived on Faldor’s farm for as long as he can remember. His childhood is filled with fond memories of Aunt Pol’s kitchen, getting into trouble with his three best friends, and hanging out with a nameless storyteller. In the midst of all the happy memories, a dark figure looms over him. Then one day Aunt Pol gets news of something catastrophic. Furthermore, there’s been a spy on the farm; she and Garion are in immediate danger. They flee into the night. Along the way, Garion begins to learn the truth of Aunt Pol’s secrets. He travels to other kingdoms, meets all manner of interesting people, learns a secret language, and uncovers evil plots while the adults exclude him from important meetings.

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings was first published in 1982. It is the first book in The Belgariad. I am reading a 2002 omnibus paperback edition (pictured above) that includes the first three books of the series. There are five books in the series, a sequel series (The Malloreon), and three other books set in the same world, so if this is the sort of thing you like, there's a lot to enjoy.


Features of Pawn of Prophecy

The Voice

I really loved the voice of this book. One of my notes on chapter four reads:

“The narrative voice at the beginning of this chapter! I feel like I hear an expert storyteller weaving a tale for me.”
  
While there are occasions in the story that the dialogue is a little lackluster or info-dumpy, the narrative has a bardic legendary feel to it without being overly elevated and distant. There's also plenty of humor in character dialogue and in Garion's thoughts. Overall I thought the story was well-balanced and well-written.


Characters

This book has a lively and varied cast of characters, which provide fodder for great banter. Many of them also have their own subplots and agendas. Here are some of my favorites.

Silk and Barak are pretty awesome. I can’t reveal much about them without spoilers, but I'm very interested to see how their storylines develop in future books.

Durnik is an incredibly likable character. He's the blacksmith from Faldor's farm and he's loyal, moral, and has a high sense of integrity. The easiest character comparison I can make right now is Samwise Gamgee; he may not always be the smartest fellow, but he's a good person, and I want him to succeed.

On the less positive side, I didn't find Garion's character particularly compelling, convincing, or interesting. In his actions, his thoughts, and how other people treated him, he seemed more like a ten or twelve-year-old to me than a fourteen-year-old.

Setting & Myth 

This book is set in a magical medieval world reminiscent of both Tolkien's work and also the legends of King Arthur. The greatest similarity is in the mythology. Pawn of Prophecy opens with a myth that's directly related to the plot. The myth itself has a pantheon, a powerful jewel stolen by an evil god, a special sword, a chosen one, archaic language, and so on. The maps for the book are also done in a style very similar to the maps of Middle Earth.

What I most appreciated about the mythology in this book is that it used the mythology without bogging down the book.  The story itself moves into a real character’s life and the lives of those around him, and that is much more interesting than reading the myth.

I think this is part of what made these books so popular when they came out. They combine a lot of the things people love about The Silmarillion and LOTR with an easier and more engaging reading experience. This then further shaped the medieval high fantasy genre and influenced later authors like Christopher Paolini.

On the less positive side, this book is filled with societies build on single traits. The nations of this world seem to each have one or two characteristics about them that are true for basically everyone in the society. For instance, Drasnians are sneaky, Arends are impulsive, and Chereks like to drink. The biggest division, however is along the West-East mountain divide. All of the countries east of the mountains worship the evil god Torak and anytime they appear in the story, they're up to something evil. For writers who want to know more about this, check out this video.

Plot

The plot of this book is okay. It’s a complete story on its own, but I didn’t find it particularly compelling. I do, however, expect the series to get better as Garion gets older and as we get closer to the main bad guy. To me, Pawn of Prophecy felt like Garion’s origin story. Right now I’m more interested in some of the supporting characters and their subplots than I am with the main plot.

Sex & Sexuality

David Eddings treats sex in this book in an interesting and realistic way. Different characters have different opinions and he's fair to all the opinions present—meaning that he treats them all somewhat comically. There's nothing terribly graphic sex-wise that I can recall in the story, but I get the strong feeling that at some point in the series Garion is going to get laid, probably off-screen.

It is very much a male-dominated cast in a chauvinistic world, but Eddings uses character dialogue to comment on the chauvinism of the world. There are women in small roles all over the story and they all seem to get their own personalities. The traveling band just has Aunt Pol, but that also makes a lot of sense within the story world—not too many women in the world have the skills for a journey like that or have reason to be on it in the first place. Overall I'm satisfied with the gender balance of the story thus far.

Bottom line

I recommend this book to lovers of epic fantasy, particularly books like The Lord of the Rings and Eragon. I give Pawn of Prophecy five out of seven twisty mustaches. I’m not sure yet if I’ll read the whole series, but I’ll definitely read the rest of The Belgariad Volume One and let you guys know what I think.


Have you read Pawn of Prophecy? What did you think of it? Are there any other books you'd like me to read and review? Leave a comment below or my hairless ghost lemur will haunt your dreams.

Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings | Lydia Sanders #TwistyMustacheReviews

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