Monday, September 24, 2012

Eddings vs The Belgariad

I picked up The Belgariad the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. The whole series. I think it was the first time I'd ever done that. I should point out that I don't do that anymore, but it wasn't The Belgariad that made me think that that was a bad idea. I was going off to camp, which I'd never done before, and I needed to take something to read. Well, I thought I did, anyway. I always had something to read; therefore, I needed something to read to go to camp with me. It was just for a week, so I didn't need five books, but I bought them and took them with me just to make sure I didn't run out of books. (Yeah, the thought of "running out of books was just about the most horrible thing I could think of when I was in high school.)

Not that we got free time for that. I don't know that I even opened Pawn of Prophecy on that trip. I had another week long trip a few weeks later, and I took the books on that trip with me, too. Somewhere during the summer, I made it through the first three books, and, then, just after school started, I got sick and missed a couple of days, and I read the last two books on those two days I was home from school. I laid in bed and read, and it was awesome. It was awesome because The Belgariad is awesome. Seriously, The Belgariad may be the greatest fantasy series ever written other than The Lord of the Rings. Eddings had a lifelong fan. At least, that's what I thought.

[I could go into why Belgariad is so great, but there's not really time to do that in  this post. You should just go read it. Unless you don't like fantasy, but, then, I don't know what to say to you, anyway.]

A couple of years later, Guardians of the West came out, part one of The Malloreon, a new five part series. Because I didn't want to have to wait a year or more between books, I waited until the entire series was out before I read it (although I bought them as each was released), then I re-read The Belgariad (just as good!) followed by The Malloreon. Now, The Malloreon was good, but it was good mostly because of getting to visit characters I loved again. It didn't cover any new ground; in fact, it was pretty much the same plot as the first series. But, you know what, I didn't care.


The problem came with the next series... The Elenium (3 books instead of 5 and not related to Belgariad) had come out during the same time period as The Malloreon, but I hadn't read that one, either, because I wanted to read Malloreon first. I went right into it, though, after I read Malloreon. And it was the same thing I'd already read. Eddings juggled the characters up some, but, essentially, it was The Belgariad all over again. I liked it well enough, but The Belegariad had been awesome! while The Elenium was just a pale copy.

And that was followed by The Tamuli, the 3-book sequel to Elenium, and it was also the same thing! Just the same plot over and over again. I was getting frustrated, especially since the characters from the two trilogies weren't as engaging as the ones from Belgariad.

But I stuck with him.

Let's jump back a bit. One of the reasons I was able to hold on is that while I was waiting for The Tamuli, I went back and read his first two books. The first was High Hunt, which came out almost a full decade before Pawn of Prophecy. It was about a group of guys on a hunting trip and, while not great, it was a good book. The other was a book called The Losers about a football player (if I'm remembering correctly) that lost his legs in a car accident. This book was also written in the 70s, but it wasn't published until Eddings had met with success through Belgariad. The Losers was an incredible book, and I'd actually like to go back and read it again. As soon as I figure out where my copy is. What I learned is that Eddings was actually capable of some other plot beyond the plot from Belgariad which, by the end of Tamuli, he'd used four times, so, see, I had hope.

And I thought that hope had paid off.

Two books came out in 2000: Regina's Song and The Redemption of Althalus. Regina's Song was actually an attempt at a different genre, so I really hoped for something good. And, true, the plot was new (for Eddings), BUT!

There was this character from Belgariad that was just everyone's favorite: Silk. Silk is the smart mouthed rogue of the group. Witty. Clever. Bad boy. I can count on two fingers the number of people I've known that would name any other character as their favorite. Where Eddings got Silk right, though, was not that witty banter but the flaws. Silk was not a perfect character. But the reaction to the character was all about the charisma and the cleverness, and the farther along in Eddings career we got from Silk the more every character became Silk, I assume from an effort by Eddings to recreate that chemistry from Belgariad. However, none of these newer characters were flawed. What we got was clever, perfect characters.

And that came to a critical mass in Song as every character spent their time trying to out clever every other character, and it was just too much. No one talks like that all the time, but all of these characters did, and it drove me crazy. It was a constant one-upmanship. [Remember this bit, because it's going to be important in an upcoming review. Yes, I will refer back to just this topic of too much cleverness.] Basically, it drove all the realism from the story and was the first time the writing in a book was "too clever" for me. Of course, it was clever in a completely predictable manner, so, maybe, it wasn't clever at all. So there was all of that and the fact that, although a horror novel was new to Eddings, he did nothing new with it, and the whole thing was completely predictable, and, if it hadn't been Eddings, I would have thrown it against the wall.

For some unknown reason, I read Althalus when that came up, and, even though  it was just the one book, it was Belgariad all over again, coupled with every character attempting to be like Silk, and I probably should have jumped up and down and screamed, but, instead, I just wanted to cry, because... because... well, THE BELGARIAD! And that was when I quit calling Eddings one of my favorite authors and only started saying that The Belgariad was one of my favorite series of books.

But it was a hard thing. And I wonder why, now, but, at the same time, I understand why.

At any rate, when his final series came out, The Dreamers, I looked at it long enough to verify  that  it was, once again, The Belgariad, and I put it back.See, you would never put back a book by your favorite author, right? And that was the end. I wouldn't suggest Eddings, as an author, to anyone, although I still think that anyone that likes fantasy should Belgariad. Both of my boys have read it, upon my suggestion, and loved it. My younger son has gone on to some of his other stuff but has agreed that, other than Malloreon (because you get to spend more time with Garion and company), there's not much point.

Why am I talking about all of this? A couple of reasons, actually:

  1. As I said, I have a book review coming up that reminded me of my experience with Song, and I figured I should supply some background as to why the whole "too clever" thing annoyed me.
  2. Eddings, through Belgariad, had a huge impact on me, but, then, the thought of the way I want to write came up, and I do not want to be like Eddings. I don't want to get stuck on one thing because it was successful, and I want to reproduce it. Eddings just stopped growing as a writer, and I don't want to be that way.
  3. Which is not to say I wouldn't want to write something as wonderful as The Belgariad, because I totally would. But I don't want to do it by accident, which, really, is what I think happened with Eddings. It's sort of like making the perfect chocolate cake because you measured something incorrectly and, then, spending the rest of your life trying to reproduce your error.
So, yeah, that was more than two, but who's counting, right?

Shut it.


  1. I loved the series and I've read it more than once. But I wasn't happy with any of the other series and didn't finish out any of them. I kept waiting for that moment when it would be as good as or better than, but it didn't happen.

    I eventually did what you do and stopped buying series until at least 3 books had been published. I made an exception with George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones. It was frustrating waiting for years on him. But worth it. Now I'm painting the miniatures he designed. So it's all worth it.

    No, don't get stuck writing the same story over and over and over. You'll get bored and die as a writer.

  2. I think you were exceptionally tolerant (and in your own way encouraged Eddings to keep repeating himself). I read the Begariad but the blurbs were enough to put me off reading any of the others. It's a shame he never took more risks, but I guess he was happy making money.

    Moody Writing

  3. I'd like to chastise authors for using the same plots over and over again, but to some extent I do it do I'm sure.

  4. Me too, thoroughly enjoyed the Belgariad, did enjoy the Mallorean and that was it. Didn't try any of the others. Don't even remember Silk, sorry, can't remember the name of my favourite, but it was a woman.

  5. Never got hooked on Eddings, but I've seen other authors do the same thing - repeated plots and characters. Why do you think I want to end with three books?

  6. I really ought to finish The Belgariad books. It's tough to not recycle material, something I strive to avoid with each project. :)

  7. I agree. Eddings had one great idea. Then he died. Such is life.

  8. I'm intrigued by the talk about Belgariad; I'd never heard of them at all.

    What I really liked was the worst thing in the world being out of reading material: When I was a kid, we'd go to the library every week or so, and I'd take out 10-12 books just to make sure that didn't happen. I never went to camp, though. I guess I wasn't a superrich guy, like you.

    (Are you superrich? If so, then I will comment more often so that I get remembered in your will.)

  9. Anne: I don't buy series all at once anymore. I don't remember which series taught me that. The real problem for me is that if I've bought them, I feel obligated to read them even if I don't like them.
    I'm not reading Thrones until all of them are out, if then. Robert Jordan taught me that.

    mooderino: I'm not certain that it was about the money. For him, at least. It makes me wonder how much the publisher had to do with what he was writing.

    PT: I've never read anyone else that was so blatant with it than Eddings.

    Jo: That was probably Polgara.

    Alex: bah I don't believe you.

    David: You should finish them. It's a great series.

    Jess: Me, too!

    Michael: unfortunately...

    Briane: You should read it.

    I was (and am) pretty far from super rich. Or even rich. Or well off. Camp was cheap. The church helped pay for it.

  10. You are so right, Polgara, thanks.

  11. Jo: She got her own solo book, too, but I don't remember it being different enough to warrant reading it.

  12. So did he and I thought it was the best of the lot. I enjoyed Polgara's own book too. I think the other book was the Belgarion, but it is such a long time since I read it.