It may be unfair to review all five books of this series in one go; however – save for an interruption between books one and two – I read them one after the other. For me, they seemed like one, great epic.
This is a series for three parties: those that have not read fantasy; those that have and loved it; and those that may or may not have, but refuse to do so. I was in the latter camp. Page 100 in all five books comes and goes quickly, despite their individual lengths. This series, I would argue, should be on everyone’s bookshelf – especially writers’.
It is because of this series, that my appreciation of fantasy literature was born. I hark on about characterisation quite a bit and nowhere have I read better examples of it than here. Garion, Belgarath, Polgara, Ce’Nedra et al, are characters that I shall always remember. None so well realised as our hero, Garion. He is phenomenally brought to life by Eddings. He suffers and feels emotions that we can all relate to. Eddings may have created a fantasy world, but his characters, despite their fantastical races, are real, human and tangible. Yes, he had five books in which to do this, but even by the end of book one, the characterisation was set. In the following books, each was simply improved upon and fleshed-out more. In fact, not only the supporting cast are well described, but the minor, fleeting characters that make only the briefest appearance are memorable and genuine. I remember, in a mere sentence, a young soldier killed in battle, was given a personality perfectly and poignantly captured.
On a side note: I like my villains and Salmissra was definitely my favourite baddie of the series. A serpent-like queen; venomously seductive. Her toxic influence and poisonous motivations enrapt the reader. We slide down her scales and forget to runaway from her. Salmissra’s kingdom of Nyissa and her slithering, slimy minions were so different to all of the others in the series that it was a shame not to have seen more of them throughout the books.
I was captivated by book three onwards. Book one was a perfect introduction; book two was insanely tedious and very much a filler; and in the last three books, the gang took me with them, enthralled, on their journey. Cleverly, Eddings doesn’t make Garion the centre of attention, despite being our hero with the weighty destiny. Garion, instead – as we, the readers are – is instructed and taken on the quest by those with more experience and knowledge.
But the ending – oh – I loathed the climax and still do. It is a Godzilla vs Kong-type cliché. All the way through, Garion was to be pitted against the almighty Torak in a true David and Goliath showdown. Instead, Eddings “honey, I blew up the kid” and tore from me the victory I wanted Garion to relish and to have earnt and suffered for. Having said that, I am willing to forgive it, as I have learnt so much as reader and wannabe writer from Eddings’ characters and for that I will always be grateful to him. A work of exceptional quality.