This is a mildly enjoyable Christian allegorical fantasy book that is uneven in its execution. The author has developed an interesting fantasy world,...moreThis is a mildly enjoyable Christian allegorical fantasy book that is uneven in its execution. The author has developed an interesting fantasy world, but uses a weird mechanism to introduce that world to the reader that didn't work for me. Wulder (God) has created the world, and formed a number of interesting fantastical sentient races to populate it. What's nice about this is that the races are not all analogous to typical fantasy tropes...there are giants and fairies (urohm and kimen, respectively), but there are also several other races that one has to take at face value, because they don't fit as easily into such labels from other fantasy. Paladin (Jesus) works Wulder's will on Earth, and various people in the story come to serve Paladin over the course of the narrative. The primary character is an orphan, Kale, who has been raised as a slave (think Roman house servant, rather than plantation chattel) by members of a different race. She's never known others of her kind, but as the story begins, she is sent away to serve Paladin at The Hall in the capital city. She never gets there, but is instead waylaid by a number of ogrish attackers and rescued by other heroes. I really like this kind of introduction, in that it is different from most such stories where we have an "access character" who must receive lots of exposition explaining everything in the setting. But Paul fails to follow through with this, and kind of treats Kale as an access character anyway...everyone is constantly explaining stuff to her, which gets old and interferes with the narrative a LOT. There is some good stuff here - I particularly liked the erratic wizard Fenworth, who rivals Fizban and Belgarath both for his hilarious monologues.
To compare it to other series, I'd say this is a great deal less well-crafted than Lewis' Narnia Chronicles, maybe slightly better than Peretti's fantasy stuff, and a fair sight better than Paolini's Eragon. I had a hard time getting into the book through much of the middle, but the last 150 pages or so moved much quicker and I enjoyed them far better once the unnecessary exposition was largely out of the way.(less)
Queen of Sorcery continues the story begun in Pawn of Prophecy in two respects: the plot picks up exactly where the previous book stopped, and it also...moreQueen of Sorcery continues the story begun in Pawn of Prophecy in two respects: the plot picks up exactly where the previous book stopped, and it also has a title that is really unrelated to the story itself. United States audiences like to lampoon modern Japanese culture for its frequent combination of two completely unrelated words to make a title, such as "Metal Gear Solid," "Fullmetal Alchemist," or "Sailor Moon," but this book's title is just as nonsensical. We do hear a little bit more about the "prophecy" suggested by the first book at the beginning of the second, but we're never really shown why the book is called Queen of Sorcery.
Still, it's a good and engaging read. Eddings continues his "high fantasy with grounded-in-reality heroes" approach to good effect. Garion meets a high-spirited teen named Lelldorin, whom he befriends and only realizes belatedly is something of an idiot. Even so, Garion holds onto prejudices that Lelldorin gives him, and he meets Mandorallen, who is a Lancelot-style character of questionable parentage ("The Song of Ice and Fire's" Brienne is a spiritual descendant of Mandorallen). Garion takes an immediate dislike to him, but Mandorallen proves himself a doughty and reliable boon companion as the group continues ever south, chasing after Belgarath's fellow sorceror, Zedar, who is revealed to have stolen the Orb of Aldur (pretty much any reader of the first book who didn't skip the prologue has pieced this together long before it is revealed to Garion). They are concerned that Zedar is taking the Orb to the high priest of the Grolim, Ctuchik, so that Ctuchik can revive the slumbering mad god, Torak, and so all haste is given to the chase. The problem is that the party keeps getting waylaid by Murgo villains sent to delay their pursuit. Chief among them is Asharak and Brill, who've been keeping pace with the party since the beginnings of the first book.
From what I can tell, this is the "Two Towers" of the series: it's a lot of fun, but somehow it's not quite as satisfying as what came before or after. That's not to say that nothing happens, of course: the book is very engaging with plots, counterplots, and quickly changing scenery as the protagonists move across four nations. At first, they try to warn the human nations of Arendia and Tolnedra that war is coming, speak to the Dryads in their sacred forest south of Tolnedra, and then finally are embroiled in the machinations of Salmissra, serpent queen of the swamp kingdom of Nyissa. Is Salmissra supposed to the Queen of Sorcery, though her sorcery is practically nonexistent? Is Polgara, even though she is not a queen (at least, as far as is intimated in this book)? It's vexing. Still, in each country, the heroes are involved in some plot by or against the leaders of the land, which they foil through different methods. Garion gradually begins to appreciate that he has some aptitude for sorcery himself (another reviewer complained that "suddenly Garion is throwing lightning bolts from his hands," but that doesn't happen here); his developing any aptitude with magic is slow but inevitable. What's interesting, in reflection, is how very much plot there is in this book, and yet the focus is so powerfully on the characters and their interactions that the plot if almost secondary.
This edition, published during the 20th anniversary of the first printing of Pawn of Prophecy, has a small forward from Eddings, in which he admits that what he was trying to do was write a fantasy novel with the real-life characters of Steinbeck or Faulkner. I think he succeeded. But while I don't judge a book by its cover - or any of the weird decisions that publishers make that don't really bear on the story and are independent of the author's work - I do have to comment on this edition in a couple of particulars. The story is great, and having the first three books together in one volume is very handy. But the maps are terrible: it appears that someone at the publishing company took one of the original mass-market paperbacks and photocopied the maps, blowing them up in an enlargement, and then traced over all the features of the map with a fat felt-tipped marker. The maps are completely illegible, and so it's almost insulting having them there. The second quibble is, yes, the cover: with Pawn of Prophecy, the picture of Polgara sheltering the little boy version of Garion makes sense: it's an encapsulation of their relationship for the years before the book begins. But the main story in this series starts with Garion at 14, so the picture of him as a small child is bizarre. In Queen of Sorcery, he is either blatantly propositioned or flirted with by at least three different girls/women, one of whom comments on how big and muscular he is. He is still a boy, certainly, but he's not a child - indeed, much of the first book consists of his trying to explicitly assert that he is not a child (which is pretty typical teen behavior, after all). Still, both of these are niggling concerns over publication details. The book is a very good and quick read.(less)
I just could not get through this book; reading it was akin to my many attempts to read A Confederacy of Dunces - it just did not engage me in any way...moreI just could not get through this book; reading it was akin to my many attempts to read A Confederacy of Dunces - it just did not engage me in any way, and I read a dozen other books in the interstitial points where I put this book down a few days to "catch my second wind." In the end, I've put it on hiatus indefinitely, though I plan to read it in its entirety someday.(less)