Friday, February 25, 2011

Pawn of Prophecy

The first of the E's and one of the better known works of recent fantasy.

Pawn of Prophecy is the first volume in the Belgariad and came out in 1983. It caused an instant stir when it hit the market. The Belgariad was a little unusual in that it contained 5 volumes not 3, although that may have been a publisher initiative to make more money out of the reading public.

It's been criticised as being derivative of Lord of the Rings, but in this case, as in others, it seems that saying a work is inspirired or influenced by Tolkien's ground breaking epic means that it is derivative. At the heart of it Pawn of Prophecy is a coming of age quest adventure.

Garion is a somewhat clueless young farm boy who grows up on a remote holding (Faldor's Farm), he is raised by the farm's cook, a lady he knows as Aunt Pol. Another influence on young Garion is Mister Wolf; a rogueish old story teller who visits Faldors from time to time. As it appears that a dangerous shadowy presence is stalking Garion he leaves the farm in company of Pol and Mister Wolf, the farm's blacksmith Durnik also joins them. They link up with the giant Cherek warrior Barak and his fox faced companion Silk. As they journey on Garion discovers more about himself, his destiny and the two constants in his life; Aunt Pol and Mister Wolf.

Despite the criticism Pawn of Prophecy, and the Belgariad as a whole, has received about being lightweight, it's a fun romp. Yes, it is very light and the world building is fairly shallow, but it's a fun easy read. It's a good introduction for a young reader or someone who doesn't want anything too involved, into fantasy.

The main characters are largely stereotypes. Garion is the wide eyed young man who has a destiny to fulfil. Aunt Pol is a motherly nurturing type, who hides her great power behind that facade. Mister Wolf is the great sorcerer Belgarath and largely follows the benevolent, bearded magic user storyline that's been around since Merlin in the original King Arthur legend. The presence of Durnik has always puzzled me. I think he's meant to represent the everyman view, but he's so totally unremarkable that you could replace him with a statue and I doubt anyone would notice. Barak is the big dumb muscle and Silk is there for comedy relief. He actually seems to be the best rounded character and is I believe many people's favourite.

You can't really read Pawn of Prophecy without reading the rest, in fact it's only really starting at the end of that book. So in the coming weeks I will be reading and reviewing each book in the Belgariad.

If you wanted to read on David Eddings wrote a 5 volume sequel called The Malloreon and also Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress.


  1. I really enjoyed the Belgariad and then proceeded on to the Mallorean which is almost the exact same story. If you really love the characters, of course keep going, but if you are remotely hesitant, I would say leave it be. It even comments on how they're doing the same things as in the first arc. Drove me nuts.

  2. I love this book (and series) and to a lesser extent The Mallorean & the 2 books about Polgara & Belgarath.
    And I enjoyed The Elenium & its sequel The Tamuli (both trilogies)but was really disappointed with how, umm, derevative & samey they became after that (and really, Elenium & Tamuli can have direct parallels to the Belgariad too).
    I struggled through their final series (can't even remember what it was called...) as it read more like a draft of a novel than the finished thing.

    But their early stuff is an excellent beginning point fo someone getting into fantasy.

    Oh, and I love Durnik, I don't find him forgettable at all! And I prefer him to Silk too... *laugh*

    Annonymouse on the couch

  3. I have to agree that David and Leigh Eddings (she wasn't credited as co creator until Belgarath the Sorcerer, but her fingerprints are all over the earlier works) did later in their careers gloss over old work and even continually draw from it. Once I've finished the Belgariad I plan to do a post about my experiences with their work and my thoughts on it. Thanks for the comments and for reading.

  4. Since I never got through LOTR, Belgardiad was completely new for me. I read the first book maybe 5 or 6 years ago, and I remember it being just like you said, a fun romp with nothing too serious. I didn't read any further in the serious, but now that I'm into a lot more fantasy I should give the whole thing a try again.

  5. Thanks for the comment. If you liked Pawn of Prophecy and want to know how the series turned out I'd go ahead and read the other 4 volumes. They're largely like PoP, nothing too taxing, but fun and easy to read, they're fun.