Sunday, March 20, 2011

Queen of Sorcery

Queen of Sorcery could be subtitled How to Write a Fantasy Epic for Dummies. Right from the beginning this second volume in David Edding’s Belgariad ticks every box and while it tells a decent story with the familiar and popular characters from the opening book (Pawn of Prophecy) it also makes every mistake in the book, which tended to sometimes spoil the narrative for me.

It follows the popular middle volume tradition of having the protagonists wander around the countryside aimlessly for most of it’s length. Along the way they add to their group. A hot headed young Asturian archer, saddled with the unfortunate elf like name of Lelldorin joins the band briefly as a friend for Garion, he is unfortunately injured during one of the fights that the book is riddled with at fairly regular intervals, this forces him leave the group and have his injuries tended to by a concerned maiden. I think Lelldorin does return in a further installment of the series and I’m betting he’s married to the concerned maiden by the time he does. The somewhat pompous and very vain Mimbrate knight; Baron Mandorallen, also joins our intrepid band and like all good Mimbrates peppers his speech with plenty of thees and thous, although I understood the necessity to differentiate him like this, the courtly speech often took me out of the narrative, so in hindsight may not have been the best move. The revenge seeking horselord Hettar was introduced in Pawn of Prophecy, but played a larger role in Queen of Sorcery and was added to the roster as a permanent member of the questing group. The highlight for me was the introduction of Garion’s love interest, the half dryad Tolnedran Princess; Ce’Nedra. Ce’Nedra is my favourite character. When she’s being tantrum princess you just want to spank her, but there are other times when she’s a little lost girl who needs a hug.

David Eddings definitely ramped up the violence in this instalment. Despite that there are frequent fights and some serious injuries are sustained (never to any of the principals, Garion gets knocked out a couple of times, but that’s about as bad as it gets) it always comes across as cartoon violence. The action is well written and exciting to read at the time, but the reader is always secure in the knowledge that no one of any real importance will be killed and this effectively kills off any tension.

The first two thirds of the book meander without much of a point. Garion is still young, idealistic and frequently stupid. Polgara mothers everyone and silences any complaints with a frosty glare. Silk cheats people and makes amusing comments. Durnik continues his impersonation of a lump of wood. About the time Ce’Nedra is introduced things pick up, of course I could be thinking that because I adore Ce’Nedra’s character. The last third of Queen of Sorcery contains some genuine magic, not just the wave your hands in the air kind of thing that Eddings often employed. I thought the perception of dryads as rather childlike female warriors was rather cool, I particularly liked the one that wanted to shoot Garion because she found ‘it’, so ‘it’ was therefore hers to kill. The snake people of Nyissa were also interesting and different.

I did find myself wondering at times if Polgara and Belgarath were as all powerful as they appeared why was so much of what they did necessary in the first place? It’s rather like playing a computer game, you have to meet the swordsman before you can ascend to the next level and then you have to unlock the secret of Garion’s power before you can go to level 3, etc…

Queen of Sorcery is deeply flawed, but also strangely compelling. The adventure doesn’t end there and you find yourself wanting to go on and find out how it all turns out, plus Magician's Gambit has lots more Ce’Nedra!

1 comment:

  1. Durnik isn't a block of wood! He;s more interesting than either Lelldorin or Mandorallen, both of whom i skip through when i re-read this series.
    Ce'Nedra is a definate favourite, she's a fairly typical spoilt-brat (until later volumes anyway). Next volume has one of the few instances where the POV isn't Garion, and it's interesting to see how Ce'Nedra views the various members of the group.

    Annonymouse on the Couch (cos it still doesn't recognise my livejournal)