Monday, February 27, 2012

Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings

I must have read Castle of Wizardry at some point, in fact I must have read it more than once, because I know I’ve read the entire Belgariad at least twice. Somehow in these readings I somehow managed to miss the books failings, and they are many. The nicest thing I can say about is that it is unnecessary.

I’m not sure when this started, but it seems to coincide with the advent of big, sprawling multi book series; The Belgariad at 5 volumes is one of the first of these, writers began to write what readers now seem to call ‘filler’ books. They contain roughly the same number of pages as the rest of the book in the series, but virtually none of the plot or character development. Castle of Wizardry is one such book. There are maybe 50 pages of relevant material that actually moves the plot and story forward, yet the book is 370+ pages in length. I don’t see any reason that the pertinent information couldn’t have been added to the end of the Magician’s Gambit and the start of Enchanter’s End Game, thus entirely negating the need for the wandering mess that is Castle of Wizardry.

Garion and the gang escape Murgoland, they lob up on the Rivan Isles, Garion gets proclaimed as Rivan King, much to Ce’Nedra’s distress because she now has to marry Garion and accept that she actually is in love with him. Garion, Belgarath and Silk go on a road trip for no other reason than the authors seemed to think it was a good idea at the time (the real reason is to confront Torak, but it results in some of that pointless wandering about the countryside that readers love so much) and Ce’Nedra does a tour gathering support for her soon to be husband’s cause. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell and it took David and wife Leigh Eddings over 300 pages to do this.

I’d long been aware that they tended to gloss over important social issues for the sake of a joke, but I didn’t remember them making light of Hettar the Horselord’s homicidal tendencies where Grolims are concerned, but they do. Hettar admits that most of his waking thoughts concern killing Grolims when asked by two of the other alpha males in Barak and Mandorallen. Barak does seem a little concerned, but there’s really an air of it being laughed off as ‘Oh that Hettar! What a card he is! Here, behead another Grolim old chap, that should cheer you up.’

There was also the rather bizarre relationship between the religious zealot Relg and the sheltered cave woman Taiba. It’s seriously dysfunctional and couldn’t be enjoyed by either, but it is encouraged by characters like Polgara.

So much of this seemed to be ideas that probably should have been edited out, but were left in to make up the page count. The boy detective thing that Lelldorin and Garion went on to find out who was behind the attempts on Garion’s life was one such example. Not only was it entirely ridiculous and unbelievable, it was totally out of place. That sort of thing should be left to the Hardy Boys and The Three Detectives. No, I take that back not one of the books in those series contained such badly written, amateurish attempts at investigating.

Characters were made to act entirely out of character for no real reason. Polgara’s tantrum is one such example. When finding out her father, Garion and Silk have skipped out, she flies into a terrible rage and throws a tantrum that any 3 year old would have been proud of. Of course being possessed of almost godlike power an enraged Polgara could level the city if she were allowed to keep it going. Who calmed her down? Ce’Nedra. Ce’Nedra! The queen of the tantrum herself. So we have the infuriatingly calm and self possessed Polgara, who generally sips tea serenely and offers practical advice to rulers of nations throwing a tantrum because her father, surrogate nephew and an associate have managed to escape the island and put one over her, being calmed down and settled by a fairly scattered 16 year old half dryad who is notable for throwing things and holding her breath when her every whim is not catered to? It was almost as if the Eddings’ decided to write a chapter or two of the book in Bizarroland. Truly odd. When they first came up with the idea it may have actually sounded pretty funny, unfortunately in practice it’s stupid.

In this one not even the hallmark of the books in the snappy dialogue can save them. This is mainly because there isn’t any. There’s dialogue, but none of it is particularly amusing or well written. Stilted, clunky and boring are the three words that immediately spring to mind. Honestly if you haven’t read The Belgariad and you do want to, you could skip Castle of Wizardry and not have missed anything. You may actually improve your reading experience by doing so.


  1. "Unnecessary" I think is one of the best ways to describe this series. Five relatively repetitious books followed by 5 more books that even comment on how things are happening the same way as the first 5. Wha?

    They will always hold a special place in my heart, but I don't think I can ever reread them as that will no longer be the case.

  2. I think the series itself was necessary, as it did pave the way for the future and showed the publishing world that there was a market for traditional epic fantasy. It's also been the 'gateway drug' for many people into the genre. The Belgariad is a good entry, but it does lose a lot on a reread, especially if you've read other work since. I still maintain that they would have been better to stop after this and not continue to repeat the formula over and over again.