The Belgariad is a series of five books written by David Eddings starting with Pawn of Prophecy in 1982. I discovered the first in the summer of 1985 as an 12 year old on my last day of vacation and by the time I was home the next day I’d already finished it. This included reading in a car and feeling sick as a result but I couldn’t bring myself to put the book down. Luckily the whole series was out by then so I rapidly bought the rest of the books and finished the series for the first time.
It was my gateway into more “grown up” fantasy novels which became the main thing I read as a teenager and I still have a place in my heart for these books. I have paperback, hardback omnibus, and kindle versions still and it’s something I go back and read when I’m in need of a pick me up.
The novels are a classic hero’s journey featuring the young farm boy who turns out to be the long lost heir to a throne and saviour of the world. He’s inevitably an orphan with magical abilities, a wise old mentor, assorted companions, and he marries the beautiful princess he bickers with.
In terms of books we have:
- Pawn of Prophecy – in which we meet our hero Garion and watch him grow from a toddler to about 15 years of age. He lives on a farm with his “Aunt Pol” and has an idyllic childhood playing with friends and looking forward to the visits of “Mister Wolf” an old storyteller. And then one day Mister Wolf turns up and Garion’s life is turned upside down as they all leave the farm in search of a stolen object meeting companions (a thief and a berserker) along the way. Garion suffers even more shock on discovering Mister Wolf is the eternal sorcerer Belgarath and Garion’s Aunt is his daughter Polgara.
- Queen of Sorcery – Garion learns that they are searching for the Orb of Aldur, stolen to be taken to the evil god Torak. As he struggles to come to terms with his own identity he also awakens his own magical abilities which eventually results in an outbreak of violent magic he cannot deny. The quest also introduces him to the spoiled princess Ce’Nedra (a dryad)
- Magician’s Gambit – Garion learns to control his sorcery and travels into enemy territory to retrieve the orb with his companions. The ensuing fight destroys a citadel and the mountain it resides on and leaves Garion confused by the orb which is supposed to be fatal to touch but it’s song is in Garion’s head
- Castle of Wizardy – in which our hero discovers his true identity – Belgarion, King of Riva, and Overlord of the West. It’s a lot to take in for a former scullery boy and gets worse when he finds that holding the Orb of Aldur awoke Torak and Garion is going to have to face him. To save millions dying in a pointless war he sneaks away with Belgarath (who is a direct ancestor of Garion and his ultimate Grandfather) and the thief Silk with the aim of facing Torak alone. This doesn’t go down well with his betrothed Ce’Nedra until she realises why, at which point she raises a massive army as a diversion
- Enchanter’s End Game – Ce’Nedra and the armies of the west head off to create a diversion which ends up creating a massive war they get stuck in the middle of (literally in a city in the middle of a river with opposing armies – who were supposed to be on the same side – on opposite side of the river). Garion makes his way into enemy territory and in the end everyone important meets up for the final conflict. This isn’t a big fight, or even really a battle in one sense, as the primary conflict is that Garion has to reject Torak and make him realise he’s alone. At this point there is an easy win in the fight and a god dies. We then wrap up with more than one wedding and they all lived happily ever after*
* until the sequel
And yes, to an extent it’s a total cliche, but that’s almost the point! In the same way that Jim Butcher later took tropes featuring the Lost Legion and Avatar and came up with the Codex Alera, Eddings took high fantasy and hero’s journey tropes and made them into a series where personality was more important than place. The countries in the books are straight out of the “planet of hats” with the people in them being defined by national characteristics (e.g. the Arends are medieval England with a Saxon/Norman split, Chereks are Vikings, Tolnedrans are Roman), the bad guys are from the East, and the plot is relatively linear. But it just works and that’s because Eddings can really write engaging characters. The wise mentor who’s thousands of years old and revered as a god is actually still an occasional drunk, sometimes thief, and general vagrant. His real skill as an author is in writing snappy dialogue and speeding the plot along (like Dan Brown, but good).
I still love these books and really recommend them to anyone wanting a light-hearted fantasy romp. They’re suited for readers from young adult upwards and support re-reading.