Book Review by Stuart Wark

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Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
Eddings is one the biggest fantasy writers in the world today, and his first novel in the genre was Pawn of Prophecy. It was the first of five books that now compose the Belgariad series. Pawn of Prophecy commences with a prologue that provides a brief history of seven gods, and the events that resulted in war amongst the deities. Chapter one begins with a boy named Garion, and his Aunt Pol, who both live on a rural farm. Eddings establishes the world that surrounds Garion very well. While his life appears very average, he is, not unexpectedly, soon involved in mystery and intrigue. Garion is surrounded by a developing cast of characters who initially appear quite normal and real, yet they are slowly revealed as being much more than that.
Eddings’ writing in Pawn of Prophecy is filled with humour, and his dialogues can be genuinely funny at times. Unlike some other fantasy authors, Eddings does not appear to take his creations too seriously, and this enables him to develop the storyline well. One of Eddings’ gifts is the ability to write memorable characters. Many of the central personalities like Garion are very likable, while others such as Aunt Pol. are perhaps less amiable but still fascinating. However, a criticism of this book, and indeed entire series, is the fact that Eddings does not appear able to successfully portray true malevolence. The presentation of the ‘enemy’ within the novel is often quite clichéd, and lacking in any real sense of true evil.
I first read Pawn of Prophecy as a teenager about two decades ago, and I can still remember the sheer enjoyment these books provided, and the frustration of waiting months and months until the next novel was released. It was therefore with some trepidation that I decided to re-read the series to see if it stood up to the test of time. It now seems quite popular to criticise Eddings as being formulaic and derivative. Some reviewers seem to delight in panning Eddings’ novels as being hackneyed and passé.
Happily, I enjoyed returning to Garion and his journey through life as much now as I did in the 80s. While Eddings is still writing fantasy books, it is my belief that his best work was during the 80s and 90s, and Pawn of Prophecy underlines why he is considered one of the best writers in the genre. The Belgariad is appropriately considered one of the seminal works of fantasy, and it should be mandatory reading for all fans.


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