Saturday, April 22, 2017

Magician's Gambit

Magician's Gambit
by David Eddings
Recommended Ages: 12+

In the third novel of five in "The Belgariad," a diverse company of heroes continues its quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy that could have one of two endings - and the survival of not just one world, but of all worlds depends on which one version comes true. Seemingly at the heart of it is a stone of power that one of the servants of the evil god Torak has stolen from the throne room of a long-dormant line of kings, and that could be used to re-awaken the disfigured, comatose god. Somehow, getting it back depends on a cynical spy, a spoiled princess, a chivalrous (but giggly) knight, a man who can turn into a bear, a man who can hear horses' thoughts, a man who can walk through walls, a 7,000-year-old sorcerer and his bossy daughter, an ordinary blacksmith, and a boy named Garion who has only recently started to guess what he has to offer the questing group. Garion, we now know, is a full-fledged sorcerer, with the added advantage of having a mysterious voice in his head giving him instructions at crucial moments.

The time has come when the group must finally take the quest to the enemy, and take the stone from them. To get there will mean crossing miles of hostile territory, including a barren desert crawling with soldiers of a king who is systematically killing everyone he doesn't think belongs inside his borders, and watched by the priests of a cult of human sacrifice. Chief among them is Ctuchik, an evil magician nearly as ageless as Garion's "grandfather" Belgarath. To take the stone out of his fist will involve not only battling a tremendous power, but in all probability, being drawn into his trap.

All the pieces seem to be on the board by the end of this pivotal, middle book in a series of chess-based titles - with Pawn of Prophecy and Queen of Sorcery before it, Castle of Wizardry and Enchanter's End Game after it. But clearly, getting the stone out of Ctuchik's clutches is only half the battle, and Garion cannot even begin to guess what is still in store for him. Meanwhile, we see him grow up a lot, beginning to accept his skills and as much of his destiny as he can be trusted to know. We see tantalizing hints of love blooming between him and the Imperial Princess Ce'Nedra, who also grows as a character - though there remains plenty of room for her to grow yet. We meet some new key characters, including a religious zealot who is tortured by impure thoughts, and a voluptuous woman who may be the last of her race. And, as in all the books in this series so far, we enjoy a rich flow of entertaining dialogue and a far-ranging exploration of diverse culture and geography in a world-building extravaganza that becomes real in one's imagination.

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