Friday, September 23, 2016

Pawn of Prophecy

Pawn of Prophecy
by David Eddings
Recommended Ages: 12+

As fantasy quest epics go, this book is relatively slim, simple, direct, and a quick read. It is also incomplete, as it only sets its hero on the start of his quest, and doesn't fully explain to him what it's about (although an alert reader can probably guess). It's no surprise to learn it's only the first part of a larger story, sometimes published in two volumes, most often in five - and that's not counting prequels, sequels, and supplementary volumes. It will turn out, after all, to be an epic epic, requiring a considerable investment of time and Sitzfleisch to get through. Based on this opening move, however, I think it will be a worthwhile investment.

The main character is a boy named Garion who only makes it to age 14 by the end of this book. He doesn't know much about his parents, or who or what he is. All he has known so far is a peaceful farm in the kingdom of Sendaria - a kingdom known for its peaceful farms and its practical, if sometimes foolish, citizens. The only family he has ever known is Aunt Pol, a holy terror in the kitchen. But then Aunt Pol and Mr. Wolf, a traveling storyteller who visits the farm every five years or so, become alarmed about something Garion doesn't quite understand, and together with the farm's blacksmith (who is smitten with Pol), they go on the run. Their party grows as they are joined by a giant from the neighboring kingdom of Cherek and a weasel-faced acrobat, merchant, and spy named Silk.

Garion can't quite tell whether they're running from someone or searching for something; possibly both. As time goes by, he reckons something of great importance has been stolen, and Mr. Wolf and Aunt Pol are trying to get it back before he uses it for some awful purpose. Agents of a race that serves the evil god Torak are on their trail, including a type of sorcerer-priest who has a mysterious hold on Garion's mind. And each day, the hints fall thicker and faster that there is more to Garion's companions than meets the eye - and perhaps more to Garion as well.

Just when they pick up the scent of whoever stole whatever it was, the party is waylaid by soldiers and diverted to a conference of kings where, before everybody can agree what to do, they are set upon by their enemies in an exciting climax. But their journey is only beginning, and the next leg of it will take them into even stranger territory, more complex intrigues, and greater danger. At the bottom of it all seems to be a prophecy, a broken line of kings, and an age-old conflict between nations and gods. Unless I'm off in my guess, Garion will soon find himself at the center of it all.

First published in 1982, this is the first book of The Belgariad, a five-book fantasy epic that also includes Queen of Sorcery, Magician's Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, and Enchanter's End Game. Also connected with it are the prequels Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress, a five-book sequel series called The Malloreon, which starts with Guardians of the West, and The Rivan Codex, a collection of background material for the entire saga. American author David Eddings (1931-2009), sometimes writing with his wife Leigh Eddings (1937-2007), also wrote the fantasy trilogies The Elenium and its sequel The Tamuli, plus a four-book series The Dreamers starting with The Elder Gods.

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