Sunday, January 15, 2017

Queen of Sorcery

Queen of Sorcery
by David Eddings
Recommended Ages: 14+

In Book 2 of the five-book "Belgariad" series, 15-year-old Garion remains on the move with an ethnically mixed group on a quest to save their world. Zedar, a traitor to the immortal sorcerers who have watched over the west during the thousands of years since the gods withdrew, has stolen a certain stone and intends to use it to revive Torak, the god of chaos and evil. Harrassed by priests of Torak, in the disguise of traders and diplomats from the eastern Angarak nations, the Nadraks, Murgos, and Thulls, and hampered on their way by plots and conflicts the Angaraks have conjured with their mind-corrupting gold, Garion's party struggles to catch up with Zedar. They include representatives of all the western realms the group has passed through so far. While Garion struggles to understand and accept who he really is and what he is capable of, he and his friends experience the varying climates, geography, and culture of each country in turn, a feat of fantasy world-building notable in its breadth of scope and variety of detail.

Each country in Garion's world has its special charms and dangers, just as each member of his party has good qualities and character flaws. For the most part, their shared quest holds the friction within the group down to a cheerful banter, with only a few outbursts of real conflict, soon healed over by forgiveness. Around them, however, they witness gruesome murders, savage battles, horrible treatment of lower-class people, assassination plots, moral and political corruption, and doomed romances. Arendia, where the group finds itself as this book begins, is divided by a thousand-year-old ethnic grudge, and further threatened by a too-delicate sense of honor. Tolnedra faces a succession crisis as a line of emperors that has stood for millennia comes to an end, and a headstrong princess runs away from her responsibility to offer her hand in marriage to a Rivan king who may never return. In the forest of the Dryads, Garion comes face to face with an enemy who has been tracking him all his life - and with a power within him that he doesn't want to accept. And finally, in the stifling jungle country of Nyissa, the heavily drugged populace serves a queen who is both the priestess and the betrothed bride of a serpent-god, and she recognizes what Garion is becoming and makes her move before he knows how to use his power.

In this installment, Garion learns his true name, which finally makes sense of the over-arching title of the series. But there is still much he doesn't know about his true identity and his destiny. The fact that an attentive reader can probably guess things about the main character before he grasps them himself, lends an oddly picaresque touch to this adventure, along with powerful magic, shocking violence, intrigues within intrigues, and an engrossing complexity of landscapes, cultures, and politics. Besides all that, it has a touch of sweet romance, a goodly helping of humor, and some convincingly human emotions, especially within the confused brain of its young protagonist. And who would be less confused, with a dry voice residing in his head, piping up with advice from time to time? And that's beside mental messages from Garion's Aunt Pol and Grandfather Wolf, and the sinister grip of Asharak, a.k.a. Chamdar, on his mind. Though not everything Garion says and does is to his credit, credit we give him because he is growing, learning, and becoming something whose importance we can yet only guess. For its characters, for its dialogue, and for its overall richness of conception, I am sure to use any opportunity to read the rest of this series.

This sequel to Pawn of Prophecy is followed by Magician's Gambit, Castle of Wizardry, and Enchanters' End Game. Eddings (1931-2009) also wrote the five-book sequel series "The Malloreon" (Guardians of the West, etc.), among other companion novels, and several other fantasy novels and series, sometimes co-authored by his wife Leigh Eddings.

No comments: