15. The Belgariad Volume One: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician's Gambit by David Eddings
I've been reading this for a while, interspersed with all my school books. It's actually three books in one, but each book is only a couple hundred pages, so I'll count this as one book. I plan on returning this to the library and immediately checking out Volume Two!
I've been raving about The Belgariad to anyone I know who likes or might like fantasy. This is classic high fantasy with some of the best writing I've seen in the genre. Eddings himself in his introduction admits that this is a straightforward quest for a sacred object with all the stock characters; our underdog hero, our wizard-guardian, a female protector-sorceress (anima), several animuses, and a love interest.
Eddings excels in crisp, evocative language and an intricate blend of legends and cultures. He creates seven different Gods with seven different peoples, but some of the peoples have split into more groups over the centuries, and a mysterious eighth God and his people are added in in the third book. The cultures bear interesting resemblances to historical and contemporary Terran cultures, like a warrior clan reminiscent of Beowulf-style Germanic tribes, another group that acts and speaks like the knights of King Arthur, and another that shows influences of ancient Egypt and hippie drug culture, just to name a few. One of my favorite aspects is the sign language that is used by a nation of spies. And I cannot fail to mention Eddings' inspired invention of several dread beasts, like the troll-like Algroths and snakes that form mud-men.
His characters are sympathetic and interesting, there's our boy Garion and our wizard Belgarath, but also Belgarath's daughter Polgara, Garion's fierce and smothering mother-figure, Durnik the good smith, and Ce'Nedra, our part-Dryad princess. All in all, I'm excited to read more, even though I know "our guys will win in the end." This fantasy epic isn't about where it's going, but how it gets there, and that makes this most generic plot into a genuine work of literature.