22. Guardians of the West by David Eddings
23. Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings
I decided to extend my Eddings kick and raided my university library accordingly. I graduate in a few days, so it feels like my last chance to get the most out of the library resources. In reality, I will still be able to check out books after graduation, though using a more cumbersome system, but my access to certain subscriptions (notably JSTOR) will cease, which will make me very sad.
In any case, Guardians of the West is the first book of the Malloreon, and I was at first pleasantly surprised to discover that it simply takes up where the Belgariad left off. In retrospect, this may not have been the best idea. The first three quarters of the book or so are basically recountings of events that happen over a number of years, so it misses the immediacy of the earlier books. It's great to see what happens to the characters, and the best part about it is the banter between characters that we already know and love, but the book begins to feel like an epilogue that's overstayed its welcome. Of course, these seemingly beside-the-point events do come together to form a plot in the last quarter of the book. We see the beginning of a new quest and our beloved characters get back into action once more. If I had been reading this together with subsequent books following after, I might not have noticed the length of the build-up as much. Since the rest of the series was unfortunately not in the library, I had to read this book on its own merits. I still look forward to the rest of the series, when I can get my hands on it, and I'm sure the payoff will be great.
I had different expectations for Polgara the Sorceress as it is literally the backstory of one character. I expected it to be a description of events over a number of years (Polgara the Sorceress lives for millenia), and in this case, Eddings actually had more plot and action than I anticipated. The series of events that occur the reader already knows as legends from earlier books, but here we see it fleshed out, from Polgara's point of view. Finally, the hinted-at stories of her time in Vo Wacune, Arendia, how she became the Duchess of Erat, and why she allowed herself to be sold as a Nadrak woman. We see how her prejudices, opinions, and habits are shaped over time, how she deals with the great secret that her mother is still alive and keeps it from her father for thousands of years, and her little jarring asides at the characters we know in "the present time," sometimes as she mocks their ancestors. Eddings made all these events and the woman who shaped and was shaped by them incredibly realistic, we feel her pains, her anger, and constant sense of duty as well as her capricious and flirtatious side. Since this is one of the last books Eddings, or, I should say, the Eddings, wrote, there were some spoilers for the books that I haven't read yet, but it's not like they weren't things I hadn't guessed, the true pleasure of these books is in the details.