Thursday, February 20, 2014

Book Review: The Malloreon Books 4 and 5

4. Sorceress of Darshiva

5. The Seeress of Kell

I'm sad that my time with Eddings' magnificently developed fantasy world has come to an end. On the other hand, it was high time I finished reading a series that I started two years ago (and, really, four years ago). The Malloreon follows (almost) the same cast of characters as from Eddings' earlier series, the Belgariad. The first series deals with a quest that takes place in the northern lands of the world, while this series deals with the southern lands. I highly, highly recommend both series to fans of high fantasy.

And, yet, although I placed the Belgariad on my list of SFF Lit, I realized while finishing up the series that what is truly most pleasing about this series is its predictability-how it slides neatly and comfortingly into genre conventions. Everything from the archetypal characters to the arc of the plot is practically a prototype for Campbell's Hero's Journey. But I pride myself on how much I value originality! Why do I love these books so much?

Eddings' books are predictable in terms of plot and even character, and that brings a certain level of comfort. But his writing style is quite different from, say, Tolkien's. Nor is it reminiscent of most other fantasy novels I have read. Eddings' tone is crisp and direct, his dialogue is humorous! And there's a pleasing dissonance in the contrast between the high fantasy setting and the characters' earthy, no-nonsense speech and attitudes. They could have come out of any realist novel. Furthermore, Eddings' settings are quite developed, and while clearly based in historical societies, they have a character and "structure of feeling" all their own. There are unusual fantastic beasts and a whole backstory (and speech) to the society of wolves. Eddings' originality is simply in the details.

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