Book Review: Pawn of Prophecy

Book Name: Pawn of Prophecy
Author: David Eddings
First Published: 1982

Author David Eddings grew up in Snohomish, Washington, a small town near Seattle. He displayed a talent for drama and literature, winning a national oratorical contest and acting in lead roles in junior college plays. He graduated from Reed College of Portland, Oregon in 1954. He was working on a novel that he thought would be his thesis for the university when he was drafted into the US. Army. He served his country until 1956 and moved on to graduate school at the University of Washington in Seattle. He gained his MA in 1961 and moved on to a job in purchasing at Boeing Aircraft, a large company in the area. It is there that he met his wife Judith Leigh Schall and he and Leigh would remain married for 45 years until a stroke took her life.

Eddings moved on from Boeing to become a tenured college professor for seven years, but in a fit of frustration, he quit his job due to a lack of a pay raise. He and his wife moved to Denver, Colorado where he took a job at a grocery store to make a living. It was during this time that he turned to writing and began work on a series of novels. After a time in Denver, he moved back to Washington, this time to Spokane. It is here where Eddings turned his attention to writing in earnest.

In Spokane, Eddings came across a copy of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings in a bookstore. He realized that the book was in its 78th printing and this fact made him sit up and re-evaluate his writing. He realized that there could be a larger market for fantasy novels than the coming of age books he had previously written. He pulled out an old doodle of a map he had scribbled a few years ago and this became the basis for the fantasy world of Aloria, the setting of the Belgariad Series.

The Belgariad is the first of Edding’s epic fantasy series. It has five volumes, each title a combination of a fantasy term and a chess term. Pawn of Prophecy is the first book. With the success of The Belgariad Series, Eddings went on to write another five volume sequel series called The Malloreon. Both series proved to be wildly popular and helped to shape the trope of epic fantasy that holds today.

Leigh Eddings is credited with being a co-author in the later novels concerning the Sorceress Polgara, but according to David Eddings, his wife was active as a co-author in all of his fantasy novels. He used her guidance with the female characters to make them more believable. He would have credited her sooner for her work, but Lester Del Rey allegedly did not like the idea, believing that a single author’s name on the books was a better selling point.

David Eddings continued to write his fantasy novels until his death of natural causes in 2009. His manuscripts and other written works have been donated to Reed University along with a sizable grant to fund “students and faculty studying languages and literature”.

“But there’s a world beyond what we can see and touch, and that world lives by its own laws. What may be impossible in this very ordinary world is very possible there, and sometimes the boundaries between the two worlds disappear, and then who can say what is possible and impossible?”
― David Eddings, Pawn of Prophecy

Pawn of Prophecy begins with a prologue about the creation of the world Aloria by the seven gods. One of them fashions an orb and puts inside it a “living soul”. The Orb of Aldur is coveted by the god Torak. The Orb is guarded by King Cherek’s family, who have the ability to hold the object.

The story is told via the eyes of young Garion, a farm boy. An old man named Belgarath, nicknamed “the wolf” arrives at Faldor Farm and enlists the help of Garion, his Aunt Pol, and Durnik the blacksmith to go out in search of a missing object. Unknown to Garion, this is the Orb of Aldur, a powerful and magical object lost to the King’s family. The group has many adventures and eventually grows to include a Drasnian Prince, an Algarian Prince, and a Cherek Earl.

During the many trials that Garion experiences, he hears a dry voice in his mind. As time goes on, Garion learns that this is the Voice of Prophecy, or “Necessity”, which is taking action through him. He is but a pawn to its will. Who is Garion? What is his connection to Aunt Pol and to the thief known as Wolf? It seems that there is more to this farmboy than what meets the eye.

Book Cover Pawn of ProphecyBack in my school days, The Belgariad Series was considered one of those “must-reads” of the fantasy genre. Although today we would consider the storyline to be a classic “chosen one” Hero’s Journey with all the cliches of the genre, at the time, it was breaking fresh ground. I remember reading the series in junior high school with pleasure and went on to read the sequel series as well. It reminded me of Tolkien’s Lord of the Kings, but without the heavy literature quality.

I found the young farm boy Garion likable and the story engaging, with a good balance of humor and intricate world building. While Eddings prose is not particularly deep, it is still a good yarn that is clean enough to recommend to younger readers.

In particular, I like that Eddings created a strong female lead in “Aunt Polgara”. Polgara is a powerful sorceress and of good character. She was one of the first strong female lead characters to come out in the 1980s fantasy, but certainly was not the last! I had not realized at the time that Polgara was a particular creation of Edding’s wife since she was not given co-author credit during the 1980s, but her input is certainly felt with Polgara and her viewpoints.

If you are an adult and are considering reading this classic series, I believe that it holds its own for adults looking for a clean fantasy with less gratuitous violence. While more YA in nature, it is a good read for all ages.

The Belgariad Series

Pawn of Prophecy (1982)
Queen of Sorcery (1982)
Magician’s Gambit (1983)
Castle of Wizardry (1984)
Enchanters’ End Game (1984)

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