Tag Archives: magic

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)

Author Interview: Elizabeth Gaines Johnston

A huge fan of fantasy and medieval history, Author Elizabeth Gaines Johnston loves weaving complicated storylines together to create characters who feel like real people. She enjoys using words to paint a picture, so my worlds have a tangible feel to them. Please welcome this up and coming fantasy author to No Wasted Ink.

Author Elizabeth Gaines JohnstonMy name is Elizabeth Gaines Johnston, author of the Gilded Serpents trilogy, as well as the upcoming sequel series, The Realm of Possibilities trilogy. I am a single mother of two sets of identical twin boys (ages 16 and 10) as well as a busy school volunteer, where I direct and teach the theater program for 2nd-8th graders, as well as helping publish the school’s student paper. I have a BA in English Literature with an emphasis on medieval studies, and a History minor. I love to travel. I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like. I’m also a fan of Doctor Who, Firefly, Marvel, some DC (mostly Wonder Woman), The Princess Bride, and many fantasy series.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always loved to write, in my pre-teen and teen years it was mostly short stories and poetry for friends. When I was first married, right out of college, we moved from California to Minnesota, and so while my husband was in med school, I took whatever jobs I could to keep us solvent. To keep my sanity, I used my lunch breaks and after hours writing what I initially thought would be another short story. However, the characters had other ideas, and soon, I found myself writing Dragon’s Gift, the first book of my first trilogy.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Good question. I suppose in college I began to think of myself as a writer, but it wasn’t until I had over 1000 pages of my trilogy written that I knew myself to be one. I finally felt like an author when I sold my first book to a total stranger, who later told me how much they enjoyed it.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

All three books are out simultaneously, so no one has to wait to find out what happens! The first book, Dragon’s Gift, is the most lighthearted, as out heroine is starting out on her journey, meeting new friends and acquiring new skills. The second book, Magic’s Price, is the longest of the three, mainly because that’s where the divisions naturally occurred. It is more complex, as several key players become separated during this time, and they find they must face challenges they never expected. Our heroine, and her friends, also grow more and more to doubt themselves during this portion of the tale. Finally, in the conclusion of the trilogy, War’s Toll, our main characters have to overcome tremendous odds and their own misgivings in order to defeat the great evil threatening their lands.

What inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always loved the fantasy genre, but the majority of the books have a main male character at their core. I wanted my story to revolve around my heroine, but also to show the strength she gets from those beside her. Not just in the sense of romance, though there are romances in my books, but also from family and allies, some of whom she never expected to find rallying to her cause. I also wanted to give young women the sense that if they believe in themselves, they have already won the most important battle.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I try to give the reader a chance to see things through the eyes of different characters. I hate to compare myself to another author since each of us has a distinct voice. I am particularly proud of the images I am able to create with my words. I like the sense of painting a picture that the reader can see.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

For each book, it was what the heroine found herself facing. In Dragon’s Gift, Kwyleeana finds herself in possession of a magical pendant given to her by Baelwyn, a dragon. This gift opens her to an entirely new world around her. In Magic’s Price, she has to come to terms with what the magic she is using costs her. She also must decide if she is willing to pay that price. In War’s Toll, the war has arrived, and all the characters, our heroine included, will be forced to face the devastation and loss that wars bring.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Empowerment. I have always felt if you believe in yourself, you are well on your way to success. The worst thing we do is defeat ourselves before we’ve begun. Also, I’m a strong believer in the concept of relying on the strength of those around you…none of us is in this world alone, and the greatest burdens become lighter if we have loyal friends beside us willing to share the load.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

As this is a fantasy novel, not really. However, I spent many years as a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and several of my characters in this world are amalgams of people I knew from those years. It also helped me add a real authenticity to my dialogue and details of a medieval-esque fantasy world.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you  find inspiring?

As an English lit major, I found a lot to inspire me. The strength of Isabel Allende’s women, the rich details of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Arthurian tales, the fun and excitement of David Eddings, and the way I can lose myself in the worlds of Terry Brooks. I also find hope in the tales of Brooks and J.K. Rowling, who were in other careers and did not find success as authors until later.

If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?

Terry Brooks. The way he incorporated what he knew into his books, and then cast aside his career as a successful lawyer to follow his dream of being a fantasy adventure author.

Who designed the painterly cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Kimberly Daniel designed all three book covers. The first one she did for me as a friend, because all the covers I was being sent by my first publisher were awful, and didn’t fit my writing style at all. I then contracted her to design the other two to keep my styles consistent. I also knew she would give me what I needed for a design, and would do it on time and professionally.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t try to be anyone else. Be true to your own voice. The biggest mistake you can make is to write for what pleases other people. If you write to please yourself, that’s when you will create brilliance. And like my heroine, Princess Kwyleeana, believe in yourself, for then you have the strength to win all battles.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

All authors need readers to support them. If you like my book, please give me positive reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other websites. Ask your local bookstore to stock my books. Recommend my books to friends (or better yet, buy them copies as gifts). And never be afraid to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Dragons Gift Book CoverElizabeth Gaines Johnston
Los Angeles, CA

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The Gilded Serpents Trilogy

Cover Artist: Kimberly Daniel

AMAZON
BARNES & NOBLE

Book Review: Sword-Dancer

Book Name: Sword-Dancer
Author: Jennifer Roberson
First Published: 1986

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, author Jennifer Roberson has lived in the state of Arizona since 1957. She started out in Phoenix, but in 1999, she moved to a home on 2.5 acres of rural land at the foot of the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. She gained a bachelor of science in journalism from Northern Arizona University with an extended major in British history. While studying at the University of London during her last semester, Roberson was able to visit historical sites in Scotland and Wales. These travels would later inspire much of her historical fiction and influence her fantasy works.

Jennifer Roberson is a prolific author, with two dozen novels completed and more on the way. Her most famous series is the Sword-Dancer Saga, but her Cheysuli series is also extremely popular with fantasy readers. In addition to the novels, she has written numerous short stories and has edited several fantasy anthologies. In 1996, Roberson collaborated with fantasy authors Melanie Rawn and Kate Elliott on a book called The Golden Key that was a finalist for the World Fantasy Awards in 1997.

Sword-Dancer starts in a faraway cantina on the edge of the Southron desert, known to the natives as the Punja. The great sword-dancer Sandtiger is enjoying a glass of wine and the cantina girls, when a beautiful Northern woman with silver hair and wearing a sword strapped to her back enters, seeking to hire Sandtiger as a guide. Del is on a quest to free her little brother from slavery and to kill the bandits that took him five years ago. Always up for a challenge and to make a few coins, especially when it comes in a lovely package, the sword-dancer agrees to guide her. He has many doubts that she will succeed in her quest, not so much because of her ability, but simply because she is a woman. The Sandtiger comes from a culture where women are property and have little say in their own destiny. He is not quite sure what to make of an independent woman who can handle a sword as well as he can, but he finds it a bit of a turn-on and so he follows to see where this adventure might lead.

Tiger, while the narrator of the story, is hard to take at first. He is an arrogant womanizer, although not without a sense of humor. The arrogance might be excused due to his master-level skill with the blade, but most women will cringe when they are first introduced to this rascal. Between the flying insults to each other, the two master sword wielders battle sandstorms and sandtigers, taking on each conflict as it comes to them. Tiger begins to recognize that the ways of his world do not quite fit him as it once did. Del also begins to change as she lets down her icy guard and learns to trust the sword-dancer at her side.

The plot of this novel is not the most intriguing, consisting of a great deal of episodic fighting, although the ending will be very satisfying. That is not what makes this sword and sorcery fantasy tale so riveting. It is the powerful character arcs that both Tiger and Del go through that will keep you spellbound and make you a true fan by the conclusion of the first book. Each book in the series gets better as you go along. The fighting is superb, the magic is interesting, and the romance is ongoing and heartfelt, giving the story an edge of reality that few fantasy novels reach.

The first novel by Jennifer Roberson I ever read was Sword-Dancer back when it first came out in the 1980s. She was a relatively new author at that time, but the book captivated me with the remarkable portrayal of its two main characters. I am a writer who is more character driven than plot driven, so Roberson’s writing style appeals to me strongly and I credit her as one of my main writing influences. Sword-Dancer was out of print for a long time, but it is now available once again both as a printed and an ebook. Look for the three omnibus volumes that contain the first six novels of the series. Roberson has not left the Punja as yet. She is busy writing more Sword-Dancer novels even now. I can’t wait to read the next one.

Sword-Dancer Book CoverSword-Dancer Saga:

Sword-Dancer (1986)
Sword-Singer (1988)
Sword-Maker (1989)
Sword-Breaker (1991)
Sword-Born (1998)
Sword-Sworn (2002)
Sword-Bound (2013)
Sword-Bearer – Forthcoming

Book Review: Sorcerer’s Son

Book Name: Sorcerer’s Son
Author: Phyllis Eisenstein
First Published: 1979

Phyllis Eisenstein was born in 1946 in the city of Chicago, and has lived in Illinois for most of her life. During the time that she attended the University of Chicago, she attended one of the weekly meetings of the city’s science fiction fandom and met her future husband, Alex. They were married in 1966 and remained in Illinois until her husband, a member of the US Air Force, was posted in Germany. She followed him to Europe and they remained there for three years, returning to Chicago after his honorable discharge from the service.

Once the couple returned home, Eisenstein took up writing professionally. Her husband became her writing partner on several of her books and short stories. Her first two stories published in 1971. Heartened by this, she returned to college to gain a BA in anthropology from the University of Illinois.

After publishing several novels, including Sorcerer’s Son, Eisenstein became a writing teacher. At first she assisted author Roger Zelazny at the Indiana University Writer’s Conference in 1977. She went on to teach at the at Michigan State University, Oakton Community College of Skokie, and the Writer’s Digest School. For twenty years she was on the faculty of Columbia College Chicago, where she taught classes in general science fiction, fantasy and an advanced science fiction writing course. Eisenstein received an “Excellence in Teaching” Award from CCC in 1999 and remained on the faculty for another ten years before she retired. Eisenstein split her later years of teaching at CCC to also working full-time in advertising. She is currently the executive manager of copy editors at a large Chicago advertising agency.

When Eisenstein retired from teaching in 2009, it was with the intent to return to writing. She is continuing to focus her attention on short stories and novellas, although a new novel series is in the works. Her latest short story is called Sunstone and appears in George R.R. Martin’s 2013 anthology Old Mars.

Sorcerer’s Son begins when the sorceress of Castle Spinweb, the beautiful Delivev Ormoru, rejects the advances of the sorcerer Smada Rezhyk. Demonmaster Rezhyk suffers from paranoia and assumes that if a woman refuses to marry him, then it is because she is secretly plotting his destruction. Rezhyk summons his favorite demon, Gildrum, and bids the demon to go to Delivev, seduce her, and get her pregnant. In the pregnant state, a sorceress’s power is diminished and Rezhyk plans to use this time to prop up his defenses from the attack he is certain is to be coming. Delivev does not realize that the child she carries is biologically Rezhyk’s. Instead, she believes it to be the son of the young knight she rescued at her gates and fell in love with. Instead of aborting the child, as Rezhyk had assumed, she carries the baby to term.

When Delivev’s son grows up, Cray Ormoru determines that he will become a knight like his father and sets out on a quest to discover why the man mysteriously disappeared, breaking his promise to return, and thus broke his mother’s heart. Along the way, the demon Gildrum watches over him, as he has done throughout Cray’s life and aids the knight want-to-be on his quest. The demon has become humanized through all his years of interacting with human beings. Gildrum feels love for Delivev and he has come to love Cray as if he were his own son. Yet, Gildrum is bound as a slave to the demonmaster and is not free to return to them although he would wish it.

As Cray follows the cold trail of the knight he believes to be his father, the conclusions he learns about the man become impossible. He realizes that as a knight, he will never learn the truth about Sir Melor (Gildrum) and that the only way to learn the information he wants is to become a demonmaster and force a powerful demon to answer his question. Cray turns to the only demonmaster that he knows, Rezhyk, and asks to become his apprentice.

Rezhyk accepts Cray as an apprentice, intending to not teach him anything, for the sorcerer fears that Cray is Delivev’s means to exact revenge on him. However, Gildrum secretly teaches Cray the knowledge that he needs to become a demonmaster so that Cray might free him from bondage. The story moves into new directions at this point that is not only logical, but is emotionally believable, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

Phyllis Eisenstein is an easy author to overlook. While she has published six novels and around 40 short stories, most of which are in major science fiction magazines, because the bulk of her work was published in the late 1970s and 1980s, new readers might not be as aware of her as an author as they should be. Sorcerer’s Son was the first Eisenstein novel that I read and it has stuck in my mind ever since. I honestly believe it is her best novel overall. While it is a simple coming of age story, the novel expands into concepts of slavery, love, and the loss a parent feels when a child matures and leaves home. The feelings that it engenders in the reader are strong and if you are a lover of fantasy novels, this one will not disappoint. If you are an adoptee, it will resonate with you even more.

Sorcerer's Son Book CoverSorcerer’s Son is difficult to find, although it has undergone several reprints by Del Rey down the years. You can purchase used copies on Amazon or search through your favorite used book store for a copy. I still have a first edition copy in my stacks, but I purchased it new back in 1979 when it first came out. Sorcerer’s Son is the first book of a trilogy, the second novel, The Crystal Palace, continues the story of Cray Ormoru and both books can be found in an Omnibus that was published in 2002. The third novel of the trilogy, The City in Stone, was completed by the author, but due to her publishing company going out of business, the book became orphaned and was never published. It is my hope that one day it will be and we can finish reading the story about Sorercer Cray Ormoru at long last.

The Book of Elementals

Sorcerer’s Son (1979)
The Crystal Palace (1988)
The Book of Elementals (omnibus of Book I and II) (2002)
The City in Stone (completed but unpublished)