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Thread by @marshallmaresca: "I keep thinking back to a discussion a few months on reddit about THE BELGARIAD. Several comments were made about it being cliche and pedest […]" #BeglariadRead #BelgariadRead #Belgariad #worldbuilding

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I keep thinking back to a discussion a few months on reddit about THE BELGARIAD. Several comments were made about it being cliche and pedestrian, and someone said, “Yeah, it’s a fine story, but it’s never going to be a classic.”
And all I could think to respond was, “It’s over thirty years later and we’re still talking about it. How is that NOT ‘a classic’?
But that got me thinking- I cite THE BELGARIAD (and THE MALLOREON, its sequel series) as one of my influential works. But what is that influence? I know I’ve read the whole series several times. My copies of the books are in terrible shape.
And the series is definitely, despite the naysayers, one of the bigger ones in the Great Fantasy Canon. I think for several fantasy fans Of A Certain Age (i.e., those of us at the back end of Gen X), it’s the definitive fantasy series.
I know personally, I connected to it a hell of a lot more than I did LORD OF THE RINGS, which honestly I read more out of obligation/desperation for something in the genre.
I mean, the fantasy genre wasn’t the vibrant place it is today. I remember in my local Waldenbooks, the SF & Fantasy section was ONE shelf in LITERALLY the back corner. Options were minimal.
So for me, THE BELGARIAD was totally an oasis in the desert. It’s funny, because I kind of found it by accident.
See, my grandmother had given me KING OF THE MURGOS as a gift, which is Book Two of the sequel series. I attempted to read it, but didn’t get far with it out of utter confusion.
HOWEVER, at the time I was trying to read it out of confusion was the same time I was taking driver’s ed in summer school, and the logistics of that situation had me sitting around the school every day for a couple hours with a book.
And on the day I was trying to read KING OF THE MURGOS, @RunningBren came up to me (as he was in the same driver’s ed class) and was all whispers and excitement. “You’re reading that series? Isn’t it awesome?”
And I was all, “Well, I’m trying to, but I only have this book…” And he stopped me and said. “NO. GO GET THE SERIES.”
So the next day I was at said Waldenbooks in the mall and bought PAWN OF PROPHECY. Read it straight through that night.
Went back the next day (I worked at a restaurant in the mall, so I was going anyway.) and bought QUEEN OF SORCERY and MAGICIAN’S GAMBIT. Those were devoured in less than 48 hours.
I bought CASTLE OF WIZARDRY with LITERALLY a handful of nickels and dimes because that was all the cash I had on hand.

(Tangent: Author Goal: Reader so excited for next book they scrape the change out of the couch to buy it.)
I got paid the next day and bought ENCHANTERS END GAME and then GUARDIANS OF THE WEST (launching THE MALLOREON), and then finally read KING OF THE MURGOS with comprehension.
Then DEMON LORD OF KARANDA, and fortunately SORCERESS OF DARSHIVA came out in hardcover just a few weeks later, and I scooped that up. Then it was the long year of waiting for SEERESS OF KELL.
In the meantime, that year of high school was when I put together a D&D group and Dmd a long-running campaign that was largely THE BELGARIAD with the serial numbers lightly buffed off.
I bring this all up because it’s now been about ten years since I’ve last re-read the series. And I wonder to myself, how does it hold up? Why did it work so well for some people, and is so dismissed by others?
So I’m going to start a re-read (#BeglariadRead) and try to really look under the hood at this divisive, formative, inspiring and, dare I say… classic work of fantasy.
(And I think it's possibly one of the best fantasy series to "look under the hood" with, because Eddings' style and methods is just short of annotating the text himself with circles and arrows and diagrams of How To Fantasy Novel.)
Moving forward with #BelgariadRead, let’s jump into it: The Prologue.
Eddings does love a prologue. Every book in these series, as well as the Elenium/Tamuli has them, and they are PURE infodump.
(Quick note: for this exercise, when I refer to “Eddings”, I’m referring to David & Leigh as a pair. Even though it’s only the later books that give them joint credit, they acknowledged that the collaboration was always the case.) #BelgariadRead
The smart thing about the way they Prologue Infodump is by framing it as in-world religious/historical text. Giving us the thousands-of-years-ago backstory as part of the mythology of the world. #BelgariadRead
Though it also plays its hand REAL STRONG about Belgarath and the Orb being a key part of the story. But that’s OK. #BelgariadRead
We start in SENDARIA, which is Eddings being honest of just how Travelogue this series is going to be. Each section is named after the place, as Garion is dragged around the world from kingdom to kingdom on the quest. #BelgariadRead
(I remember one college friend was told he HAD to read the series so he could be a mod on a Belgariad-based MUSH, and he was all, “I didn’t HAVE to read it. You could have just told me, ‘this is where the spies live, this is where the horse people live’ and left it at that.’”)
So, BELGARIAD is utterly the Farmboy King trope, but much respect on how baldly Eddings tells-you-without-telling-you in the very first paragraph. “No matter how high Garion rose in life…” Right there. #BelgariadRead
Sendaria is kind of fantasy-“America”, no? The world is very segregated by “race” (more on that later), except Sendaria, which is this melting pot mix of “all the races”. #BelgariadRead
Of course, “all the races of the world” seems to be “every kind of white person”. The most racial distinction comes from the Angaraks, who at most read as East European/Eurasian. #BelgariadRead
We blaze through Garion’s early childhood and learning simple Sendarian values through Durnik, who is the avatar of salt-of-the-earth practicality throughout the series. #BelgariadRead
Aunt Pol protests way too much about Garion’s idea for her to marry Durnik. #BelgariadRead
We get some more infodump about the history of the world, with the Battle of Vo Mimbre and Torak, though it seems odd that 500 years later it’s this thing farmhands just stand around chatting about. #BelgariadRead
I do love how Garion mansplains Torak to Aunt Pol. “It’s *KAL* Torak.” Dude, SHE KNOWS WHO TORAK IS.
But it’s such a young-kid-who’s-learned-one-thing thing to do. #BelgariadRead
The beginning gives us the Farmboy Orphan trope, but also subverts it nicely by making it clear that Garion grows up in an environment filled with love and happiness. #BelgariadRead
Like, sure he’s given chores and he grumbles about them, but they’re never CRUEL. It’s a “hey, you’re big enough to wash dishes, so you’re gonna help out.” Never to punish, but to learn those key salt-of-the-earth values. #BelgariadRead
The first book really spends a good four chapters in just table setting: Garion growing up on the farm, his relationship with Pol, Mister Wolf the Storyteller and Durnik. Plus his Three Childhood Friends #BelgariadRead
I’m kind of fascinated that not only is the story Mister Wolf tells the same one from the prologue, but there’s even a footnote to that effect. #BelgariadRead
We meet our first Murgo when Garion goes to the village. Eddings doesn’t use “almond-shaped eyes”, but “angular eyes”, which: almost as bad. Especially since it’s about the only visual racial distinction we’re given. #BelgariadRead
There’s a lot of “races of man” and casual racism things in this series to dig into, though, so we’ll pace ourselves. #BelgariadRead
But speaking of, Rundorig is an Arend, and Arends are dumb. Like, for real, that’s their racial trait: noble but stupid. This is spoken of as fact. #BelgariadRead
Also of note: Garion has a natural talent for lying like a seasoned spy the first time he has a reason to. Which is odd given the sensible Sendarian upbringing he has. #BelgariadRead
I rather like the bit where Faldor refuses to do business with the Murgo on the holiday, despite his daughter and son-in-law freaking out about it. #BelgariadRead
Especially since Faldor really doesn’t show up again, nor his annoying daughter or son-in-law. But it sets a tone of Eddings’ style of characterization: even a tiny bit gets to be a solid bit. #BelgariadRead
It also establishes how much of the world runs on these common folk. Many, many times in the series we get scenes where crucial information is gained by Our Heroes talking plainly and kindly to average people. #BelgariadRead
Aunt Pol busts Garion making out with Zubrette in the barn. This becomes a key point of why she won’t leave him alone when Old Wolf needs her to go with him. #BelgariadRead
I do love that Zubrette blatantly trades kisses for snacks. #BelgariadRead
As Wolf and Pol get ready to leave, Brill is up to no good. Brill’s sole character trait as farm worker here is “up to no good”. And literally stinking. #BelgariadRead
They catch Brill before he runs off to warn whoever he’s gonna warn. Brill pulls a sword, and Garion pulls a knife, and then Durnik shows up to wallop Brill from behind. #BelgariadRead
I adore that, while tying up Brill, Durnik admonishes Garion for pulling the knife. “I didn’t make that for you to use that way.” #BelgariadRead
So they’re off, Garion actually beginning his adventure. Which he knows nothing about, because Pol and Wolf tell him nothing. But Durnik comes too, so Garion isn’t alone in ignorance. #BelgariadRead
This is going to be a recurring point: Garion frequently has no idea what’s going on or why, and Eddings weaponizes his stupidity for maximum “let’s explain things to you”. #BelgariadRead
There’s no “as you know, Bob” here, because Garion Knows Nothing. #BelgariadRead
So the “adventure” is underway now, which begins with meeting up with Barak and Silk. Which promptly freaks Garion out, because Barak is enormous. #BelgariadRead
For the next few chapters, Barak really doesn’t have much personality besides “huge”, “red hair” and “armed”. And Silk is weaselly, in every sense. #BelgariadRead
I do Have Questions though, about how Barak and Silk know Pol. I mean, Wolf has been wandering around for years, but Pol hasn’t been taking vacations from Faldor’s Farm. #BelgariadRead
I get that Who She Is is something that’s known by reputation, but Silk and Barak act like they KNOW her, when she’s been on the farm for 14 years or so. #BelgariadRead
I scare quoted “adventure” because really the plan right now is to trundle about Sendaria on wagons, which is a boring plan. Pol is not thrilled. #BelgariadRead
This starts the trend of Wolf Is Overly Cautious For Reasons. He’s big on slinking about with disguises even though it’s slow, because Maybe Murgos Are Watching. #BelgariadRead
Like, I feel like he gives the Murgos a lot more credit in terms of organization and infrastructure than they really deserve. #BelgariadRead
It’s just kind of absurd that the Murgos (and Grolims) have this intense network of spies throughout Sendaria. #BelgariadRead
BUT, Silk and Garion meet Asharak The Murgo while Silk is doing business, and the conversation between Silk and Asharak is delightful if absurd. #BelgariadRead
Like, it’s this, “Yes, we’re both spies, and we both know it, but we’ll make passive aggressive swipes while maintaining the polite fiction that we’re both merchants.” #BelgariadRead
Also: for being a spy and with a goal of going unnoticed, Silk seems determined to be REALLY memorable in every conversation as “Ambar of Kotu”. #BelgariadRead
Silk is literally Peralta from Brooklyn 99, in that he’s come up with a whole backstory for his undercover character AND HE’S GOING TO USE IT. #BelgariadRead
The Drasnian Secret Language is the Worst Kept Secret. Like, everyone either knows it, or at least knows of it. #BelgariadRead
Brill is still on their trail, and even ahead of their trail, and somehow Silk, super spy, needs Garion to spell out for him the idea that Brill and Asharak are working together. #BelgariadRead
Wolf FINALLY gets the idea through his skull that there’s no point to skulking around and that they should just travel fast. Which is good because the wagon train thing was getting old. #BelgariadRead
They go for Algar horses in the Algarian part of the city, and for some reason these random Algaraians know who Wolf really is on sight. #BelgariadRead
Here I think Eddings shows a certain knack for pacing, in that they stretch each bit *just* to the point where you’re going, “get on with it”, and then they get on with it. #BelgariadRead
Pol has had more than enough of it as well, deciding that if they’re going to forego the disguise, they will FOREGO IT, and she’s gonna sleep in a nice place tonight. Time to break out the Duchess of Erat. #BelgariadRead
Garion, having failed to drag out any meaningful information out of anyone else, tries to question Barak. It doesn’t work, because Barak knows not to cross Pol. #BelgariadRead
I’m not sure WHY Pol insists on keeping Garion in the dark, and it is kind of annoying from his POV, but that’s how we keep the information under wraps here. #BelgariadRead
Wolf acknowledges that they are chasing a “thief” who has powers, but balks at the word “sorcerer”. I think this is a sign that when they were writing the first book, Eddings hadn’t quite locked down their Rules of Magic. #BelgariadRead
(Also, Silk is oddly prejudiced against Algars, given that they’re Alorns and allied together. I don’t think that’s a thing that lasts beyond this book.) #BelgariadRead
They’ve found the Thief’s trail! Time to stop wasting time. Except… a Sendarian regiment has shown up to take them all to the King. For… reasons. Side quest time. #BelgariadRead
(Side quest is pretty much the rest of Pawn of Prophecy.)
So the gang is all “arrested” and being brought up to Sendar and the king. Garion is freaking out about dungeons, to the point where even Durnik is all “YOU MUST CHILL.” #BelgariadRead
Silk’s story of the election of the Sendarian king is amusing, and a nice bit of world building of how Sendaria came to be when it’s not part of the whole Races Of Man deal. #BelgariadRead
Now we get some juicy stuff, as King Fulrach of Sendaria is all “Hey old friends” to Wolf and Pol and Garion is losing his damn mind. For good cause. But once again I Have Questions. #BelgariadRead
Because Fulrach is very familiar with Pol and is all “Layla and the children miss you”, and… again, I can’t see how Pol has been able to maintain these noble relationships in the years she’s been raising Garion. #BelgariadRead
Like, Garion would have noticed if she had popped off for a few months. #BelgariadRead
I can accept that Fulrach & Layla know who she is by reputation, but that's not it. They clearly have a relationship with her. And that doesn’t track. #BelgariadRead
Especially Layla (Layla’s character trait, because all the royals in this series get one, is “pregnant”.) Let’s presume she’s in her thirties. Let’s presume Polgara met her before the farm. #BelgariadRead
Even then, she would be this “lady I met fifteen years ago as a teenager”, not “dear friend”. And surely “the children” wouldn’t know Polgara at all. #BelgariadRead
So, everyone needs to go to Val Alorn because the Alorn Kings want to have a big meeting, and even though Wolf is all “we have a thing to do” he decides it’s easier to go and placate the kings now. #BelgariadRead
Did I mention Barak is the Earl of Trellheim and Silk is Prince Kheldar of Drasnia. Garion is kind of shook by this news, but only a little. It’s just an aftershock compared to the big tremors. #BelgariadRead
Pol is not amused by Fulrach and the Alorn Kings interfering. Quiet threats are made all around. #BelgariadRead
Oh, yeah, and Fulrach spins the beans that Wolf and Pol are Belgarath and Polgara, and that breaks what’s left of Garion’s sense of normality. #BelgariadRead
Especially since Pol— clearly trying to downplay Garion’s importance— introduced him as “some kid I got stuck with and he’s here now”. Which broke Garion’s heart. #BelgariadRead
Look, Pol is kind of tough love with Garion, and I get she wants to keep him ignorant of things for a bit longer. But she could at least have braced him for some of the things that were about to happen. Poor kid is spiraling. #BelgariadRead
I do love the exchange between Garion and Fulrach: “I don’t know what’s going on.” “Kid, you’re lucky. I *wish* I didn’t know.” #BelgariadRead
And that finishes the Sendaria section! We’ll continue with Cherek and the back half of Pawn of Prophecy. #BelgariadRead
We start the Cherek section on the docks of Sendar, with a little drama between Fulrach and Layla as she frets over him before going to play with the other kings. #BelgariadRead
We’re still essentially in Garion’s POV, as we are for everything, and while it doesn’t explicitly state this (Garion doesn’t even get mentioned for a few pages), it implies that he’s just eavesdropping on royal drama. #BelgariadRead
But what about Garion? He’s still pretty salty about Belgarath and Polgara being Belgarath and Polgara, and sulks on the ship with Barak and Silk as company. #BelgariadRead
This makes sense, because Barak and Silk are the only ones who seems to give a damn about how Garion is feeling right now, and are at least trying to keep his spirits up. #BelgariadRead
(Durnik is notoriously narratively absent here. Like, he’s around, but Garion doesn’t have any interaction with him. You’d think he might weigh in on the whole “Belgarath and Polgara” thing, but not yet.) #BelgariadRead
Meanwhile, we get Captain Greldik— aka, Your Ship’s Captain for much of the series. Greldik is fun in that practical, speak-truth-to-power sort of way. He’ll sail a ship anywhere, and he won’t put up with your nonsense. #BelgariadRead
After Garion hangs out on the deck for riding the Cherek Bore, Polgara gets mad at him, but he does not care one bit. #BelgariadRead
The Cherek Bore doesn’t really make sense, meteorologically speaking, but I can embrace that Belar would just make a permanent monster storm because it’s totally metal. That’s the sort of god Belar is. #BelgariadRead
So Polgara is mad at Garion, but Belgarath steps in for this round of discipline when it’s clear Garion does not care how mad she is. This bit is troubling, not just for the, “Oh, angry woman, let the boys talk this out.” bit. (But that is problematic as hell.) #BelgariadRead
Wolf basically does a little gaslighting logic dance around Garion’s head, that Garion is mad that they’re Belgarath and Polgara, and he shouldn’t be, because that’s who they are, so stop being a jerk. #BelgariadRead
And Garion is all, “Oh, I guess I’m not really mad at you but the situation” because Belgarath plays him like a fiddle. #BelgariadRead
Like, the text doesn’t really address this, but he’s not mad about them being Belgarath and Polgara, but because THEY NEVER TOLD HIM. Beyond the whole “his entire life” thing. #BelgariadRead
They literally spent the last few weeks in a deliberate, engineered deception of “don’t tell the truth to the boy”. And that’s magnified in the time approaching Sendar. #BelgariadRead
Like, they *know* the facade will be revealed when they get to Sendar, and it’s a nine day ride, and at no point do they pull Garion aside to be, “OK, brace yourself, here’s some serious stuff.” #BelgariadRead
I’m saying I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Polgara at this point. You’d think throughout this bit she’d give some thought to how Garion is dealing. #BelgariadRead
(I’m also thinking, he’s got no peers right now. I mean, Fulrach and Layla have, like, a dozen children. There wasn’t one spare Sendarian Prince or Princess around Garion’s age for him to hang out with this whole time?) #BelgariadRead
Martje the witch is fun, but raises some questions about world building and magic. But she really gets under Barak’s skin, and totally gives the game away to Garion. If he wasn’t too dense to see it. #BelgariadRead
Now the Alorn Kings and Queens! Plus Brand, the Rivan Warder, because Riva has no king. #BelgariadRead
Given that both this and LOTR play this particular card, is there any historical precedence for “the royal line is gone, so we’ll have a not-King placeholder FOREVER just in case the real king comes back”? #BelgariadRead
The Kings and Queens are largely defined by their singular traits (fat, can't walk, pretentious, and so on). I do love how Queen Porenn is brazenly snarky about how tedious Queen Islena is. #BelgariadRead
We’ll get more into Islena later, but again: she seems to know Polgara personally. Plus she fancies herself on the same level because she does sleight-of-hand tricks. #BelgariadRead
Also, Porenn is seeking pregnancy advice from Layla, and is expecting a frank and graphic letter on the subject. Which is just part of the Silk/Porenn dynamic that is kind of strange. But I wonder just what Layla is going to write... #BelgariadRead
(There’s also the whole thing of “But Porenn is young and pretty, how could she actually love her fat husband?” Ugh.) #BelgariadRead
And so the Royal Council begins, and Garion is left out, kind of bored, because again, Pol is just kind of dismissive of his existence right now. #BelgariadRead
So the palace of King Anheg is, apparently, a boring place, and Garion has little to do but sit around with Durnik. Durnik is not too thrilled with how idle the soldiers are, how unruly the kitchen is. #BelgariadRead
Garion also tries to chat with Durnik about Barak and Silk and their love lives (both: terrible. Barak’s marriage is terrible and Silk is in love with his aunt.) Durnik is not down for this gossip. #BelgariadRead
Also, Durnik is SCANDALIZED that a young woman wants to TALK TO HIM. Like, he’s all “THAT SHAMELESS HUSSY!” because she suggested they could get to know one another. He wants to report her to the authorities, whoever they may be. #BelgariadRead
Barak and Silk ditch the royal meeting for the afternoon, and take Garion and Durnik to the shipyards to check on Barak’s ship. Plus, an apparent local prostitute just calls out to Barak in the street that he hasn't visited her in a while. #BelgariadRead
Like, they do not hold back in the whole “Barak’s Marriage is terrible” department. And I appreciate they don't try to pretend that it's a lot of his fault. (Of course, Merel is terrible, too. But they're both toxic for each other.) #BelgariadRead
A Cherek teenager flirts with Garion, and then another gets in his face all “Who gave you permission to talk to her?” Recognizing this is just posturing to start a fight, Garion skips to the end and punches him. #BelgariadRead
Then the girl kisses him. Silk and Barak tease him for not pursuing the “more than kissing” options that they think are on the table. Garion is not amused. #BelgariadRead
Back at the palace, Barak upsells the tale of Garion’s great battle and kiss. Everyone loves it. Except Garion. And Aunt Pol. She’s really put out that Garion is doing things like this. But at the same time, she isn’t exactly making sure he’s otherwise engaged. #BelgariadRead
This hits the next level when Barak organizes a boar hunt. Silk and Durnik are going (Silk does NOT want to but Porenn gets him to go), and Pol tries to object when Garion is invited as well. #BelgariadRead
Garion, again, is not having it, because right now Pol is really being the worst. I mean, I really like Polgara throughout the series, but here she’s, like, deliberately horrible to him for no reason. #BelgariadRead
Like, she's yet to engage with him in the "So I kept a huge secret all your life and actively, deliberately deceived you for the past few weeks, and we should talk about what's really going on" thing. Instead, she scowls and gets annoyed that he's being a teenager. #BelgariadRead
So he stands up to her, and since Belgarath backs him she’s all, “Whatever, I’ll make your lives horrible later” to them. #BelgariadRead
There's some deeply embedded gender absolutism in all of this that should be engaged, as it's woven through the whole series. It's going to keep coming up. #BelgariadRead
They meet Martje again on the way to the boar hunt, and she’s all “Today’s the day, Barak!” and he responds with murder. For real, he just hurls a spear at her. She blocks it, but he was pretty serious about the killing. #BelgariadRead
(Again, this is pretty damning in terms of gender politics. "A woman says something I didn't like? THROW A SPEAR AT HER." Yeah. Hmm. This isn't a good look on you, Barak.) #BelgariadRead
There's a bit earlier with Silk and Porenn where he's all, "Yes, our Cherek cousins are all conservative and don't think women are people, but shrug and put up with it!" Like Drasnia or anyone else is doing much better.... #BelgariadRead
Next we meet The Bear-Cult of Belar. This series has a strange relationship with religion. I mean, the gods are all universally recognized, as everyone is more racially/culturally aligned to “he’s OUR god”. #BelgariadRead
Like, the Alorns recognize that Mara and Nedra and Torak all exist, but Belar is their god so that's who they pray to. But there's not a lot of what worshipping Belar MEANS. #BelgariadRead
For example, the Bear-Cult is presented as dangerous, meddling zealots, and that’s odd because Belar himself is not presented that way. So why is the church in his name like that? #BelgariadRead
But in a world with actively present gods, and heroes who are disciples of one, effectively on a holy quest, it’s a little odd for Eddings to present his main characters going, “Ugh, zealots.” #BelgariadRead
(I’m going to dig more into the gods and religion and comparative morality in The Belgariad a bit later because… boy is there some wonkiness.) #BelgariadRead
At the boar hunt, Garion is placed alone in the forest, in a perfect position to overhear a conversation between a spy and his employers. And the spy acknowledges “Yeah, Barak and the others came out this way”. #BelgariadRead
But at no point do they go, “Hey, maybe right here in the forest where the people we’re spying on are having a boar hunt is a bad place for this conversation.” #BelgariadRead
Then the boar comes, and Garion is ready for a tussle. It goes badly, and then Barak shows up rescue him. AS A BEAR. Well, from the POV of Garion, who is dazed, it’s all “Is that Barak or a bear or both?” #BelgariadRead
They get back, Garion a bit concussed and covered in blood, and Pol is fixing to get her mad on, until she realizes how spooked Barak is. And they’re both, “It happened”, so they’re both mutually aware of this Barak As A Bear situation. #BelgariadRead
So, now that Garion is injured and staying in bed, with Pol tending to him, it’s time for that serious conversation about what’s really going on, right?
Oh hahahahaha no.
It’s just time for Pol to mock Garion. #BelgariadRead
Like, both her and Wolf spend a fair amount of time tearing him down him for getting mauled by a boar. #BelgariadRead
Once he’s better, it’s back to hanging out with Durnik while everyone else is in a secret meeting. Oh, except Durnik gets invited to it as well, so Garion is left to his own devices. And you wonder why he gets into trouble. #BelgariadRead
But left to his own devices means he finds the abandoned part of the castle that one can overhear the meeting from. And he finds the spy, but the spy doesn’t see him. He decides that Something Should Be Done. #BelgariadRead
One thing on the overheard meeting: It’s, like, day four or five of these meetings. And they seem to be talking about the most basic implications of “the Orb has been stolen”. Like, what have they been talking about for days? #BelgariadRead
I mean, honestly, what needs to be discussed about this that would take more than, like, an hour? “Look, the Orb is important, but while we’re all here, can we talk about tariffs?” #BelgariadRead
Fortunately, for once Garion sees something wrong and chooses the smart option of “go tell somebody”. He decides to go tell Barak, who’s been spending the past couple days unraveling over the whole “turn into a bear” thing. As you do. #BelgariadRead
Oh, and Merel shows up to just pour salt into Barak’s wounds. Though she brings up Barak showing up drunk to her bedroom and demanding wifely duties in a way that sounds pretty damn rapey.
Merel really loves using the word “duty” as a knife, doesn’t she? Like, it’s quite clear that she was told years ago that it’s her duty to her husband to do things and she has NEVER let that go. #BelgariadRead
Even still: pretty damn rapey, Eddings. I don’t care if Barak now feels bad about it. #BelgariadRead
Garion, after listening to all this, final decides to mention the, “Oh, there’s a spy”. Once he gets around to describing who the spy met in the woods, Barak and Merel know who it is, and they go to the kings. #BelgariadRead
Here it all comes out with Asharak the Murgo, but it somehow takes Silk to figure out that Garion *can’t* say anything about Asharak and manages to twenty-questions it out of him. But that really makes Pol look bad. #BelgariadRead
Like, I get that Asharak did some subtle brain sorcery stuff on Garion, but he apparently did it for years under your watch, Pol. YEARS. Now that she spots it, she can snip it like that, but still. #BelgariadRead
It shouldn’t have taken Silk noticing Garion’s inability to talk about it, when the subject of Asharak has COME UP TWICE BEFORE NOW. #BelgariadRead
I honestly wonder if Eddings didn’t realize how badly Pol comes off in this section, or if that was the intention. Like, to build up Garion’s relationship with Belgarath and Silk, they decided to undermine Pol. #BelgariadRead
Anyway, the traitor who the spy is working for is this guy who had been exiled from Cherek, because: traitor. Proven because he had storerooms filled with Red Murgo Gold. #BelgariadRead
OK, the Red Murgo Gold has always bothered me. Like, is it red? Or is it gold? Because, gold has pretty specific properties, and if it’s a red metal, it isn’t gold, you know? #BelgariadRead
But also, the whole Red Gold thing keeps coming up, often as proof that someone has been paid off by Murgos or is a traitor or such, and I have SO MANY QUESTIONS about that. #BelgariadRead
Like, if Murgo Gold is just accepted currency, wouldn’t it just be freely flowing throughout the economy? Like, if you got paid in Red Murgo Gold, surely you would use it to pay for things later, and then THEY pay for things with it, etc. #BelgariadRead
So its Murgo origins should have long since been rendered irrelevant. #BelgariadRead
OR, if you can’t spend it— say, in Cherek, where they hate all things Angarak and thus would treat Murgo gold as a sign of treason— WHY WOULD YOU ACCEPT IT AS PAYMENT? It’s literally worthless. #BelgariadRead
So now that this very serious business is taken care of, where Pol discovers a Grolim had his fingerprints on Garion all this time, she sends him back to his room. Alone.
Where Asharak is waiting.
Like, isn’t there a whole thing about NO Angaraks in Cherek at all? And yet Asharak is just in the palace, meeting the spy in a bar, like it’s no big deal. #BelgariadRead
Garion manages to run away because Aunt Pol had severed the connection in his head to Asharak. Which is good, but, then he’s got Asharak’s men chasing him. Why does Asharak have men? Cherek men? #BelgariadRead
Here’s a good payoff from an earlier bit. They talk about what a sprawling architectural mess the palace is, parts of it in ruin, because previous kings just kept expanding it. So Garion, running away, easily gets turned around and lost. #BelgariadRead
Apparently the Earl of Jarvik has snuck a whole army of his own loyal warriors (and Asharak) into the ruined part of the palace, and it adds to the chaos of Garion running, not sure which Cherek warriors he can safely run to. #BelgariadRead
He manages to hide in JUST THE RIGHT PLACE to watch and hear the kings et al question the now-captured Earl of Jarvik. Including Pol working her mojo to make him talk. #BelgariadRead
Garion doesn’t call for help, but quietly listens to the all the exposition while he stays hidden. #BelgariadRead
Jarvik reveals all Asharak wanted was Garion, and NOW Pol is all, “Oh, I should be concerned about Garion”. She’s about to tear everything apart and Garion calls out from his hiding spot. #BelgariadRead
They figure out a way to help Garion out of the hiding spot (Anheg bristles at Barak’s “smash the wall” plan), and Garion comes out in Anheg’s grandmother’s bedroom. Because that’s where the long-forgotten secret passage goes to. #BelgariadRead
Polgara tries to give Garion a hard time because he was supposed to go to his room, but “Asharak was in my room” takes the wind out of those sails. #BelgariadRead
Islena actually tries to be all “With our combined powers we could find Asharak”. Polgara plays along just enough to scare her. Plus Wolf comments how Asharak has “an unusual mind”, which he knows because he checked him out once. #BelgariadRead
I’m thinking, Belgarath is CLEARLY giving Asharak and other Grolims in the western kingdoms WAY too much liberty. Many of their problems here would be solved if he lived up to his reputation slightly and made Grolims just a little wary about crossing the borders. #BelgariadRead
So Belgarath is finally all, “Let me get back to chasing the thief”, which, really should have been days ago. And he wants Hettar to join them! Hettar really was very stealth-introduced, in that I've never mentioned him all this time. #BelgariadRead
Like, he was just in the background to carry King Cho-Hag around. And then Belgarath is all, “Yeah, this guy, he talks to horses!” and that’s now a thing. (And only the Horse Country people had people who can talk to horses...) #BelgariadRead
Belgarath also mentions two more people who will join them and Anheg is all “Oh, fulfilling the prophecy” and Belgarath is all “I don’t care about that” but COME ON you’re deliberately choosing people based on that. #BelgariadRead
For real, the conversation in this scene is literally all they needed to do instead of having a five-day meeting. I think Belgarath liked stalling. Or did it on purpose, because: prophecy. #BelgariadRead
Anheg then has a private conversation with Polgara and Belgarath (and Garion) where he’s all “you’re protecting a thing, and that thing is important, let me help” and freaks out about Garion’s palm. #BelgariadRead
I’m just saying, Eddings foreshadows with a sledgehammer, and you have to be Garion levels of dense to not see what he’s setting up here. However, Garion is Garion levels of dense. #BelgariadRead
Like, even after all this, and when they leave Martje calls him “Great One”, he’s all “So, is something going on or what, I don’t understand.” #BelgariadRead
Polgara restoring Martje’s vision is a nice way to show her power, while also being ice cold and terrifying. #BelgariadRead
Also Polgara is all “Hey, stop committing treason with the Bear-Cult” to Queen Islena, which… that came out of nowhere. Like, LITERALLY what? #BelgariadRead
As they all get on the ship to go to Vo Wacune, Barak and Merel continue to be terrible to each other. #BelgariadRead
Well, now that we're at the end of this book, it's finally time for that big, open heart-to-heart between Garion and Polgara, the most important person in his life.

I'm kidding, that completely doesn't happen.
Instead, we have Garion getting a few straight answers out of Belgarath about who he and Polgara are, and their connection to him. #BelgariadRead
Though here Belgarath is all “we don’t call ourselves sorcerers”, but later they totally do. It’s also unclear how Grolim sorcery is different from Disciple-of-Aldur Sorcery. #BelgariadRead
Belgarath: “Better I tell you then you get a distorted account from someone else.” BIT LATE FOR THAT, OLD MAN. #BelgariadRead
Also, “Polgara wouldn’t deliberately lie to you.” Um… yeah, we kind of missed that exit a few miles back. #BelgariadRead
But now Garion has embraced the idea that Belgarath is his “grandfather”, and that’s the term he’ll be using from now on. That finishes Pawn of Prophecy! Queen of Sorcery comes next. #BelgariadRead
So, starting on Queen of Sorcery: New Book, New Prologue. Here we get an accounting of The Battle of Vo Mimbre, which we had already been told the basics of before. The prologue fleshes it out better while embracing a historical tone. #BelgariadRead
Clever thing about this prologue: In addition to telling us something about the Battle and Pol & Belgarath being present, it gives us a quick sketch of the Arends, Tolnedrans and Nyissans, who are exactly who this book focuses on. #BelgariadRead
So, the gang is all hanging out in the ruins of Vo Wacune, waiting for Hettar to show up with horses. Garion is bored and listless, and still pretty uncentered over “entire life is a lie” thing. As you do when you’re fifteen waiting around in a ruin. #BelgariadRead
A little bit of Garion update: he’s now fifteen, he’s now got his own sword (a gift from Barak) and a special amulet from Belgarath and Polgara. The amulet is “a tradition in our family”. #BelgariadRead
There’s something fascinating about Vo Wacune being a ruin. I mean, it’s pretty much on the Sendarian/Arendish border, and it’s been two thousand years. You would think someone would have razed it completely or built a new city. #BelgariadRead
You would at least think, given the state of Arendia, it would be a place where plenty of people are hiding or squatting. But our party seems to be the only ones around. #BelgariadRead
The bit where Pol reminisces about the Wacite Arends, and her living memory of them, is very nice. Especially “Pol, that was twenty-five centuries ago.” “Was it? It feels like last year.” #BelgariadRead
There’s also all the undercurrents that Pol and Belgarath love each other, will tear apart the world for each other and to fulfill their tasks… but they don’t really like each other all that much. #BelgariadRead
Every traveling quest needs a guy like Durnik- the guy who not only fixes up a ruined building to give a working fireplace, but also hammers pegs into the wall to hang cloaks on. That’s the guy you want around. #BelgariadRead
Garion has taken it upon himself to keep an eye out for Hettar’s arrival, mostly because it’s more interesting than sitting around in their camp doing nothing. #BelgariadRead
Hettar doesn’t show up yet, but Garion overhears Lammer and Detton, the series’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Arendish misery. #BelgariadRead
Like, nothing is good at all for these two. They’re both starving (comparing notes on eating tree roots or their shoes), Lammer’s family is dead (but “they aren’t cold or hungry anymore”), but are oddly upbeat in their misery. #BelgariadRead
This gives Garion enough righteous anger to tackle the singing fop who wanders into the ruin, who happens to be Lelldorin, the newest member of the party. They do the comic book intro thing: first fight, then become friends. #BelgariadRead
Once again, we get these snippets about Belgarath choosing their companions based on prophecy. And Pol is all, “I guess that’s a thing you’re doing”. #BelgariadRead
It’s funny, but Belgarath is always all, “It’s an obscure bit of the Mrin Codex” or “the prophecies are all riddles and madness”, but… the things we explicitly see are pretty straightforward if poetic. #BelgariadRead
Like, the Prophecy spells out the companions in iconic terms (The Dreadful Bear, The Horse Lord, The Bowman), but it’s not *confusing*. But it’s weird that Polgara is out of sorts that he’s using that as a guide for this mission. #BelgariadRead
Maybe because if he’s assembling the Prophecy Companions, that means this really is it, and Garion is the Child of Light, and she’s not ready for that yet. #BelgariadRead
Meanwhile, Lelldorin! He shoots arrows! He shoots off his mouth! He’s got no filter between thought and speech! He’s an adorable fool, and Garion sees him both as “cool slightly older guy” and “this dumb, dumb guy”. #BelgariadRead
Like, it’s good for Garion to have someone who’s a peer, but Lelldorin is not smart. He’s known Garion for all of one day and he’s already leaking secrets about rebellion against the Mimbrate ruling class. #BelgariadRead
Plus, when Garion mentions his parents being murdered and planning revenge on their killer, and Lelldorin is ON IT, pledging to be there right by his side in Operation Revenge. That’s the guy Lelldorin is: immediately Ride or Die with you. #BelgariadRead
Hettar shows up, and so Belgarath spells out what’s really going on: they’re chasing Zedar, who use to be Belzedar, as he’s stolen the Orb, and is working his way to Angarak territory in a roundabout way. #BelgariadRead
He mentions there’s also Ctuchik, the High Priest of the Grolims, who Zedar is trying to dodge. Zedar and Ctuchik are both Disciples of Torak, but they don’t play well with each other. #BelgariadRead
So the plan is to track the Orb (and thus Zedar) through Arendia, and with that: it’s quest time. #BelgariadRead
So they’re planning to travel through Arendia, and Silk goes full Peralta again with his new character, Radek of Boktor. He tries to get everyone on board, but Belgarath is going to Captain Holt him this time. #BelgariadRead
“We’re doing this and there are reasons.” “I don’t care.” #BelgariadRead
They stop at Lelldorin’s uncle’s home to spend the night, and Lelldorin’s cousin is arguing with another cousin who is all trying to go along to get along with the Mimbrates. #BelgariadRead
After dinner, Lelldorin and the cousin (Torasin) are with Garion and just plain start talking about their plan to assassinate the Arendish king. Garion’s all, “Umm… I could go, you know.” #BelgariadRead
Lelldorin, sweet, stupid Lelldorin, is all “No, I trust you, here’s our regicide plan.” Even though Garion DOES NOT WANT. But then he points out that it’s pretty odd some random Murgo would show up, give them money to kill the king. #BelgariadRead
Lelldorin is still all “But… but… it’s a good plan!” Oh, Lelldorin. Garion also bring up how a Murgo plot with Murgo gold happened in Cherek to kill the king there as well. Lelldorin is deeply confused. #BelgariadRead
They stop on the road the next night, and get attacked by thieves. Big Fight ensues. Garion briefly thinks that Lelldorin is Bravely Running Away, but he’s just getting his bow, and Garion was pretty fast with the judgment there. #BelgariadRead
Garion gets grabbed in the fight (“he’s the one we want”) and abducted for a little bit but then Bear Barak arrives and murders them all. All the thieves dead, there’s brief talk of tracking who hired them, but Belgarath thinks that’s a waste of time. #BelgariadRead
Because it would be all, “Some Murgo hired them to waylay us” and it really doesn’t matter. #BelgariadRead
Oh, Durnik killed one of them, and he’s really pretty messed up about it. Everyone else is all “Murder, part of a day’s work” and Durnik is all tears and “his legs wouldn’t stop kicking”. But Pol is there for him. #BelgariadRead
Have Polgara and Durnik had a “so I’m an immortal sorceress” conversation at all, or did he just shrug and goes along with whatever? #BelgariadRead
On the road the next day, Mimbrate Knights start to give them a hard time, until Tolnedran imperial forces show up and are all, “The imperial road is our territory so screw off, knights.” I guess that’s what makes Tolnedra an “empire”. #BelgariadRead
They don’t actually control any other countries, but they’ve got roads, troops and hostels throughout the west that they do control. So, close enough? #BelgariadRead
Everyone else is really digging into Lelldorin about the life and conditions of serfs in Arendia. And, yeah, it’s bad, but I can’t believe that the other countries are socialist paradises where the poor are perfectly cared for. #BelgariadRead
They stop in a particularly horrible inn in a particularly horrible town, and everyone is all, “For real, Lelldorin, your country is gross.” #BelgariadRead
Garion goes for a walk and it’s pretty clear that Asharak is out there in the forest, re-establishing connection with him. Not good, Garion. Not good. #BelgariadRead
So Lelldorin has embraced the idea that serfs are treated terribly, and comes up with terrible ideas of how do deal with it, including A. renouncing title and living in poverty and B. instigating a serf uprising. #BelgariadRead
Garion is all “Neither of those would help, man.” Lelldorin realizes that he really doesn’t do anything right. Perhaps the Eddings do as well, as they’re about to all-but-write-him-out at this point. #BelgariadRead
Because MONSTER ATTACK. But it’s more like Monster Grumble In The Background, giving our heroes enough time to ride the league (three miles) to get to the place they can mount a defense from. #BelgariadRead
The monsters (with their venomous claws) launch their attack as the heroes make their final sprint, but only Lelldorin gets mauled by them. Even still, everyone manages to get up on the tor to hold their defense for a while. #BelgariadRead
Pol and Garion treat Lelldorin, and it’s looking a bit rough for all of them until, who should arrive: MANDORALLEN. I know Belgarath is expecting him, but for him to just show up in the road like this is a bit odd. #BelgariadRead
But still: MANDORALLEN. The man just pounds in, battle horn blaring, and goes through the monsters like they’re so much wet paper. I feel like he needs a “Guns and Ships” style theme song. #BelgariadRead
He’s got his horse by rein
And a black curly mane
Jousting’s his game
Where he brings the pain
All the same
He won’t refrain
From showing Lelldorin his disdain.
For real, he’s doing the whole “I’m going to be ‘civil’ to this Asturian in a way that’s pretty dickish” while Lelldorin is half-dead on a stretcher. Garion does not like. #BelgariadRead
Then they come across two Mimbrate armies getting ready to go to war with each other over some forgotten slight, so we must again show Mandorallen Is Awesome by having him challenge the two leaders so everyone can move on. #BelgariadRead
Quelle surprise, Mandorallen beats them both. (Barak also gets to break some guy’s face over beard insults. DO NOT INSULT THE BEARD.) But there’s also a Grolim amongst the two armies. #BelgariadRead
Now, the Grolim has pretty much brainwashed everyone. It’s like Arendia has two dozen Grima Wormtongues and EVERYONE is Theoden. Pol starts to deal with him until DURNIK SNEAK ATTACK. #BelgariadRead
Durnik will not abide anyone attacking Polgara, even though she’s a four thousand year old sorceress and she can deal. Pol is both angry and touched. #BelgariadRead
With the Grolim out of commission, literally everyone in the two armies comes to their senses. Which means Lelldorin can be left behind with one of those lords to proper heal up. Lelldorin doesn’t want to, though. #BelgariadRead
Mandorallen shames the hell out of him, though, so Lelldorin agrees to stay behind, telling Garion that it’s on him to foil the Regicide Plot. No pressure, kid. #BelgariadRead
Garion tries to read the riot act to Mandorallen, who’s all “Yeah, but I had to be that rough to save him, and he already doesn’t like me, and maybe you don’t either, but I know I’m doing the right thing.” #BelgariadRead
Garion is a bit shook by that.
Even still, I feel like the narrative was all “All right, here’s a cool guy: Lelldorin! Oh, wait, never mind him, here’s a REALLY cool guy. Let’s get rid of the other one.” #BelgariadRead
For real, for being one of the Companions of the Prophecy, Lelldorin has spectacularly minimal impact on the narrative. #BelgariadRead
So, with Lelldorin thrown aside and Mandorallen firmly established, Garion (and the Eddings) decide it’s time to learn about Hettar. The guy has just been in the background as “horse guy” all this time. #BelgariadRead
You know, I’ve read plenty of slush, and I had my share of crappy writing before I got decent at it, and I’ve seen this as a recurring problem: plenty of secondary characters who are presented as “key” but are just a name and an attribute. #BelgariadRead
And I wonder how much it is that Eddings came up with all these side companions first, and then while writing realized how little they were really needed as things went on. (Eventually sidelining them completely in The Malloreon.) #BelgariadRead
Anyway, Hettar has TWO attributes: horses and Hates Murgos. Murgo hate comes from his parents being killed by Murgos (remember he’s the king’s adopted son), and leaving him for dead after torturing him. He was seven. #BelgariadRead
I’m saying Hettar has earned being a bit maladjusted when it comes to Murgos. But it does raise some interesting questions. #BelgariadRead
We’ve been presented that everything in this Alorn/Angarak West/East (ugh, but it is so very textually "Kingdoms Of The West", so chew on that) situation is very much a Cold War. It’s all, right now, espionage and infiltration. #BelgariadRead
The Angaraks seem to have pretty open relations/open borders with all the non-Alorn western kingdoms. Our mostly-Alorn heroes are all “There’s a Murgo!” and the locals are all, “Yeah, and?” #BelgariadRead
Of course, the real problem is, textually, there doesn’t seem to be a single Murgo in the west that’s on legitimate business. They are, as a culture, Up To No Good. Side eye at you on that, Eddings. Big side eye. #BelgariadRead
Also, apparently, they would just pop into Algaria for “raids”? Which seems… hardly convenient. I mean, they don’t really share a border with Algaria. They can cut through Mishrak ac Thull to get there but… why? #BelgariadRead
It’s not for money or resources. It's just Doing Some Killing. Which really makes no sense.

I’m just saying, the geography is hardly convenient for Murgos to slip in, engage in casual murder-for-murder’s-sake, and slip out again. #BelgariadRead
Anyway, the gang reaches the Great Arendish Fair, which is a worldbuilding thing I really like, having this permanent-yet-always-changing international trade center. And so therefore OF COURSE both Brill and Asharak are there. #BelgariadRead
I mean, Brill— I have some thoughts about Brill but I’ll save them until they’re more relevant. But he’s watching them at the tent they’re staying at (A Drasnian merchant/spy), so they play some game of keeping his attention. #BelgariadRead
Honestly, it’s a plan that sounds clever at first, but when you stop to think about it, isn’t smart at all. Or, it’s the kind of “smart” thinking that presumes you’re dealing with someone stupid, which is never smart. #BelgariadRead
Namely, the idea is, if they keep popping in and out of the tent for a bit, and Brill knows they’re there, he won’t report back to Asharak any time soon. Which… huh? No. #BelgariadRead
Even presuming that Brill would decide he has to stay and keep eyes on the tent, he could still pay some kid a couple of coins to run over to Asharak and deliver a message. #BelgariadRead
But they think they’re so clever because they kept his attention for a while and then cut a hole in the back of the tent to slip out. (But… weren’t their horses and equipment out front anyway? Nevermind.) #BelgariadRead
Maybe that’s why shortly after they leave the fair, Ashrark gets a hold of Garion’s head again. He briefly thinks he’s surrounded by enemies and tries to run away. It’s a fairly evocative bit, describing our companions but in a frightening way. #BelgariadRead
As they get closer to Vo Mimbre, we get some of Mandorallen’s Tragic Romantic Backstory. Short version: love triangle, where he and a married woman fall in love, but everyone is noble and decent about it all. #BelgariadRead
But, you know, tragic, because Their Love Is Real but they can’t do anything about it. Durnik, and to a lesser extent Polgara, are not so moved by this tale, because it’s immoral. #BelgariadRead
Belgarath is all “immoral is kind of relative” noting that adultery isn’t a big deal, but Polgara won’t have it, and more or less slut-shames THE ENTIRE NATION OF MARAGOR and we got to talk about some stuff now. #BelgariadRead
NAMELY, given the religious and theological framework of the civilizations of this world, how did they get these western puritanical notions of propriety, monogamy, marriage and rules of sexual behavior in and out of it? #BelgariadRead
I mean, in Arendia? Yeah, actually, that makes sense, because Chamdar seems like a stuffy god who is down for vows of chastity or celibacy or poverty because he thinks suffering and denial is good for you. #BelgariadRead
But where do the Alorns get it from? I mean, let’s be real, Belar seems like the kind of god who would be ALL FOR a drunken orgy (and I recall later on there’s a reference to the Bear Cult having, you know, THOSE kinds of rituals.) #BelgariadRead
But MOST of the Alorns are all, “Oh, those Bear-Cultists and THOSE rituals, I would never!” and I don’t know where that comes from. Where did they get those puritanical values? Copying the Arends? #BelgariadRead
Now, the Tolnedrans, Marags and Nyissans are presented as not having those same western values, but with a very judgmental, THESE PEOPLE ARE DECADENT AND WICKED and our heroes will not have it. #BelgariadRead
So we reach Vo Mimbre, and Polgara decides it’s time to be impressive, which means Wolf has to go Full Belgarath with the white robe and everything. He’s not thrilled. #BelgariadRead
The knights at the front gate of the royal palace aren’t buying the “this is Belgarath” story (plus poking Mandorallen with the “Bastard of Vo Mander” thing), so Belgarath has to show off a little to get their attention. #BelgariadRead
This is the first time that Belgarath really BRINGS IT. He takes a twig and makes it into a tree. And then tells the knight giving him crap that he’s got to take care of the tree and give away the apples. That was pretty excellent. #BelgariadRead
So everyone goes to see the King and Queen, and as soon as they’re in there, Polgara looks at the Queen and is all, “Girl, we need to talk” and they leave. They’re gonna talk about pregnancy. Because that’s apparently all queens care about. #BelgariadRead
I mean, I’m just saying, we’ve met five queens, and three of them are all either pregnant or trying to get pregnant. And Silar never spoke. (For real, Queen Silar does not have a line of dialogue.) #BelgariadRead
And the one who isn’t about pregnancy at all? Is presented as a pretentious bore who has too many hobbies. The coding of “Queen Islena needs something *important* to fill her time, like babies” is pretty blatant. MORE SIDE EYE, EDDINGS. #BelgariadRead
Anyway, Nachak, the Murgo Ambassador comes in already fired up, out of the gate with “These Alorns are telling you lies!” And he’s got guards. So, of course, Garion decides it’s now or never to bring up Nachak and the Regicide Plot. #BelgariadRead
And he really tries to not bring Lelldorin into it, but that makes it just, “I totally heard about it from somebody”, and Nachak is all “Hearsay!” and then Mandorallen steps up and vouches for Garion’s character. #BelgariadRead
Most importantly, while Mandorallen could totally be all, “Yeah, it’s Lelldorin”, he doesn’t because he respect’s Garion’s honor and vows as if they were his own. Nachak’s response: “kill them!” to his men. Not a sign of innocence, man. #BelgariadRead
So it’s a big throne room fight (the King quickly gives Mandorallen and the rest leave to defend themselves, since fighting in the throne room is a major faux pas. Heroes tear the guards up, including Hettar taking down Nachak. #BelgariadRead
The throne room: bloody mess, and the King is all “Yeah, this is a good metaphor for this country.” But Garion is a hero, right! Which means Pol shows up to chase the girls away. Apparently in Arendia you can get engaged by accident. #BelgariadRead
So the other two vertices of Mandorallen’s love triangle show up, and everyone is noble and polite. And the husband leaves Mandorallen and his wife alone to talk, but makes Garion stay in the room for propriety. #BelgariadRead
For real, this is probably my idea of a personal hell: being forced to awkwardly sit in the middle of an awkward conversation so it won’t escalate, but you get stuck for someone else’s appearances. #BelgariadRead
But that’s Arendia for you! That ends this section, so it’s on to Tolnedra! #BelgariadRead
So we go into Tolnedra, nation of delightfully open corruption and bribery. Silk is happy as a clam, with a custom agent you can just be, “Here is your bribe! No need to check the packs.” #Belgariad
(I’m changing the hashtag to just #Belgariad because that’s probably better for discoverability, as well as FOUR MORE CHARACTERS.)
Apparently Tolnedra is largely astir because there’s bound to be a dynastic succession. Ran Borune is old and has no male heir, so all the noble families are READY. Which means bribes and poisoning all around. #Belgariad
They meet some monks from Mar Terrin (further building up the terror of Maragor), and one of them has lost his mind, until Garion whacks him in the face and all of a sudden he’s better. How? MYSTERIOUSLY. #Belgariad
Adding to Tolnedra’s delightful corruption, literal MURDER IN THE STREETS of political enemies. Like, “Oh, you came outside without your guards, too bad.” STABSTABSTAB #Belgariad
And the Imperial Legions are mostly “don’t do it where we can see it”, so not too effective in keeping the peace. #Belgariad
Oh, and GUESS WHO IS IN TOWN? It’s that guy Brill, just poking around. Our heroes think they manage to sneak away without being noticed. Silk goes off to put his ear to the ground. #Belgariad
Silk meets up with the gang in full “pretending to be someone else” mode. Like, he works his face muscles to look like someone else. Handy skill! NEVER COMES UP AGAIN. #Belgariad
I think Eddings does a lot of Chekov’s Armory stuff, and leaves plenty of guns up on the wall that never get fired. Silk’s “give myself a different face” skill is absolutely one of them. #Belgariad
So they’re back on the road, and some soldiers get the drop on them and arrest them in the night. It doesn’t become a bloodbath only because they already had grabbed Durnik at sword point. #Belgariad
So they get taken to Count Dravor, who ordered them arrested, but he really has no idea why, because he’s blissed out of his gourd. Surely his steward Y’Diss will be able to clear up the matter, right? #Belgariad
And with Y’diss, we get our first Nyissan, who is drugging and controlling the count. And… like, I feel like we’re getting some seriously racist coding here, but I’ll confess I’m not exactly catching what it is. #Belgariad
So, Eddings never mentions skin color when talking “races of man”, unless it’s fantastical, like the Ulgos. It’s all facial features, and for the Nyissans, it’s “grossly sensual”. And I’m sure that’s some coded racist bullshit, but I don’t know what, exactly. #Belgariad
They’re in the dungeons for, like, all of five minutes, because as soon as the guards are out, Silk picks the locks and gets everyone out. Then they beat up the guards, set the kitchen on fire and get the heck out. #Belgariad
Oh, and Durnik? So broken up over his first kill a few chapters back? STONE COLD. Like, he just has some guard by the head and KEEPS SMASHING IT AGAINST THE WALL. #Belgariad
There’s also some strange stuff where Garion and the others ask about Queen Salmissra, and Belgarath is all, “They’re all called Salmissra, and they’re all the same”. Which is a bit dismissive. #Belgariad
Though it's interesting, because more skeptical people treat Polgara & Belgarath like they holders of an office, that there's been dozens of them over the centuries. Which is the case for Salmissra (and sort of Korodullen & Maraserana as well.) Illusion of eternity. #Belgariad
They reach the capital city, and Belgarath decides he should have a word with the Emperor, since if things might turn into a war with the Angaraks, he wants the Tolnedrans at least informed, if not pledged to help out. #Belgariad
Of course, since Tolnedrans aren’t exactly “Yay, Belgarath!” he can’t just knock on the door, so they go see the Cherek Ambassador, who’s also Barak’s cousin. He gets them inside just fine. #Belgariad
(There’s a thing about him have had his beard cut off by the wife of the Nadrak ambassador, which seems to involve him getting drunk and going to bed with her. It’s character coloring, which is part of how this series became beloved.) #Belgariad
Also, Garion drinks half a beer. He doesn’t actually like it, but he drinks it anyway because PRINCIPLE. #Belgariad
They get brought to the Emperor who is all “Yeah, Belgarath and Polgara, whatever” and there’s the requisite “proving who we say we are” bit, which culminated in Polgara making his canary telling him to believe them. That does it. #Belgariad
So he listens well enough, but he’s also kind of, “I can solve this Alorn/Angarak situation diplomatically” and they’re like, Dude. No. That’s not going to do it. #Belgariad
And then who should enter but his daughter, Ce’Nedra, who’s incensed that she’s locked up in the palace. Which is for her safety: see above, re: killing and bribery. She does not like. Also, Garion is a bit shook by her. SHOOK. #Belgariad
She goes as quick as she came, and you’d be forgiven if you thought this was just another bit of character color. Though the Emperor is all “Hey, I’ll be cooperative if she doesn’t have to go to Riva to pretend to marry no one.” #Belgariad
Polgara is not having that. Ce’Nedra, like every other imperial princess, is going to go to Riva on her sixteenth birthday. No negotiations. And given how hard Eddings has been foreshadowing, I’m sure everyone has Done The Math already. #Belgariad
Speaking of negotiations, apparently a great trade deal with the Murgos was finalized. So the Murgo delegation comes in to thank the Emperor. And who’s at the front? Asharak the Murgo. The man has his fingers in all the pies. ALL THE PIES. #Belgariad
Oh, and along those lines, he’s also the Grolim called Chamdar, who Belgarath and Polgara are familiar with. I’m not sure why there was this dual identity thing for Asharak, but it’s kind of a waste of time, I think. #Belgariad
I wonder if Eddings originally planned them as two separate minor villains, and then decided to just combine them into one guy. #Belgariad
Anyway, he and Belgarath have an epic Passive Aggressive Snark Off, which delights the Emperor to no end. I mean, Belgarath (or Polgara) probably COULD just mop the floor with him, regardless of the “civility” of the situation. #Belgariad
But they instead are all, “Next time, man. Next time.” Which: hell yeah, next time. But even still, a lot of Belgarath’s problems in this series could probably be solved with direct action. But he prefers sneaking and being subtle. #Belgariad
I mean, say what you will about Asharak/Chamdar, but the man is efficient with his time management. Belgarath should respect that and step up his game. #Belgariad
So the party makes their way out of Tol Honeth, with one last example of political bloodsport, and, Belgarath doing a side quest to find the trail of the Orb (remember? The actual mission?) #Belgariad
There’s also a bit where Silk chats up a local prostitute/spy, and Durnik gets his mad on that, like, women who don’t share his values exist. Literally, “Why is she even allowed in the city?” Durnik, dude. Chill. We'll get into the whole Saucy Prude tone shortly. #Belgariad
As they leave the city they’re joined by a mysterious young noblewoman and her teacher. WHO COULD IT BE? Even Garion figures out it’s Ce’Nedra in, like, seconds, and he’s deeply dense about everything. #Belgariad
Belgarath is wondering why Polgara is letting Ce’Nedra and her teacher tag along, and she’s all, “I got this, dad, so let it go.” Belgarath is also amazed Garion’s figured it out. Because, well, see above. #Belgariad
Garion also Has Opinions about traveling with a stuck up, spoiled, Veruca Salt of a girl. I’m amazed, actually, that Ce’Nedra handles it as well as she does, honestly. And as they travel, she builds up these extraordinary lies about who she is. #Belgariad
So, when they reach Tol Borune, it comes to a head of Polgara being all, “We know, honey, so drop the act.” Silk and the others act surprised, and I wonder which of them actually are, and which are just being courteous. #Belgariad
Jeebers, Ce’Nedra’s teacher, is that stupid kind of smart that’s easily tricked. I love the bit where he realizes mid-sentence that Ce’Nedra played him. And then Barak gets his scream on at the girl. #Belgariad
Jeebers runs away, and Polgara is all, “Good, getting rid of him was the one thing I was worried about,” and the rest of the group is all “Huh?” Especially because Jeebers puts out the alarm when he gets to the city. #Belgariad
So the next bit of the journey is about dodging Imperial Patrols that are on the hunt for them all. Everyone who isn’t Polgara is all, “WHY are we harboring the Imperial Princess with us?” and she’s all “Reasons. Shut up.” #Belgariad
They reach the Wood of the Dryads, and there’s some explanation of the Dryad treaty and how Ce’Nedra is, in fact, a Dryad. Plus she’s not down with the term “monsters” from Belgarath. That’s monsterist, man. #Belgariad
Once they’re in the Wood of the Dryad, it’s time to relax a bit, and that means: Bath Time. Polgara sends Garion off to a waterfall/pond to have a bath, and once he’s there, she sends Ce’Nedra over to do the same. #Belgariad
It’s funny, because we’ve had a recurring theme of “girls throw themselves at Garion, he gets flustered, and Polgara freaks out”, and now it’s “Yeah, go bathe together.” Her change of tune is more foreshadowing with a sledgehammer. #Belgariad
Plus we learn that Tolnedra has no nudity taboo, but Sendaria definitely does, and Ce’Nedra is way too amused at making Garion uncomfortable. And I wonder about the divide in tone, and how that lines up to David and Leigh, respectively. #Belgariad
Like, when it comes to sexuality in these books, the fundamental tone is “saucily prudish”. Like, it’s fine with sexual teasing, particularly from female characters, but only in “proper” ways, if that makes sense. #Belgariad
The text fundamentally approves of it here, with Ce’Nedra to Garion, because they are Destined. And the whole “Lady says daring thing, man blushes” dynamic as a whole— I wonder if that was fundamentally Leigh and David and their interaction. #Belgariad
But the text will also slut-shame the hell out of any woman— or women from a culture— who venture outside of that Saucy Prude mode, and outside their Heteronormative Pairing of Destiny. #Belgariad
(And that will definitely get revisited again and again, especially when we get to Nadrak women.) #Belgariad
Anyway, Ce’Nedra asks Garion if he would want to kiss her, but Durnik calls for them, effectively cockblocking the whole scene. Garion, of course, is quite put out by Durnik right now. Not on, Durnik. Not on. #Belgariad
Back to the #Belgariad re-read: Garion is annoyed that Durnik interrupted a “moment” between him and Ce’Nedra, and Durnik CLEARLY knows that that is exactly what he did. He tells them it’s time to get back to camp.
But getting back to camp gets interrupted by MUDMEN ATTACK. The mudmen are quite scary, in that stabbing them does nothing, and slicing off limbs just gets you disembodied limbs moving on their own. #Belgariad
Garion protects Ce’Nedra and gets her back to everyone else, but they get separated from Durnik in the process. The rest of the warriors arm up and move in, Garion grabbing his sword to go with them, but Swords vs. Mudmen is not a fair fight. #Belgariad
Deeply, deeply unfair, and Mandorallen is kind of spooked that there are things he can’t beat up. Fortunately, Belgarath and Pol bring some magical fire and rain, washing Mudmen away, leaving… a snake? #Belgariad
Pol questions the snake, as you do, who is all “Queen Salmissra will blah blah…” but it doesn’t matter because Polgara is just not having it. But she lets the snake go so it can tell Salmissra to back the hell off. #Belgariad
There’s still the hanging question: But what happened to Durnik? Did he get killed by the mudmen? Nope, he did the eminently sensible thing when facing an unkillable enemy: climb up a tree and wait. #Belgariad
Next Garion gets “captured” but the Dryads, who want to kill him or mate with him or possibly both, until they find the rest of the group and Polgara and Ce’Nedra are all “No, we kind of need him intact.” #Belgariad
The Dryads are ALL OVER Belgarath because he has sweets and stories, which the Dryads will trade for kisses. Belgarath knows what his goods are worth, is what I’m saying, because he NEGOTIATES. Polgara is disgusted by it. #Belgariad
Though I think it’s less about moralizing and more “Ew, Dad, Gross.” #Belgariad
They go to the Dryad Queen and tell her what’s up with the theft of the Orb and Zedar coming this way. And she’s all “Oh, he went through here last week with a little boy.” So much for the Dryads being all protective of their woods, you know? #Belgariad
But: Little Boy— how Zedar stole the Orb, apparently. Because someone has to have no ill intent in their hearts, so: innocence of a child.
I think the Eddings had no children, I’m just saying.
(I mean, really, kids having no ill intent? Please. I’ve worked with kids. They so do. And if you’ve read Lady Heanterman’s Wardrobe, Tarvis and Jede were inspired by reality. That’s all I’ll say.) #Belgariad
So, now that they are with the Queen of the Dryads, Ce’Nedra is all, “I can stay here and not have to go to Riva.” Both Queen Xantha and Polgara shoot that down SO HARD it leaves Ce’Nedra in tears. That’s destiny, girl. #Belgariad
Since Zedar went through the swampy jungles of Nyissa, Belgarath decides the best plan is for him and Silk to follow the trail alone, and everyone else to catch a boat and meet them in the challenging-to-pronounce Sthiss Tor. #Belgariad
Also: Mandorallen is BEYOND SHOOK by the whole Mudmen thing. Like, it was the first time he EVER was afraid, and now that he’s felt it, he’s convinced that he’s just a coward and will fail them when the time comes. #Belgariad
As they go to meet the ship (with Dryad escort), and almost immediately are set upon by a Tolnedran Legion led by Grand Duke Kador. But the Dryads will… slip off into the woods? For real, Dryads? #Belgariad
I never noticed before how the Dryads just straight up abandoned our heroes when the legion showed up. Not on, Dryads. #Belgariad
Mandorallen, though, is READY to prove he’s no coward and is going to fight THE ENTIRE LEGION (“Thy soldiers are but blades of grass before me”) before Asharak/Chamdar shows up and changes the game. #Belgariad
He’s all “I knew Belgarath would leave and that’s what I was waiting for” and he claims he’s got his hand around Garion’s heart so Polgara better not try a damn thing. And for emphasis, he slaps her. IN THE FACE. #Belgariad
The soldiers grab everyone else, except Garion, who is all “YOU SLAPPED AUNT POL IN THE FACE” and he’s ready to carve himself up some Asharak. #Belgariad
But the Dry Voice in his head (which up until now has more been presented as a manifestation of his conscience rather than an independent voice with dialogue) is all “No, do it this way.” And by “this way” we mean sorcery. #Belgariad
It’s an immensely satisfying sequence, as everyone is freaked by Asharak catching fire, and Polgara telepathically pushing Garion to keep it up, including telling him Asharak killed his parents. #Belgariad
It’s not as satisfying for Garion, even though Pol is mentally praising him as “My Belgarion!” Like, it’s a weird moment for pride, Pol. Garion is distraught, Durnik is freaked, and that’s where we end the Tolnedra section. #Belgariad
Starting with Nyissa— which is just the worst— we get a whole lot of Aunt Pol also being just THE WORST. Like, absolutely awful amounts of Tough Love on Garion here. He’s freaking out, Durnik thinks he’s a monster, and she’s terrible. #Belgariad
Like, zero pedagogy at all here. I find it hard to believe that she’s been raising children for CENTURIES and yet thinks her “Well, get used to it, kid” approach to Garion’s crisis is at all useful. #Belgariad
I mean, they’re on a boat from the Dryad Woods to Sthiss Tor, over a week, and it would be a prime time to really dig deep and have her talk about what’s going on with Garion, magic, and everything else in a frank but caring way. #Belgariad
But: NOPE. She opts for snark and passive aggressive “stop feeling sorry for yourself” garbage and SURPRISE it further alienates Garion. So instead he spends the boat ride learning to read with Ce’Nedra as his teacher. #Belgariad
The heat and humidity and insect life of Nyissa is oppressive, and the river is deadly, and it’s bad all around. So much so Ce’Nedra has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment of sickness from the heat. #Belgariad
(For real, I read the bit about "Ce'Nedra had recovered" and had to go back and find the bit where it mentioned she got sick.) #Belgariad
They dock at a Drasnian Enclave in Sthiss Tor, and go to check in with the Drasnian Ambassador to see if there’s been any word from Belgarath or Silk. Quick answer: no. Because messages don’t do well in Nyissa because THE WORST. #Belgariad
Like, the walk through the city is full of drugged out people and oppressed slaves and women being mostly naked and it’s like THE MOST DECADENT CITY EVER. But to the point of nothing gets done reliably. #Belgariad
So, #worldbuilding hat time: Where’s the infrastructure in Nyissa? There’s one city (and a bunch of ruins), almost no roads, a DEADLY river, and deadly swampland everywhere. How does the city even survive? #Belgariad
Like, what do they eat in Nyissa? Where do they grow it, and who does? What does the "average" Nyissan do? Why is the Nyissan Slave Trade profitable when they don’t seem to have a functional economy besides “make drugs and poisons”? #Belgariad
But they sure do have a slave trade, which we see when a ship comes in to the docks (from where?) to sell some slaves to some Murgos. Everyone watches from the boat, disgusted. Mandorallen is extra disgusted as some of the slaves are Arendish serfs. #Belgariad
The whole “you all don’t treat serfs much better” stuff kind of washes over him, as he believes that actually selling your serfs into slavery is beyond the pale. Then: one slave escapes! He jumps into the river! #Belgariad
The river, though, is full of poisonous leeches. He starts to get chomped, but Garion magic-zaps him from the water to the dock on the Drasnian Enclave. Then the Murgo and his boys start a swagger-off with our warriors about their rights to the slave. #Belgariad
Before a fight can start, Polgara steps in and puts a stop to it, including stopping the Murgo-Grolim from pulling any magical shenanigans. The Murgos leave, and Polgara tears into everyone, especially Garion. #Belgariad
(Sidebar: have they encountered a single Murgo who wasn’t a Grolim? It seems not. Plus, for sorcery being so rare, Grolims with the gift seem to be a dime a dozen.) #Belgariad
Anyway, Pol screams at Garion for being so stupid and doing messy magic and now every Grolim in Sthiss Tor know that they are there and it was pointless because the slave was dead anyway and how could he be so stupid? #Belgariad
Finally Garion just snaps, as HE DAMN WELL SHOULD. He tears into Polgara about how she’s clearly dead inside from living so long, and he doesn’t want anything to do with her ever again. #Belgariad
She does not take this well. She screams about all the sacrifices, poverty, loss-of-her-sister that she’s suffered, ALL FOR HIM. And that last bit is interesting, because it’s filled with resentment about Beldaran marrying Riva and growing old. #Belgariad
And she clearly projects all that onto Garion. Everyone is kind of stunned into silence by this whole explosion between the two of them. But I can’t help but feel like she’s been so horrible to him, I don’t feel a whiff of sympathy here. #Belgariad
When word from Belgarath reaches the Drasnian embassy, Polgara and every named character who isn’t Garion or Ce’Nedra leave the ship. They tear into each other, with Ce’Nedra being all “How dare you?” to him about Polgara, and she’s pretty off base. #Belgariad
What’s fascinating is how she presumes to speak for “everyone”, and I wonder how much that really is the case. Were Barak and Hettar horrified by Garion, or do they kind of agree with him? We never really know, do we? #Belgariad
And we won't for a bit, because after fighting with Ce'Nedra, Garion goes to pout on the deck of the ship, and then he gets kidnapped. Uh-oh! #Belgariad
GARION IS DRUGGED AND KIDNAPPED. Right now he’s semi-awake, being dragged to the palace by Issus and two other mooks. I kind of love Issus, minor character that he is, because he comes off as the only Nyissan with common sense. #Belgariad
Like, he and his guys are also selling slaves? And the other two are all “who’s letting those slaves beg for water?” and he’s all “Give the damn slave some water.” #Belgariad
Not because he’s nice to slaves but he at least understands a dehydrated slave is useless. He’s a fundamentally evil man, but when just about everyone else is evil AND stupid about it, he becomes the one-eyed king. #Belgariad
Garion is brought to Sadi, the queen’s Chief Eunuch, who drugs Garion further to question him and get the truth out him. Garion, hopped up on the junk, tells Sadi everything. #Belgariad
The Nyissan government is entirely run by eunuchs. Nyissa is such a messed up country that the only way anyone can be expected to get anything done is if they’ve been castrated. Otherwise they’re too distracted ALL THE TIME. #Belgariad
Like, at some point in their history someone was all, "Can you all, like, stop banging the queen and just do your jobs?" "Nope." "FINE. ONLY ONE SOLUTION." #Belgariad
We come to Queen Salmissra, who is pretty much on the throne naked, with her boy toy lounging right there. And her crowd of eunuchs, who have this whole call-and-response thing going on. Which is kind of lame. #Belgariad
One half of the room gets “The Queen has visitors!” and the other half just “Ah, visitors”. Like, really, Eddings? That was the best you had there? #Belgariad
Queen Salmissra is one of the few people who get a skin color description at all, which is “chalk white”. And… is that her skin? Is it make-up? Is that common or uncommon for Nyissans? We are never told these things. #Belgariad
The Queen is all “Ooh, Garion is a pretty boy” and has him stripped, bathed, perfumed and made up, and also drugged out of his fricking gourd. And Garion’s head is so spun he’s just “whatever you say, pretty lady”. #Belgariad
But the “dry voice” in his head becomes an active participant now, telling Garion to stay calm and follow his lead and so forth, guiding him through this blissed-out situation. #Belgariad
Salmissra’s boy toy gets all mad that she’s paying attention to Garion, so she has a spring-loaded snake in her throne to kill him with. That’s a fabulous feature more monarchs should employ. #Belgariad
PLUS she’s got Maas, her close advisor, who just IS A SNAKE. That talks, like it's no big deal. And, like, this is sort of a strange worldbuilding choice going on here. Because “talking animals” is not otherwise a feature of the world. #Belgariad
I mean, you have birds and wolves that Garion or Polgara or such talk to later on, but usually when they are AS birds or wolves. Like, it’s their own culture that is totally separate. But in Nyissa? Talking snake, part of the government. No big. #Belgariad
And, I mean, Tolnedra borders Nyissa, and they’re all “We have to be sensible and not believe in magic and stuff” when, like, the chief of staff of the government of the nation to the south IS A SNAKE. #Belgariad
You have to imagine some of the diplomatic letters in the Tolnedran archives.
"Dear Emperor,
I am currently in trade negotiations with a snake.
May I please come home?
Lord Marada Borune
Ambassador to Nyissa."
And can we talk about Nyissa and snakes? Like, they are ALL IN on that as part of their culture. I mean, in Arendia or Tolnedra, you wouldn’t even know that Chamdar and Nedra are the Bull-God and Lion-God, respectively. #Belgariad
But in Nyissa? They’re all “Issa the Snake-God” and RAN WITH THAT until there was nowhere left to run and then ran all the way back. Every other word they say is prefaced with “snake” or “serpent”. #Belgariad
ANYWAY, Maas The Snake gets killed trying to take Garion’s Sorcerer Amulet, so, that’s that. #Belgariad
Also, Salmissra tries to cut a deal with the Murgo emissary (the same slave-buying Grolim from earlier) that she’ll trade Garion for becoming Torak’s queen, so he can make her actually immortal. #Belgariad
(She’s not the original Eternal Salmissra, but just someone chosen due to her resemblance to the original Salmissra, who was Issa’s beloved, but Issa forgot to make immortal. Whoops. THIS Salmissra wants the Real Deal.) #Belgariad
Anyway, disaster strikes in that the sun has become blotted out and the sky is black and people are in a complete panic, so for a bit Salmissra isn’t focused on Garion. That gives the Dry Voice time to pull Garion out of his body so they can get Polgara. #Belgariad
Polgara is elsewhere in the palace with Barak, in full BEAR ATTACK MODE, and they are TEARING THE PLACE UP. The Dry Voice calls Polgara and guides them to Garion, and Garion & DV get back in his body.
There’s stuff with the Dry Voice here and now that… doesn’t quite line up with what it’s revealed to be later. I’ll get into that more later. But I’ll just say right now it’s far too active, far too much a *person*, to match what it is supposed to be. #Belgariad
ESPECIALLY the bit where Salmissra reveals what she wants and its all, "Ohhh, that's what she wants." Like.... why didn't you know? But that's a thing for the next book. Got to space my rants. #Belgariad
Salmissra isn’t going to give up Garion easily, so she literally breaks out the big guns, summoning the spirit of Issa into a statue of him. And… if she could do that why didn’t she do that ages ago and be all, “Hey, about that immortality?” #Belgariad
Polgara grows GIANT SIZED to stand-off with Issa, but she doesn’t really need the height, as she’s all “Dude, we’re doing important things and your girl is messing it up.” Issa resurrects Maas temporarily to get the truth. #Belgariad
Maas is not down with being brought back from the dead, and Issa lets him go again once he gets the answer, namely that this ain’t the real Salmissra and she was ready to marry Torak. #Belgariad
Issa should be in the running for Worst God Ever in that he didn't even realize that this lady isn't HIS Salmissra and that his Salmissra is long dead because he never made her immortal. He's all "looks like her". Shallow god for a shallow people. #Belgariad
Issa is all “I’m out then”, but before he goes he’s all “I can’t stay because that would rouse Torak and that would be bad. Give my love to my brother Aldur.” And I have SO MANY THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS. #Belgariad
Like, clearly Issa is “Aldur Good, Torak Bad”, so it’s not like he’s particularly neutral in this battle. Disengaged, but taking a side. So why are the Nyissans on the neutral-to-bad side here? #Belgariad
Anyway, Polgara is all “You want to be an immortal? Fine.” and makes Salmissra into an immortal giant snake. And that’s pretty horrifying, at least to Garion. #Belgariad
They make their escape back to the ship, and the sky is black and ash is falling and the whole city is in chaos. They have to fight their way through the crowd to get to the ship, but they make it. #Belgariad
At one point a Nyissan tries to buy his way on the ship, and Greldik and his men beat the guys senseless, take his purse and call him a baboon. Yay heroes? #Belgariad
Also: Baboon. I feel like there’s a racial coding there that’s OH SO WRONG. I wonder if Eddings didn’t tell us skin colors ever so they could skate by on a technically. But: shady, Eddings. Shady. #Belgariad.
Garion gets himself cleaned up and Polgara is on the verge of a serious conversation with empathy, but she’s not there yet. Even the dry voice is just all, “Forget it, I’ll have Belgarath talk to him.” #Belgariad
(It's framed like Garion's not ready to listen or something, but, let's be real: Polgara just isn't good at these kinds of talks. AT ALL.) #Belgariad
But oh no! Barak is going to kill himself over the whole “turns into a bear thing”. Now, here Polgara could, again, just have an honest, private conversation with Barak about the whole bear thing. But, nope. Not her way. #Belgariad
Instead she goes for snark and shame, basically being all, “You’ve made arrangements for your body, or are you just leaving that to us? Should we send your sword to your son?” And Barak is all “I don’t have a son.” #Belgariad
Polgara is then, “Oh, did I forget to mention that sort-of-rapey bit back in the last book means your wife is pregnant with a son? Oh, silly me.” Barak is all “I will have a son!” and that snaps him out of his suicide plan. #Belgariad
Barak, apparently, doesn’t like his daughters very much. #Belgariad
Ce’Nedra goes to Garion and has kind of a sensible conversation with him about sorcery and power. He’s all “I didn’t ask to be a sorcerer” and she’s “and I didn’t ask to be a princess, but we are, and we have to be responsible with that.” #Belgariad
And he’s all “but with my power people could die” and she counters, “Same, dude, if I chose to abuse it.” And that gets through to him a bit. Then she asks about his adventure and he says Salmissra was the most beautiful woman ever. #Belgariad
BAD MOVE. She runs off in tears. It’s literally, “Was she really as pretty as they say?” “Yes.” “I HATE YOU GARION!” and run off. Really, Eddings? Leigh signed off on this bit? #Belgariad
Belgarath and Silk return, reporting that Zedar got into Cthol Murgos but Ctuchik took the Orb from him. So that’s the situation. Plus Belgarath has a broken arm. #Belgariad
He broke it because a tree fell on him, which Silk finds oddly hilarious. I’m not sure what this all is about, but this whole section has talked about how utterly dangerous Nyissa is, so getting through it with only a broken arm is downright lucky. #Belgariad
And that’s the strange note this book ends on: Silk cracking up over Belgarath breaking his arm. Here ends QUEEN OF SORCERY. We’ll pick up with MAGICIAN’S GAMBIT on Monday! #Belgariad
We’re back with The #Belgariad, with Book Three: Magician’s Gambit, and that means another prologue. This one gives us the myth of the strange god UL, the people who were godless, and Gorim, who persuaded UL to be the god to his people.
This is a nice bit of mythic storytelling, telling us who UL is (a god who isn’t one of the seven gods), and why there’s plenty of messed up stuff in the world (the seven gods were young and inexperienced and made messy stuff). #Belgariad
So the prologue is mostly about the Ulgos, but it makes sure to name-drop Belgarath so you know it’s not completely tangential to the rest of the story. #Belgariad
The book proper starts with at POV switch: we’re now in Ce’Nedra’s head, as we re-establish the particulars: they’re on the ship, heading upstream in Nyissa while Ce’Nedra recounts who she’s with and what they’re doing. #Belgariad
She’s still pretty salty about being told she’ll have to go to Riva, but she also totally believes Pol’s threat of “drag you there in chains”. And she’s annoyed that she’s likes Garion as much as she does, because he’s so ordinary. #Belgariad
I do find it fascinating, with all she’s seen, the POV of Ce’Nedra is still incredulous, specifically about Belgarath. But they at last steer it in the direction away from “she doesn’t believe” to “she doesn’t know how to place sorcerers into a hierarchy”. #Belgariad
And, for Ce’Nedra, who you outrank is Very Important Business. #Belgariad
Belgarath lays out the new stakes: The Orb has crossed into Cthol Murgos, but Ctuchik took it from Zedar. But that’s got to wait, as Aldur wants all of them to go to the Vale pronto. So that’s the plan now! #Belgariad
Also we get the first instance of, “So we’re going to go this way, because we certainly don’t want to cut through Maragor!” #Belgariad
Ce’Nedra decides for the next part of the journey to hang around Mandorallen, because as the only other person who’s not Alorn or Alorn-adjacent, she at least thinks she can talk to him and figure out where Belgarath and Garion stand in society. #Belgariad
Mandorallen is all, “No, for real, those guys are beyond rank and status.” Which takes a bit for Ce’Nedra to grasp, especially in terms of Garion. But it at least she’s beginning to accept that Garion is Special. #Belgariad
But while Mandorallen and Ce’Nedra are waiting for everyone else to catch up (they were riding up front), a LION jumps out of the bushes and starts going for Ce’Nedra. Mandorallen gets himself in there and WRESTLES THE LION. #Belgariad
Like, sure, he’s in armor, but still: wrestles a lion and wins. This becomes a moment where Ce’Nedra knights him as HER knight, and it has a whole resonance like this is a prophetic thing that needs to come together. #Belgariad
But… if memory serves, this is another one of those things that doesn’t really have a payoff. Like, he’s the Knight Protector and HER knight and that amounts to… what, in the long term? #Belgariad
I feel like Eddings intended for Mandorallen to be to Ce’Nedra what Barak is for Garion, but then they never really got around to having him protect her as a plot point, except right here and now. #Belgariad
There’s a bit in The Rivan Codex where Eddings talks about needing the warriors who do the fighting until Garion is able to do it himself, and that’s what Barak, Lelldorin, Hettar and Mandorallen all represent. #Belgariad
But that means they get a bunch of set-up early on and then little to do later. Which does hurt the Everything Is The Prophecy nature of the plot. These guys are prophecized to do… what, exactly? #Belgariad
Anyway, for the rest of the bit, Ce’Nedra is having Mandorallen dote on her, which he does, but mostly so Garion will see it and get pissed off. Which he does. #Belgariad
Then Durnik is all, “Cut it out”, which is shocking because Durnik hasn’t spoken directly to Her Imperial Highness at all until now. And he cuts to the truth with her that she likes Garion and games like this will just hurt him. #Belgariad
But then she cuts to the truth, that she’s not free to fall in love with whoever she would want to, since her marriage is going to be political, and she lets herself be heartbroken with Durnik, which is a sweet moment. #Belgariad
Back to Garion’s POV! They’re working their way around the Maragor part of Tolnedra— because they certainly aren’t going to cut through Maragor!— but once again there’s Murgos and Grolim all around. Including Brill! #Belgariad
Now, Silk is all “Oh, I should have realized about Brill” in that Brill is really this super-assassin from this Murgo super-assassin group who fight unarmed and have special throwing… throwing stars, they’re throwing stars. #Belgariad
So, yeah, another bit of Murgos being Not-Asians. Raised eyebrow, Eddings.
Plus Brill is a Murgo, but looks Sendarian, because… reasons? It’s not clear. But NOW Silk realizes that Brill is Something More. I wonder if that was always the plan. #Belgariad
I mean, like, in Pawn, Brill is just this guy, who Durnik takes out by hitting him with a 2x4 and ties up. But now he’s really a Master Assassin? Or did Eddings realize they needed a Master Assassin to be Silk’s adversary? #Belgariad
So rather than cook up a brand new character, they just shove Brill into that role, even though it doesn’t quite fit. I mean, it works fine enough, but definitely feels like a retcon of Brill. #Belgariad
(What I’m saying is, the series definitely feels like it was written one book at a time, publishing as they went, so they retconned things committed to in Pawn and Queen that they changed or course-corrected from as they went on.) #Belgariad
Anyway, All The Murgos in the area makes Belgararth get kind of frustrated, that it’s going to be slow going with dodging Murgos and going up around the mountains, and so, even though they said they didn’t want to, there’s only one choice: Cut Through Maragor. #Belgariad
But they kept saying how they weren't going to do that! Because of the ghosts and the badness! But, nope, that's the only choice. #Belgariad
No one is too thrilled with this plan, but they gotta do what they gotta do (and Travelogue’s Gotta Travelogue). So into Maragor they go. #Belgariad
There’s one last game of Dodge The Murgos on the outskirts of Maragor (where desperate gold hunters encamp to try to get some gold despite The Ghosts). There’s also a Drasnian spy who Silk chats with, who’s there for… reasons? #Belgariad
Like, why would there be a spy stationed in this backwoods nothing place? Just the Drasnian Intelligence being thorough? Is it a punishment detail? It doesn’t seem a valuable place for a spy. #Belgariad
They get into Maragor Proper, where Belgarath and Polgara work their scheme: namely to put everyone else into a kind of walking-sleep, because the ghosts in Maragor don’t so much hurt you as muck with your head. #Belgariad
If you’re not awake, they can’t do anything to you. So they do the magic and put everyone into a walking trance, and into Maragor they go! #Belgariad
So, it turns out the Put Everyone To Sleep magic didn’t QUITE work on Garion. He’s still awake, but in a low-key, chill state. The “emotional” side of him is asleep, so the Dry Voice decides now is a good time to get that Big Talk in. #Belgariad
And my problem here, same with the earlier “attempts” with Belgarath and Polgara, is that no one did actually try to explain things to him. They just were all “Nope, he can’t handle this conversation!” without really getting into things. #Belgariad
But since he’s “calm” now, the Voice decides he can handle it. So we finally get down to the brass tacks of The Big Plot. #Belgariad
The Voice lays down the particulars pretty plainly: The Universe was supposed to go a certain way, and then an accident happened that split its purpose into two destinies, and Garion is the vessel that the purpose is using to fix things. #Belgariad
The analogy of throwing a stone, and it going off course, and throwing a second stone to knock the first one back on course is pretty good. #Belgariad
One thing about this whole conversation, and how it sets Garion up as THE VESSEL of the Purpose of the Universe to fix things? Is it really lays down the “this is it, this is THE MOMENT” stuff which makes the Malloreon… awkward. #Belgariad
Like, I don’t begrudge the Eddings their sequel— and we’ll get into that— but they REALLY did not set this up in a way that provided a sequel path. Not quite Highlander levels of Really Not An Option, but close. #Belgariad
So, yes, the Malloreon is fundamentally better than Highlander 2: The Quickening. Take that for all its faint praised damnation you want. #Belgariad
But while we’re here: Maragor! It’s ruins are filled with angry ghosts, who try to mess with the heads of anyone who comes in there to get all the gold! No one gets the gold, and the ghosts really try to be gross. #Belgariad
The descriptions are all nicely gory and horrifying in a Thirteen Ghosts sort of way. I really quite like it. Garion gets a bit sick but can cope, because his feelings are all tamped down. #Belgariad
In the meantime, he listens to Polgara and Belgarath talk about Maragor and what a shame it all is that they were destroyed. Though Polgara is very, very judgmental about the Marags. #Belgariad
Like, you definitely get the impression that this is the first time she ever set foot in Maragor, certainly never came while they were alive, but She Has Opinions about them. Judgey opinions. #Belgariad
For example, they were a matriarchal society with an eight-to-one female-to-male ratio. Which meant that traditional monogamous marriage was not their bag. Polgara Does Not Approve. #Belgariad
There's also a bit where Garion notices the streets of Mar Amon are spirals to the center, which he thinks seems right, as men think in straight lines and women think in circles. And... that seems like sexist gender absolutism bullshit, yes? Yes. Side eye, Eddings. #Belgariad
There’s also the cannibalism thing, which Belgarath waves off more as a minor religious observance born from misreading a sacred text, and not a thing where they were like, People, That’s Good Eating. #Belgariad
In essence: the cannibalism was just a convenient excuse for the Tolnedrans to justify invading the gold-filled Maragor. But now no one has the gold. #Belgariad
And, let’s dig into some worldbuilding, theological questions. Because, you know, active, present gods. Like, why didn’t Mara say to his people, “Whoa, appreciate the enthusiasm, but let’s drop the ritual cannibalism. I’m not down with that.” #Belgariad
But also why was he all, “Hey, here is your tiny, tiny promised land, my people. Filled with gold, and right next to the greedy, aggressive Tolnedrans.” #Belgariad
(And why did Nedra go, “Yeah, I like you all being greedy, but I want you to work for it. So I’ll put you guys NEAR the guys with gold, and see how that works out.”) #Belgariad
Speaking of Mara, the Weeping God of the Marags, he’s here! In the city, crying his holy eyes out over his dead people. Belgarath decides he should try to talk to the god, even though it won’t be helpful. #Belgariad
Spoiler: It’s not helpful. Mara ain’t listening, because his grief is everything for him. And… he’s a God? Like, presuming that actually resurrecting the Marags is against the rules, can’t he just make MORE Marags? Or is that just not the point? #Belgariad
More “I have questions”: Issa only showed up in spirit, and was all “I shouldn’t stay, lest I wake Torak”, but Mara is just here, screaming his fool head off 24/7. But waking Torak isn’t a concern? Actually, Mara explicitly says he doesn’t care, so: maybe? #Belgariad
What he DOES care about is realizing that Ce’Nedra is in the group, and boy does he want to tear her into little pieces and make her suffer. I wonder why he doesn’t grab one from that gold hunter camp a few miles away, but… that’s his way. #Belgariad
Garion, empowered by the Voice, gets in Mara’s way, making it clear that NO, Mara isn’t going to touch Ce’Nedra or anyone else, and he needs to pull himself together. Because, like, you’re a God, man. It’s embarrassing. #Belgariad
(And you have to wonder, wherever the other Gods are right now, what’s the deal between Nedra and Mara right now? Tell me that’s not an awkward family reunion.) #Belgariad
I'm just saying, this series focuses most of its theological weight on the Aldur-Torak-Belar dynamic, but I think there’s a whole Mara/Nedra thing that deserved the deeper dive. Throw Issa in that mix as well. #Belgariad
But, like, Mara is totally the short straw god all around. I mean, look at the map! Alorns and Angaraks have ENORMOUS areas of land. Arends, Tolnedrans and Nyissans, medium sized countries. Maragor, like, is Belguim in comparison. #Belgariad
Anyway, Mara runs off to cry, and Belgarath and Polgara are all “What the heck was that, Garion?” and he’s “Umm, I’ve got the purpose of the universe in my head?” Which is all the answer they’re going to get right now. #Belgariad
So now that that’s handled, Polgara does the sleep spell on Garion again, and this time it’s for real, and that’s the end of the Maragor section! Into the Vale of Aldur next! #Belgariad
So, we start the Vale of Aldur section with everyone waking up from the Maragor Trance. There’s a bit of disorientation of “been asleep for a week and travelled a few hundred miles”, especially for Silk, but they get past that. #Belgariad
One new situation: one of the horses is pregnant. Hettar presents this as news, so I guess the horses were pretty bored in Maragor. #Belgariad
The next situation is that they’re out of Maragor, but not OUT of Maragor, in that there’s another gold-squatter camp they’ve got to get past, and they no one will believe they just went through Maragor and didn’t come out with a bunch of gold. #Belgariad
So Silk makes some fake gold bundles with rocks, and after having Mandorallen run down some of the thieves, he’s all, “Hey, I’ll give you a few of these and we’ll be on our way, OR we could fight over them.” And the thieves choose the No Fighting option. #Belgariad
I mean, it’s a clever trick, but at the same time, it’s a couple dozen scrappy, hungry punks with knives, versus MANDORALLEN, the greatest knight on life. (Not to mention Barak, Hettar, and two of the most powerful sorcerers in the world.) #Belgariad
I mean, Mandorallen could obliterate them all without breaking a sweat.
Because he doesn't sweat, he SHINES.
It’s pretty clear that Silk is very much the character Eddings loves writing the most, and that’s cool, I get the favoritism, but I do feel the narrative twists itself a bit to give us Silk Solutions to Mandorallen Problems, if you get me. #Belgariad
And, let’s be honest, it’s not like Silk’s Ambar or Radek schemes have done anything to stop the Murgos or Grolims from finding them, so it feels like those ruses were more to give Silk something to do, rather than bring value to their travels. #Belgariad
They get out of Maragor and are crossing the mountains to get to the vale, and there’s another bit where they encounter Brill and some Murgos who are stalking them— Brill, mind you, made it to the same place without crossing Maragor. #Belgariad
This encounter has a ravine between them, so no fighting, just threats and posturing. Plus Silk calls Brill by the name “Kordoch” and they both seem to know everything about each other now. Even though Silk’s had no new information since last time we saw Brill. #Belgariad
This supports my theory that the original plan was to have Brill and Kordoch be two distinct characters, and then Eddings decided that was one Level Boss too many and combined them. #Belgariad
As they continue through the mountains, the snow and wind get to be too much, and Pregnant Horse isn’t going to be able to go much longer. I feel like time is passing a bit fast here. Hettar said she had a month. #Belgariad
Garion, out of the blue, says, “What about the cave?” and leads them to a cave that he totally knows is there. And it’s a strange bit for being in his POV, because it has him know a thing that he doesn’t know that he knows. #Belgariad
It tries to have it both ways, and presents it as a mystery, this thing that Garion “always knew” but didn’t know. It’s not clear why he would know this, or need to know this, except maybe for this exact moment. #Belgariad
And maybe that’s enough, but it feels a little too hand-of-the-author here. Which is saying something, because “hand of the author” is not a subtle thing in this series. #Belgariad
Anyway, the Cave, it turns out, is the hall where the Gods used to meet when they were making the world so they could compare notes and make everything fit together in a ordered, sensible way. Which I guess they mostly did? #Belgariad
But even still, you have to imagine it going:
ISSA: So we’re all making our totem animals talk, right?
MARA: I don’t have a totem animal. I’m just ‘weeping’.
NEDRA: I’m going to give you something to weep about.
ISSA: Well, my snakes talk.
BELAR: Usdamnit, you guys.
The whole bit has a neat balance of “this is very fascinating and blessed” and “we maybe shouldn’t be here and DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING, OK?” But the mare is giving birth, now, so the people who are useful for that problem get to work. #Belgariad
“Useful” is Polgara, Hettar and Durnik, and Pol puts Ce’Nedra to work. Everyone else stands around like idiots. Madorallen decides now is the moment to bring up “I’ve experienced fear and therefore you all hate me now so I’ll go away forever”. #Belgariad
Durnik does not say, “For fuck’s sake, Mandorallen”, but mostly because he’s too polite for that. Instead he’s all, “Yeah, I know what fear is. We all do. We just cope. Laugh at the fear.” Mandorallen thinks this is deeply wise counsel. #Belgariad
The horse birth does not go well, and the mother barely makes it, and the foal does not. Ce’Nedra is devastated, and pleads with Garion to do something. Garion, beautiful fool that he is, does something. #Belgariad
While Polgara and Belgarath are busy losing their minds over it, Garion just does the impossible and sorceries the horse back to life. Pol and Belgarath are all, “Dude, that was impossible.” But he did it. Everyone else is suitably stunned. #Belgariad
They leave the cave once the weather clears, and Garion and Belgarath have a bit of a talk about what sorcery can do (and importantly, CAN’T, which is hung up in the Chekhov’s Armory) and Garion is all, “OK, I guess I do need to learn it.” #Belgariad
Then Ce’Nedra comes up just spoiling for a fight for some reason. She flat-out says “I don’t believe in sorcery” and Garion is all, “Yeah, that’s just bait”, and is all, “So you want to fight, then?” It degrades from there. #Belgariad
They get to the Vale, and Ce’Nedra goes crazy for the Ancient Tree, and we get a little backstory on the lost Disciples of Aldur, Belsambar and Belmakor, who I feel are only there to show that Sometimes Sorcerers Give Up. #Belgariad
This is one of those moments where I feel like Belgarath has a need to make things sound more complicated than they actually are, but not in a useful, explanatory way. Like, he says they didn’t just kill themselves, but something “more” complete than that. #Belgariad
But, like, what do you even mean by that? And how does it matter? I think Belgarath wants to be the guy who’s always, “No, you don’t get it” when the other person TOTALLY gets it and it isn’t really that hard to get in the first place. #Belgariad
I mean, yeah, Belgarath is 7000 years old, he's been everywhere and studied a lot of things, but: Not that smart. And he's totally that guy who is desperately masking the fact that he's not smart by trying to sound smart about things he doesn't understand.
He and Garion go to his tower and talk a bit more, mostly about how Garion gets the hard concepts pretty easily but doesn’t get the easy ones, but I think that’s just because they never really explain things to him and are mad he doesn’t get it. #Belgariad
Like, he goes back to Aunt Pol all, “I’m sorry I’ve been so difficult” and she’s “Yes, you have been, glad you see that now.” But let’s be real: neither Belgarath or Polgara have really been trying very hard to explain things to Garion. #Belgariad
Almost every conversation has been like:
POLGARA: You have to stop being an idiot.
GARION: But you haven’t explained—
POLGARA: See, he doesn’t listen! I tried! (Walks away.)
Next, we get Aldur himself showing up, giving his blessing to the party. And they, you know, are suitably impressed. Not every day a God shows up and blesses you, even if it isn’t *your* God. #Belgariad
Though my favorite bit in that his how Barak reacts to meeting Aldur, by swearing in using Belar’s name. There’s a fascinating bit of theology and profanity buried in there. #Belgariad
Aldur takes off with Belgarath and Polgara, to brief them on What To Do Next, and everyone else decides it’s time to just chill and do their own thing. Ce’Nedra’s Own Thing is expecting Garion to do the dishes. Garion declines, and takes off. #Belgariad
He goes to the rock that Belgarath first used magic on, and decides to try to move it himself. This is Garion’s first conscience, intentional “I’m gonna do some sorcery” moment, and of course: he messes it up. #Belgariad
Namely, he manages to bury himself in the ground up to his armpits, which he can’t escape from. Which: I’m sort of having a hard time understanding. I mean, he’s got free use of his arms, and the ground is soft. Push yourself out, dude. #Belgariad
Eventually, thanks to Zombie Colt (who loves Garion SO MUCH but is still just a baby horse), Silk and Hettar show up to dig him out. And give him SO MUCH GRIEF over the fact that he managed to do that to himself. #Belgariad
Polgara and Belgarath give him so much grief over that, and Belgarath and Garion go out for a proper lesson (namely, putting the rock back), and gets super annoyed with Garion in the process. Belgarath: Not Smart, Not a Good Teacher. #Belgariad
They make their way out of the Vale, stopping briefly at the other towers, for Beltira & Belkira (who may as well be one person), and Beldin, who’s another character that it’s clear Eddings LOVES writing so much. #Belgariad
Beltira & Belkira annoy me a lot, and I think that ties to Eddings having a whole “Twins are MAAAAAGIC” thing. Like, if you haven’t had the displeasure of reading REGINA’S SONG, that’s the whole plot. Saved you from reading it. #Belgariad
Seriously, if Eddings is your Problematic Fave but you haven’t read REGINA’S SONG, just don’t. Nothing good can come from it. #Belgariad
And Beldin? I realize how much Tyrion Lannister is “Let’s take Beldin and turn him down a few notches to something reasonable.” He’s more caricature than person, though I love that he an Pol have a relationship built on scathing insults. #Belgariad
There’s also a thing where Eddings seem to think immortal people just don’t value their time or something, as Beldin has apparently been watching the cave where Torak’s been sleeping for 500 years straight. #Belgariad
I’m sorry, I don’t care if you are immortal, there’s better ways to spend your time. #Belgariad
Beldin and the Twins spell out who each person is in the prophecy, which leaves Durnik bewildered. But it also is more undercutting how the prophecy is so “confusing” when it’s clear the Twins are totally on top of it. #Belgariad
More, essentially, of Belgarath isn’t that smart, and around the Twins and Beldin he must feel super Not Smart. #Belgariad
He says before they go to Cthol Murgos, they have to go to Ulgo to get one more guy for the heist. And Beldin & the twins mention the member of the prophecy that Belgarath can’t find. No idea where she is. SHE!?!?! #Belgariad
Yeah, it’s almost like it’s done with scare chords. But that’s where we end the Vale of Aldur. Off to Ulgo! Or Ulgoland, if you go by the map. #Belgariad
Ulgo starts off with Ce’Nedra being bewildered that Polgara has any sort of affection for Beldin, because he’s horrible and ugly. Pol is all, “Well, love is like that” and makes meaningful glances at Garion. Garion thinks This Means Something. Garion is clueless. #Belgariad
Silk figures Brill is going to show up again, since he’s due to show up around now. Come ON, Eddings. We know Silk is your favorite, but that doesn’t mean you show him the outline. #Belgariad
Even still, they’re figuring they should be on the outlook for Murgos again. But in Ulgo, it’s a big no for Murgos. But a Big Yes for MONSTERS. So, we have a few old school D&D Random Encounters over the next couple chapters. #Belgariad
First Random Encounter: Algroths, the same thing that took out Lelldorin in the last book. Now they’re barely a nuisance. Hettar, Barak and Mandorallen go off to smack them down, and then return, down having been smacked. #Belgariad
But Barak is a bit put off because Mandorallen has embraced Durnik’s “laugh at the fear” advice in the most literal manner, which means he laughs while fighting. Barak thinks this is a real violation of Battle Decorum. #Belgariad
Second Random Encounter: The Hrulgin, which are sort of horses, except carnivorous with claws and fangs. This fight is also pretty basic, though Hettar has a moment where he’s all “sort of horse-like things… want one.” #Belgariad
Now we get the big Third Random Encounter, against an Eldrakin named Grul, along with his rock wolves. Belgarath had fought Grul before, so Grul knows him, and calls him “Grat”. He’s wearing armor now, since last time Belgarath knifed him. #Belgariad
Sidebar here on how disappointing I found both books BELGARATH THE SORCERER and POLGARA THE SORCERESS, since all they did was take things we already knew, and fleshed it out to narrative. #Belgariad
Take, for example, Belgarath’s encounter with Grul in that book: it’s there only because it’s an established thing in Belgarath’s past. And… yeah, Belgarath pulls a knife and slices up his belly. There’s fundamentally nothing *new* in those books. #Belgariad
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This fight is pretty exciting, since it’s actually, you know, a challenge for our heroes. It KINDA shouldn’t be, but it is. Both Mandorallen and Durnik get hurt. And it gets to the point where Polgara summons the spirit of her mother to help. #Belgariad
And I have SO MANY ISSUES about Poledra, most of which tie to her being just a Lobo Ex Machina, but more of those come up in the Malloreon, so we’ll pace ourselves about that. #Belgariad
But also, under I Have Questions, they are SUPER inconsistent about sorcery and what Belgarath and Polgara can do. Like, Belgarath turns into a wolf, and Polgara summons the wolf-spirit of her mother, and they wolf-fight Grul. Cool. #Belgariad
But, like, remember in the last book where Polgara went all Giant-Man and then turned Salmissra into a snake, all without even breaking a sweat? Yeah. I don’t get why they don’t just turn Grul into a puppy and then have a puppy friend. #Belgariad
The key thing is, this is a fight with consequences, as there are injuries to tend to, and Belgarath goes into a Full Power Sulk over Polgara bringing Poledra’s spirit into the fight. The next chapter is mostly consequences. #Belgariad
While Polgara is tending to the injured, Garion is all, did we just summon the spirit of a dead woman? Polgara, yeah, and it took everything the two of us had. To which I say: there were more efficient uses of power in taking Grul out. #Belgariad
And those uses might not have left Belgarath all traumatized about Spirit of Dead Wife. Just saying. #Belgariad
They take shelter in a grove of trees that Ce’Nedra finds, since: Dryad, talks to trees. Hettar gives her some side eye over that, which… strange choice. Like, of all the people to make all, “Talked to the trees, sure”, you choose the guy who talks to horses? #Belgariad
The rest for three days, and Belgarath pouts for three days, until Polgara is all, “All right, that’s enough sulking”. And she makes it clear that she did it with her mother’s permission, since she and her mother have always been in communication. #Belgariad
Because, really, Poledra’s never been gone! And she’s only slightly annoyed that Belgarath fooled around with Marag women! (Come ON, Poledra. If “you faked your death 4000 years ago” isn’t a totally legit exception, nothing is.) #Belgariad
Honestly, in so many ways, Poledra is just The Worst. Especially with “never really been gone”. I’ll get back to that later. #Belgariad
Finally, they get moving again and get to Prolgu, which is an eerie, empty city, abandoned (but kept perfect) for 5000 years. Notably, its architecture is all pyramids and angles. Durnik DOES NOT APPROVE. #Belgariad
Nothing gets Durnik upset quite like immodest women and the lack of right angles. #Belgariad
Belgarath finds the special entrance to the real city in the caves below, and the Ulgo invite them all to descend. Into the caves! #Belgariad
Down through the underground caves of Ulgo, where the constant hymn to UL has been echoing around constantly for 5000 years. Barak is less than thrilled by that, and I feel him here. Can you imagine just hearing the same song ALWAYS? #Belgariad
Though there’s a bit where they’re all, “We have to go around this unstable cavern, where a slightest sound would collapse the roof”. And, um, does that not include the constant echoing hymn? #Belgariad
They’re brought to the Gorim, who is basically the Dalai Lama of Ulgo. He’s not the same Gorim from the original legend, but it’s passed on like a title. Again, the historical continuity of names is a recurring practice. #Belgariad
Though I wonder how much of that is Eddings getting overwhelmed in doing the historical #worldbuilding (in Rivan Codex, they did ALL the Tolnedran emperors), and just went, “Screw it! They’re ALL Gorim! They’re ALL Salmissra!” #Belgariad
Anyway, Gorim is a sweet old man who balances deep piety with practical life. For example, he’s told, “Oh, this is totally just wild fruit and wild beef that we hunted and gathered” because that’s what the tradition is supposed to be. #Belgariad
But he knows perfectly well that his people have set up farms and ranches on the outside (which they tend to nocturnally, which is neat), and permits them this deception. So it’s clear: faithful, not fanatic. #Belgariad
So when Belgarath is all, “So we need this guy Relg to join us,” Gorim is all, yeah, THAT GUY. He’s a fanatic. He’s trouble. He’s not going to help you, and he won’t listen to me. And Polgara is all, no, call him. We got this. #Belgariad
POV Switch! Back to Ce’nedra. You know, nowadays we’re far more aware about POV and head-hopping and how that defines What Kind Of Book This Is, and I wonder if today people would lose their minds over what this series does with POV. #Belgariad
I mean, it’s Third-Person Limited on Garion, like, 90% of the time, and then mostly Ce’Nedra for the rest, except for the occasional “check-in chapters” that start in the fifth book. You do that today, you’ll be torn up for Doing It Wrong. #Belgariad
Anyway, Ce’Nedra is all like, half-asleep because they’re having a long dinner with a sweet-but-dull old man, and I FEEL YOU, Ce’Nedra. And then he’s all “So, do the Dryads still worship UL?” And she’s “Do the who do the what, now?” #Belgariad
So she turns the diplomacy on, saying, “No, but I will TOTALLY pick up a Book of the Ulgo at the Tolnedran library and get on that. Really.” And he decides to just recite the Book of Ulgo to her, for memory, verbatim. #Belgariad
Which would strike me as a complete mood killer at any dinner. Like, I’m shocked Barak or Silk aren’t being all, “Well, this is swell, but we gotta be… doing the thing… somewhere not here.” But Ce’Nedra is actually into it once he gets going. #Belgariad
Then Relg comes in with his followers, and friends, Relg is a complete prick. He is that holier-than-thou guy, which he even pulls on Gorim, which… you have to admire those cojones. And Barak is already “screw this guy, let’s blow.” #Belgariad
But Relg is a cave diviner, which means he can find caves. Plus he can also Kitty Pryde his way through rock. So, jerk, but with some skills. And the plan is to get into Rak Cthol through the caves they think are underneath it. #Belgariad
And that’s based on the prophecies, which Gorim is all, “I don’t know, that’s obscure”. And one of them is from The Book of Torak, LITERALLY saying, “Protect the city from below because the enemies will come from underground” WHICH IS NOT OBSCURE. #Belgariad
I mean, maybe we’re only quoted relevant passages, and the Mrin Codex is written like Finnegan’s Wake and you got to dig through all the nonsense to pull out the good stuff, but this is not only telling-not-showing, but showing things that counter what you’re telling. #Belgariad
Either way, Relg is all, “Yeah, I’m not about that. I’m not going with you unclean heathens. I’m going to stay here and serve my god, UL, and no one can tell me otherwise.”
So UL shows up and tells him otherwise.
For real, it’s like the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall, except with God. And UL does not hold back with the chastisement. It’s especially harsh. Like, the worst thing your dad ever said to you, times a billion, because it’s GOD. Relg is suitably shamed. #Belgariad
And then UL checks in with everyone else, calling Garion “Belgarion”, and telling Ce’Nedra that she needs to stay in Ulgo while everyone else goes to to Cthol Murgos. And she agrees, as you do in the presence of a God. #Belgariad
He goes, and Barak does what he does when a god leaves: take the name of his own god in vain. I love the consistency of this. #Belgariad
Plans are made to go, and it dawns on Ce’Nedra that she just agreed to stay at Religious Grampa’s house while everyone else goes to Cthol Murgos. (Not everyone else: Hettar does not get to go, because he’s FAR too into Murgo Murdering.) #Belgariad
So as everyone is leaving, Ce’Nedra grabs Garion and kisses him like she’ll never see him again. (This is their second kiss, the first is very under the radar when they play in the snow back in the Vale section.) #Belgariad
I really like that Eddings did it that way, making this kiss far more of a *moment*, while the first one was just a playful thing that happened, no big. Because life is kind of like that. Plus: both kisses are initiated by Ce’Nedra, which is a nice bit of agency. #Belgariad
She then runs off crying, while Garion remains bewildered. As is the way of things. And that ends the Ulgo section. Off to Cthol Murgos! #Belgariad
The Cthol Murgos section starts with just getting out of Ulgo, where our heroes are lead by Relg through a long tunnel all the way to Algaria. There’s a good sense of how, like, three days in a cave in the dark is harrowing, even if it’s not dangerous. #Belgariad
Plus there’s bits of Relg showing he knows his stuff, and Barak being all, “OK, you know your stuff” and Relg hating back “Don’t touch me.” “Don’t touch me” is on macro for Relg, and Alorns are a very tactile people, so there’s a lot of clash there. #Belgariad
Which makes some sense, but presents Relg’s agoraphobia as the typical experience for any Ulgo, when that practically can’t be the case. But “practically can’t be the case” applies to a lot of Eddings worldbuilding. OH, we’re getting to a big one of those. #Belgariad
In his fear, he latches onto Garion as someone important, as UL was all, “Hail, Belgarion”, and Garion does his best to explain things like clouds and birds to calm him down. And then Relg drops his bombshell: UL had told him he would reveal the new Gorim to Ulgo. #Belgariad
Basically, there will be a new baby who will be the new Gorim, and Relg is all, “I’M going to find him” and puffed up his self-importance on that. Now he’s ashamed, and wants Garion to lay a penance on him. Garion is not down for that sort of thing. #Belgariad
Relg freaks out and runs off, and Belgarath gets really mad at Garion for not just lying and being all, “Yeah, here’s your penance.” Which is fascinating. Like, the books never quite get into Belgarath as Religious Authority, even though he totally is. #Belgariad
Though that’s kind of what makes him Belgarath, right? His theology is “get it done and don’t be a jerk”. He has TONS of political capital that he largely does not expend in anyway beyond soft power. And that’s usually, like, “Hey, let’s not go to war right now, hmm?” #Belgariad
As they travel through to Cthol Murgos, Belgarath puts Garion on Relg Duty, which means Garion has to hear Relg go on and on about sin and impurity and how wicked his thoughts about women are. Garion DOES NOT WANT any of this. #Belgariad
Relg is all, “Yeah, women are dangerous, man. I’m thinking about making my followers all stay chaste.” RELG IS AN INCEL.
Garion is all, “Won’t that mean you won’t get that special baby, though?”
They cut through Mishark ac Thull to get to Cthol Murgos, mostly there just long enough to see a Thull throw himself off a cliff to avoid being sacrificed. Relg only hears “avoid religious ritual” and is offended, and Silk lays into him. #Belgariad
Because “get sacrificed” is a very different thing than Relg’s prayers and rituals. And there’s a thing about Thullish women always trying to be pregnant so they won’t get sacrificed, and Relg tries to slut shame them, even though his heart isn’t in it. #Belgariad
They get into Cthol Murgos and on the caravan route, which is safe because the Murgos won’t irritate the Tolnedrans (yet) by violating that treaty. But a Tolnedran trader warns Silk that there’s a lot more “accidents” and arrests of westerners. #Belgariad
They reach a supply post where a makeshift trading center has popped up-- basically for western merchants to sell off everything and make a little profit and then get the heck out of Cthol Murgos. And this is where they all meet Yarblek. #Belgariad
Yarblek is a Nadrak, and here they set up the Nadrak’s as the “good” Angaraks (again, “angular” eyes, but his are full of life instead of dead and soulless like the Murgos). He and Silk go way back and are friendly with each other. #Belgariad
He invites them all into his tent for some beer, and Barak is totally suspicious of all of it. But Silk is all, no, he’s cool, as is Polgara. In fact, Yarblek flirts furiously with Polgara and SHE. IS. ON. IT. Which totally confuses Garion. #Belgariad
Like, he’s totally, WHAT IS GOING ON because Polgara is in full on Nadrak Flirt Mode. Which is fascinating because in any other context she’s rather prudish. But I like that she knows what Nadrak context is and can totally roll with it. #Belgariad
Though I remember being annoyed by the bit in POLGARA THE SORCERESS where she goes to Gar og Nadrak because it’s so inorganically “You need to go to Nadrak because it’s time for you to learn about them because it’s part of canon”. #Belgariad
(Plus she goes there and learns to Nadrak better than any Nadrak Woman has ever Nadraked and, I mean, really, Eddings?) #Belgariad
They learn that Taur Urgas, King of the Murgos is on his way to this trading post (um, OK, sure), and Silk is all “I MUST BAIL NOW” and takes off. And then Yarblek is called out to go talk to the King. Barak is sure Yarblek will betray them. #Belgariad
(Escape because Taur Urgas plans an “accidental” massacre of everyone at the camp who isn’t Angarak.) Barak is totally confused Yarblek is helping, but Pol clarifies that being invited into his tent and sharing beer means they’re brothers until sunrise. #Belgariad
So Barak learned something! I think he’s the character who usually has a narrow view of things, has his view expanded, but then embraces, “Oh, that’s not as black and white as I thought”. Which is a nice thing here. #Belgariad
So while Yarblek is all, “So I got you, and I’m sorry there’s no helping Silk, but we need to go”, and the party is, “No, it’s fine.” Mostly because Relg has already locked down the “go rescue Silk” plan.
What I love about this is, Relg has been a jerk, and he and Silk do NOT get along, but there’s not a hint of hesitation or even asking him “can you do it?” It’s not even a conversation, he’s just on it that he’s going to rescue Silk, no question. #Belgariad
Which he does— slips through the rock, gets Silk, and slips through the rock with Silk back out, and they’re all off. Though Silk is utterly disturbed by the whole thing. “I could feel the rock moving through me.” Eerie. #Belgariad
(I remember that this gets completely Flanderized in Malloreon to Silk hating caves, but we’ll get to that.) #Belgariad
They head across the wasteland of Murgos and around the Tarn of Cthok to get to Rak Cthol, aka the Dumbest City Ever If You Think About It For Five Seconds. I mean, this utterly gets me on a worldbuilding level. #Belgariad
I mean, REALLY, WHAT IS THIS CITY? It’s up on the top of a mesa, almost a mile up in the air. It’s surrounded by UTTER WASTELAND. It’s nigh-impossible to get there or come back from there. No water. No farms. But yet, full of people AND SLAVES. HOW?!!?! #Belgariad
How do they eat? How do they get water? How do they transport anything there in an efficient manner? None of this works in any sense whatsoever. #Belgariad
On the way, they have Yet Another Murgo Fight (in which Relg and Durnik have an unspoken battle for Coldest Murgo Killing. Relg pushes one into the rock face and leaves him there, hands sticking out. Durnik runs one into a quicksand pit and just watches him sink. #Belgariad
Also, Garion learns some practical sorcery, as he helps Polgara magically shield them from Grolim magical searches. And that’s… fine. For once Polgara actually does some real explaining of something. #Belgariad
They get to Rak Cthol, at least the base of of the mesa, and Relg finds a cave in, and they work their way up. As they make their way, they start to hear singing.
Singing in Marag.
Belgarath is just amazed. This is what he’s been looking for for millennia. #Belgariad
They follow the singing and find Taiba, a Marag woman who’s been a slave here all her life. There’s apparently been Marag slaves here since they were exterminated (but holding onto a sliver of language and culture!). #Belgariad
And someone (Silk?) brings up “stories of Tolnedrans selling Marag prisoners to Nyissan slavers”, and like, what? Who told these stories? This was thousands of years ago, not within living memory. No. Just, no. #Belgariad
I really wonder sometimes if Eddings has any sense of what “thousands of years” is actually like. #Belgariad
Also, enough Marags (and Marag culture) survived in the slave pens of Rak Cthol to bring us to Taiba, here and now, and so I just have to say: Mara?
Or were you too busy crying to even try?
Anyway, Taiba has lived her whole life as a slave, but she managed to escape and find her way into the caves, where she’s been starving to death in the dark. She would have died if the party wasn’t here right now. #Belgariad
But there’s one thing that Eddings wants to make perfectly clear about her:
She’s sexy.
For real, Taiba gets the most thorough description of lips, eyes, eyelashes, figure and exposed skin of any character. She gets male-gazed like nobody's business. #Belgariad
And OH SO MUCH EXPOSED SKIN. Like, that’s repeatedly told to us. A LOT. Relg is totally shook by this, hissing about how sinful and wicked she is. And she’s totally, “But I’m so sexy!” The word “lush” is used too often. And he’s still totally looking. #Belgariad
For real, I’m quite disturbed by the effort Eddings puts in to Taiba and her SlaveChic hotness.
They leave her some food and light and go up to finish their mission, promising to come back for her.
They get into Rak Cthol proper, and more or less slip through the city unmolested. I mean, for real… for sneaking through the evil heart of the evil city of the evil nation dedicated to the evil god? Mostly uneventful. #Belgariad
Mostly but not entirely, because Brill is here. I mean JESUS this guy is just POWERED by plot convenience. He actually says something about being able to stay ahead of them because he rides horses to death, BUT COME ON. #Belgariad
Like, it’s not just that he keeps getting ahead of them, but that he has a preternatural ability to know where they’re going to be and when. To an absurd degree. #Belgariad
He spotted them in the mountains near the Vale, OK. Did he say to himself, “They’re going to the Vale, and then to Ulgo, THEN Cthol Murgos, so if I put myself on the Southern Caravan Route in, like, two months, I’ll be IN PLACE to NAIL THEM when they finally show!” #Belgariad
And when they escape there, he’s then, “All right, I’ll get to Rak Cthol and wait for them. Alone.” #Belgariad
Anyway, he and Silk fight, and even though Brill is a ninj— er, Dagashi, Silk manages to get the best of him, throwing him off the edge of the mile-high city.
I did like Silk’s whole, “Well, he needs to learn how to fly. Does bouncing count?” bit here. But Brill is literally the only real resistance they face in the whole city. But Brill is finally done with, and GOOD RIDDANCE. #Belgariad
I'm just saying, for a key antagonist since pretty much the beginning, Brill has been decidedly uninteresting. Making him Secret Super Assassin made him even more uninteresting. #Belgariad
So they get to Ctuchik’s Perversion Palace pretty easily. Oh, and it is a perversion palace, as he’s got several rooms each dedicated to each specific vice. He’s doing Christian Grey proud here. We don’t get details, just all, “Wow, he’s into some kinky stuff”. #Belgariad
They finally get to Ctuchik, and he’s totally the villains who’s going to lose because he’s monologuing. Which is TOTALLY what he does. He points out all the Prophecy Companions by name, including Relg as The Blind Man and Silk as The Nimble Thief. #Belgariad
I suppose it’s another sign of Eddings overwhelming love for Silk that they could never settle on what his Prophecy Name is: The Guide, The Rat, The Nimble Thief. Any and all! He's too much for just one name! #Belgariad
Ctuchik also makes it clear who Taiba is: The Mother of the Race That Died. Which… we should unpack a little. Because Taiba’s Prophetic job? BABYMAKING. I’ve heard complaints about female characters reduced to a womb, but COME ON EDDINGS. #Belgariad
She's so Reduced To A Womb that she LITERALLY does not make an appearance in The Malloreon at all. She's mentioned in passing, and only in context of MAKING ALL THE BABIES (TWINS AND TRIPLETS!), but never appears once. #Belgariad
We will get back to that, but couldn’t it just as much have been the Daughter of the Race That Died? Nowhere near as problematic. But Mother makes it clear that she’s got to get on to giving birth to All The Babies to repopulate Maragor. #Belgariad
Now Ctuchik reveals his master plan: he’s going to kill Ce’Nedra (Queen Of The World) and ruin everything for the prophecy. Just like that.
Except…. no Ce’Nedra.
He’s all, “I can get her anywhere!” And Belgarath counters, “Even in Ulgo?” Whoops. #Belgariad
Ctuchik then goes, “I’ll kill someone else, then!” And Belgarath tells him, nope, you can’t. Only Ce’Nedra was vulnerable. Too bad. And this seems like some bizarre Writer Fiat. You’re telling me he couldn’t just kill Relg or Silk right now? With a snap? #Belgariad
But, no, apparently everyone is safe from him except Ce'Nedra, and she's safe in Ulgo, all just because Belgarath says so. No reason beyond that. #Belgariad
Oh, and this is the beautiful part: they got in so easily BECAUSE CTUCHIK LET THEM, as he was so convinced how easily he’d have them in his trap here. His trap of… nothing. #Belgariad
SERIOUSLY, this was his plan:
Step One: Let them all in.
Step Two: Nothing.
Step Three: Victory!
He never read the Evil Overlord checklist, did he?
He and Belgarath get to Sorcery Fighting. (There’s a whole thing that Ctuchik is a “magician”, not a sorcerer, but there’s nothing to that beyond Belgarath just giving him shade. He is a sorcerer, but Belgarath won’t call him that.) #Belgariad
While they’re fighting, there’s the sweet little boy in the room who just, you know, has the Orb. And he tries to give it to Garion. And as Garion reaches for it, Ctuchik freaks and yells “BE NOT!”
Chekov’s Gun: Fired.
Can I say, though, what an awkward phrase to be the thing you say accidentally that you shouldn’t because you’ll destroy yourself. I mean, can you really ever see yourself saying that as a slip-of-the-tongue, “I didn’t mean it” thing to say? Ever? #Belgariad
Ctuchik is all “I didn’t mean it!” but too late. He goes boom. And it’s interesting, because Polgara says something about the Mother of the Gods not allowing the Be Not thing. I find that a fascinating thing to stick in here at this point. #Belgariad
Because it makes the rule, and Ctuchik’s destruction, not the natural result of basic physical Rules of Magic, but instead an active, intelligent choice of the Mother of the Gods. You said it, so she eliminates you. Not repercussion, but retribution. #Belgariad
Anyway, that also leaves Belgarath in a dazed state, and the city starts falling apart. Polgara gets everyone on task, pushing them all back in the caves so they can escape before everything tumbles down. #Belgariad
Polgara: We have to get out of here, but stop for Taiba on the way down.
Relg: I’m sure she’s dead.
Polgara; (JUST STARES)
Relg: FINE.
And here’s where MAGICIAN’S GAMBIT ends!
(Reminder, said gambit was: let them just sneak in with no plan B.)
See you next week with CASTLE OF WIZARDRY. #Belgariad
Back to the #Belgariad, where CASTLE OF WIZARDRY opens with another prologue, this one about the history of the Rivan Kings, including the Nyissans massacring the king and his family, with one child rumored to have escaped into the ocean.
(Quick #Belgariad admin note: this is a busy week for me, so I’ll probably only get through half of CASTLE this week, and the rest next week.)
I’ll be honest, my memory had been that all this information had come up sooner, and while there’s been bits here and there about the lack of a Rivan King, this is the first time it was properly explained. So it’s a good example of restraint. #Belgariad
But, again I wonder, since this is a staple fantasy trope, does it have any historical precedence? Would any nation really go, “Well, I guess we just don’t have a king, just this placeholder guy for now.” Has it EVER happened in real life? #Belgariad
Has any country accepted that? No. They go, “Well, there’s Baron Gremmian, the king’s third cousin. He’s a bit of a knob, but he is descended from Riva Iron-Grip, so I guess he’s next in succession.” And: new king. #Belgariad
OK, going into the Algaria bit, which really starts with getting out of Cthol Murgos, I want to talk a bit of the under the hood stuff here. I poke at a lot of things that don’t work, but let’s talk about what does. Namely, Eddings and Chapter Structure. #Belgariad
Each chapter has a very clear, “This is what this chapter is about, here are the stakes, here’s how it’s handled.” Which makes a travelogue plot like this *move*, because at no point are you feeling like “Harry and Hermione are camping FOREVER”. #Belgariad
Case in point: Chapter One is getting out of the caves, Chapter Two is crossing the wasteland to escape Cthol Murgos, Chapter Three is Garion in Command, and so on. And then each chapter does extra character work every time. #Belgariad
In these chapters, it’s a lot of Relg and Taiba— especially Taiba— but also establishing their dynamic. First, while they get out of the caves, Taiba is cut off by a collapsed tunnel, so only Relg can get to her. He tries to be all, “If she’s lucky she was killed.” #Belgariad
Everyone’s like, “That’s horrible” and he’s all, no, she’s got plenty of air and water, so the horrible is being trapped and dying of starvation. But Polgara is all “NO, YOU GO GET HER.” He begs, BEGS, not to, and everyone shames him. #Belgariad
Even Mandorallen, when Relg is all “But all the sinfulness!”, is all, “Dude, it’s unseemly how you’re acting.” And they lay in that the bigger sin is leaving her to die when he has the power to save her. So Relg, weeping, goes to get her. #Belgariad
Once we’re out of the caves, they travel out across the wasteland, and most of the energy is spent on getting to know Taiba and the kind-of-stupid plan of “make sure the Murgos are following us”, which… why? #Belgariad
Like, the plan is to leave a somewhat obvious trail that they’re heading for the Tolnedran border, and once they hit the mountains, cut north for Algaria and presume they’ll chase the fake trail while the party gets away. #Belgariad
But… how about, just an idea, not leaving an obvious trail at all? Silk is dropping shoes and stuff so the Murgos are chasing them, but later they’re going be “Oh, wait, all these Murgos are chasing us and that's a problem now.” It’s DREADFULLY stupid. #Belgariad
Like, it’d be one thing if the plan was, “Silk leaves on an obvious trail IN THE OTHER DIRECTION and hopefully he’ll catch up later”. But, no, it’s “lead them by the nose two-thirds of the way and hope they get confused for the last third.” #Belgariad
Meanwhile, Taiba and Relg bicker about sin, religion and how sexy she is. He’s mad that she didn’t fight back when “given” to other slaves, and she’s all, “I literally couldn’t do anything about it, how is that sin?” #Belgariad
There’s also the bit where she brings up you can’t strangle yourself to death, because you just pass out. With a sense of “Yeah, I’ve tried it. A lot.” Which is pretty dark. But she realizes she can shut Relg up just by taking her clothes off. #Belgariad
Anyway, the Grolim Hierarchs start attacking at Errand (Errand being the little boy who carries the Orb, and… that’s all I have to say about Errand), so Polgara as to do a specific shield, leaving Garion alone to fight off the Hierarchs. Which, um… thanks Aunt Pol? #Belgariad
Silk immediately latches onto “Well, this is your command, Garion”, which makes me think Silk has read ahead in the outline and knows that Garion could use some command experience, and forces him into it. Garion does it, but is annoyed by it. #Belgariad
(No one really comments on the whole “Garion in command” thing besides Silk. Relg and Taiba are too busy annoying each other, and Barak, Mandorallen and Durnik are just doing their own thing anyway.) #Belgariad
Here’s another strong thing Eddings does for a travelogue: they don’t micromanage who’s doing what, when and how. Like, we know who’s in the party, we don’t need to check in with Barak or Mandorallen just to remind us they’re there. #Belgariad
Meanwhile, we get more reminders about JUST HOW SEXY Taiba is. IN ONE PARAGRAPH we get the phrases “sensual pout” and “ran her fingers through her glory of midnight hair” and I mean FOR REAL Eddings, dial it down. #Belgariad
I mean, let alone her life in the slave pit, they’ve been on horseback through dry, dusty wasteland. How much “glory” could her hair be in this situation?

Maybe Taiba is a low-key sorceress who only has hair magic. #Belgariad
The Hierarchs, unable to get Polgara and the boy, attack Durnik, which was the best plan ever if the goal is “enrage Garion”, because boy does he get pissed off. With the guidance of The Voice, he puts himself in his shadow and flies it back to Rak Cthol. #Belgariad
Garion faces the Hierarchs, who are all, “Yeah, you’re in your shadow, we know you can’t do sorcery like that.” Garion asks The Voice if that’s true. Voice is all, “I don’t know, why don’t you find out?”
Garion, to no reader’s surprise, absolutely can. #Belgariad
He slaps all the Hierarchs around and destroys their magic-focusing crystal, and basically leaves them a weeping, whimpering pile of old men. He zips back into his body and now Belgarath is awake and Polgara unshields. No more Garion-in-Command. #Belgariad
So, the party approaches the Escarpment to get into Algaria, but the Murgos are hot on their heels. WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED THAT? I think I’d feel more tension if the plan to shake pursuit hadn’t been so flawed. #Belgariad
They decide to rush and go down a different ravine than they had planned, which means that Hettar and the rest of the Algars won’t be waiting for them at the bottom, so there’s nothing to discourage the Murgo pursuit behind them. Whoops. #Belgariad
The Murgos— and I think the books try to downplay how on the ball the Murgos are on a lot of things— are all, “They’re going down a ravine, and we’re on top of the ravine, so… let’s throw rocks on them. Which is a pretty good plan, SILK. #Belgariad
Belgarath does some magical rock-blocking, and then gets annoyed when Garion tries to cock-block his rock-block. BECAUSE THERE IS AN ETIQUETTE TO THIS. So he and Garion and Polgara are blocking the rocks as they come down. #Belgariad
Durnik is all, “We should hit back with something” and Silk is annoyed that you can’t drop rocks upward, but Durnik has an actual GOOD plan, namely to build bonfires to smoke them out, with the ravine acting like a chimney. #Belgariad
I do sometimes wonder if Eddings has the “smart” characters be stupid just so simple, practical Durnik can be brilliant in comparison. #Belgariad
So that buys them time to get out of the ravine, and onto the open plains of Algaria, but that means there’s really no place to run to with the Murgos chasing them. And the horses start to falter, so Durnik gets all John Wayne in the Searchers on them. #Belgariad
There’s a bit near the beginning of The Searchers where most of the group is all “We have to rush back NOW to save the village!” and John Wayne says “We have to rest the horses or we’ll never make it” and everyone else takes off, thinking he’s stupid. #Belgariad
And then he rides when his horse is ready, and passes everyone else halfway back to the village, whose horses are all exhausted. Same thing, anyway, everyone wants to sprint, and Durnik makes it clear they CANNOT until they tend to the horses. #Belgariad
Things are about to look really dire when Hettar and the Algars show up, and they were really within striking distance the whole time. They just waited for DRAMA. Hettar chides Durnik for the horses’ condition, and Durnik is all, “Dude, really?” #Belgariad
Then Belgarath collapses, as he’s been pushing himself all this time, and now that they’re “safe”, he lets go and is just DONE. Polgara works some medicinal craft, and Eddings does a good bit in making her treatment feel SUPER risky. #Belgariad
Like, the herbalism of it is meaningless, but having Polgara be exacting on the safety precautions in both handling and disposal of the herb does a lot of to show she’s going to extreme measures to save Belgarath here. #Belgariad
They slowly make their way to The Stronghold, which is kind of the one fake city in Algaria. Like, it’s not real place they live (except… it kind of is?), but just a target for Murgos to lay siege to. Which is interesting if you don’t think much about it. #Belgariad
But, like, the Algars are just nomadic cattle herders. So… no farms? So where do they get the food that they keep stored in the Stronghold to withstand these eternal sieges, like when Torak sieged it for eight years before Vo Mimbre? #Belgariad
Though this ties into a larger worldbuilding problem I have here, that much of the world and society has been frozen in place for five centuries, and people act as if all the things that happened centuries or millennia past are part of living memory. #Belgariad
(I mean, it is living memory for Belgarath & Polgara, but not for the typical Algar or Cherek or Tolnedran, and that’s critical here.) #Belgariad
Like, the Algar lifestyle is fundamentally based on being ready for an Angarak invasion, which has never happened in their lifetime. Or their grandfather’s. Or HIS grandfather’s. But yet they maintain it. #Belgariad
This ties to other things, like: the Chereks are great at naval warfare. The absolute best at it. But… who have they been fighting? There has been an effective peace between all the nations for generations. #Belgariad
The Arends, at least, have been fighting each other all this time, so that’s fine. But who have the Tolnedran legions fought to be so feared and mighty a fighting force. (And oh, this will come up again when we get to Ce’Nedra’s speeches.) #Belgariad
ANYWAY, the Stronghold is a place, so… they’re there, and resting while Belgarath recovers. Algaria isn’t interesting, frankly: it’s horses and grass plains and… that’s all. There’s a reason why half the Algaria section is spent in places that aren’t Algaria. #Belgariad
Polgara confides in Garion that Belgarath might just be broken by how much he’s pushed himself. Even if he recovers physically, he might have burned himself out magically, and if so, it’s up to them to keep up appearances. #Belgariad
(This is a subplot that resolves itself and just exists to make Garion fret over something. It’s artificial drama that would be solved by a conversation that’s not had for Reasons. It’s a Three’s Company plot with Magic. I won’t delve further into it. ) #Belgariad
Meanwhile, Garion meets Adara, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Silar, and they hit it off right away. Total instant connection. And then Polgara comes by and goes, “Oh, yeah, she’s your cousin from your mom’s side. Did I never mention that before?” #Belgariad
Polgara’s commitment to being THE WORST is impressive. #Belgariad
Garion and Adara bond and talk and become the family they never knew they had. It’s Algaria, so horse-riding is involved. And Adara asks leading questions about sorcery and what Garion can do.
Garion decides to demonstrate what it can do by making a flower. And Adara is all, Yeah, creating an entire new species out of thin air is cool and all, but have you tried tampering with someone’s mind to make them fall in love? #Belgariad
Garion says, not so much. Wouldn’t even know how. Adara runs off crying, saying it was just some stupid idea, and Garion is perplexed. #Belgariad
Speaking of Garion’s Perplexity, let’s check in with Ce’Nedra in Ulgo. She’s doing as you’d expect: switching back and forth between sweet and bitter, and trying Gorim’s patience, as well as her circle of Ulgo teenage girls she’s made into her court. #Belgariad
We never learn a single Ulgo girl’s name, nor do we see a conversation between Ce’Nedra and them, because if we did, then the book would pass the Bechdel Test, and that’s certainly not going to happen. #Belgariad
But she is anxious and ready when everyone comes back to pick her up (including the Algar royal court), but when she sees Garion and Adara together, she’s instantly in OH NO NOT ON. She Mean Girls Adara, and then tells Garion she DESPISES HIM. #Belgariad
There’s no drama like a Ce’Nedra drama, lemme tell you. Polgara checks in on her, with, “Really, what was that about?” Ce’Nedra’s convinced she’s lost Garion, and Polgara tells her they’re cousins. Nothing George Michael and Maybe about it. #Belgariad
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