Let’s get one thing straight right now: I love these books. I love them like a brother. Meaning: I can make fun of them, because I love them. But if an outsider makes fun of them they will experience the full extent of my wrath.*
That needed to be said because I can’t tell you how awesome these books are without making fun of them at least a little bit. Quite a bit, actually.
Also: spoilers ahead, inasmuch as you can spoil a series that’s almost thirty years old. You have been warned.
The Belgariad is a series of five books with names I can never remember because I bought it in two big paperbacks called “The Belgariad Part I” and “The Belgariad Part II“. All the books have chess names, which is appropriate because nobody in the book plays chess even once. The protagonist has a dream about some people playing a board game, and it’s all kinds of symbolic, so I guess that counts.
In this series the good guys gather an improbably large group of heroes and set off across a landscape of adventure to get the Ultimate Rock of Power back before the Dark Disciple gets it to the Dark God that has been sleeping since he was maimed a few millennia ago. The good guy team starts out as:
- a wizard
- a very powerful and intelligent woman who knows the wizard
- a blacksmith
- a guy who makes jokes
- a huge guy
Also there’s a farm boy that the moment he wanders onto the page you just know will be the one that has to defeat any and all evil that appears in the book. (Guess what? He does.)
Along the way they pick up:
- a red-haired girl with a sharp tongue
- a guy who speaks to horses
- an archer
- a big ol’ knight who speaks Ye Olde Englishe
- a mystic who is full of guilt and superpowers
Eventually the wizard blows up the dark disciple, clearing the way for the farm boy to become king and head out to destroy the dark god. He does, comes home and marries the redhead. This isn’t a spoiler because the moment she first appears it’s obvious to everyone on earth that they’ll get married. I mean, you knew he was going to marry her when you got as far as the word “girl” in the list up above, didn’t you?
The Malloreon is another five books (again, in my case, it’s two books called part I and II) about what happens after the characters defeat the Dark God in the first book. By this point the characters are comfortable with the author and even start asking why exactly they’re being called upon to defeat teh evulz yet again. Isn’t destroying the God of Evil enough? Nope. It turns out that there’s an Evil Ultimate Rock of Power that was so evil it hid itself from the Dark God because he wasn’t evil enough. So our farm boy king gathers another improbably large group of heroes and sets off across another landscape of adventure to 1.) rescue his MacGuffin son, and 2.) destroy the bad rock.
Along the way they pick up:
- a eunuch
- another small blond boy who was actually in the first series but only ever said one word so I forgot to mention him
- A tall blonde girl spy
- The emperor of a really big empire of the old dark god
- Another huge guy because they left the old one at home.
Things happen, stuff blows up, the world is saved and new blond kid becomes a replacement Good God to fill in for the dead Dark God. (okay that was a spoiler, I guess. But it’s obvious the first time the kid takes a blast of dragon fire to the face and just looks kinda sad about it. Instead of looking, you know, extra tasty crispy.)
The magic in this book isn’t subtle. This isn’t Gandalf secretly using the power of the Ring of Fire to protect the Company of the Ring. The magic in this book is used right out in the open, all the time. Apple trees are made to grow to full size from a stick in less than an hour. People turn themselves into birds or wolves so often that even they sometimes forget how many legs they currently have. Thunderstorms are created and used as siege weapons. Belgarion (the farm-boy king) uses his Flaming Sword of Awesomeness to blow the entire wall off of a city. (Twice, actually. It’s kind of his go-to move.)
So, like I said, it looks like I’m making fun of these books. Well, I am. This isn’t the Lord of the Rings, with all it’s attendant honesty and proper role models and long descriptions of trees. This is LOTR’s frat boy brother, with some rated-PG womanizing and lots of drinking and goodly dose of actual humor, a thing that J.R.R. never pulled off.
The characters are very real, in that they spend as much time being shallow and petty as they do being great and noble. They may be the people who will reshape the destiny of the entire world, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like a good meal and a hot bath every now and again. And while the Child of Light can be a little childish, he’s also friendly and considerate of others, even when that means putting his world-shaking task in jeopardy. They may not be the best role models, but you get the feeling these characters would be good friends.
The world they move around in is full of interesting people, with a deep history (which you occasionally have to ignore: Belgarion’s sword comes with a nice leather scabbard. It’s in good shape, considering it’s about five thousand years old). There are intrigues, health issues, babies being born, old people dying, all completely independent of King McHugeSword and his travelling show.
And, underneath it all, there’s a deeply optimistic world view. Despite the fact that I spoiled every other twist in the book, I’m leaving this one alone. It only makes sense if you get to it on your own.
* NOTE: Nate has no actual wrath.