Belgarath the Sorcerer & Polgara the Sorceress: Great companion pieces

Belgarath the Sorcerer by David and Leigh Eddings and Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh EddingsBelgarath the Sorcerer & Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh Eddings

Belgarath the Sorcerer by David and Leigh Eddings and Polgara the Sorceress by David and Leigh EddingsAs a reviewer I find it a bit challenging to justify my review of these books; they are exactly what they say on the tin. If you like Belgarath and Polgara, you’ll like these books. If you don’t, you won’t. If you don’t know who they are, don’t read them (but you might consider THE BELGARIAD, which contains the background you would need).

If you’re like me and read book reviews just because, well, look! It’s something in print! Let’s read it! — please do read on and get a few of my thoughts. But the functional part of the review is already over.

As you might guess just from the titles, Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress are companion pieces, in which the title characters tell in their own words their role in the history of the world described in David Eddings’ epic fantasies THE BELGARIAD and THE MALLOREON. So, the first thing: If you haven’t read THE BELGARIAD and THE MALLOREON, don’t read these. In the first place, their framing device places them after the events of both series and therefore contains MASSIVE SPOILERS, and in the second, they are very much intended to be complementary to the original works and do not stand alone.

If you have read THE BELGARIAD and THE MALLOREON and enjoyed them, then by all means read these too. Polgara and Belgarath are two of the most engaging characters from the books — Polgara in particular is one of my favorite “good witch” characters in all of fantasy — and if you enjoy their mix of epic fantasy and snark, both are present in spades.

If you enjoy the epic fantasy but could do with a bit less snark, well, you and I are in the same boat. For one thing, Belgarath and Polgara are father and daughter, and mostly good-natured sniping at each other runs through both books. There is some character-building payoff to it, but I found it a bit overdone. For another, well, David Eddings just likes his snark; it’s a major feature of all his work, and got so obtrusive in THE ELENIUM (an unrelated work) that I quit reading that series partway through the first book. Here it’s reined in better but still much in evidence. The extreme national stereotyping (all Tolnedrans, greedy! All Nyissans, perpetually stoned! All Arends, extreme SCA enthusiasts! Et cetera, et cetera, very much et cetera.) of the various nations of the Belgariad/Malloreon world is also mildly off-putting; it actually does have an in-universe justification, which is more apparent in these books than the Belgariad/Malloreon proper, but it still got on my nerves a bit.

I enjoyed learning about what Polgara was doing for all those centuries she was the Duchess of Erat, and Belgarath’s and Polgara’s political machinations, but really Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress are just an excuse to spend a few hours in Belgarath and Polgara’s company again.

As I said — exactly what it says on the tin.

Published in 1997. Belgarath the Sorcerer: Here, at last–the life story of Belgarath the Sorcerer and the great struggle that went before the Belgariad and The Malloreon. Only one man could tell of those near-forgotten times, when gods still walked the lands, giving comfort and counsel to their mortal children. Eddings joins forces with his wife, Leigh, on a journey to the awesome beginning of the desperate conflict between two mortally opposed Destinies.   Polgara the Sorceress: She soars above a world of warriors, kings, and priests. The daughter of Belgarath and the shape-shifter Poledra, she has fought wars, plotted palace coups, and worked her powerful magic for three thousand years. Now, Polgara looks back at her magnificent life, in this fitting crown jewel to the saga that is the Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean cycles. Her hair streaked white by her father’s first touch, her mind guided by a mother she will not see again for centuries, Polgara begins life in her Uncle Beldin’s tower, and in the prehistorical, magical Tree that stands in the middle of the Vale. There, she first learns the reaches of her powers. There she assumes the bird shapes that will serve her on her adventures. And there she starts on the path toward her destiny as Duchess of Erat, shepherdess of the cause of good, adversary of Torak the One-Eyed Dragon God, and guardian of the world’s last, best hope: the heir to the Rivan throne. Here is the legendary life story of a woman of wit, passion, and complex emotions, a woman born of two majestic parents who could not have been more unlike one another. Ordained to make peace and make war, to gain love and lose love, Polgara lives out her family’s rich prophecy in the ceaseless struggle between the Light and the Dark. Polgara is the epic culmination of a magnificent saga, and a fitting farewell to a world which, once experienced, will never be forgotten.

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Unbeknownst to all, including himself, NATHAN OKERLUND has been preparing for the role of "reviewer of fantasy novels" since he first read Watership Down thirty-odd years ago. He is especially fond of Gene Wolfe, Jack Vance, Steven Brust, Neil Gaiman, and books that have to be read twice to be understood at all, but will happily read anything which does not actually attempt to escape the nightstand. When not occupied with the fantastic he takes brains apart to see how they work, as a postdoctoral fellow studying neurodegeneration, and supports his wife and daughter in their daily heroics.

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2 comments

  1. David Currie /

    I loved the Bel/Mal growing up and still have a fondness for them although on rereading the fantasyland formula seems too obvious and yes the banter gets annoying;I also like wolves so Belgarath & Poledra are cool.Do they have maps? I loved the maps in the original series

    • Hey, David. Your feelings are pretty much the same as mine. :) They do have maps; Belgarath the Sorcerer even has a color fold-out map of the West and Mallorea.

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