Creativity Magazine

The Reading Nook: David Eddings

Posted on the 01 October 2014 by Miscriant @miscriant
I've taken a little bit of time off my reading targets over the last couple of months.  I've got a hell of a lot going on at the moment with work, rehearsals after work three nights a week, workouts in the morning three mornings a week and packed out weekends.  In all honesty, I'm starting to feel quite burnt out, and the last thing I want to do when I feel like that is dive into a book that requires significant levels of concentration.  Quite frankly, right now I don't even want to be reading a book where I don't already know the storyline!
The Reading Nook: David EddingsThis is where David Eddings comes in.  The late author is an old favorite of mine - returning to his works is the equivalent for me of curling up on the sofa in two-sizes-too-large pajama's, cashmere sleeping socks and a giant mug of hot chocolate with 6 marshmallows bobbing in the top.  It's my reading equivalent of a comfort blanket.
I guess the reason for this association with me is the fact that Eddings was my first ever introduction to adult (as opposed to teen) fantasy literature.  I was 13 years old and packing a bag ready for a school trip to Germany and moaning to my mother that I didn't have time to go and buy some new books (I was a terrible bookworm as a child, it was fabulous).  My dad overheard me, and a few minutes later came into my room with five small paperbacks in his hand.  He laid them down on my bed, picked one out, and told me to take it with me and give it a go.
The book he had given me was Pawn of Prophecy, the first book in Eddings' original fantasy series The Belgariad, and from the moment I finished the first chapter, I was hooked.
The Reading Nook: David EddingsI spent that German school trip reading the first three books and devoured the final two when I got home.  I then worked my way through the sequel series, the Mallorean, and when I ran out of books there I moved onto The Elenium and The Tamuli series, both set in a different fantasy Universe to the Belgariad and the Mallorean.  I bought The Redemption of Althalus (a stand alone fantasy novel) the minute it hit Waterstones' shelves, and then returned to the world of the Belgariad by getting stuck into Polgara the Sorceress and Belgarath the Sorcerer, which he co-wrote with his wife, Leigh.  My cracked, beaten, falling apart and held together by sellotape copy of Polgara the Sorceress is currently resting on my bedside table as I write, being the latest marshmallow in my month long dive into comfort reading.
The Reading Nook: David EddingsI will always have a softer spot for the world of Polgara and Belgarath than I will for Sparhawk, mainly as I came to The Elenium and The Tamuli much later than the Belgarian and the Mallorean.  There are other reasons as well, for example The Belgariad is a coming of age story for Garion, whereas Sparhawk is an adult male and so their motives and world views are rather different.  At the time of my first reading, I was about the same age as Garion and Ce'Nedra are supposed to be in the Belgariad, so I could relate easily to those characters.
However, I'm not completely blindsided by Eddings, and there are some negatives to his work!  Eddings has a major tendency to repeat most of his ideas and tropes- the stone with a soul, the god disguised as a mortal (or a cat), the female magic user and so on, and so there was a definite sense of déjà-vu reading all his works. The thing is though, Eddings has never claimed to be original.  He always stated he wanted to create stories for the modern audience that echoed the old myths and legends which is why so many of his plots are familiar to us.  He also uses the handy (and a bit lazy) 'prophecy' trope to full effect to explain why events appear to be ridiculously predictable.
The Reading Nook: David EddingsHis writing is not overly complex, the political systems are simplistic at best and he loves to racially stereotype his fictional races (Sendars are practical, Thulls are slow of mind, Algars love horses; a questionable idea when the trait supposedly shared by all members of a race is not a particularly pleasant one).  There is also a very definite good vs evil, with no one hovering in that untidy gray area in the middle.  It's all very neat and convenient.  The plots are fairly straightforward and predictable - good guys realize that something has gone wrong and they have to fight a world-threatening evil.  They travel all around the map, collecting people who join their cause as they go and inevitably thwart the baddies, normally without losing a single member of their party on the way.
Despite this perceived lack of imagination, it is Eddings' lack of flowery, descriptive language that pulls you into his worlds (you won't find three paragraphs dedicated to the description of the embroidery on a jacket here!).  He focuses on the easy, humourous, witty conversational dialog you would find in everyday life between friends and it makes his characters instantly likeable, even if they appear blind to the events so obviously occurring around them.
This dialogue, much of which I can now quote verbatim, is probably why I read all of his books, back to back, without fail, at least once every 2-3 years.
The Reading Nook: David EddingsIf you are looking for deep and meaningful, gritty and powerful writing, Eddings is not going to deliver the goods for you.
If, however, you are looking for pure entertainment and a light hearted romp through fantasy, no-one, and I mean no-one does it better.
If you like (or hate!) what you have read, please do let me know in the comments below or slap me with a cheeky follow, or say Hi to me on my Facebook group or Twitter or Instagram!

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog