Magician’s Gambit by David Eddings

Magician's Gambit.jpgOf all the books from my childhood I think these ones have held up the best. I’m pretty sure that most of what I love about these books is pure nostalgia but it seems to be enough. Unlike Brooks, Goodkind and others that I read when I was younger Eddings has successfully transitioned into something worth remembering.

Magician’s Gambit continues the story of Garion and friends as they hunt for the Orb of Aldur, the magical stone that is so powerful only one with completely pure intentions can touch it without being burned to a cinder.

At this point I’m going to assume that the statute of limitation on this book is over and it’s okay to spoil things from here on out.

The usual mix of dry humor and fantastic dialogue continues with this third book of Eddings’ first series. I quite like how much of this world Eddings has imagined and how many characters are in it. What strikes me as either lazy or stupid is the national stereotypes. It’s bad enough in our world when we assign stereotypes to people just because of their nationality, or perceived nationality. In Eddings’ world those stereotypes are also completely true.

There is the odd Tolnedran who is more concerned with staying alive than making money but making money is still his second priority. Once again, all Drasnians are spies, all Chereks are sailors etc. Down to the point where Silk and Belgarath make strategies based on how Murgos act — because all Murgos act the same.

That makes strategy easy, you always know how your enemy will behave because they can’t do anything else. It begs the question, though, can’t they just strategize the same way?

I guess that’s why the good guys mix the troops from different countries together so that the enemy can’t figure out which way they’ll be thinking at any given time.

Even as a teenager it was pretty obvious to me at this point that we were making a tour of the world to see all the countries that Eddings had made up. It didn’t really bother me back then, I was kind of excited to see all of them. This time through there are definitely parts that make less sense. The ghosts of the Marags for one was a bit of history and world-building that was interesting but the reason for traveling through it felt strained to me.

Similarly, when Garion and company climb up through the inside of Ctuchik’s tower after the Orb and they find the escaped slave who just happens to be a descendant of Mara. I kept getting stuck on the 3000 years. Even if you ignore the fact that the bloodline is pretty diluted by the time three thousand years have passed with only one surviving member of the race, the culture could not have survived intact that long. I know I’m begging for realism in my story about magical sentient rocks but it strained my suspension of disbelief like other things did not. There are many cultures in our own world that have faced similar destructions (the Jews come to mind) and been forced to live in secret and hide their culture. After three HUNDRED years there is only passing evidence of the hidden culture. Many of the descendants don’t even know about their family history. (I’m talking about the Jews who hid themselves in Spain and came to New Mexico under the guise of settlers. To this day many New Mexican families have Menorahs and six pointed stars decorating their houses and will think that it’s just tradition.)

The other part of this book that really bothered me was when Ctuchik died/discorporated/whatever. We’ve been told that those who use the Will and the Word cannot tell things to stop existing. The universe will not allow that to happen. That seems reasonable. Every magic system needs some kind of limitation otherwise you have gods walking around with little to add tension to the story. Then, in a moment of panic, one of the most powerful bad guy sorcerers gets excited and shouts, ‘Be not.”

Then he explodes because he broke that most basic rule. I know he was distressed and wasn’t thinking but I have a hard time believing that the most fundamental rule of his life would that easily be broken, no matter how upset he was.

(This brings up something else that I often think of in these books. If you can imagine it you can do it, basically, if you have the Will and the Word. So couldn’t he have just told the Orb to disappear? or break? or turn into sand? or die?)

The end result is that, like most Hollywood productions these days, you probably don’t want to examine these books too closely.

They are still enjoyable, though. Great dialogue throughout and Eddings has a great way of telling a story that is interesting to read even when I know what is coming. His prose style is almost friendly and his books are a quick read that keeps things happening. The characters are fun and, even when the party gets large, he manages to give everybody their spotlight so that it feels like a true ensemble cast.

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