I continue to be in love with this cover art. Even Ce’Nedra’s ridiculous armor — because it is actually ridiculous on purpose. I really like the aesthetic of the map with the characters painted on top.
The book is about as good as it’s predecessors, which is to say, it holds up pretty well.
The dialogue is still the strong suit of David Eddings and I find his style doesn’t get stale until his later books.
The problem in this one is one of format, I think.
There just isn’t much going on. There’s a bit of traveling and some tense moments in the beginning and some amusing bits with Polgara thrown in here and there and we get to learn a lot about the prophesy and Garion and Riva and what his role is going to be — though if anybody was surprised by any of this they weren’t paying attention.
Eddings has an interesting dichotomy of simplicity and complexity going on in his books. I’ve mentioned before that one has to just get over the fact that all the people follow racial stereotypes according to which country they are from. Add to that list his views on male/female relationships. Men in these books are constantly learning that they just can’t win with women and women are constantly talking about how simple and dumb the men are.
Then, just to throw me off he introduces a Nadrak (on of the races of bad guys) who is actually friendly and seems to be different from the norm. Then he shows Ce’Nedra and Polgara talking and the way they think and the Queen of Drasnia who runs her entire country by herself, including a vast network of spies while also being quite friendly — with nary a disparaging comment about the intelligence of men.
In fact, perhaps what makes this book so enjoyable, despite the frustrations in the simplicity of the world building, is the characters. Every character shows depth of some kind and they are all different in subtle or extreme ways. There are people who are pretty, or plain or large or small or hairy or fat or old or young. There are people who are kind, gentle, boisterous, boastful, honorable, sarcastic.
The list of character traits is as many as the number of characters. In fact, many times, Eddings need not even apply dialogue tags in his books — though he usually does anyway — because I can tell, immediately, who is talking as soon as they start.
This is fascinating to me because that is probably the hardest thing for me to do. How does one go about making characters that are so richly imagined and so varied. Especially in a world that is so full of ignorant tropes and stereotypes.
I’ll keep reading the series, if only for the characters. I think it’s worth it.