Monday, March 26, 2012

Belgariad (Otherwise known as how I publicly flayed myself with fantasy tropes)

Look. I get this book was written in 1862.

Oh wait, you mean this gem was written only twenty years back? I'm wondering how something written only thirty some years ago has less characterization than a Jane Austen novel. Seriously though, I borrowed this series in eager anticipation having heard great things about it. Everyone told me the books were fantastic. Well, everyone was wrong. I mean, I did finish it, so it wasn't unbearable.

The storyline was trite, but the action moved along at a fast enough pace to keep me reading. And since the writing was more readable than some of the stuff on the shelves, I managed to pull myself through the whole thing, but then again, each book is extremely short. Everything from plot to characterization reads with all the thrilling zest of Northanger Abbey. I feel like I'm back in college with my white haired professor reading it to me, clouding the room with his pungent soap and grandpa smell. Yes, David Eddings, I mean you.


Gripe #1: The plot is like driving a flat highway in the Midwest. You see all the turns coming from miles and miles away. It takes out all the thrill and turns it into a more impatient version of the "Are We There Yet" game. Hint, one way to make your plot more thrilling is by not announcing what's going to happen from the beginning in prophetical form. You weren't being subtle with Garion's chosen one storyline at ALL.

Gripe #2: The characters are about as animated as dead fish. Men act like men and women act like women. In other words, men drink and wench and go to taverns. They behave practically except when it comes to battle and then they take fiendish delight in chopping off limbs. When it comes to women, they all adapt an utterly befuddled "bitch be crazy" consensus. The women are equally as ridiculous, never saying anything straightforwardly and playing puzzles for no real reason at all. It's like watching a group of frat boys and sorostitudes interact with the exception that this is a fantasy novel and they have no rightful place in that genre.

Gripe #3: The stereotypes. All Drasnians are shifty. All Sendars are practical. All Chereks have beards. Seriously, I'd have to open up the Disney vault to find characters more one dimensional than these. The stereotypes might have worked at the time, but this didn't hold very well in modern day.

As an older series, I can respect what the book accomplished. They set some standards and followed the epic quest formula we know and love so well. The part with Ce'Nedra raising an army and Durnik coming back from the dead was pretty cool. They had their fun little points where you finally got to see the fates of the characters unfold and there's always some comfort in the formulaic epic quest stories. But would I read it again? Definitely not.

Rating: 2

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