Pawn of Prophecy - The Belgariad, Book 1 (1982)
Spine Front Cover Book Details
David Eddings
Publication Date 1997
Format Leather-bound (240 x 170 mm)
Publisher The Easton Press
Genre Fantasy
Product Details
Series Masterpieces of Fantasy
Edition Signed Edition
No. of Pages 192
Paper Type Acid-neutral paper
First Edition No
Personal Details
URL This book on
Rating 8
No. of Reviews 288
Frontispiece/Illustrator Ron Miller
Original Details
Original Publisher Ballantine Books
Original Publication Year 1982
Book Description
Eddings' BELGARIAD is exactly the kind of fantasy I like. It has magic, adventure, humor, mystery, and a certain delightful human insight. - Piers Anthony

Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.
But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved--but did not know...?

The farm boy, Garion, begins a dangerous quest to recover the magic Orb and prevent the evil Torak from seizing power over the world.

In The Craft of Fiction, Percy Lubbock wrote, "The whole intricate question of method, in the craft of fiction, I take to be governed by the point of view - the question of the relation in which the narrator stands to the story." In fantasy, the author has a similar choice: in what rela tion does the story's fantasy world stand to the real world? Upon that decision rests much of the effect the story will have on the reader.

The fantasy world may exist alongside but isolated from the real world and people may pass through some portal into it, like Alice into Wonderland, find exotic adventures, and emerge wiser and more experienced. Or the fantasy world may enter the real world, like the elder gods in Lovecraft's horror stories, and awaken the characters, and the reader, to the implications of ancient ways and forbidden knowledge. And sometimes the real world and the fantasy world may inter act in unexpected ways, as in Roger Zelazny's Amber novels.

A second decision is when the fantasy world exists. Sometimes it is contemporary. Sometimes it is in a past when people believed in magic, and, perhaps as a consequence, magic may have worked for them. In those scenarios, our world is descended from those earlier worlds, and we have lost the magic that they once employed for reasons that have to do with faith or science or the nature of magic. Or some forms of magic may survive in protected pockets or among people who remember what the rest of us have forgotten, as in Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife. In other scenarios, as in Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy stories, magic abilities exist in an alternate history, and we compare our world to what it might have been. But sometimes the fantasy world has no relationship to the real world, as in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and the only lessons to be learned from it are what comparable creatures may feel and do in comparable circumstances; hobbits, like humans, can be cautious and curious, cowardly and brave, and faced with difficult choices between good and evil.

This kind of high fantasy, which offers a fully realized alternate reality, may have achieved its most complete creation in The Lord of the Rings, but had its predecessors. The prolific turn-of-the-century fish author Lord Dunsany wrote many fantasies (the most famous may have been The King of Elfiand's Daughter) placed in "a pseudo-medieval never-never realm," as David Pringle described them. Dunsany was followed by the British writer David Lindsey and his remarkable A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), the Yorkshireman E. R. Eddison and his epic novel The Worm Ouroboros (1922), and such American writers as James Branch Cabell, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard.

Howard created a new mythology of gods and ancient heroes in his Conan and Kull stories published in the 1930s Weird Tales that were revived and extended in the 1950s and after by L. Sprague de Camp. Fritz Leiber's "Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser" stories and novels, starting in 1939, opened up still newer kingdoms for fictional adventure. Howard placed his Conan in the prehistoric land of Cimmeria, but Leiber put his heroes in Nehwon, which perceptive readers transposed into Nowhen.

The advantage of Nowhen is its existence outside the historic context. Deprived of even Greek and Roman civilization, characters must depend upon brawn and wile and hand-to-hand combat; intimate relationships undistanced by technology and uncomplicated by con temporary psychology; a milieu in which magic and witchcraft are credible; and a hierarchical system in which the rise and fall of great ness offers classical tragedy and in which good and evil can contend for the universe. Perhaps the greatest advantage of Nowhen is that its events never have to conform to historical accuracy or to lead, in some fashion, to contemporary realities, and thus the reader is freed to enjoy a narrative, like such adult fairy tales as the Star Wars films, without consequences in the real world. One of the characteristics of Nowhen stories is that they are usually found in multiple volumes; another is that their imaginary landscapes require maps.

Often such scenarios offer gods who intervene in human affairs, as in ancient Greek mythology, or some alternative cosmological sys tem. Events are set in motion by some disturbance in the natural or rightful order of things, and the essential task of the protagonist or protagonists is to restore order. Alternatively, an imbalance exists that must be restored by the overthrow of evil, with all its unprincipled power, and the ascension of righteous good. Most Nowhen narratives are morality plays. The characters may exhibit some confusion about the proper course of action and may have to learn how to function in a world of magic, particularly if they are young and must be taught adult responsibilities and the way the world works, but are seldom confused about the difference between right and wrong.

That is what David Eddings offers in his The Belgariad epic fantasy, that begins here with the first volume, Pawn of Prophecy. In Pawn of Prophecy the reader is introduced to a world of gods and sorcery, and of kingdoms that have no historic parallels. Unlike the Greek gods, the seven gods of the Belgariad world were brothers. Like the Greek gods they quarreled over power and their favorites among the races of the world. One of the gods, Torak, stole the Orb of his brother Aldur, and when his brothers and their followers were battling him, Torak used the Orb to split the Earth asunder. In the process he maimed himself. All the gods but Torak retired lest the world be destroyed by a new war. The sorcerer trained by Aldur, Belgarath, stole back the Orb so that Torak would be held in check. The Orb was given to Riva and his heirs, for only they could hold it without being destroyed, to preserve the world against the return to power of Torak and his followers. As Pawn of Prophecy begins, however, an apostate student of Belgarath has stolen the Orb, and Belgarath must marshal his few forces, and with the boy Garion, set out to find the Orb and restore it to its proper place. Eddings has chosen to tell his story through Garion, whose youthful innocence and native skepticism make him an ideal guide for the reader to follow through the world Eddings has invented. David Eddings began his remarkable writing career with High Hunt in 1973, but his current success began with Pawn of Prophecy in 1982. A dozen years later he had completed seventeen novels, and had become a familiar name among fantasy readers. Born in Spokane, Washington, in 1931, he earned a B.A. in literature from Reed Col lege in 1954 and an M.A. in English from the University of Washing ton in 1961, interspersing that with two years in the U.S. Army in 1954-56. He worked as a buyer for the Boeing Company and has taught college English.

The Belgariad continues with Queen of Sorcery (1982), Magician's Gambit (1983), Castle of Wizardry (1984), and Enchanter's Endgame (1985). They were published in two volumes in 1985 as The Belgariad. Eddings started a second series in the same world, The Mallorean, in 1987 with Guardians of the West and continued it with King of the Murgos (1988), Demon Lord of Karanda (1988), Sorceress of Darshiva (1989), and The Seeress of Kell (1991). A third series, The Elenium,

consists of The Diamond Throne (1989), The Ruby Knight (1990), and The Sapphire Rose (1992) and a fourth series, The Tamuli, of Domes of Fire (1992), The Shining Ones (1993), and The Hidden City (1994).

Michael Cule in The St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers comments that The Belgariad stays in memory because it entertains: "it concentrates to great effect on character and action, the twin keys to storytelling." And he calls attention to Eddings's enjoyment in exploring "the issues of predestination, of responsibility and of moral choice in a universe where the gods are almost embarrassingly immanent and interfere regularly in human affairs."

"The focus of the books," Cule continues, "is on the comedy of character. The contrasts among the members of the band of heroes, between the toweringly noble (and not too bright) knight Mandorallen, and the berserker warrior Barak, between the grim horse-lord Hettar and the spy Silk, the centuries old battling between the sorcerer Belgarath and his daughter Polgara, the developing love between Garion and the Imperial (and imperious) Princess Ce'Nedra and the growth of a sense of responsibility in the two adolescents: these are what Eddings concentrates on."

Eddings himself has commented: "I've tried to create realistic, believable characters to function in an unrealistic, unbelievable world. I left the warts on them, allowed them to be silly from time to time and to bicker with each other when they felt that way. I can only hope that the reader has half as much fun with the books as I did."

From the feel of Pawn of Prophecy, that would be a great deal of fun, indeed.

James Gunn
Lawrence, Kansas