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I was a huge fan of David Eddings' traditional swords-and-sorcery Belgariad series, and while its follow-up, the Mallorean, didn't quite live up to expectations, I was still keen to read more set in this universe. Polgara happened to be one of my favourite characters, so when I saw her 'autobiography' going cheap in a second-hand shop, I couldn't resist it.
The plot is immensely complicated, as it covers around 5000 years, and rather than having a central story, it instead tells the life of Polgara, the sorceress, so has several different disconnected strands. A lot of the main points will already be familiar to those who have read the rest of Eddings' work. The story is told by Polgara in the first person, and begins with her earliest memories of her and her twin sister in the womb, following this up with her early childhood learning magic. She is vaguely aware of events in the outer world, the war of the gods, from the comings and goings of her father, the sorcerer Belgarath, but she herself is cocooned in the valley with her 'uncles', her fellow sorcerers. After the marriage of her sister into the Rivan royal family, and several hundred years, Polgara strikes out on her own, and is given the task of uniting the warring kingdoms of Arendia. This is an episode of her life briefly mentioned in the Belgariad, but here it is fleshed out in far more detail, including her ultimate failure; Belgarath commands her to abandon the country to war, as the destruction of one kingdom has to happen to allow a prophecy to take place. Polgara then devotes herself to protecting the family at the centre of this prophecy, the descendants of her sister. After the entire family are killed, but one child, Polgara takes him, raises him in secret, and guards his descendants down the generations for the next two thousand years, until the birth of Garion, the hero of the Belgariad.
Personally, I enjoy fantasy novels with lots of detail and time for world and character building, and this certainly fulfils those criteria. It was nice to get an insight into the character of Polgara, who in the Belgariad can come across as quite waspish; however, this is more understandable when you've spent most of your life watching those around you grow old and die, while you remain young. However, 807 pages seems quite a long time to spend fleshing out one character. In terms of the plot itself, not very much actually happens that we weren't already aware of from the Belgariad; so those who've read this will already know most of the plot, but I suspect those who haven't will struggle to care, as the story doesn't really go anywhere, except to a birth of a child who will be significant in other books. It was certainly enjoyable to fill in some of the gaps in Polgara's story, but I have a feeling most people won't feel the need to do so.
Polgara, Daughter of Belgarath. Sorceress, dutchess, Beauty and downright furious.
To explain, let me introduce the story - just the beginning.
Belgarath, Polgara's father, was forced, more or less, to write, basically, a history of the world. Or, in other words, his lifes story. And, to quote Polgara, he's "an expert in starting a job and getting somebody else to finish it for him!".
Belgarath has left his story full of holes - and questions about what Polgara was doing from time to time, which basically forces Ce'Nedra to come and demand the rest of the story.
So, from before her birth, through her early years, the marriage of her sister and subsequent death, falling in love and fighting thruogh wars, losing her lover, and puberty, and through it all, safeguarding the line of Riva.
Polgara's story is often heartwrenching - I don't mind admitting that the quality of the writing brought tears to my eyes, and its obvious that Leigh is coming into her own on this story - its occasionally hilarious as well, as the trademark Eddings humour shows through.
This isn't just Polgara's story, its the story of kingdoms rising and falling, its the story of the study of medicine, and mostly its the counterpart study of human nature to Belgarath.
Once I started this one, I literally couldn't stop reading, its a superbly written book with truly startling characters, and it just sucks you right into the page.
Throughout the book, little hints are dropped that clear up SO many unanswered questions throughout the Belgariad, and the Mallorean It'll leave you stunned - tehres answers you wouldn't even have thought of the question to go with it.
Why does Polgara pose as a Dutchess? And why is she so good at it? Who does Durnik remind her of? Why Sendaria? Who was her mother to her? Why does she always smile when tehre are birds around? All are answered in this cracker of a book
There’s something I don’t fully understand. You’ve written a hugely successful series of fantasy books. (Well, you’ve actually written four, but let’s not worry about the other three right now). You’ve written a prequel to one of these series. That’s fine with me, so far, even if the prequel was a little limiting. The bit I don’t get is this – why do you need a second prequel? The “show me the money” bit from “Jerry Maguire” is running through my head for some reason. Buying this book is a little like putting “go faster” stripes on a 1.0 litre Metro City. Sure, it might look a little more impressive when you’re done, but it has no noticeable effect, as it’s still essentially a Metro, it adds nothing to the car, and all you’ve done is wasted a few quid. Well, David Eddings’ “Belgariad” series, which this and “Belgarath the Sorceror” are the prequels to, is far from being a Metro City. They’re novels of a decent pace, some mystery and intrigue, and they don’t break down on the M4, but keep going and leave you wanting more. However, where “Belgarath the Sorceror” succeeded, and made you, if not glad, but at least not horribly disappointed about the £8 you’d spent on it, “Polgara the Sorceress” fails. Although it is still well written, as you’d expect from Eddings, it has little of the warmth, humour, and excitement of the previous novel. Whereas “Belgarath the Sorceror” filled in holes from the series that you discover needed filling, this is filling holes for purely cosmetic purposes. Sure, it looks a little more complete, but it wasn’t going to fall down if you left it alone. Polgara is the daughter of Belgarath. In the eight thousand or so years leading up to the birth of Garion, and the beginning of the Belgariad seri
es of books, they both had tasks to ensure that the world kept turning. However, Belgarath kept flitting from country to country, looking after families, making sure no-one died who was supposed to have ancestors five thousand years hence, killing the odd person here and there, and performing random acts of sorcery. Oh, and drinking a lot, and having a little fun here and there. Polgara, on the other hand, was the Guardian of, firstly, the country of Arendia, and then the ancestors of Garion, ensuring that he was born by coupling off his relatives, and making sure they had children before they died. Essentially, what you have in this book is a novel based on the longest babysitting assignment in history. I’m sure that anyone who has done any babysitting will tell me that it’s more fun that I give it credit for, but would you really want to do it for two thousand years? The novel begins at a point even before Polgara was born, which is certainly an interesting place to start what is essentially an autobiography. However, being the daughter of a sorceror and the disciple of a God clearly gives you additional sensory input and your life starts that little bit sooner that the rest of us. Polgara was born at a point when Belgarath was out of town, and the early years of her life are spent hating her father, and doing things just to spite him. I guess it’s kind of reassuring to know that people who can perform acts of sorcery can be normal teenagers, anyway. Eventually she grows up, more or less forced into it by her twin sister, who has her own task to perform. She enters into a grudging sort of happiness with her father after her sister gets married and leaves them. They end up clinging to each other for the lack of anyone else. Over the years Polgara learns the art of sorcery, and how to be an adult, and her and her father snipe at each other fairly regularly, each trying to put one over on the other – Polga
ra so that her father doesn’t keep thinking of her as his little girl, and Belgarath so that she knows to respect her elders. Finally, she receives a task of her own, something to give her life a little purpose. She is sent to look after the country of Arendia, whose three Duchies, Wacune, Mimbre and Asturia are constantly at war with each other, and have been for thousands of years. Polgara’s task is to stop them from doing it. Oh well, easy. Unfortunately, she mostly succeeds. Fair enough, this is a good thing if you happen to live there, but five hundred years of peacetime isn’t nearly as interesting to read about as five hundred years of war. Fair enough, there’s the odd fight here and there, but no full-scale war of the type that makes books and films so much fun. Eventually, war does break out. Unfortunately, this ends with the complete destruction of Wacune, the Duchy Polgara has always preferred, and the death of her loved one. Whilst this does pick up the story a little, it sets the book on a course which it would have done better without. From here on, Polgara’s life seems to be one big funeral, a point which she makes on several occasions. Whilst you can understand her sadness, it does set the book on quite a depressing slope, which makes it subtly different from “Belgarath the Sorceror”, and removes any sign of good humour, which made that novel vaguely appealing. From this point on, Polgara then becomes the babysitter for Garion’s ancestors. The book suddenly starts to repeat itself fairly frequently. Boy is born. Boy gets a trade and becomes a man. Man gets married. Wife has son. Man’s father and mother die. Son gets a trade. And so on. There are various diversions. Occasionally someone tries to corrupt one of the men, and the family has to move on. Sometimes the deaths aren’t of natural causes. Belgarath stops by every so often, and is
usually told to go away and mind his own business. There are births, deaths and funerals with alarming regularity. The book turns around on itself so many times that you start getting dizzy. Fortunately, something happens to stop this cycle, just at the point where you’re about to fall over. The bad news is that this something is Torak’s invasion of the Kingdoms of the West. Whilst this does prove to be a diversion from the circularity of the plot so far, and whilst it is undoubtedly an event that has great meaning and whose effects are felt even onto the times of the Belgariad, still several hundred years into the future, it’s an event of such great magnitude that this is the fourth occasion it’s been retold in Eddings works. Although we’re getting a slightly different perspective on it, there’s nothing so startlingly new that it’s worth the price of the book. You learn more about the involvement of Poledra, Polgara’s mother and Belgarath’s wife, but she was always nothing more than a peripheral character, who appeared occasionally at opportune moments and never really added a great deal to the plot. And then you return to the old cycle, until the birth of Garion. From this point on, the Belgariad, a much better work, begins. The Belgariad is a journey through fantasy. If you think of the Belgariad as a foreign holiday, a couple of weeks lying on a beach under the warm sun, “Belgarath the Sorceror” is a place where you change flights part way back. You’re not on the beach any more, but you’re still on holiday, even if the end is in sight. “Polgara the Sorceress”, by contrast, is the point at which you land back at Heathrow (or whatever your nearest airport is). And discover that it’s raining. I don’t like to speak ill of David Eddings. Over the years his novels, both pre- and post-Belgariad, have given me immense pleasure. T
his, like all his work, is well written, and gives a human, friendly face to fantasy characters. However, the infinite sadness that is an ever-present part of Polgara’s life colours this novel, and removes a lot of the fun from the prose, which has always been one of the better features of Eddings’ writing. The little asides, which were an integral part of “Belgarath the Sorceror”, are still present, but here they are little sniping pieces of one-upmanship, as opposed to the “told a little joke at your expense” style of Belgarath. The differences between the two characters are evident in the way the two books are written, and Polgara is far too serious for her own good. And for ours. By all means, read the five books of the Belgariad. And the five that make up the Mallorean series. Even for the non-fantasy fan, which I was before I picked them up, they are an enjoyable read, if a little expensive if you end up buying them. If you want a little extra colour, read “Belgarath the Sorceror”. And then stop. This book is £7.99, and is not really worth the money. Even at Amazon it’s £6.39, which still doesn’t represent good value. If you feel as if you have to read this book, and please ensure you’ve read at least the eleven books I’ve mentioned before first as this book does not stand alone, try to borrow it, don’t buy it.
Together with 'Belgarath the Sorcerer', this novel forms the prequel to ten novels known collectively as the Belgariad and the Malloreon. Right there, you can see an ambitious undertaking - twelve novels forming one giant series. Well, not to worry. David Eddings carries a familiar theme throughout all his novels (or should we say his wife's novels, as he's lately taken to crediting her as a co-author) so once you've read one, you've read them all. The eternal Belgarion/Sparhawk/Athalus central character is nearly always present to plague readers with familiar overwraught plot holes. Fortunately, 'Polgara the Sorceress' sees the emphasis shift - for one time only - to the title character, Polgara, who is slightly more approachable and less hackeyed. Polgara is a beautiful, powerful sorceress who, in addition to being magically gifted, is also apparently immortal. This seems to immediately call for (a) a suspension of belief in reality and (b) feverish reading of the other eleven novels to catch up on the storyline. An obviously tacked on prologue and conclusion sandwiches in a condensed history of Polgara's life to date. From her earliest years (starting ambitiously in the womb) through her rebellious teens to her adulthood and ... through her lengthy extended adulthood. Fans may be pleased to read the missing background to the Belgariad and the Malloreon (as already told in 'Belgarath the Sorcerer') from a new perspective. The gentle, flowing tide of prose will sweep readers from Polgara's idyllic childhood with twin sister Beldaran to her initial discovery that she can do magic, from her beloved twin's death to her increased dabblings in politics, from her ... Well, I simply can't keep up this sham any longer. 'Polgara the Sorceress' really is just a dull monotonous volume of twee cliched events. Moreover, try as you may, it is impossible to read it without having previously
indulged in wading through its eleven companions. The other eleven novels are the only things that bring a little colour to the monotone world of 'Polgara the Sorceress', inviting you to say 'Ooh, that ties in with novel four of the Belgariad and novel five of the Malloreon' rather than simply yawning all the way through. I am perfectly aware that I will be offending vast legions of Eddings fans but at least I'll be saving a few newbies from swearing off reading any of his works ever again. Eddings has written some good stuff in the past; the Elenium and the Malloreon are not too shabby at all. However, even the best author in the world can't keep milking the cash cow forever. (NB: Christopher Tolkien - take note.) Readers are intelligent enough to notice when the same characters and the same storylines are being continually recycled, with the only token difference being a price hike. Sorry folks, but this is one for the fans only - or possibly die hard fantasy addicts.
Polgara the Sorceress is undoubtedly one of the best books written by David and Leigh Eddings and probably deserves pride of place in anyone's fantasy collection. The scripting throughout the book is very accurate but that is not unexpected from the Eddingses who have built up a huge dossier of information on their universe and even released as a book. Polgara character was a good choice as she is undoubtedly one of the most powerful women in this universe and her description of events and the conflict between herself and her father is nothing short of enjoyable. I am very much in favour of this first person method of writing as I feel it conveys far more information than an ever watchful third person could. It is also interesting to note that the emotions of the character are laid bare in a way that you would be hard pressed to find in many other novels and at times you almost feel as if you were their. The cast of characters is exactly the same as the ones we have come to know and love, and as such are invaluable in setting the feel for the novel. I have in fact only two very minor quibbles with this book namely the fact that it is retracing old ground but only from Polgara's point of view as opposed to Belgareth's. Secondly is that I feel that in order to understand this book you have to buy all of Edding's other books associated with Garion so in away this book cannot stand alone which is very sad as I feel that even by itself this would have made a fine book. So in short if you wan to read possibly David and Leigh's greatest ever work read this.
This is almost certainly the last entry in the Belgariad and Mallorean series, and tells the story of Polgara, from before her birth, until just before the start of the Belgariad. You might think this is familiar territory, already covered in Belgarath the Sorcerer, but there is actually a lot in here that we haven't seen before. There are two areas that are almost entirely new here. The first is something of a side issue as far as the main plot is concerned, and tells of Polgara's ultimatly futile attempts to end the Arendish civil wars by helping the Wacite Arends, the most civilised of the Arends. While this has little impact on the overall plot, it is very entertaining, and is justified to a certain extent by the creation of Sendaria, which here follows on from Pol's efforts. More importantly for the plot, we see Polgara's countless years guarding Garion's ancestors. Even in Belgarath the Sorcerer, this part was largly skipped over, but here we get to see the main incidents from several generations of the family, and the foiling of repeated Grolim plots to either kill or subvert the family. This is an entertaining and revealing book, but it should be the last of the series - any more would perhaps be too thin.
This volume tells the life story of Polgara. From a young girl growing up with a group of sorcerers to when she comes into her own power and goes out in the world to help the god Aldur.