BLOG Looking back at The Belgariad

To celebrate the Summer Of SF Reading, blogger Steven Gaythorpe recalls the David Eddings book that introduced him to fantasy fiction

It was my dad that introduced me to the world of imagination that is fantasy fiction. He was one of those people that would read Lord Of The Rings once a year, his copy of the book that I inherited is falling apart, and can be broken down into bite size chunks.

He didn’t limit his reading to just Tolkien, though he did read The Hobbit and The Silmarillion , he also read almost every other example of the Tolkienesque fantasy that was published in his lifetime. He was almost always disappointed, but always fascinated by the way they had used the master’s tale.

When I was young I found it hard to hack through the dense language of Tolkien but I did enjoy the story. So my dad suggested that I read The Belgariad first. To ease me into the world of fantasy.

Structurally it follows the classic heroic narrative structure as described by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces . It's filled with recognizable archetypes, the wise man, the kind mother figure, the warrior, the thief and so on. Each play their part admirably and often have a twist to their soul or a tragedy in their lives that makes them come alive and makes them a little more than two-dimensional (2.5 dimensional perhaps?)

True, it shares far too many elements with Lord Of The Rings to be accidental; horse lords, Viking-like warriors, a guardian of a throne of a lost king, and so on... but to its credit it has no elves or dwarves!

The success of the books lays in the simple way it tells a good story. It really is a proper bit of story-telling, with plenty of fighting and magic. It is a triumph of content over style.

The recent new editions that have been launched are firmly targeted at the teen market; a very clever bit of marketing. The Belgariad is the perfect starting point from which to scale the heights of the genre.

David Eddings revisited this world with The Malloreon , which repeats a lot of the action, quite consciously and there are books that recount the lives of Polgara and Begrarath the sorcerers in the books, none of these are essential reading, but fun if you are a completist.

Like Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit , The Belgariad is a story I return every so often, not every year, but every four or five years, there are just too many better and more interesting fantasy novels out there, but I will always have a soft spot for my first love.

This is a personal article by Steven Gaythorpe, one of our reader bloggers.

The SFX Summer Of SF Reading is in association with Waterstone’s , where you can buy all the books you’ll be reading about.