Friday, October 26, 2012

The Belgariad [5] Enchanter's End Game (1984)

The final book of The Belgariad, we bring the two main storylines to conclusion.  Garion is still skulking his way across the Angarak kingdoms towards Cthol Mishrak to confront the god Torak, and Ce'Nedra and company are leading the armies of the West into Mishrak ac Thull to distract the armies of the Murgos and Malloreans.  For the conclusion of a five volume series, you'd think it would be exciting... however, much of the book is filler.

Before you continue:
  • This is part 5 of my The Belgariad and The Malloreon retrospective
  • See this blog post for an overview of the retrospective
  • These blogs are most effective with your own re-read of both series

General Thoughts

This book provides the ending we've all been expecting (Garion killing Torak, we're all saved, happy ending yay), but it takes a while to get there.  Because there's not a lot for Garion to actually do (travel across mostly barren countryside in hiding and then fight Torak), the bulk of the book ends up following Ce'Nedra's storyline (and some of the Western rulers that were left behind to manage the kingdoms while the Kings are at war).

This makes for a book that starts out well, drags a bit in the middle, then ends excitingly.  When you get to the end you're truly sad to see these characters go; they are fun and personable, and their banter has rubbed off on you.  At least it did for me.  They aren't the most complex fantasy characters - but they don't need to be for the reader to care about them.  I think that's Eddings' greatest achievement with the series: as much as the world building seems lacking and plot elements are cliche, you still care about the characters.

Except for a few that are basically pointless.  Like Lelldorin.  He is mentioned in prophecy as the Archer, but ends up being worthless on top of stupid.  What does he do?  Gets hurt in Book 2 and disappears until Book 4, continues to be stupid, then goes with Ce'Nedra to fight like everyone else in Book 5.  Never really liked this character.  A bad version of Legolas from Lord of the Rings.

Lelldorin, being an idiot as usual.  Garion, wondering "Why me?" as usual.
If you are the owner of this picture, let me know so I can credit you, please.

This time I think I'll do the blog backwards: cover, maps and kingdoms first, then discuss different parts of the ending.

The Cover

The cover here is alright, though once again there is a massive spoiler on the cover (Polgara covering a dead Durnik) that those who have been paying mild attention to the prophecies in the series will immediately get.  She doesn't actually cover him like that in the story, but I suppose they were trying to hide his identity.  It would have been nice to see him, though.

We have the map of Mallorea, where the confrontation between Garion and Torak will be, as well as Garion and Belgarath looking travel-worn and weary, wearing the requisite furs from their journey across cold Gar og Nadrak and Mallorea.  Belgarath shouldn't have a long-ass beard, should he?  Pretty sure he's not described with one.

The silhouette here is another mask - this time Torak's, with the burning eye of fire (Sauron, anyone?).  However... the mask is supposed to just be one side of the face (the side that is disfigured).  So Schwinger messed up there.  Tsk tsk.

There are some other alternate covers of the series, but most are blah or not worth posting.  One set is comprised of landscapes that almost look like they were drawn for something else and just reused for The Belgariad because it was close enough.  However, I did find a few good covers for Enchanter's End Game - ones worthy enough to share.

The one on the left is very cool, I especially like the interpretation of Torak.  Even though he's described as handsome, I've always pictured him as dark and scary.  The one on the right is pretty much a copy of other young adult book covers out these days, colorful and catchy like those of Christopher Paolini or Rick Riordan novels.

Gar og Nadrak

This kingdom is home to one of the five Angarak tribes, the Nadraks.  They are by far the most likable of any of the Angaraks, almost akin to the Drasnians in their penchant for trade, money and information.  They have little love for Torak and the Grolims and later make for allies in the fight against the Murgos and Malloreans.

Garion, Belgarath and Silk travel through mining and fur trapping communities, are briefly captured by Mallorean army recruiters, then are captured by a Nadrak trader and taken to... none other than the Nadrak King, Drosta.  The Ruler Streak lives!
The last part of this section deals with the party traveling across Morindland, a tundra-like waste far to the north.  This is actually a really cool section, as the Morind worship and summon demons, and the people are somewhat savage, making for an interesting diversion from the norm and which sets up some background for more demon fun in The Malloreon.

Mishrak ac Thull

And finally, we visit the last kingdom in the western continent.  Home of the Thulls, the idiot tribe of the Angaraks, this country is mostly hills and farmland once you get out of the mountains on the western border.  Thulls are belittled throughout the series, considered stupid and good for nothing but manual labor and potential Grolim sacrifices.  Thullish women are constantly pregnant since Grolims will not sacrifice pregnant women.  This results is a proliferation of lackwit Thulls.

Anyway, Garion does not visit this country.  Ce'Nedra and the armies of the West do.  They end up in a big battle they weren't planning on and Ce'Nedra and company get captured by Malloreans and taken to their Emperor, 'Zakath.  Some minor, 1D characters die in the fighting and we're a little sad.

As for the Ruler Streak... Garion does not meet King Gethell, but Ce'Nedra does.  So it kinda ends here?  Crap.  Although Ce'Nedra is acting in Garion's stead as Overlord of the West.  Still, he does appear on screen, which is the most important thing.

On a side note - why such a "stupid" people are allowed to govern and maintain a large nation never made much sense to me.  You'd think the Angarak rulers would just take it over and use Thulls as slaves throughout Angarak, rather than letting them have their own huge country.  *shrug*

Another side note - what's with the "og" and "ac" in the country names?  Never understood that.  It sounds cool, I guess, but it's like apostrophes sometimes (i.e. the one in 'Zakath, which we learn later actually stands for "Kal")... they look exotic but are generally pointless and a fantasy cliche at this point.

The Portage over the Eastern Escarpment

Before we move on to the last kingdom, I wanted to talk about this separately, as I've always felt it was a little ridiculous.

Part of the Western armies' plan involves portage of the massive Cherek warships across the Eastern Escarpment - a huge cliff that comprises the eastern border of Algaria.  They plan to sail the ships down the River Aldur as far as they can go, then cart them across leagues of grassland, then up and over the escarpment using sophisticated pulley systems created by the Drasnians, then cart them again over leagues of mountainous western Mishrak ac Thull until they get to the River Mardu, whereupon they can sail into the Sea of the East and start having fun sinking Mallorean ships.

Really?  Weren't not talking about canoes here, these are huge ships that have a crew of at least a hundred.

Here's a real portage

It has always struck me as ridiculous and implausible.  These people are not that advanced and practice little science.  There is not a lot of detail on how they do this, it just kind of happens in the background, with some clever suggestions by Durnik.  It's true that the Angaraks would not expect such a bold and daring move - yet all the same, the ease with which it's pulled off has always been one of my little gripes with the realism of the series.  Maybe it's just me.


Ah, boundless Mallorea, as they refer to it sometimes.  Mallorea is much larger than what is shown here, as we'll learn in The Malloreon.  Here we only see the barren northwestern portion, where Torak's dead city of Cthol Mishrak lies.  All the major characters conveniently meet up there, as 'Zakath turns Ce'Nedra and the others over to the Grolims, who bring them across the sea to Zedar the Apostate, guardian of Torak's body, in Cthol Mishrak.

Other than the fight with Torak, the only interesting thing that happens here is Garion, Belgarath and Silk being chased by the Hounds of Torak, Grolims who were transformed into giant hounds and left to guard Cthol Mishrak.

The Ruler Streak kind of came crashing down in the last kingdom, but Ce'Nedra does meet the Emperor of Mallorea, 'Zakath, so... whatever.

Garion vs. Torak

And now we come to it... the final confrontation, what we've been building up to for... a book and a half.  When you read it for the first time, you might be a little disappointed.  Thousands of years of prophecy for a mere sword fight?  It's like when I first saw The Matrix (and Roger Ebert summed up my thoughts on that movie more succinctly) - when Neo learned who he was, it all came down to a little fist fight with Agent Smith.  In the context of the story it just didn't fit for me, but I can understand why they did it.

Same for here... only it's not about a sword fight, which is good.  It's about rejection.  The first is from Polgara, who has to resist him somehow.  She is able to do this because of Durnik's death and the realization of her love for him.  The second is from Garion, who shows him how no one, not even his Angarak people nor his parents (UL and the Universe) love him.  With the realization that he is utterly alone, this allows him to grow sloppy, providing the opening for Garion to kill him with the Orb-flamed sword of the Rivan King.

And so the God who never should have been dies, and the mistake was corrected... or as we find out, not just yet.

I stumbled across a blog by Zach Alexander with some decent fan art / character designs. Below are Garion and Torak, by far the best ones I've seen (although I think Garion looks like Joffrey in the Game of Thrones HBO series). Check the link here for more (Silk, Barak, Ce'Nedra).

Durnik and Polgara

This is probably my favorite part of the series.  Not because Durnik has to die (we know he's coming back, he's The Man With Two Lives, remember?), but because their love is finally realized.  Durnik has always loved Polgara, but they could never be.  He is a mortal, not a sorcerer - the union could not last.  And Polgara has never had a normal life or love, and she's spent centuries sacrificing herself to ensure Garion came into being.  So to finally see them both get what they want - it's heartwarming.

And even though you know Durnik will be back, the anguish Polgara shows when he dies is very touching.  It's a completely different Polgara than we've seen.  We already know about Belgarath's grief over his wife, Poledra, and he felt more human than Polgara throughout most of the series.  She doesn't get too emotionally attached to people outside the sorcerer's circle since she knows she will outlive them.

Then later, when we discover that Durnik was given the Will and the Word after his resurrection rather than Polgara having hers removed... very nice moment.  I immediately wondered if he was going to be called Beldurnik, like the other "good" male sorcerers.  As we find out in The Malloreon, that doesn't happen.  Which is good, because I think it sounds awkward.

Also found some fan art of Durnik and Polgara by an artist named Oboe.  There are some others there too; Ce'Nedra, Barak and Mandorallen.  Durnik is so plain and unassuming you probably wouldn't even know it was him unless I said so... the portrait could be of any normal person.  Polgara, of course, is easily recognizable with her distinctive white lock of hair.

What's Next?

I'm sure Eddings did not have The Malloreon planned when he wrote The Belgariad, based on the way some characters act and what they say (referring to Garion vs. Torak as the final confrontation). The great success of the first series surely prompted Lester Del Rey to ask Eddings for a sequel of some sort.

So... we're not done just yet with Garion and Friends.  Another meeting of the Child of Light and Child of Dark is in the works.  This time to completely fix the mistake that was the birth of Torak.

In the next series, The Malloreon, our heroes travel the breadth and width of the eastern continent, Mallorea, giving us a whirlwind tour of the rest of Eddings' world.  There will be more maps and more peoples to discuss, many of them godless, and many new friends and allies.  I actually like the sequel series better than The Belgariad, which to me is now just an extended prologue, a setup for the much better sequel.  The Malloreon is more adult in focus and more entertaining in general, in my opinion, since Garion is an adult now - much the way the second half of the Harry Potter series is so much better than the first half because Harry is older and has more serious adventures.


The Malloreon
Book 1 - Guardians of the West


The Belgariad
Book 4 - Castle of Wizardry
Book 3 - Magician's Gambit
Book 2 - Queen of Sorcery
Book 1 - Pawn of Prophecy

All maps by Shelly Shapiro

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