Now we get to the meat of the quest in The Malloreon. In this volume, we finally move on to the eastern continent, Mallorea, and explore new lands, beginning a whirlwind tour of it over the next 3 books, visiting nearly every country / nation / kingdom in the process. Much like we did in The Belgariad. Because it's all repeating, you know?
This is basically when the series starts to get really good and the pages fly by quickly. We learn more about Mallorea in this novel than ever before.
Before you continue:
- This is part 8 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
- Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH SERIES
A Prologue Worth Reading
The prologues in each book are generally important, as they reveal history and background on a topic that's usually pertinent to the events in the book you're about to read. However, appropriate as they might be, the ones in the first two books of this series, Guardians of the West and King of the Murgos, weren't anything worth blogging about. The first rehashed the adventures of Belgarion the Godslayer, i.e. the events in The Belgariad. The second detailed how Belgarion's son was stolen by Zandramas, i.e. the events in Guardians of the West. If you're reading the series straight through, they can be skipped.
This time we get something completely new and worth reading. We get a "brief history of Mallorea and the races that dwell there." This seven page info dump explains the different peoples living on Mallorea, how they relate to Torak and the Angaraks, and a quick overview of the unification of the continent by the Mallorean Emperors.
It's a much more informative read than the previous prologues. When you think about it, though, what else could have been discussed in the previous books' prologues? The first is understandable, but the second probably should have gone into history on Cthol Murgos, since we explore the southern continent in that book.
The New Races of Mallorea
So as the prologue says, there are three major non-Angarak races in Mallorea: Karandese, Melcenes and Dalasians. These races haven't factored into the story before (they are not even mentioned in The Belgariad, as far as I know). They don't have any Gods, and are descendants of that group of people who were left godless when Aldur declined to take a people. The Ulgos are another part of that group, and we already know they finally found a god (UL) in The Belgariad.
Each remaining book in the series essentially covers each group of people in more detail as our party of heroes moves through each section of Mallorea. This current book obviously focuses on the Seven Kingdoms of Karanda, based on the title. The next, Sorceress of Darshiva, is mostly spent in the Melcene Empire, while the last, The Seeress of Kell, takes place in The Dalasian Protectorates.
|The world once more. Lots of godless lands.|
I do find it interesting how those people who are godless, have multiplied and proliferated, settling down in huge areas of lands - essentially a continent's worth - while the ones with Gods (excepting the Angaraks) are relegated to an area the size of Europe (Kingdoms of the West in the map above). With so much emphasis on the gods in the first series, it seems very weird to me. Maybe it's a reflection of how many of the people of this world have moved on beyond Gods, especially since they left the physical world long ago.
That neatly goes along with the eventual end of the Light and Dark sides of the prophecy. The mistake will be corrected and the world will finally move on.
Alright cool, so at the end of the last book, our heroes had been captured by Malloreans and were to be taken to Zakath, the Emperor. Finally, we'll be moving on to Mallorea, right?
Wrong. We have a slight detour in Rak Hagga in southeastern Cthol Murgos, first. That's where Zakath has been overseeing his campaign against the Murgos. So let me take care of this first and show the map, before we start talking about all the Mallorea stuff.
Our party wants to go to Mallorea and follow Zandramas, but they are forced to sit around for a while. Garion becomes friends with Zakath and eventually he abandons his war to return to Mallorea once he learns the truth about Urgit, King of the Murgos.
It's a decent sequence and is necessary to build up Zakath's character, since he's important later on. But those eager to get on with things have to plow through it.
Goodbye unnamed continent to the west!
Quickly, the cover. Decent one this time, mainly because it has new characters (which are easily recognizable). It's the scene in Ashaba, House of Torak, and the characters from left to right are: Nahaz (Demon Lord), Urvon (last disciple of Torak) and Feldegast (Beldin in disguise).
The background map is of Ancient Mallorea, though I've always thought it would have been better to show western Karanda, where Ashaba is. I've also seen a red version of this cover online. The image is the same, but the coloring outside the image is red. Not sure why they did that when much of the painting is tinged green.
I did find this nice Japanese cover of the book. Garion still looks like a child and Feldegast is quite portly in the back there. The others I'm guessing are Belgarath, Durnik and Silk. Obviously when they are sneaking into Ashaba.
More Demon Fun
Demons have been touched on throughout the series, from our brief journey through Morindland in Enchanter's End Game, to the fight at the docks in Rak Urga in King of the Murgos. Here we go one further, as a Demon Lord, named Nahaz, is introduced into the storyline. Karands have worshipped demons throughout their history, so it's a perfect place to once again feature demons.
We learn that Harakan, who infiltrated the Bear Cult back in Guardians of the West, has reemerged in Karanda as a man named Mengha. This man supposedly raises demon armies and has been slowly conquering Karanda, taking cities with minimal effort. Eventually we learn this is possible due to Nahaz, the Demon Lord. He is the one raising the demons, as a human could not control that many. With Torak out of the way, there is the chance to gain some power in the world, and Nahaz has decided to seize the opportunity.
Nahaz is kind of a one-dimensional character, but he's more important when it comes to another new character: Urvon.
The Last Disciple of Torak
Originally there were three disciples of Torak: Ctuchik, Zedar and Urvon. Ctuchik and Zedar met their fates in The Belgariad. Well, Zedar is still alive, forever encased in rock, but you know what I mean. Anyway, I don't believe Urvon was even mentioned in that series, yet it's established pretty early in this series that there are three. So chalk that up to some of the "after the fact" planning that went on with The Malloreon.
Urvon has historically run the Angarak Church in Mallorea for many years, from his power base in Mal Yaska. He's gone a bit mad lately and with the death of Torak and appearance of Nahaz, he now thinks he's some sort of demigod. Nahaz and Mengha foster this belief in an effort to control him and the Angarak Church.
Since we don't have a good picture of Urvon other than the cover, I'll just cast an actor in the role. John Malkovich would be good, I think.
A funny storyline is Beldin's hate for Urvon. He's threatened to pull out his entrails with a white-hot hook, so Urvon is terrified of the man and has been in hiding for a while. Beldin gets a chance to kill him in this book, able to sneak up on Urvon in Ashaba with his Feldegast disguise, until Nahaz spirits the man away. Urvon will be dealt with in the next book, but suffice to say, there's not much time left for the last disciple of Torak. All the rubble of the old order must be cleared away before the new God of Angarak can be born.
We learned in the last book, King of the Murgos, that our Child of Dark, Zandramas, was actually a woman. In this volume our party pulls within days of her and via projection she finally appears to them for the first time. Twice she appears, in Ashaba and the Mountains of Zamad.
There's not much to say. She's always dressed in dark robes and partially hides her features. You get a better look at her on the cover of the next book, Sorceress of Darshiva, but suffice to say she has a typical Angarak look, with almond-shaped, slanted eyes. I always think of Mongols when I think of some of the Angarak races, particularly the Murgos.
We learn a lot more about Zandramas in the aforementioned next book. It's named for her, after all. Eddings has kept the mystery all this time, revealing info in stages as you move from book to book. First book was the name, second her gender, third her appearance and fourth her history. More on that in the blog for the next book.
As for casting Zandramas... I looked around some forums and the one I like best is Angelina Jolie, suggested here. I do think she would make a good Zandramas, even though she isn't Asian or Mongol-looking. They could make it work with a bit of makeup. This picture says it all.
Since there is duality to everything going on, it would make sense to abruptly say that there are now actually two magical stones, right? So we have Cthrag Yaska (the Orb of Aldur) and Cthrag Sardius (The Sardion). The Orb is blue and the Sardion orange-red. The Sardion is also very large compared to the Orb, two feet in diameter as we find out in the next book.
This is more "after the fact" planning since it's never mentioned in The Belgariad, but it can be explained away by the fact that the Sardion is aware like the Orb and remained intentionally dormant and hidden away for millenia. Belgarath and the others never learned of it until now because the Angarak version of prophecy was always hidden (or copies were incomplete, as we later learn) and because the Sardion kept them from finding out.
Our party finds essentially the first resting place of the Sardion, in a grotto deep in a lake. The Orb recognizes it and can follow its trail. In the end, only one stone will remain, just as only one outcome to the dueling prophecies can exist. If Garion and company win, the Sardion will be destroyed as part of the cosmic correction.
Ah, Mal Zeth, largest city in the world. It looks massive on the map and in the book is touted as stretching for "leagues." That's quite a large city. It's not very detailed, but it seems to take a few hours for them to travel from the gates to the Imperial Palace at the center.
Unfortunately, we don't get to see a whole lot of the city. A plague strikes and Zakath seals the city (and palace), so our heroes are stuck once again, waiting around. Now they have to sneak out. Beldin, in disguise as Feldegast the juggler, later conveniently provides a way.
Eddings does something different here, though, leaving our normal POV of Garion and for half a chapter shifting to a man named Balsca, a rogue seaman who unwittingly brings the plague to Mal Zeth. It's a welcome change of pace. This story generally works best when you only follow Garion and the world is revealed through his virgin eyes, but switching for this event is the right choice.
As you might have noticed, no longer are the sections in the books split by nations or kingdoms like they were in The Belgariad, but instead are split by regions or cities. And there's no nice big label corresponding to the section in the book. So rather than just say we're in Karanda or the kingdom of Katakor, it's Ashaba. This location is the centerpiece of the book. It's what they have been aiming for since the end of the previous volume.
In the story, this place was home to Torak for many centuries (he shut himself up in seclusion after losing the Orb and many forgot about him) and is now a partial ruin and supposedly haunted. Right now it's being used by Nahaz and Mengha, and our heroes journey there in search of an uncorrupted copy of the Ashabine Oracles, a dark prophecy written by Torak himself (only Zandramas got there first and destroyed anything in the copy that was important).
Zandramas tricks Garion into exposing his party and a battle ensues. Mengha (Harakan) is killed by Zith (via Velvet). Feldegast reveals himself as Beldin. Urvon and Nahaz escape.
The Mountains of Zamad
After leaving Ashaba, we head east through Karanda, through a couple of kingdoms and into the Mountains of Zamad. You get a decent feel for the people of Karanda during this section; they are quite distinctive to the reader in that they are frequently described as smelly and dirty and keep pigs as pets.
Anyway, there's more demon-related storylines, a huge lake they must cross (Lake Karanda, about the size of Lake Michigan west-to-east, I'm guessing) and the discovery of the original resting place of the Sardion. And another brief confrontation with Zandramas, who attempts to kill Ce'Nedra but is foiled by Poledra, Belgarath's wife and Polgara's mother.
Not exactly a rousing end to the book, but the brief appearances by new elements right at the end leave you wanting more.
All Caught Up
When I first read this series - when I was in junior high (1989) and living on Minot AFB in North Dakota - Demon Lord of Karanda was the most recent book available. The next two were not out yet, so this became the first time I had to wait for a series to complete. And since I didn't have enough money to buy hardbacks (I received a paltry allowance for doing things like unloading the dishwasher and moving the lawn), I had to wait even longer to get the paperback, which was on a delayed release.
The wait was compounded by the fact that Eddings had started another series called The Elenium while wrapping this one up. It's decent, not as good as this one, but worth a read if like either of The Belgariad or The Malloreon. I do remember being distinctly irritated by that. Finish your current series before starting a new one! I thought at the time. When you're 13 years old, the days seem to go by much slower than when you're an adult.
Book 4 - Sorceress of Darshiva
Book 2 - King of the Murgos
Book 1 - Guardians of the West
Book 5 - Enchanter's End Game
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