The Sorcerer Belgarath and his daughter Polgara the Sorceress were on the trail of the Orb – stolen by a priest of Torak – seeking to regain its saving power before the final disaster prophesized by the legends. And with them went Garion, a simple farm boy only months before, but now the focus of the struggle. He had never believed in sorcery and wanted no part of it. Yet with every league they traveled, the power grew in him, forcing him to acts of wizardry he could not accept.
Note: This is one of my favorite series. I read this series, it’s sequel The Mallorean, and Belgarath the Sorcerer yearly.
Queen of Sorcery is the second book in The Belgariad series by David Eddings. In comparison to the first book, Queen of Sorcery gives the reader a lot more information and a greater incentive to continue the series. One of the things I liked the most about this book is that the reader starts to get to know the side characters a lot better – and a lot of the things left unexplained in book one are cleared up in book two. Eddings is not one for a lot of loose ends, which I greatly appreciate.
Queen of Sorcery starts the same way Pawn of Prophecy does – with an info dump prologue – and then it proceeds into another info dump. The prologue tells of a famous battle that happened centuries in the past and the second info dump gives the reader a rehash of Pawn of Prophecy. It also reminds the reader that Garion is anguished and that the adults are keeping secrets from him.
Unlike Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery tells the questing group (and the reader) the exact nature of their quest at the beginning of the book: The Orb of Aldur has been stolen by Zedar the Apostate. They have to retrieve the Orb before Zedar can deliver it to the evil god Torak, waking Torak from an ensorcelled sleep to take over the world.
Queen of Sorcery also gives the reader a better sense of Eddings’ world. Each country is populated by a different racial stock and each racial stock is a stereotype. Thus far we have met the Sendars (who are sensible) and the Chereks (who are rowdy, drunks and war-like). Queen of Sorcery introduces us to the Arends (who are “not very bright but very brave” and who’s nobles engage in almost casual warfare while severely mistreating their serfs), the Tolnedrans (materialistic and obsessed with stature) and the Nyissans who emulate the snake. The Nyissans are also drug users and dealers, they sell poisons, are untrustworthy and are also slavers. Got all that? Good.
One of the things that the reader notices is that although Garion now knows Belgarath and Polgara’s real names, Garion and the text still refer to them as “Mister Wolf” and “Aunt Pol.” I feel like the text reflects Garion’s mental state with the name usage. Garion has not fully accepted the real identities of his aunt and grandfather – so neither has the text. Some of Garion’s anguish is settled, however – he knows that Polgara is his (many times great) aunt and thus Belgarath is his (many times great) grandfather – so he is not alone in the world as he feared.
We also learn a lot more about the magic system. The rules are rather basic but it seems that those who have “talent” usually are nearly immortal. These talented people have the ability to do almost anything that they can imagine as long as they have the willpower. Eddings names this system “the Will and the Word” and it appears to have few limitations: It takes as much energy or more to do something magically as to do it physically, they cannot try to “unmake” things as it will cause the person attempting the unmaking to be obliterated and magic use makes a “noise” that other talented people can hear. This noise can be heard for long distances and can help enemies locate them.
Garion has started to show that he has this talent. He hears a “noise” when his family or others use the Will and the Word. He also uses his ability several times instinctively but with no control. Although the adults are still keeping him in the dark regarding his heritage, he’s slowly coming to realize something is strange about his parentage. People keep trying to kidnap him – including the Queen of Nyissa, Salmissra. I’m not sure why Eddings decided to make Garion so ignorant as to almost be stupid. Of course something is special about him. He’s the only descendent of Belgarath and Polgara – who are both powerful sorcerers.
One of my favorite things about this book is that you get a chance to really know all of the characters. Barak and Silk are two of my favorite characters and I really enjoy the banter between them. Silk is a prince, a spy, a thief, a merchant, an acrobat and a martial artist skilled in both hand to hand combat as well as knife work. He’s a small man with a smart mouth and a sarcastic sense of humor but as many bad traits that Silk has he’s very loyal and dependable. Barak is a huge, hairy man. He looks rather brutish and he’s a deadly warrior but he’s a gentle person with a great sense of humor. Some of the humor feels a little forced but in general it’s rather amusing.
Queen of Sorcery starts in Arendia. The group (Garion, Belgarath, Polgara, Silk, Barak and Durnik) joins with Hettar, son of the Algarian Chief; Lelldorin, son of Baron of Wildantor (Arendia) and Sir Mandorallen, Baron of Vo Mandor (Arendia). Lelldorin is an Austurian Arend and Mandorallen is a Mimbrate Arend. The Mimbrates and Austurians have been in the midst of civil war and/or hostilities for centuries and Lelldorin is an Austurian “patriot.” There isn’t much to Lelldorion: he is impetuous, emotional, flighty, an astounding bowman, a loyal friend and a walking disaster. Lelldorin was involved in a plot to kill off the King of Arendia – since the King is a Mimbrate – when he needs to depart with the group. Lelldorin tells Garion about this plot in confidence.
The company travels the length of Arendia while on their search for the Orb. During their travels Lelldorin is poisoned during a monster attack near the border of Ulgoland which requires him to stay in Mimbre. Once he realized he would have to stay behind, Lelldorin has Garion promise that he will stop the attack on the King.
Not long after Lelldorin is injured and left behind, Queen of Sorcery starts to repeat situations from Pawn of Prophesy. The company arrives at yet another royal court – the royal court of Arendia in Mimbre. Garion tells the court of the treacherous plans to murder the King instigated by an Angarak Murgo. The repetition is so obvious that even the text remarks upon it.
Garion drew off by himself to one side of the room to wrestle with a problem. Events had swept him into King Korodullin’s court before he’d had the time to prepare himself for an unpleasant duty. He had given his word to Lelldorin to bring certain things to the king’s attention, but he did not have the faintest idea how to begin. The exaggerated formality of the Arendish court intimidated him. This was not at all like the rough, good-natured court of King Anheg in Val Alorn or the almost homey court of King Fulrach in Sendar. This was Vo Mimbre, and the prospect of blurting out news of the wild scheme of a group of Asturian firebrands as he had blurted out the news of the Earl of Jarvik in Cherek now seemed utterly out of the question.
Suddenly the thought of that previous event struck him forcibly. The situation then was so similar to this one that it seemed all at once like some elaborate game. The moves on the board were almost identical, and in each case he had been placed in the uncomfortable position of being required to block that last crucial move where a king would die and a kingdom would collapse. He felt oddly powerless, as if he entire life were in the fingers of two faceless players maneuvering pieces in the same patterns on some vast board in a game that, for all he knew, had lasted for eternity. There was no question about what had to be done. The players, however, seemed content to leave it up to him to come up with a way to do it.
Queen of Sorcery, Chapter 10
After leaving the Arendish Court, the company travels to Tolnedra. [As usual] the company stops by the royal court and meets with the Emperor of Tolnedra and then depart. The company also picks up a new member while in Tolnedra: Ce’Nedra, Imperial Princess of Tolnedra. Ce’Nedra joins the group when she runs away from the royal palace in a temper tantrum against her father.
One of the more significant things that happen in Queen of Sorcery is the first time Garion uses his Will deliberately. A Grolim – Chamdar – captured the group when Belgarath and Silk were on a side trip. At this time the company consisted of Garion, Polgara, Durnik, Hettar, Barak, Mandorallen, and Ce’Nedra but they were surrounded by Tolnedran troops controlled by Chamdar. During the capture Chamdar slaps Polgara – Garion’s Aunt Pol – across the face. In a rage Garion strikes Chamdar and sets fire to him. As Chamdar burns to death in front of him, Garion begins to regret his action but before he can stop the flames Polgara (mentally) tells him that it was Chamdar who burned Garion’s parents alive. So Garion kills Chamdar as Aunt Pol gives Garion his true name: Belgarion.
This is also the first time that the reader “hears” this voice that Garion has heard in his mind his entire life. It was the voice who told Garion how to use his will to retaliate against Chamdar since a physical blow wouldn’t have harmed him. This voice was mentioned briefly in both Pawn of Prophecy and Queen of Sorcery but [until now] the voice could have possibly been Garion’s conscience. Now this voice becomes an actual character that the reader knows is separate from Garion.
The death of Chamdar is the first time Garion has killed someone and it was a gruesome death. Aunt Pol “tells” him to pretend it was her (no clue as to why) and then she comforts a crying Ce’Nedra. Garion, on the other hand, is never comforted by anyone. He’s left to suck it up and cry alone. Aunt Pol even comforts Durnik the first time he takes a life but not Garion. It’s perplexing to me. Why not Garion? Instead of comfort he was told that he was being childish and self-absorbed and to stop feeling sorry for himself.
So, now we have a young, hormonal teenager who was already rather angsty – and he kills someone with a power no one told him he had and he’s never wanted. No one has tried to really talk to him or actually explain anything – he’s just supposed to suck it up and be a man?? In every situation – every one – the adults missed the best opportunities to discuss things with Garion. They just let things happen to him and then call him childish for pouting and being upset. Is this how you raise a hero? I guess. I wonder what – if any – point Eddings was trying make.
The company boards a ship and heads to Nyissa to meet up with Belgarath and Silk. While waiting, Garion is kidnapped by Queen Salmissra in a power play. She forces Garion to drink several drugs and potions – some of which are rare and kill during the withdrawal process. She does this to ensure that no one can remove him from her presence.
Shortly after Garion drinks the potions, Polgara arrives with a transformed Barak to rescue him. Polgara is destroying the palace with magic and Barak – somehow transformed to both man and bear – is rampaging at Polgara’s side and killing all that moved. The voice and Polgara show Garion how to heal himself using his talent and then Polgara confronts Salmissra.
Salmissra knew she could not stand against Polgara so she who summoned the serpent god Issa. Polgara tells Issa that the time for the prophecy to be fulfilled had come and that Garion – Belgarion – is the fulfillment of that prophecy to stop Torak. With this knowledge Issa departs – requesting that Polgara not kill Salmissra for her transgressions. Polgara turns Salmissra into a huge, sentient snake instead of killing her and they leave. Polgara, Garion and Barak go back to their ship, reconnect with Belgarath and Silk – and the book ends with the company heading to the Vale of Aldur. The company now consists of Garion, Belgarath, Polgara, Durnik, Silk, Barak, Hettar, Mandorallen and Ce’Nedra.
Queen of Sorcery is a very solid installment in this series and I heartily recommend it! There is a lot more action (and adventures!) in this book than Pawn of Prophecy: fights with monsters, desperate flights, a lot more magic and even kidnappings. This series is full of simple fun!
Countries visited so far:
Sendaria – Pawn of Prophecy
Cherek – Pawn Prophecy
*Grolim – Priest of Torak. May or may not be talented.