Two series of books by the late David Eddings form the basis of a watershed empire in the fantasy pantheon. I have discussed this series several times on this blog--I tend to measure all fantasy books by this epic saga.
Pawn of Prophecy is the opening book in a 5-book series ultimately called The Belgariad. First published in 1982, I have read five paperback copies of these books to death. If you have never read the Belgariad, try the the first book, Pawn of Prophecy, and if you love fantasy, you will be swept away. Be prepared to sit down and read, because this book is a truly great, immersive read.
I love the opening lines of the first chapter of the opening book in the series, Pawn of Prophecy: "The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor's farm. For all the rest of his life he had a special warm feeling for kitchens and those peculiar sounds and smells that seemed somehow to combine into a bustling seriousness that had to do with love and food and comfort and security and, above all, home. No matter how high Garion rose in life, he never forgot that all his memories began in that kitchen."
A chance visit by an old story teller, Mr. Wolf changes everything, and Garion finds himself and his Aunt leaving the farm in search of something which has been stolen; traveling in the company of Durnik the Smith, and Mr. Wolf.As they travel, they meet up with Silk, a Drasnian spy, and Barak, Cherek Warrior. Garion soon finds out that no one is what they seem to be. Silk is actually Prince Kheldar of Drasnia; and Barak is actually the Earl of Trellheim of Cherek. Only Durnik is who he always was; a good honest man of Sendaria, who just happens to be in love with Pol.
In this first book, Garion doesn't discover who he is, but knowing who he is not is very important, and now he know he is not technically his Aunt Pol's nephew, as he had always believed. This knowledge shakes his world to its foundations, making him fear that he was unwanted. The anger he feels over having been lied to is well portrayed, as is his eventual acceptance of his true path in life.
This is a vivid series of books, written from the heart. What David Eddings does in the first chapters of this book is truly magical. He immediately drew me in and within two paragraphs I was immersed in this world--I could smell the smell scents of the kitchen and visualize the people who worked there so companionably in the generous employ of Farmer Faldor. I felt I knew them, and I felt I knew that farm.
These books were comforting right off the launching pad.
Wikipedia described it as "picaresque" that is, of a genre of prose fiction depicting the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. But just for the record--Wikipedia got it all wrong. It's a coming-of-age story. the tale of a boy growing up through the events that shape him, becoming a man with strengths and weaknesses, and it is the story of the people he met on that journey.
The Malloreon is a five-part fantasy book series written by David Eddings, which follows The Belgariad. The Malloreon is set in the same world as The Belgariad, but expands on several aspects of the setting, especially the eastern continent of Mallorea. At the end of The Belgariad, Garion has slain the evil god Torak and expects lasting peace.
Things being what they are in a fantasy universe, he does not get it.
The book opens on a peaceful world. The foundling, Errand, has become Polgara's ward, and he has grown up on the farm with Polgara and Durnik, as their son. The first half of the first book deals with some really humorous situations, as everyone settles into a somewhat peaceful existence.
After eight years as King of Riva, Garion learns that he is still a figure of prophecy and bears the responsibility of defeating Torak's successor, the "Child of Dark." His son is kidnapped, and the next five books of the Mallorean detail the task of getting him back.
This is just as gripping a series of books as the Belgariad.
Many times I see authors try to force an exact, detailed picture of their world on the reader, and it ruins the story for me. An author doesn't have to beat me over the head with minute detail; that sort of thing bores me. David Eddings never fell into that trap. Eddings had the ability to convey a sense of place in a few well-chosen words.
David Eddings freely admitted that he wrote all his books with his wife, Leigh Eddings, and in later books of this series she is credited as his co-author.