(1931-2009) US writer whose first novel was the associational High Hunt (1973), and who began in 1995 to credit his wife, Leigh Eddings (LE), as co-author, indicating she had been an active partner throughout. In the ensuing discussion, therefore, it will be tacit that works listed as by "DE" solo are by both.
DE's first fantasy series was the Belgariad sequence, comprising – by internal chronology – a prequel, Belgarath the Sorcerer (1995) with LE, Pawn of Prophecy (1982), Queen of Sorcery (1982) and Magician's Gambit (1983), all three of these assembled as The Belgariad: Part One (omni 1985; vt The Belgariad 1 1985 UK), plus Castle of Wizardry (1984) and Enchanters' End Game (1984), both assembled as The Belgariad: Part Two (omni 1985; vt The Belgariad 2 1985 UK). A second series, the Malloreon books, with much the same cast, followed immediately: Guardians of the West (1987), King of the Murgos (1988 UK), Demon Lord of Karanda (1988), Sorceress of Darshiva (1989) and The Seeress of Kell (1991).
The central character of the first sequence is young Garion, a farmboy Ugly Duckling (of whose Hidden-Monarch role the reader is soon aware), who gradually traverses the vast Fantasyland in which the entire sequence is set, accumulating Companions, learning about his sorcerous Talents, and settling into a Quest to achieve his destiny. That destiny is climactically intertwined with 7000 years of history, giving an intermittent sense of a J R R Tolkien-like depth of back-story; Garion's growth and quest also echo Arthur's and Perceval's. But, because so much attention is paid to the interactions between Garion and his companions, because the tone of the narrative is frequently lighthearted, and because digressions are not infrequent (though so well plotted as not to distract), the Belgariad generates an elated and rather comic sense of Heroic Fantasy while moving always towards the High-Fantasy conclusion that awaits the cast. By the end of the third volume, Garion has gained an Island throne, and eventually he becomes Belgarion, Overlord of the West and central ruler in the complicated and divisive nest of dynasties that cover the land, has long returned the Magic orb (a Talisman whose loss had allowed Chaos to threaten) to the pommel of the Sword in which it belongs, and has defeated the Dark Lord, the failed God Torak. All seems well.
The second sequence focuses on Dynastic-Fantasy issues, with a new quest soon under way to recover the kidnapped son of King Garion. The Seven Samurai of the first sequence, with occasional new participants, regain their camaraderie, and are eventually successful. The humour, the narrative ingenuity and the picturesque variety of cultures fade almost not at all. At the end there are scenes of somewhat perfunctory Transformation, and a new God gazes upon the world. The overall sense is that all is now very well indeed.
DE's next sequence also came in two separate series: the Elenium books, being The Diamond Throne (1989), The Ruby Knight (1990 UK) and The Sapphire Rose (1991 UK), all three assembled as The Elenium (omni 1993), and the Tamuli books, being Domes of Fire (1992), The Shining Ones (1993) and The Hidden City (1994 UK), with further volumes projected. Though there are superficial distinctions – the protagonist is a veteran Knight, and the quest is to find a magic stone which will awaken his young queen from an enchanted sleep – the mixture is in fact rather as before. There is a complex fantasyland, back and forth over which a band of companions ranges; there is a Dark-Lord-cum-failed-god in the background, hoping to gain the magic stone for himself, and henceforth rule the world; there is humour, intricate plotting, violent action, and a sense that all will be well in the end.
It is easy to make DE sound negligible through a description of his Plot Devices, and any analysis of the use to which he puts them would generate a sense that his worlds were sophomoric. But his considerable popularity – though not perhaps hurt by the safeness of his overall world (see Genre Fantasy) – does in the end derive from his compulsive storytelling skills. Although he is in no sense a theorist of Story, he is a telling example of the centrality of Story in the sustained fantasy epic. [JC]
other works: Two Complete Novels (omni 1994) assembling High Hunt and The Losers (1992), crime.
David Carroll Eddings