The Diamond Throne, by David Eddings
It's my own fault. I picked up The Diamond Throne because of my fond memories of reading The Belgariad as a teenager. In my own defense, I can only hope that Eddings' earlier work was better than his latter. Despite getting through four hundred pages of The Diamond Throne, I couldn't muster enough patience to get through the last few chapters. The characters are shallow, the plot circular, and the only notable themes are racism, religious tripe, and the type of avarice which you expect to find in nearly all antagonists.
The characters give away their shallow nature at the very beginning of the book with their impetuous behaviour and frequent sarcasm. Sparhawk, who is described as a sharp-witted, fearsome knight, behaves more like a spoiled brat. He gives money to a poor prostitute in one scene and a boil (by the use of magic) to a common courtier who annoys him in the next. His friends, Kalten and Kurik, only seem to be in the book to say something sarcastic in response to everything Sparhawk says.
The dialogue between the characters more often than not feels like a conversation competition, which made me (correctly) suspect that the author was from the U.S.A. I think the intention was to bring some gritty modern culture into the world of fantasy. The result, however, was just some weird mix of modern banter with medieval formality which didn't work at all for me.
Another weird writing device Eddings uses is to take real-world races and religions and import them into his fantasy world verbatim. The Elene Church is indistinguishable from the Christian Church, which makes you wonder how the author comes up with his ideas. I mean sure, art imitates life, but isn't the whole point of fantasy to escape from real life? Many of the races in his world are also proxies for real life (non-Christian) races. Whether intentional or not, there does seem to be an odd religious prejudice throughout the book.
The plot is dire. Boring, formulaic, and repetitive: Being followed, travel to the next city, attacked on the way, slaughter everyone, Sparhawk says something macho, Kalten says something sarcastic, Sparhawk says "I deserved that", arrive at the new city, stay with an old friend who owes them a favour, do what Sephrenia says... rinse and repeat. Nothing ever goes wrong for the good guys, and the bad guys are always thwarted easily. It's just boring.
But I think the real failing of this book is that although the author does well to tell us about his world, he fails to show us those very things. Sparhawk does not behave how he's described; Sephrenia is intended to be mysterious and powerful, but just comes off as powerless, bossy and fake. Even the most evil entities in the book, Azash and the Demork, inspire no fear or revulsion. Whatsmore, the urgency to save the Queen's life, which is supposed to be central to the plot, is simply not conveyed. The main characters spend their time hanging about in taverns, chasing up all their petty grievances, and can't continue their quest because they don't want to upset some other knights by leaving without them.
The saving grace of The Diamond Throne is that is an easy, quick read. The use of language is also quite good, even though its effects are only weak. I can see now how adverbs weaken the impact of writing. For Buddha's sake, show us these characteristics, don't tell us.
I expected too much from The Diamond Throne. I had thought Eddings was a master. Sadly, I've been given a reality check. It seems more appropriate to describe Eddings as the Mills and Boons of fantasy. Predictable and formulaic. Seeing as I'm unlikely to read any more of his work, I can only hope that I am wrong about that. There are too many other good books to read.The Diamond Throne, by David Eddings
Roger Keays is an artist, an engineer, and a student of life. He has no fixed address and has left footprints on 40-something different countries around the world. Roger is addicted to surfing. His other interests are music, psychology, languages, the proper use of semicolons, and finding good food.