So Robert Jordan came out with the tenth installment of his infinite series. I was half-dreading this moment; all my enthusiasm for the series drained away with the last two terrible books, but I felt half-obliged to read it because, after all, I've spent literally half my life reading this story.
Then the (mostly scathing) reviews came in, and I read a summary wherein it became clear to me that absolutely nothing happened in the course of an entire 700 page book, and I said, "Screw it. I'm not reading this, not even in paperback." And I felt much relieved.
I was, however, left with a jonesing for some good ol' nostalgic fantasy. Whatever depths Jordan has sunk to now, I still fondly remember sitting in seventh grade study hall intently reading The Eye of the World, and I wanted to read something that would help me recapture that old-school feeling. So, I turned to David and Leigh Eddings' The Redemption of Althalus .
It's no secret that Eddings is not particularly well-respected by the fantasy literati. His characters are undeniably stereotypes, his world-building is wildly implausible, and his plots tend toward the repetitive. For all that, though, I've always liked Eddings, in a trashy pleasure sort of way. His characters are bouncily fun, his plots are complex without being byzantine (admittedly, it works best not to think too deeply about matters; but I'm good at not doing that), and his writing has that element I've praised time and again on this booklog: pull-you-in pacing.
And in particular, I'd adored Eddings in seventh grade. I read The Belgariad repeatedly -- but then, so has anyone who read The Mallorean. (Ba-dum ching! Thank you, I'll be here all week.) Eddings is basically Dave Duncan without any sense of originality, which doesn't work quite as well for me now, but was perfectly fine for me then.
My main hesitation with reading an Eddings novel now was that, about the time he started sharing credit with his wife, his books started sucking. Belgarath the Sorcerer was one of the worst novels I've read -- it wasn't just trashy, it was dull. I wasn't sure if this represented a permanent decline in Eddings' capability, or was just because that novel was a prequel, and prequels always suck (sole exception: Vernor Vinge's superb A Deepness in the Sky).
At the evidence of Althalus, I'm willing to say that it was the prequel thing. This was a bouncy read that had all the virtues of classic Eddings. And, unlike Jordan's latest extrusion, it managed to cram an entire plot into a mere 700 pages. So yeah, not great literature, but as generic fantasy goes, it's very readable stuff. And if the ending is incredibly lame -- which it is -- well, at least it has an ending.