David Eddings, The Diamond Throne (Ballantine Books, 1989)
David Eddings, The Ruby Knight (Ballantine Books, 1990)
David Eddings, The Sapphire Rose (Ballantine Books, 1991)
In the Introduction to The Rivan Codex, David Eddings lists the ten central elements of good fantasy: a theology, the quest, the magic thingamajig, the hero, the wizard, the heroine, the diabolical villain, the (male) companions on the quest, the ladies in attendance on these companions and the rulers and government officials. I am going to start my review of his series The Elenium by examining these elements.
Theology: The lands in the Elenium are not theocracies, but their complex religious beliefs are at the core of their social organization. Each country and race in Eosia has one or more gods of various levels of power (the Elene God, the Elder and Younger Gods of Styricum, the Troll Gods, etc.). In general, people worship their own god or gods, but acknowledge that others' deities exist. Followers of the Elene God are partial exceptions to this. Their hierarchy denies the reality of any other gods, but their orders of chivalry (the Church Knights Pandions, Cyrinics, Alciones and Genidians) depend on Styric mystics and their gods to perform magic.
Quest: To find the Bhelliom and use its power to cure the poisoned Queen Ehlana of Elenia, and then to dispose of the Bhelliom.
Magic thingamajig: The Bhelliom, or Sapphire Rose, a gem that gives its owner vast power.
Hero: Sparhawk, hereditary Queen's Champion, a Pandion knight sans peur et sans reproche, a valiant warrior and model of courtesy.
Wizard: Sephrenia, the Styric priestess of the Child-Goddess Aphrael, who has tutored the Pandions in magic for centuries.
Heroine: Ehlana, Queen of Elenia. She is much younger than Sparhawk, but greatly in love with him. She is spoiled, imperious, shrewd and beautiful exactly what one would expect of a storybook princess.
Diabolical villain: The evil Zemoch God Azash, along with his minions the archprelate Annias, the renegade Pandion Martel and Martel's flunkey Krager.
Male companions on the quest: Sparhawk's squire Kalten and horse Faran (definitely male, and definitely a companion, not a beast of burden); two other Pandions (Kalten and the novice Berit); the representatives of the other orders of Church Knights (Tynian the Alcione, Bevier the Cyrinic, Ulath the Genidian); and the lad Talen.
Attendant ladies: Kalten has a wife, Aslade, at home, and Sparhawk is pledged to Queen Ehlana, but the other Church Knights are unattached. Sephrenia in no way falls into this category. Perhaps the little Styric girl they call Flute is the closest the companions on the quest have to an attendant lady and that's not very.
Rulers and government officials: These include the royal family of Elenia (living and dead), the rulers of the other kingdoms in Eosia and the religious hierarchies.
The important question really is: do these elements fit together to make a good read? The short answer is yes.
David Eddings excels at creating plausible worlds (once you get past the basic implausibility of all epic fantasy) inhabited by engaging characters. It's dangerous to pick up one of his books unless you know you have time to devote to reading it they suck you in and you emerge, hours later, bemused. (My husband snatched The Diamond Throne off my desk shortly after I started writing this and hasn't returned it.)
Sure, he uses the same stock elements as any other writer of epic fantasy as he readily admits. The difference is that Eddings, instead of tossing these elements together at random, has crafted a witty and entertaining story. Sure, we know there has to be some sort of happy ending (after all, we know The Elenium has a sequel, The Tamuli), and we can guess at many of the elements it has to contain to be a satisfactory happy ending, but the journey there is still fascinating, and we are left caring enough about the characters to want to read the sequel.
The cover illustration for The Diamond Throne is by Keith Parkinson, while Claudia Carlson did the covers for the other two volumes. Holly Johnson did the chapter heading borders for all three volumes and Shelly Shapiro did the clear maps introducing each book and each geographical stage of the quest. My only quibble with the maps is that it would have been nice if the smaller ones included a scale the way the large ones do.
David and Leigh Eddings don't have an e-mail address or an official Web site, but www.eddingschronicles.com is a good starting place for information on them and their works on the Web. Besides The Elenium and its sequel, The Tamuli, they have written The Belgariad, The Mallorean and their companion volumes, as well as various stand-alone works. Their newest series begins with The Redemption of Athalus.