Wikipedia defines GrimDark as something that is “particularly dystopian, amoral, or violent” and that’s pretty much the definition of what I do not like in my fantasy books.
When I read fantasy, I want the heroes to be good people at their core. I want a world that’s essentially worth saving and not a dystopia that basically deserves going down the drain anyway and while violence is nothing I abhor, it’s something that should be used sparingly and only if necessary for the story.
Fortunately, “Pawn of Prophecy”, the first volume of “The Belgariad” is quite the opposite of GrimDark and pretty much exactly what I outlined above:
Garion, a young farmhand, tutored by his “Aunt Pol” grows up on the farm of a modest, good-natured man who cares about his people. When strangers arrive at the farm, Pol and an elderly story-teller, “Mister Wolf”, come to the conclusion it’s time to make a move of their own and so they leave with Garion and the local blacksmith to go on a dangerous trip through the land, searching for a dangerous ancient artefact and its thief. They’re closely followed by their mysterious adversaries at each step…
A lot of this book reminded me of Tolkien and I suspect Eddings was inspired by Lord of the Rings to some extent. The story, albeit simple so far, is original enough, though, to have kept me entertained throughout the entire about 80.000 words and I was actually surprised when I hit the end of the ebook edition I was reading.
Of course, this being a somewhat simple story, there’s no philosophical depth to be expected or huge new insights into life, the universe and everything to be gleaned but even simple truths are helping me feel “at home” in a book and in this particular case, I was captured by the very first paragraph of the first chapter already:
“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.”
As everyone knows, the kitchen is the (secret) haven of any respectable home and the heart of every good party as well as the place where said party starts and ends. As such, it is only fitting for any respectable book to start right there!
That and quite a bit of humour…
“My Master wanted me to move a rock,” Wolf said. “He seemed to think that it was in his way. I tried to move it, but it was too heavy. After a while I got angry, and I told it to move. It did. I was a little surprised, but my Master didn’t seem to think it so unusual.”
… are good enough for me to be happy.
Anyway, depth and insights are not required for my personal taste in fantasy anyway, though, and so I enjoyed this book for what it was – an excellent start into a work of epic fantasy that’s new to me.
That said: Please excuse me while I start devouring the next book in the series…