High Fantasy Reviews

Castle of Wizardry

[openbook booknumber=”9780345335708″][rating:5/5]

It had all begun with the theft of the Orb that had so long protected the West from the evil God Torak. Before that, Garion had been a simple farm boy. Afterward, he discovered that his aunt was really the Sorceress Polgara and his grandfather was Belgarath, the Eternal Man. Then, on the long quest to recover the Orb, Garion found to his dismay that he, too, was a sorcerer.

Now, at last, the Orb was regained and the quest was nearing its end. Of course, the questors still had to escape from this crumbling enemy fortress and flee across a desert filled with Murgo soldiers searching for them, while Grolim Hierarchs strove to destroy them with dark magic. Then, somehow, they must manage to be in Riva with the Orb by Erastide. After that, however, Garion was sure that his part in these great events would be finished.

But the Prophecy still held future surprises for Garion–and for the little princess Ce’Nedra.

This continues the magnificent epic of The Belgariad, begun in Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician’s Gambit–a fantasy set against a background of the war of men, Kings, and Gods that had spanned seven thousand years–a novel of fate, strange lands, and a prophecy that must be fulfilled!

In the fourth book of the Belgariad, The Castle of Wizardry, all the set up from the series so far finally come to fruition and the stage is set for the final book. Picking up where the story left off Garion finds himself leading the small group as Belgarath is out of it after the last show down and Polgara is maintaining a shield to protect Errand. What follows is Garion not just making the journey into adult hood but also stepping up into a position of responsibility and authority. Garion finally grows up and it is wonderful to see.

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Magician’s Gambit

[openbook booknumber=”0345335457″][rating:5/5]

Ce’Nedra, Imperial Princess of Tolnedra, had joined a dangerous mission to recover the stolen Orb that supposedly protected the West from the evil God Torak. And somehow, she found herself feeling quite tender for Garion, the innocent farm boy, who would be forced into the strange tower in the center of all evil to retrieve the Orb by himself.

It’s always a little difficult to review a fantasy book that is smack dab in the middle of a series and Magician’s Gambit is no exception. Fortunately it is quite different from the two books that came before it. For one the standard plot arc of entering a new kingdom and having Garion be the only one observant enough to notice a coup or a nefarious character attempting to instigate war is not present. Instead the book opens with the story being told from the view-point of Ce’Nedra, the Tolnedran princess who ran away from her father only to find herself mixed up in Belgarath’s quest for the Orb. While both Garion and Ce’Nedra have come a long way since they met, they are still very much teenagers and spend most of this book squabbling in one way or another. It is on one hand cute but on the other quickly becomes mildly annoying.

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Graceling

[openbook booknumber=”9780547258300″][rating:4/5]

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more.

When you are as much of a fan of fantasy as I am you end up reading about a lot of awesome adventures, surreal magic, fantastical worlds, and thrilling battles, you also unfortunately read a lot of sexist crap. Women can do this, they can’t do that. Women either marry or go into the convent or become a shrew. Women can’t fight, can’t defend themselves, can’t learn certain trades, can’t rule, can’t lead, can’t strategize, can’t go anywhere alone, or do anything without men’s approval. It. Gets. Grating. This coming from someone who loves fantasy but who also gets a little sick of being told what her gender can and can’t do all the time.

Then comes Graceling. What am awesome, surreal, fantastical, and thrilling breath of fresh air! Graceling is set in a medieval era Europeanish world called The Seven Kingdoms. There are wonderfully complex politics at play and fiendish plots afoot and then we get to the people. Certain people within the various kingdoms are called Gracelings, these people have been Graced with a specific talent. Our main character, Katsa, learns at the tender age of eight that she has been Graced with the talent of killing people when she accidentally kills her step cousin who was making unwanted advances.

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Queen of Sorcery

[openbook booknumber=”0345335651″][rating:5/5]

The master Sorcerer Belgarath and his daughter Polgara the arch-Sorceress were on the trail of the Orb, seeking to regain its saving power before the final disaster prophesized by the legends. And with them went Garion, a simple farm boy only months before, but now the focus of the struggle. He had never believed in sorcery and wanted no part of it. Yet with every league they traveled, the power grew in him, forcing him to acts of wizardry he could not accept.

Queen of Sorcery picks up where Pawn of Prophecy left off with the ever-growing group headed by Belgarath, along with his daughter Polgara and her charge Garion, chasing the stolen Orb of Aldur. The adventure continues, and small skirmishes and battles ensue as the group travels on theie quest. Intrigue is uncovered in far off cities. Whole new cultures are shown, very different from the ones we knew before. Plus new characters are introduced that promise to delight and vex us all.

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Pawn of Prophecy

[openbook booknumber=”0345335511″] [rating:5/5]

Long ago, the Storyteller claimed, in this first book of THE BELGARIAD, the evil god Torak drove men and Gods to war. But Belgarath the Sorcerer led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the West. So long as it lay at Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But Garion did not believe in such stories. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved–but did not know…?

The series The Belgariad was my first introduction into the world of high fantasy when I was a kid. While it sticks to standard fantasy fair it does so in a way that is accessible to a younger reader. It is also just a fun book to read. There is adventure and magic, warriors and sorcerers and evil gods, and a boy in the middle of it all who starts to realize he is no ordinary boy.

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