Lots of Ce’Nedra, and a few other people: the Belgariad, book 4

See Tehani’s post for the comments she gets!

Castle of Wizardry: Book 4 of the Belgariad

David Eddings

Spppooooillllers!!

Me

This may have the dumbest title in the whole series. I don’t anyone ever calls Belgarath a wizard. And what exactly is meant to be the castle – the stronghold at Riva? That’s just ridiculous. I choose to believe that some editorial knob decided that it was the sort of title that would appeal to the BFF fans, and ignored the fact that it doesn’t represent the storyline at all.

The big OMG REVELATION of this book is that OMG REVELATION Garion is actually Riva’s descendent and therefore the rightful Rivan King!!! And most importantly that means OMG REVELATION that he has to marry Ce’Nedra!!!! And most importantly to her, scullery-boy Garion now outranks her!!!!! Oh, the drahmah.

Heh. I don’t remember whether this really was a revelation to my 13- or 14-year-old mind. I’d like to hope not, but even today I try to cultivate something of a ‘don’t anticipate the storyline’ attitude: I like being surprised, so if I can help it – especially if I think it will spoil the book or movie – I try not to figure things out in advance. Of course, sometimes I can’t help it, and sometimes it’s more fun being smug that you had it figured out waaay in advance.

TEHANI

I didn’t read this til I was at least 19 or 20, so yeah, totally knew all the big “surprises” WAAAAY before they were revealed! But I’m the opposite of Alex – I love figuring out stuff in advance. It’s kind of like when people tell you stuff that’s embargoed and you get to feel all smug that you know something other people don’t. Well, kind of the same, cos, yanno, there’s all those OTHER people who figured it out first. Or read the book before you. And the author… Well, it makes ME feel good anyway!

Me

So, yes. Garion discovers that he is rightfully a king. All of that whinging and feeling sorry for himself ought to stop now … although of course it doesn’t. I actually really like the revelatory scene itself, with Garion still uncomprehending and Errand finally completing his errand, and everyone excited – and Ce’Nedra devastated. Eddings never mentions it, but I always imagined her as having read too many Arendian romances and really quite enjoying the pathos of “oh I love him but we can never be together.” And then, all of a sudden, she gets what she wants … but not how she wants it.

TEHANI

It’s true! It’s like a Shakespearian tragedy as far as Ce’Nedra’s concerned, but then all of a sudden she’s told she CAN have what she wants, and that kind of takes lal the fun out of it!  She does do very well with coming to terms with it – and turning it to her advantage. Definitely a product of her upbringing there…

Me

I love Errand, the little boy who managed to steal the Orb. I love the fact that he makes everyone wet their pants by offering the Orb to them out of the blue. The idea of a genuine innocent is of course a fascinating one, particularly when you think about the fact that Errand was brought up by a man who had sold his soul to a malignant god rather than the pure one he’d originally served. You’d think that would make Zedar incapable of not corrupting the boy. And what about the circumstances in which he grew up? Are we to assume that Zedar cared for him so well that he never misbehaved to get more attention? – or does that behaviour not count? Of course, we find out in the next series that Eddings is a cheat, when it comes to Errand, but still; interesting questions.

TEHANI

I wondered the same thing when I reread – between Ctuchik and Zedar, surely he’d HAVE to be exposed to some corruption. Although was it mentioned at some point how confining and challenging it was for Ctuchik to contain himself from his usual debauches? Regardless, there is the “cheat” aspect revealed in the Mallorean, and, well, Errand is just so CUTE!

Me

One of the tangents of the gang turning up at Riva is Garion’s reunion with Lelldorin, now sort-of married to a Mimbrate woman, whom he would formerly have sworn off as an enemy. What I love about their little story is that it has all the elements of a classic medieval romance … and it’s just so ridiculous. Eddings plays it with a straight face, but it just gets more and more insane, until it’s quite obvious that he’s totally gaming the reader. I love it.

TEHANI

All the relationships in these books are fun though – there’s always something that sets them apart from the norm just a little, and the couples all have their little quirks. One thing that bothers me, and I think you’ve mentioned it before, Alex, is the way the women all seem to have some little (or big!) manipulative tricks that make it seem like they are always the ones controlling the relationship. Ariana does it to Lelldorin, Ce’Nedra does it to Garion (and her father), Polgara does it to Belgarath (and everyone), Taiba does it to Relg, the Queens do it to their husbands, and so on and so forth. Which is a bit sad, because while it’s intended (I guess) to show how women are just as able to control their lives as men, despite outward appearances, what mostly comes across is that women have to be scheming and deceitful to get what they want…

Me

Getting back to Ce’Nedra, I really really like her part in the last quarter or so of this book. Garion, Belgarath and Silk are off on another journey, but Ce’Nedra womans up and organises a great big damn army to distract the Angaraks away from his and his vital mission. I love her armour, and that she makes the armourer give it bigger boobs than he had originally forged. I love that she gets so nervous before giving speeches that she feels sick. I love the dramatic speeches, the Churchill-esque eloquence, and then – the cold-hearted, calculated, bitchy climax – the way she manipulates both her father and the Tolnedran legions is absolutely, totally, gold. Although, seriously? All of that at barely sixteen years old?

TEHANI

Hey, we just had an Aussie girl sail around the world on her own at 16… Certainly I can see Ce’Nedra succeeding in this with the backing of the Kings and Polgara, and when you consider she was raised as the daughter of an emperor, it makes sense that she has the statesmanship to come up with the idea and have the nous to pull it off. This is my favourite Ce’Nedra of all the books I think – she’s really shown off to great effect in this section!

Me

The book as a whole has a different feel from the others, and it’s largely the “breaking of the fellowship” effect. We get to see Belgarath being compassionate towards Vordai, the witch of the fens – but we’re not stuck with the three boys off gallivanting. Instead Polgara and Ce’Nedra have – no, they don’t have. They compose the Tantrum to End All Tantrums, and then get on with actually leading the West, rather than traipsing around. I really, really like that we get more of an insight into the kings and how they relate to one another – I still like Anheg a lot. It’s also quite remarkable because we actually see serfs, if only briefly. While they’ve been occasionally noticed in the background – and, in a smart-alec way, Garion has previously overheard the two serfs whom Ce’Nedra meets – it’s a nice touch that Eddings actually includes a little story about how the serfs end up in her army. Of course, being in the army is actually a horrible, horrible thing, and the main (aristocratic) characters couldn’t usually care at all about the people dying in droves around them. But the fact that Eddings condescends to include this little vignette is nice.

TEHANI

Have to confess, one of my favourite things about big fat fantasy is the multiple viewpoints of characters all living separate lives until they come together, so this book is just up my alley! While it’s been a separation, rather than different storylines, the back and forth between events really works for me!

Me

There is no climax in this novel. It’s a classic middle-of-the-series book, moving all the pieces into place for a resounding finale. Which is fine, if you have the final book to hand.

TEHANI

Which fortunately, we both did! Onwards, to the “end”!

2 responses

  1. Ce’Nedra’s reinvention as a war general is one of my favourite things about the Belgariad, and in fact the entire Eddings ouvre.

    I often talk about the problematic theme with Eddings’ women – there was so much right there, but once you notice that all of the women are basically tricking the men into loving them and the men are all submitting to their wiles, it’s hard to UNSEE it. This is part of the reason why I was genuinely startled to discover that Eddings in fact cowrote all his books with his wife.

    1. You’re right about the difficulty of unsee-ing, and of course that extends to the Elenium/Tamuli as well, for the large part. Sad, really.

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