Enchanters' End Game

by David Eddings

Cover image

Series: The Belgariad #5
Publisher: Del Rey
Copyright: December 1984
Printing: February 1990
ISBN: 0-345-33871-5
Format: Mass market
Pages: 372

Buy at Powell's Books

And, finally, the conclusion towards which everything has been heading, and the events for which Castle of Wizardry was the preparation. (This is therefore obviously not the place to start with this series.) Does it live up to all the foreshadowing and provide a satisfactory conclusion? I'd say mostly. The theology is a bit thin, but Eddings does a solid job of bringing all the plot threads together and giving each of the large cast a moment to shine.

Enchanters' End Game (I have always been weirdly annoyed by that clunky apostrophe) starts with more of Garion and Belgarath, and, similar to the end of Castle of Wizardry, this feels like them rolling on the random encounter table. There is a fairly important bit with Nadraks at the start, but the remaining detour to the north is a mostly unrelated bit of world-building. Before this re-read, I didn't remember how extensive the Nadrak parts of this story were; in retrospect, I realize a lot of what I was remembering is in the Mallorean instead. I'll therefore save my commentary on Nadrak gender roles for an eventual Mallorean re-read, since there's quite a lot to dig through and much of it is based on information not available here.

After this section, though, the story leaves Garion, Belgarath, and Silk for nearly the entire book, returning to them only for the climax. Most of this book is about Ce'Nedra, the queens and kings of the west, and what they're doing while Garion and his small party are carrying the Ring into Mordor— er, you know what I mean.

And this long section is surprisingly good. We first get to see the various queens of the west doing extremely well managing the kingdoms while the kings are away (see my previous note about how Eddings does examine his stereotypes), albeit partly by mercilessly exploiting the sexism of their societies. The story then picks up with Ce'Nedra and company, including all of the rest of Garion's band, being their snarky and varied selves. There are some fairly satisfying set pieces, some battle tactics, some magical tactics, and a good bit of snarking and interplay between characters who feel like old friends by this point (mostly because of Eddings's simple, broad-strokes characterization).

And Ce'Nedra is surprisingly good here. I would say that she's grown up after the events of the last book, but sadly she reverts to being awful in the aftermath. But for the main section of the book, partly because she's busy with other things, she's a reasonable character who experiences some actual consequences and some real remorse from one bad decision she makes. She's even admirable in how she handles events leading up to the climax of the book.

Eddings does a good job showing every character in their best light, putting quite a lot of suspense (and some dramatic rescues) into this final volume, and providing a final battle that's moderately interesting. I'm not sure I entirely bought the theological ramifications of the conclusion (the bits with Polgara do not support thinking about too deeply), but the voice in Garion's head continues to be one of the better characters of the series. And Errand is a delight.

After the climax, the aftermath sadly returns to Eddings's weird war between the sexes presentation of all gender relationships in this series, and it left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. (There is absolutely no way that some of these relationships would survive in reality.) Eddings portrays nearly every woman as a manipulative schemer, sometimes for good and sometimes for evil, and there is just so much gender stereotyping throughout this book for both women and men. You can tell he's trying with the queens, but women are still only allowed to be successful at politics and war within a very specific frame. Even Polgara gets a bit of the gender stereotyping, although she remains mostly an exception (and one aspect of the ending is much better than it could have been).

Ah well. One does not (or at least probably should not) read this series without being aware that it has some flaws. But it has a strange charm as well, mostly from its irreverence. The dry wise-cracking of these characters rings more true to me than the epic seriousness of a lot of fantasy. This is how people behave under stress, and this is how quirky people who know each other extremely well interact. It also keeps one turning the pages quite effectively. I stayed up for several late nights finishing it, and was never tempted to put it down and stop reading.

This is not great literature, but it's still fun. It wouldn't sustain regular re-reading for me, but a re-read after twenty years or so was pretty much exactly the experience I was hoping for: an unchallenging, optimistic story with amusing characters and a guaranteed happy ending. There's a place for that.

Followed, in a series sense, by the Mallorean, the first book of which is The Guardians of the West. But this is a strictly optional continuation; the Belgariad comes to a definite end here.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2017-01-14

Last modified and spun 2017-01-14