King of the Murgos

by David Eddings

Cover image

Series: The Malloreon #2
Publisher: Del Rey
Copyright: April 1988
Printing: November 1991
ISBN: 0-345-35880-5
Format: Mass market
Pages: 403

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This is the second book of the Malloreon, which in turn is a sequel trilogy to The Belgariad. You could start here, since Eddings does a good job at summarizing previous volumes, but I'm not sure why you'd want to.

This is the sort of book that gives epic fantasy series a bad name. After a lot of action in Guardians of the West, our band of heroes has been mostly assembled. They set out after the villain through the novel strategy of exploring the parts of the world map we have not yet seen. By the end of 400 pages of traveling they... are on the trail of the villain while exploring parts of the world map we have not yet seen.

What I'm saying is that you'd better be really enjoying Silk's nose twitching and Belgarath being grumpy at Polgara, because that's about all you get. The protagonists collect a few important plot coupons and set up some emotional conflicts whose resolutions are already telegraphed, and that's about it.

After wasting a bunch of time getting to and wandering around Nyissa, all of which felt pointless except for one moment of Errand doing something nifty (often the best parts of this series), the band of heroes ventures into enemy territory as foreshadowed by the title. The structure of Eddings's series is basically Suikoden (collect all the protagonists), so as one might expect the point of this excursion is to pick up another protagonist. In the process, we get to see a bit more of the Murgos than we have before.

I've commented before that Eddings takes racial essentialism to such an absurd degree that these books start feeling like animal fairy tales, which is why I'm willing to tolerate all of the stereotyping. It's Planet of Hats except with fantasy countries. That tolerance is stretched rather thin when it comes to the bad guys, since the congruence with real-life racism and dehumanization of enemies is a bit too strong. Eddings dodges this mostly by not putting many of the bad guys in the page, but in King of the Murgos he has a golden opportunity to undercut his racial structure and surprise the reader. What if one of the Murgos is a protagonist and is vital to the series plot?

I won't spoil what Eddings actually does, but if you imagine the stupidest and most obvious way to avoid having to acknowledge his fantasy races are not uniform, you probably just guessed the big reveal in this book. It's sadly not surprising, since Eddings is all in on his racial construction of this fantasy world, but it's still disgusting.

The main reason why I decided to re-read this series, which is notorious for being a re-run of the Belgariad, is because I think what Eddings does here with prophecy, the voice in Garion's head, and the meddling of the seers is hilarious. The plot is openly on rails to the point that the characters actively grumble about it. I find that oddly entertaining, a bit like watching a Twitch streamer play an RPG. In this installment, Errand does something random in the middle of a Murgo temple, Garion gets a level-up chime, the prophecy gets very smug about how well things are going, and no one knows why. It's an absolute delight, and I don't know of any other series that isn't pure parody that would be willing to use that as a plot element.

Sadly, King of the Murgos has only one or two enjoyable moments like that, a whole lot of frankly boring map exploration, some truly egregious racist claptrap, and no plot development worth speaking of. I probably should have skipped this one when re-reading this series.

Followed by Demon Lord of Karanda.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Reviewed: 2020-12-26

Last modified and spun 2020-12-27