Demon Lord of Karanda

by David Eddings

Cover image

Series: The Malloreon #3
Publisher: Del Rey
Copyright: September 1988
Printing: February 1991
ISBN: 0-345-36331-0
Format: Mass market
Pages: 404

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This is the third book of the Malloreon, which in turn is a sequel trilogy to The Belgariad. Eddings, unlike most series authors, does a great job of reminding you what's happening with prologues in each book, but you definitely do not want to start reading here.

When we last left our heroes, they had been captured. (This is arguably a spoiler for King of the Murgos, but it's not much of one, nor one that really matters.) This turns out to be an opportunity to meet the Emperor of Mallorea, the empire from which their adversary Zandramas (and, from the earlier trilogy, the god Torak) comes. This goes much better than one might expect, continuing the trend in this series of showing the leaders of the enemy countries as substantially similar to the leaders of the supposedly good countries.

This sounds like open-mindedness on Eddings's part, and I suppose it partly is. It's at least a change from the first series, in which the bad guys were treated more like orcs. But the deeper I read into this series, the more obvious how invested Eddings is in a weird sort of classism. Garion and the others get along with Zakath in part because they're all royalty, or at least run in those circles. They just disagree about how to be a good ruler (and not as much as one might think, or hope). The general population of any of the countries is rarely of much significance. Zakath is a bit more cynical than Garion and company and has his own agenda, but he's not able to overcome the strong conviction of this series that the Prophecy and the fight between the Child of Light and the Child of Dark is the only thing of importance that's going on, and other people matter only to the extent that they're involved in that story.

When I first read these books as a teenager, I was one of the few who liked the second series and didn't mind that its plot was partly a rehash of the first. I found, and still find, the blatantness with which Eddings manipulates the plot by making prophecy a character in the novel amusing. What I had forgotten, however, was how much of a slog the middle of this series is. It takes about three quarters of this book before there are any significant plot developments, and that time isn't packed with interesting diversions. It's mostly the heroes having conversations with each other or with Zakath, being weirdly sexist, rehashing their personality quirks, or shrugging about horrific events that don't matter to them personally.

The last is a reference to the plague that appears in this book, and which I had completely forgotten. To be fair to my memory, that's partly because none of the characters seem to care much about it either. They're cooling their heels in a huge city, a plague starts killing people, they give Zakath amazingly brutal and bloodthirsty advice to essentially set fire to all the parts of the city with infected people, and then they blatantly ignore all the restrictions on movement because, well, they're important unlike all those other people and have places to go. It's rather stunningly unempathetic under the best of circumstances and seems even more vile in a 2021 re-read.

Eddings also manages to make Ce'Nedra even more obnoxious than she has been by turning her into a walking zombie with weird fits where she's obsessed with her child, and adding further problems (which would be a spoiler) on top of that. I have never been a Ce'Nedra fan (that Garion's marriage ever works at all appears to be by authorial decree), but in this book she's both useless and irritating while supposedly being a tragic figure.

You might be able to tell that I'm running sufficiently low on patience for Eddings's character quirks that I'm losing my enthusiasm for re-reading this bit of teenage nostalgia.

This is the third book of a five-book series, so while there's a climax of sorts just like there was in the third book of the Belgariad, it's a false climax. One of the secondary characters is removed, but nothing is truly resolved; the state of the plot isn't much different at the end of this book than it was at the start. And to get there, one has to put up with Garion being an idiot, Ce'Nedra being a basket case, the supposed heroes being incredibly vicious about a plague, and one character pretending to have an absolutely dreadful Irish accent for pages upon pages upon pages. (His identity is supposedly a mystery, but was completely obvious a hundred pages before Garion figured it out. Garion isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer.)

The one redeeming merit to this series is the dry voice in Garion's head and the absurd sight of the prophecy telling all the characters what to do, and we barely get any of that in this book. When it wasn't irritating or offensive, it was just a waste of time. The worst book of the series so far.

Followed by Sorceress of Darshiva.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Reviewed: 2021-06-20

Last spun 2022-04-27 from thread modified 2021-06-21