“Don’t think about it, dear,” Aunt Pol said quietly as they left the village and rode south along the highway. “It’s nothing to worry about. I’ll explain it all later.”
This second instalment of “The Belgariad” had a lot of dialogue like the above. Our young hero, Garion, is still on the road, travelling south in pursuit of the thief of an ancient artefact with his Aunt Pol, Mister Wolf and the others.
Unfortunately, Pol tries to keep Garion ignorant for reasons partly eluding me and – for reasons completely eluding me – Garion sulks and pouts a bit about it but instead of simply refusing to move another inch till they finally tell him what’s going on, he pretty much accepts being kept in the dark. Very annoying and, at least in my experience as a father of three kids (and having been one myself!), not very truthful either.
Plus: It’s simply annoying to me as a reader because I do have a pretty good idea about what Pol and Mister Wolf are hiding from Garion but Eddings should probably have made them loosen up a bit.
The “still being on the road” part is somewhat annoying, too. It’s getting a bit formulaic at this point – the group is travelling, they’re being hunted/followed/apprehended or something similar in some city/town/village/whatever and, of course, they master it pretty much without skipping a single step… Sometimes they quickly and heroically solve a local issue while being at it anyway.
While this book is still suspenseful, at times I found myself in the position of any kid ever travelling longer than five
seconds minutes and, thus, asking: Are we there yet?
And the answer to this question dreaded by every parent (because it will most likely be repeated ad infinitum!) with respect to this book? No, it’s a little longer yet – because not even at the end of “Queen of Sorcery” are we there.
Another small gripe of mine is that nobody really ever changes: I might expect and be more tolerant about this if it only applied to the older members of the party but, alas, Garion himself doesn’t change much either. Very slightly, maybe. Only at the very end of the book do we get a glance at a somewhat more reflective Garion. (Even though his childish petulance keeps coming up: ““I don’t need any instruction,” he protested, his tone growing sullen.”)
The worst issue, though, comes up when Garion finally grows a pair and rightly tells Aunt Pol off (I cheered!):
“Well, I’m tired of being manipulated. You and I are finished!”
Pol’s answer to that made me fume with rage:
“We will never be finished. You owe me too much for that!”
Eh, what? No, Pol, our children don’t owe us anything. We may have carried them as babies, pampered them – whatever. All of that was our very own decision. We decide to become parents in the first place (in this day and age) and we know (to some degree at least) what that means long before it actually happened.
Whatever we might sacrifice as parents, it’s our decision and does not create any kind of debt or obligation our children might have to repay. (Oh, and just in case you wondered: the best answer to the above statement is: “Ok, shall I explain the washing machine, the oven, [etc. etc.] to you then?“)
In this case this is even more obvious since Pol actively keeps Garion in the dark about certain things about which she owes Garion a proper explanation.
Nevertheless, the richness of the story-telling and attention to amusing details (“Right now he’s telling me about the day he learned to fly,” Aunt Pol said. “That’s a very important day for a bird.”) still made me want to keep reading and ultimately kept things interesting enough.
Let’s see what Magician’s Gambit brings…
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