The Endeavours of Eddings
• The Elenium Trilogy. I rub my hands with glee. To get the good aside; Eddings knows how to write a good, page-turning yarn. OK, here we go. This series is unrelated to his previous two, The Belgariad and The Malloreon, but it's more or less a re-write of them. Same types of characters, same situations, same plot-lines, same pussy-whipped and dominated men...I'm not sure if Eddings himself has been pussy-whipped, brow-beaten and outright dominated by women all of his life, but, by God, he must know someone who has, and I feel dreadfully sorry for them.
The key themes of all three trilogies are the conquering of evil gods by unwilling men, surrounded by a number of attendant ciphers whose purpose it is to add 500 pages of dialogue that otherwise wouldn't exist, and driven on by overbearing, arrogant, wrong-headed and condescending dominatrices. Polgara from the first two trilogies has been re-written as Sephrenia here, and it's the same know-it-all.
Sephrenia, and her people, the Styrics, seem to be a satire or a take upon Jewish culture, with a touch of Greek culture thrown in. They despise eating pork, though they never explain why, they can't abide the touch of iron (nobody tell their blood-cells or general biology that) and they think in purely emotional terms; logical thought is anathema to them. Oh, and they're not allowed to read non-Styric text either. There's a bunch of nostalgia for lost times they'll never regain in there too.
Like all good know-it-alls (and hypocrites), Sephrenia spends most of the three books criticising and condemning the religion and the culture of the hero, Sparhawk and his Elene kin, while being possessed of idiotic superstitions and foibles herself. It's all quite funny to read. I seriously think Eddings is taking the piss out of Christian or Jewish religious hypocrisy here.
A goddess accompanies them for some of the way. She's a brattier remake of the first two series' Errand (Eriond). Where he was a serene and equable fellow (if a bit of a non-event), Aphrael is a heedless and mindless little fool who, quite frankly, has to be one of the most irritating characters created.
Like the first two books, the terms "yes, dear" and "be nice" are liberally scattered throughout. Every female in the book has a man twisted around her finger and a winsome smile is usually enough to win the day. Eddings isn't as prudish as his fellow American fantasist, Robert Jordan, but both succumb to this smug pseudo-cosiness.
• The Tamuli. Essentially, the above series re-written, though Sephrenia is absent from a lot of it, though not enough in my opinion. Aphrael, if anything, is even worse in the perverse and wilful brat stakes than before. At one stage, Sparhawk tries to shrug off her cloying and adhesive manner, to which she responds: "don't you love me any more?" My sympathies to anyone who fell in love with this vile piece of smarmy superiority to begin with.
Eddings admitted in the preface of a later book that his wife had co-authored all of these, though she was never credited. Co-authored, or stood over him with a cat'o'nine tails and a rolling pin? Or she wrote them herself. You'd think so some times. I'm all for strong female characters, but sheesh, if you're going to use women in a story, keep them at least recognisably female (and human) please, and not awful caricatures of overbearing housewives, dreamy-eyed school-girl ditzes and the like.
Eddings has written a companion book to The Belgariad and The Malloreon called The Riven Codex where he expounds on the cultures and mythologies found within. A couple of points he made annoyed me. He refers to Tolkien as "Papa Tolkien" and seems to take issue with Tolkien not having any real female protagonists and how the ones there are are only women from the head up. I hate to break it to Eddings (even if he is dead) but none of his female characters could be considered rounded at all. They're all smiling charm and pseudo-wise domination. Sex definitely is "off-screen" in Eddings' books. Sure, Tolkien never found the need to have Arwen and Aragorn copulate like monsters, but there's none of that in these books either, so, Eddings, what are you talking about? Practise what you preach.
Another thing Eddings mentions is how a writer has no right to create heroic fantasy without reading Beowulf, Lord Dunsany, Tolkien, Eddison, etc.
Writing is a work of imagination. Who's to say it must be inspired or shaped by preceding works? There are enough re-writes of these out there now. Come on, let's advance the cause of originality. If people want formulas, they'll do chemistry at university. You'll get plenty there, trust me.