I was quite shocked to read that fantasy writer David Eddings died a couple of weeks ago. (Sometimes the internet is just useless for news.) He and his wife, who died in 2007, wrote several books that were absolutely central to my youth and my development as a writer.
The Belgariad and The Malloreon, and above all Belgarath the Sorcerer, were books that I read over and over as an adolescent. I still go back and read bits of Belgarath the Sorcerer every now and then, even though I know almost the entire novel by heart.
Some people may be surprised by this. Eddings is not known as a particularly intellectual writer, and he is certainly no longer fashionable. He himself had no problem admitting that genre fiction is written for money – which is something that I profoundly disagree with. All of his – or their, let’s not forget that his wife co-wrote the books; all of their books use the exact same formula, and most of them are basically thinly disguised rewrites of The Belgariad with less interesting characters. They are, in fact, at times almost unreadable.
But The Belgariad and the books related to it are magical. They have about a trillion serious flaws, which I am much more aware of now than I was when I first read them, but despite that, the books make that subtle leap from being nothing but words to being art. The magic that makes characters like Belgarath work, that makes them real, is all there. Belgarath lives. And that’s still more of an accomplishment than a lot of “serious” fantasy writers can ever hope to achieve.
What is also incredibly important is the sheer delight in language that is present in these books. Unlike some writers (such as the dreadful and dreadfully pretentious R. Scott Bakker) who try to impress us with all the words that they know, David and Leigh Eddings impressed me with how they used words to delight and amuse. They used words to make me laugh out loud, and every now and then they used them to make a shiver run down my spine. And I can’t stress enough what a positive influence all of that was – not the style, not the content, but the love of language that their books carried. For that, I owe them a debt of gratitude.
Also, at the end of The Rivan Codex, David Eddings tells people to go read Lord Dunsany. I did, and I don’t think I could be the writer I am without that. Come to think of it, even the concept for my novel was born somewhere in the interaction between Belgarath the Sorcerer and The Book of Wonder.
David and Leigh Eddings left the world better than they found it. It’s not bad for an epitaph. And if there are worlds out there beyond death, then may David and Leigh bring joy and laughter and wonderfully sarcastic dialogue to them, too.