Review: Sorceress of Darshiva, by David Eddings

Russ Allbery eagle at
Tue Apr 26 21:33:13 PDT 2022

Sorceress of Darshiva
by David Eddings

Series:    The Malloreon #4
Publisher: Del Rey
Copyright: December 1989
Printing:  November 1990
ISBN:      0-345-36935-1
Format:    Mass market
Pages:     371

This is the fourth book of the Malloreon, the sequel series to the
Belgariad. Eddings as usual helpfully summarizes the plot of previous
books (the one thing about his writing that I wish more authors would
copy), this time by having various important people around the world
briefed on current events. That said, you don't want to start reading
here (although you might wish you could).

This is such a weird book.

One could argue that not much happens in the Belgariad other than map
exploration and collecting a party, but the party collection involves
meddling in local problems to extract each new party member. It's a bit
of a random sequence of events, but things clearly happen. The
Malloreon starts off with a similar structure, including an explicit
task to create a new party of adventurers to save the world, but most
of the party is already gathered at the start of the series since they
carry over from the previous series. There is a ton of map exploration,
but it's within the territory of the bad guys from the previous series.
Rather than local meddling and acquiring new characters, the story is
therefore chasing Zandramas (the big bad of the series) and books of

This could still be an effective plot trigger but for another decision
of Eddings that becomes obvious in Demon Lord of Karanda (the third
book): the second continent of this world, unlike the Kingdoms of Hats
world-building of the Belgariad, is mostly uniform. There are large
cities, tons of commercial activity, and a fairly effective and
well-run empire, with only a little local variation. In some ways it's
a welcome break from Eddings's previous characterization by stereotype,
but there isn't much in the way of local happenings for the characters
to get entangled in.

Even more oddly, this continental empire, which the previous series set
up as the mysterious and evil adversaries of the west akin to Sauron's
domain in Lord of the Rings, is not mysterious to some of the party at
all. Silk, the Drasnian spy who is a major character in both series,
has apparently been running a vast trading empire in Mallorea. Not only
has he been there before, he has houses and factors and local employees
in every major city and keeps being distracted from the plot by his
cutthroat capitalist business shenanigans. It's as if the characters
ventured into the heart of the evil empire and found themselves in the
entirely normal city next door, complete with restaurant
recommendations from one of their traveling companions.

I think this is an intentional subversion of the normal fantasy plot by
Eddings, and I kind of like it. We have met the evil empire, and
they're more normal than most of the good guys, and both unaware and
entirely uninterested in being the evil empire. But in terms of
dramatic plot structure, it is such an odd choice. Combined with the
heroes being so absurdly powerful that they have no reason to take most
dangers seriously (and indeed do not), it makes this book remarkably
anticlimactic and weirdly lacking in drama.

And yet I kind of enjoyed reading it? It's oddly quiet and comfortable
reading. Nothing bad happens, nor seems very likely to happen. The
primary plot tension is Belgarath trying to figure out the plot of the
series by tracking down prophecies in which the plot is written down
with all of the dramatic tension of an irritated rare book collector.
In the middle of the plot, the characters take a detour to investigate
an alchemist who is apparently immortal, featuring a university on
Melcena that could have come straight out of a Discworld novel, because
investigating people who spontaneously discover magic is of arguably
equal importance to saving the world. Given how much the plot is both
on rails and clearly willing to wait for the protagonists to catch up,
it's hard to argue with them. It felt like a side quest in a video

I continue to find the way that Eddings uses prophecy in this series to
be highly amusing, although there aren't nearly enough moments of the
prophecy giving Garion stage direction. The basic concept of two
competing prophecies that are active characters in the world attempting
to create their own sequence of events is one that would support a
better series than this one. It's a shame that Zandramas, the main
villain, is rather uninteresting despite being female in a highly
sexist society, highly competent, a different type of shapeshifter (I
won't say more to avoid spoilers for earlier books), and the anchor of
the other prophecy. It's good material, but Eddings uses it very
poorly, on top of making the weird decision to have her talk like an
extra in a Shakespeare play.

This book was astonishingly pointless. I think the only significant
plot advancement besides map movement is picking up a new party member
(who was rather predictable), and the plot is so completely on rails
that the characters are commenting about the brand of railroad ties
that Eddings used. Ce'Nedra continues to be spectacularly irritating.
It's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good book, and yet for
some reason I enjoyed it more than the other books of the series so
far. Chalk one up for brain candy when one is in the right mood, I

Followed by The Seeress of Kell, the epic (?) conclusion.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Reviewed: 2022-04-26


Russ Allbery (eagle at             <>

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