The Redemption of Althalus
Remember Polgara from the Belgariad ? How endearing it was at first that she was just wonderful and always right about everything? And then it was cute? And then tired, then tiresome, then irritating, and finally really annoying? Well, characterization in Redemption picks up right where the Belgariad left off – it jumps straight to annoying without the intervening stages. Eddings has always been a victim of ‘late Heinleinism’ – a disease that causes all men to be brave and foolish, and all women to be beautiful and wise, without fail. Here, he and Ms. Eddings have entered the final, Beyond the Sunset phase. Admittedly, there’s less group groping, but there are hints of it.
The Redemption of Althalus is an effortless novel – but only in the sense that the Eddings team clearly didn’t try very hard. While it starts well, it quickly drops into a careless, sketchy style that is more focused on clever quips than on either plot or character development. In some ways, it reads like the skeleton for a trilogy or quartet, never fleshed out. Magic is used widely, without much explanation, and very much ex machina. It’s extremely frustrating to never know why magic can do this with a snap of the fingers, but can’t do that; why key character Dweia can see and hear this, but not that; and most irritating of all, why she knows aspects of the future in great detail, but others apparently not at all. There’s little to no suspense in the book; the good guys do all the right things all the time. Once in a while there’s a small setback, but there’s never any question that right will win not only in the end, but at every step along the way.
By about page 500 (of 700), the going is pretty hard. By 600, it’s torture (by the way, offhand torture and cute violence are staples). But the end is in sight, so you push on, just to finish. Not worth it.