book-reviews

The Redemption of Althalus

by David and Leigh Eddings

Rating: ★★★

Eddings was always a comfort-read for me in my teens. It was something about the epic scope, the moral pragmatism and the supportive, close-knit team of friends and family -- the recurring tropes of his books are just easy, familiar tones. Althalus is the one-book Eddings experience, which I pick up again now after having several times used it as the poster for Eddings' other work. Enough time has passed that I've forgotten most of the plot detail, so it's about as close to a fresh read as I can get.

It's strange what you don't notice. The plot is of the calibre I expected, with the many different locations, the high-level magic-infused war-planning and the varied (but somewhat passive) supporting cast. The younger me apparently got caught by this and couldn't see the sometimes painfully simple writing, or the very troublesome morality of the `good guys'. According to this last, all means are justified, all harm permissible, all prior desires or beliefs must be cast aside, because a mind-altering deity tells you so after having abducted you against your will. There is a lot of objectively bad behaviour that gets okayed in here on very flimsy grounds. In a way, this is realistic -- we are good because we are Us and not Them -- but I'm not sure Eddings or his readers take the story in those bleak terms.

Still readable, but probably less so than it was for the younger me. Sometimes soppy, sometimes annoying (those dream sequences), often a little too twee. But there are some fun uses of magic, and some nice military campaigns, and if you can quiet the critical voice pointing out what is wrong with it, there's a sense of purpose and belonging on offer.