David Eddings – The Sapphire Rose

With a bit of effort I managed to finish the Elenium Trilogy by David Eddings. The main reason for this is that I’ve quite outgrown the books. I liked them when I was a teenager, which was why I bought them, and that should not be a reason to dislike them many years later. A well written novel, even if it is aimed at a teenager audience, should still be enjoyable when being an adult. Unfortunately I have to admit that this is not the case here. The story is told too much straightforwardly, lacks depth and the writer makes sure that everything is explained to the reader in a not very overtly way, as in, the characters are somewhat stupid. That’s how they feel to me now. As a teenager it didn’t bother me, but now it did very much so. The same counts for the schemes and threats which now seem weak and a little boring. It all lacks subtlety. A lot of pages are wasted on explaining it all and traveling, although that is part of the quest element that each book contains.

I had less trouble with The Ruby Knight, the second book of the trilogy. It didn’t need to introduce anything and it also didn’t need to wrap anything up. As a result it was fairly enjoyable to read. As one can guess the third and last book of the trilogy did suffer from the need to wrap everything up. As a result some things in The Sapphire Rose (1991) become predictable, although Eddings does do his best not to make it too obvious. Nevertheless the obstacles he presents are overcome too easily or used to the advantage of the main characters. It lacks tension as it goes too easily.

What bothered me most were the logical flaws. With this I mean that from the little background we have of the characters I was quite irritated when Eddings added behavior that didn’t match up to it or almost conflicted with it. It was rather brushed over, making it fuzzy. I became uncertain what to make of it, so I decided to ignore it. I know this is a fantasy novel, but some elements of realism are necessary to give the reader a connection with the setting. So while we only had little background knowledge of most characters left most of them rather flat as we had to do with their behavior in the novel. These were distinctive enough, but when you read about them for three books you should get the feeling you know them. It still felt lacking.

One thing, which I think is one of the reasons why I stopped reading Eddings’ novels at a certain point is that almost all characters quickly start interacting in a familiar way, whatever their station or status may be. Everyone is quite amicable towards each other. Many of the central characters are supposed to be knights and nobles. While this is even pointed out several times I never noticed it in their behavior. Most of them sounded and behaved like regular soldiers. As hardly any background was given it was hard to imagine it to be different.

I find it hard to give a good judgment on this series. I did enjoy them as a teenager and they should still do so for that age group. To be honest, this fantasy can be rated as for all ages. The violence never lasts long and isn’t described very detailed. Few nasty things happens and such scenes are always short. Among the books I read as a teenager there are works which I still enjoy today and would have bought them now as well without a question. This is not the case for this series. I would probably have skipped over the Elenium series. It’s a nice introduction into fantasy as it does avoid certain typical fantasy clich├ęs as it focuses on a group of older church knights who are (usually) experienced enough to take care of matters.

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