Review: Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad #3) by David Eddings *spoilers*

January 16, 2014 2013 Read & Reviewed, 4 Stars, Classic Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Fantasy, Heroic Quest Trope, omnibus, Orphan Farmboy Trope, paperback, Re-Read, series 0 ★★★★

Review: Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad #3) by David Eddings *spoilers* four-stars
Magician's Gambit by David Eddings
Series: The Belgariad #3
Published by Del Ray/Lucas Books on June 1983
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 305
Format: Paperback
Buy at Amazon
Ce'Nedra, Imperial Princess of Tolnedra, had joined a dangerous mission to recover the stolen Orb that supposedly protected the West from the evil God Torak. And somehow, she found herself feeling quite tender for Garion, the innocent farm boy, who would be forced into the strange tower in the center of all evil to retrieve the Orb by himself.

Magician’s Gambit starts with the company on a ship sailing out of Nyissa.

While Belgarath and Silk were away from the company, they discovered that Zedar no longer had the Orb. Zedar and Ctuchick (also a disciple of Torak) fought and Zedar fled.. Ctuchick too the Orb to Rak Cthol in Cthol Murgos.

Belgarath received a summons from his Master – the god Aldur – so the company prepares to travel the 250 leagues to the Vale of Aldur. This will take them a month or more.

While traveling to the Vale the company (Garion, Ce’Nedra, Belgarath, Polgara, Durnik, Barak, Silk, Hettar and Mandorallen) is chased by groups of Murgos, all coming from different directions. At this time the company was close to Maragor, so Belgarath decides that the only way to avoid capture was to go through instead of around Maragor.


Maragor is a haunted and empty land. The Tolnedrans declared war on Maragor – using the subterfuge of stamping out cannibalism – because Maragor is filled with gold. In their greed, the Tolnedran armies slaughtered all of the Marags (including non-combatants). Mara, the god of the Marags, was driven mad with grief over the loss of his children. Mara filled the country with illusions that drove humans insane. Especially Tolnedrans. And Ce’Nedra is a Tolnedran. To keep everyone from going insane, Polgara and Belgarath used magic to put their minds’ to sleep.

While everyone else was “asleep,” the voice in Garion’s mind woke part of Garion up to talk to him. The voice tells Garion that although it couldn’t tell Garion the exact nature of his quest – to keep him from becoming frightened – it could explain why. At last! Someone is explaining something to Garion!

“A very long time ago, something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen,” the voice in his mind began. “The universe came into existence for a reason, and it was moving toward that purpose smoothly. Everything was happening the way it was supposed to happen, but then something went wrong. It wasn’t really a very big thing, but it just happened to be in the right place at the right time – or perhaps in the wrong place at the wrong time might be a better way to put it. Anyway, it changed the direction of events.”
. . .
“Up to that point there had always been only one possibility – the original one. Now there were suddenly two. Let’s take it one step further. If Doroon – or you – had thrown another rock very quickly and hit the first rock before it got to Faldor’s window, it’s possible that the first rock might have been knocked back to hit the crow instead of the window.”
. . .
“That’s the whole reason I came into existence in the first place. In a very special way, you’re the rock that I’ve thrown. If you hit the other rock just right, you’ll turn it and make it go where it was originally intended to go.”
. . . .
“We have to get things back on the right course,” the voice went on. “This certain thing you have to do is the key to the whole business. For a long time, what was supposed to happen and what was actually happening went off in different directions. Now they’re starting to converge again. The point where they meet is the point where you’ll have to act. If you succeed, things will be all right again; if you don’t, everything will keep going wrong and the purpose for which the universe came into existence will fail.”
. . .
“When this mistake occurred, it set off two separate lines of possibility, and a line of possibility has a kind of purpose. To put it rather simply, that’s what I am – the awareness of the original purpose of the universe.”
— David Eddings, Magician’s Gambit, Chapter 5

The company as a few small adventures after leaving Maragor before arriving in the Vale. The company meets the god Aldur and have the opportunity to rest and recuperate for a short period of time.

The Vale of Aldur

While at the Vale, Belgarath takes Garion aside and begins to explain more about the technical aspects of the Will and the Word. Although there are a lot of things that sorcerers can do, they are limited by the complexity of their own minds. Sorcerers study for years to increase their store of knowledge in order to perform increasingly difficult things. There are some things that some sorcerers can do that others cannot based on how their mind works. Garion seems to be able to do extremely difficult things very easily because he simply has no clue how difficult those things are. He thinks of things in simple terms. I think this is one of the best explanations as to why the hero of a book is able to easily do things that takes others years of training to master. Ignorance. He’s powerful and clueless at the same time.

“Don’t you know, there are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to.”
-Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)

The time spent in the Vale seemed to help Garion to come to grips with some things emotionally. In both Pawn of Prophecy and Queen of Sorcery Garion could not accept that Mister Wolf and Aunt Pol were Belgarath and Polgara, which was reflected in the text. As Garion speaks with his grandfather in the Vale, he comes to accept Belgarath and this is also reflected in the text. Garion hasn’t been able to accept Aunt Pol as Polgara, however.

“Don’t you sometimes wish that I was just Garion again, and you were the old storyteller coming to visit Faldor’s farm – with Aunt Pol making supper in the kitchen as she did in the old days – and we were hiding under a haystack with a bottle I’d stolen for you?” Garion felt homesickness welling up in him.
“Sometimes, Garion, sometimes,” Wolf admitted, his eyes far away.
“We won’t ever be able to go back there again, will we?”
“Not in the same way, no.”
“I’ll be Belgarion and you’ll be Belgarath. We won’t even be the same people anymore.”
“Everything changes, Garion,” Belgarath told him.
–David Eddings, Magician’s Gambit, Chapter 10

Shortly before departing the Vale, the group meets Belgarath’s brother sorcerers and disciples Beltira, Belkira and Beldin. When the company is introduced to the Belkira and Beltira they received mysterious salutations. Barak is hailed as The Dreadful Bear; Mandorallen, The Knight Protector; Durnik, The Man with Two Lives; Silk is The Guide; Hettar, The Horse Lord and Ce’Nedra, the Queen of the World. Garion is hailed as Overload and Champion, hope of the world. This lets the reader know – if they haven’t already guessed – that everyone in this group is special, related to the prophecy and have not joined the group by chance. After introductions and conversation, the company departs for Cthol Murgos by way of Ulgo.

The Ulgos – who worship the god UL – all live underground in caves. The entire country above ground is overrun with vicious monsters while the Ulgo are safe in caves protected by UL. The monsters and the Ulgo used to live in peace with each other above ground until the evil god Torak stole the Orb of Aldur and split the world. This caused the monsters of Ulgo to go mad and drove the Ulgos underground.


The company travel to Prolgu and meet with the spiritual and secular leader of the Ulgo, Gorim. While meeting with the Gorim the company picks up a new member – Relg, an Ulgo zelot who can locate caves and move through stone. They also meet with the god UL who requests that Ce’Nedra stay in the caves of Ulgo for safety while the others carry on to Cthold Murgos.

Once the company leaves Prolgu, Hettar is sent to back to Algaria to speak with his adopted father. He’s to organize military back up for the company when they leave Cthol Murgos. Hettar was not allowed to accompany the group to Cthol Murgos because of his extreme hate of all Murgos. When Hettar was a young child he was traveling with his parents when a Murgo raiding party captured them. Hettar’s parents were tortured and killed before the Murgos tied Hettar behind a horse and dragged him until they thought he’d died. Hettar survived and he was found and adopted by Cho-Hag, Chief of Algaria. Due to this experience Hettar’s hatred for Murgos is so strong that he goes out of his way to kill them. Hettar is also a Sha-dar – meaning that he can communicate with horses. He’s a very quiet man, not given to general conversation.

The company that travels to the city of Rak Cthol of Cthol Murgos consists of Garion, Belgarath, Polgara, Durnik, Silk, Barak, Mandorallen and Relg. Ce’Nedra is in Ulgo, Lelldorin is in Arendia and Hettar is traveling to Algaria.

After a few misadventures the group finally reach their destination: Rak Cthol where the Orb of Aldur was being held by Ctuchick, disciple of the evil god Torak.

Cthol Murgos

“As a chill breeze blew off the last of the haze, the shape of the city perched atop the crag began to emerge. The walls were as black as the sides of the pinnacle, and black turrets jutted out from them, seemingly at random. Dark spires rose within the walls, stabbing up into the evening sky like spears. There was a foreboding, evil air about the black city of the Grolims. It perched, brooding, atop its peak, looking out over the savage wasteland of sand, rock, and sulfur-reeking bogs that encircled it. The sun, sinking into the banks of cloud and ash along the jagged western rim of the wasteland, bathed the grim fortress above them in a sooty crimson glow. The walls of Rak Cthol seemed to bleed. It was as if all the blood that had been spilled on all the alters of Torak since the world began had been gathered together to stain the dread city above them and that all the oceans of the world would not be enough to wash it clean again.”

—- David Eddings, Magician’s Gambit Chapter 24

When they reach Rak Cthol the company stashes their packs and horses in hidden caves. They slowly make their way up through the caves and into the slave pits that lead to the city. While traveling through the slave pits they encounter a lone Marag slave woman, Taiba. Taiba is very weak from malnourishment when they discover her, so they give her food and warm clothing but leave her there in safety to wait for their return.

The company travels through Rak Cthol to the Temple of Torak. Once inside, they go to Ctuchick’s private turret where Ctuchick and Belgarath get into a magical duel. The two were in the midst of a strenuous struggle when a young boy Ctuchick had with him – the only person besides a descendent of Riva who can touch the Orb – picks up the Orb and offers it to Garion. Something about the idea of Garion holding the Orb scares Ctuchick immensely. In his fearful desperation, Ctuchick tries to unmake the Orb. Unmaking is prohibited so Ctuchick was obliterated. The force of his destruction while in the midst of a fraught duel caused a horrific backlash. Belgarath was hurt magically as well as thrown across the room and knocked unconscious. The company grabs Belgarath, the child and the Orb and begin to flee Rak Cthol. To make their travels worse, the force of the destruction – inside a mountain honeycombed with caves – was tearing the city apart.

Magician’s Gambit ends with Belgarath unconscious and Polgara, Durnik, Garion, Silk, Barak, Mandorallen, Relg, and the child in the caves of Rak Cthol as it is crumbling apart around them.

I feel that Magician’s Gambit is one of the more action packed of the first three books in The Belgariad. One of the reasons I love this series is that there is so much happening. The Belgariad is also an uncomplicated fantasy – the story is not grimdark at all: The good guys and the bad guys are clear (mostly black and white with few shades of grey).

While this is not a YA fantasy, there is no reason a young person can’t read and enjoy this series without adult supervision.

Countries visited so far:
Sendaria – Pawn of Prophecy
Cherek – Pawn Prophecy
Arendia – Queen of Sorcery
Tolnedra – Queen of Sorcery
Nyissa – Queen of Sorcery
Vale of Aldur
Cthol Murgos

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