Book Review: THE DIAMOND THRONE by David Eddings

Title in yellow on grey with geometric grey corner decorations
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star rating: 5 stars
Series: yes - first book in trilogy

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE DIAMOND THRONE: title in yellow on grey with paler grey decorative elements above and below

After a long exile, Pandion Knight Sparhawk returns to his native land to find his young queen grievously ill.

Ehlana has been poisoned and will die unless a cure can be found within a year. The life force of twelve of her sworn knights is all that sustains her; but one knight will be lost within the passing of each month if the antidote isn’t found.

To save his queen, his comrades, and the stability of the kingdom, Sparhawk begins the search for the cure, only to discover a greater and more pervasive evil than he could ever have imagined.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read this series. I am listening to this one, for the second time, on long journeys over the summer.

So the first thing to do is acknowledge the age (late 1980s) and talk about how this really does show. I’ll deal with the Ehlana/Sparhawk relationship (and that MASSIVE EEEK) in my review for the third book, as she’s basically not in this/encased in crystal – though there are hints of what’s to come in this one.

The big things to talk about are sexism and racism, and ho boy, there’s a fair bit to say.

Let’s start with the sexism, as that’s quicker to address. The only women in these books are wives, whores, or mysterious magicians (and then there’s the ill-and-encased-in-diamond Queen Ehlana, which will be a “see third review” when I get around to that book.) Put it this way, growing up on these books is what made me want to write fantasy. I love these books, but I wanted to see women at the front, not in out-dated stereotypes of roles – so I figured I’d write my own.

For a full in-depth review of these books, I’d highly suggest reading reviews from Arab readers, because the Rendors are so clearly meant to be Arab inspired, and it’s not great. They live in a desert land separated by a stretch of sea from the main continent. They wear black robes and the women are submissive and wear veils. The Rendors are continually called stupid and backward, being (“jokingly”) ascribed to their “brains being baked by the sun.” It’s really not even trying to be subtle.

They follow the same faith, nominally, but believe in “great heresies” and are opposed to the “Church” – which is presented as a very corrupt body but ultimately good and just in need of reform. The “Church Knights” have repeatedly fought wars against the “heretics” to suppress their beliefs, and the threat of doing so comes up a few times in this book, with lots of talk about it being very violent if they do.

So why do I re-read these books a lot, if I know there are a lot of issues?

The first reason is what the books mean to me. When I was growing out of children’s books, the people around me didn’t know about YA, and the only person who read fantasy was a friend of my parents. David Eddings is the major author I read in my tweens because that was whose books were given to me as hand-me-down copies (the old paperback size that fitted perfectly in my school blazer pocket.) The Belgariad series (the major Eddings’ series) are the books that got me into fantasy as pre- and then teenager after a historical fiction phase. These books are highly significant personally.

The second is that you just don’t find this sort of epic fantasy quest books with a “save the world and defeat the unmistakably evil villain” books these days. They’re not in vogue with publishing in adult SFF (which is a very different tone to YA), so if you want this style, you have to go old and read with an awareness of the faults that come with them because of that.

I love an evil lord of a villain, of having the space taken up in modern books with the morally grey discussion instead full of world and character and plot. I wish we’d get new quest books published in adult, but until then, to fulfil my love for the sub-genre, I will keep re-reading old favourites.

It’s not really a series that follows the “traditional” quest structure, as this first book is basically all build up to Sparhawk getting sent on the “true” quest (the search for the Bhelliom, that’s introduced in the prologue) at the very end of the book. It has the merry band of questers, though they’re only in about half the book as it takes them a while to arrive (a scheme has to be thwarted first before it’s decided Sparhawk needs help) and then he spends a big chunk withou them.

Instead, this is a book of political scheming and trying to uncover what happened and how to stop it across the continent. Of course, I love the intrigue and the feel of it being classic quest fantasy without quite following the formula.

I was listening to this on the long journeys in August, so I’m not sure when I’ll get around to listening to the next books, but I want to because I do really miss reading quest fantasies in adult that have this feel.


Read my reviews of other books by David Eddings:

The Elenium (this series):

The Tamuli (chronologically after the Elenium):

The Belgariad:

The Malloreon (chronologically after the Belgariad):

Companions to the Belgariad and the Malloreon:

2 thoughts on “Book Review: THE DIAMOND THRONE by David Eddings

  1. Nice review – I’m also a big fan of Eddings and quest fantasy – like you I was introduced the them as a young teenager. If you haven’t read it yet can I recommend ‘Seven Deaths of an Empire by G R Matthews which is the closest newly published adult SFF book I have found to the old quest style fantasy of the 80’s

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you and thanks for the recommendation – it was vaguely on my radar, but I’ll pop it on my “to read in PB” list (the HB looks slightly too big for my wrists to enjoy the experience!)

      Like

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