Since I was first introduced to the writings of David Eddings, through the best selling series, The Belgariad, at the age of 11, I have had a real affection for the seemingly realistic characters and simple yet exciting writing style that Eddings had so cleverly utilised to draw the reader into his fantasy world. Since then, I have come to think of Eddings as the king of modern fantasy writing, and I feel that the final book, The Sapphire Rose, in his series The Elenium, has upheld his title.
The world that Eddings has created in the series The Elenium, has a complex series of religions and races that are spherically different yet are interactive with each other. The religious zealots that are inherent with any religions, be they fantasy or in the real world, are the story keys and can simply described as good and evil, dependent on the religions and their role in the aiding or thwarting of the heroes journey.
The Sapphire Rose continues from the first two books in the trilogy, The Diamond Throne and The Ruby Knight telling the story of the short-tempered, Sparhawk, the Queens Champion and member of legendary Pandion Knights. The trilogy follows Sparhawk and his quest to find the magical jewel Bhelliom to cure his poisoned queen, along with the help of his band of companions, including, the powerful and wise Sephrenia of the Styric religion, her goddess Aphrael.
The medium paced and predictable plot of the first two books is spiced up quiet a bit in The Sapphire Rose. Eddings simple writing style enables the reader to keep track of the action and the characters, yet creates many twists and turns, adding surprises, that even the most critical fantasy reader would not anticipate. This is demonstrated in the plot intrigue when Sparhawk, having managed to retrieve the Bhelliom and cure his queen, the logical end to the trilogy, finds that he now must wage a war on the evil Styric god Azash and his followers, and must demonstrate his faith, which he is sceptical of, by taking the Bhelliom right into Azashs' hands.
One of the main things that I have enjoyed about David Eddings' writing is that all readers will find a character that they identify with. Each of the characters, although written very simply and perhaps a little two dimensional in the first of the series, are fully developed near the end of the second book. It is a pity that in the third book the characters, having been well developed in the second of the trilogy appear to have changed in The Sapphire Rose, suddenly presenting with different values. This is demonstrated particularly in Eddings need to make his descriptions more violent then I would consider necessary. Even though I understand that the characters were fighting a war, did everyone have to be constantly dripping with blood?
The impact of the violence in the story line is minimal, and it leaves one wondering why the change of the characterisation was seen as necessary for the author, and if the author was writing to a new formula to attract new readers to his slow selling trilogy. Compared to the Belgariad series, the Elenium series was not as quick to move off the shelves, and this is a possible reason for the change in the authors' direction. The slow development of the characters throughout the trilogy leaves one with a lack of empathy for the characters and their motives, and the new direction of the writing style makes this writer wonder if Eddings was attempting to hang on to the die hard fans, and attract new ones to his series.
It is interesting to note that two prequels to the Belgariad series were released after the slower selling Elenium series, thus demonstrating an attempt to recapture the audience that might have been lost to the author from the change of formula and the unneeded violence of The Sapphire Rose.
Even though the book was slow moving at times, and certain characters were not developed to their best, and with the added element of the incongruous violence, The Sapphire Rose maintains Eddings wit and offbeat humour that has made many readers addicts to his style of writing. The book is written specifically for lovers of the fantasy genre, however it does relate to many aspects of the real world, particularly in the areas of diversity of religion and culture. It does not match Eddings previous submissions, and is a bit of a disappointment, to those anticipating a revisit to the Belgariad world. Sparhawks world is darker, and a little more mature than the gentle and innocent world of Begariad, yet, Eddings still maintains his ability to spin a good story, and in this writers opinion maintains his regal position in the world of fantasy writers.