Tuesday, 22 January 2002

David Eddings: The Diamond Throne (1989)

Edition: Grafton, 1990 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 1047

The Elenium, Eddings' third series, is his best fantasy writing to date. Its hero, the grim Sir Sparhawk, helps keep him from the sentimentality and archness which mars much of his later writing, and it contains some powerful ideas and a well-realised background.

The story of this first part is concerned with church politics (medieval European style) in the kingdom of Elenia. Ambitious and corrupt Primate Annias has persuaded the weak king Aldreas to banish Sparhawk, hereditary champion of the throne and his opponent; The Diamond Throne opens when Sparhawk returns after Aldreas' death and the accession of his daughter Ehlana. But by the time he arrives in the Elenian capital Cimmura Ehlana has fallen ill with the same sickness as her father, and Sparhawk's colleagues in the Pandion order of church knights are sustaining her life by enclosing her in a magical field which makes her throne appear to be encased in diamond. (This is one of Eddings' most interesting images.) So Sparhawk sets out on a quest to find a cure for the illness while at the same time trying to foil some of Annias' schemes.

The best part in the novel (even if it is stolen from Hamlet) is when Sparhawk has Annias at his mercy but is unable to kill him because he is in agonised prayer. In general, though, the strength of the novel is its concentration on the political side of things rather than a quest with a small number of individuals which tends to become hackneyed even if it is Eddings' trademark.

No comments: