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The Rivan Codex

By David and Leigh Eddings
Del Rey/Ballantine Publishing Group

Reviewed by Beth Hannan Rimmels

Anyone seeing ads for The Rivan Codex, the latest entry in The Belgariad and Mallorean canons, might be disappointed. Rather than a new novel, authors David and Leigh Eddings have fashioned a behind-the-scenes tour of their most popular works.

That’s not to say that The Rivan Codex is a waste of time Rivan Codex small.jpg (28266 bytes)or a fast attempt to cash in on their previous success. Instead, it’s a compilation of the background material the authors wrote for The Belgariad before one word of the actual novels were written. But rather than present it as a pile of notes, much of material is presented as reports by the Tolnedran Imperial Historical Society, which not only illuminates certain aspects of the Tolnedram mindset, but shows the lengths Tolnedrans will go to explain away anything remotely mystical or magical.

Another section presents the holy books of the various races. In the previous series, readers caught glimpses of The Book of Torak and The Book of Alorn as well as the story contained in The Book of Ulgo. Here they are presented in their "original" form along with The Proverbs of Nedra, which would make an interesting companion to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition in Star Trek, The Lament of Mara, A Hymn to Chaldan, Testament of the Snake People and The Sermon of Aldur. It also includes the Mallorean Gospels referenced to in The Mallorean and entries from the journal of King Anheg of Cherek as well as Eddings’ first version of The Personal History of Belgarath the Sorcerer, which was later rewritten and expanded for the novel Belgarath the Sorcerer.

I would say, however, that the best parts of the book is David Eddings’ introduction, intermission and afterward. He explains that this book partially came about to answer both schools who wanted him to guest lecture and letters he’s gotten asking for tips on how to write a fantasy novel. Don’t expect a sugar-coated answer. Eddings’ is brutally honest as to the amount of work, time and education it takes. He also details the items generally needed for an epic fantasy tale, and lists how and why they made the decisions they did. Eddings’ might be reluctantly addressing this information, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. For instance, one absolutely true piece of advice is:

"One last gloomy note. If something doesn’t work, dump it — even if it means that you have to rip up several hundred pages and a half-year’s work. More stories are ruined by the writer’s stubborn attachment to his own overwrought prose than by almost anything else. Let your stuff cool off for a month and then read it critically. Forget that you wrote it, and read it as if you didn’t really like the guy who put it down in the first place. Then take a meat-axe to it. Let it cool down some more, and then read it again. If it still doesn’t work, get rid of it. Revision is the soul of good writing. It’s the story that counts, not your fondness for your own gushy prose. Accept you loses and move on."

You can’t get more blunt than that. The Rivan Codex will probably be of only mild interest, at best, to casual fans, but for hardcore fans and those with literary aspirations themselves, it’s a valuable and insightful look at one of the most popular fantasy series of recent years without the sentimental overtones many writers succumb to.


Review 1999 Beth Hannan Rimmels.






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