If you are a regular reader then I'm sure you are already aware, but I'm in the middle of writing my first fantasy novel called Then a Penguin Walked In.

You weren't aware? Well, good news, you can read it while I write it, just go HERE.

Anyway, I have great love for the fantasy genre. In fact, you could say that I cut my reading teeth on fantasy. I mean, from age twelve all the way up through my early thirties, fantasy books were pretty much the only thing I read (apart from Douglas Adams, Stephen King, and the occasional Star Wars book).Yet, to be honest, I don't read much of it anymore.

But then, in the summer of 2016, I began to get the kernels of an idea for Then a Penguin Walked In, and it got me all nostalgic for the books of my youth. So I've been trying, since then, to go back and read all those old books I'd read many times before. But here's the thing, I'd gotten rid of most of those books long, long ago. So it took a bit of doing, and the local library, to track some of this stuff down . . . and I've barely touched the surface.

I've already discussed the first fantasy book I read: The Hobbit, which led me to the first fantasy series I ever read: The Dragonlance Chronicles. Now, from there, my memory becomes a little fuzzy. I want to say I was a freshman in high school when I read the Dragonlance Chronicles. I recall that there was a guy in my English class that was a year ahead of me and also read fantasy.

I also recall that he is the one that loaned me all five books to the Belgariad to read, which is the topic of this post, but I can't recall if I read the Lord of the Rings first . . . which I think I did.

Here's how I believe it broke down. This fella and I, his name was Don, were talking about books, specifically fantasy. I think the subject came up because he noticed that I was reading the Lord of the Rings.

Anyway, I'd mentioned that I had read the Hobbit and the Dragonlance Chronicles. He then tells me about the Belgariad, a five book series by David Eddings, and suggests that I read it. So, as I said, he loaned me the book and I gave it a read.

Actually, I don't recall if he loaned me just Pawn of Prophecy or all five books. I know for a fact that I bought all five books myself, but I can't remember if that was before or after I actually read the entire series.

You know what, it doesn't matter.

The Belgariad, as I said, is a series comprised of the following books:

Book One: Pawn of Prophecy
Book Two Queen of Sorcery
Book Three: Magician's Gambit
Book Four: Castle of Wizardry
Book Five: Enchanter's Endgame

The series follows the same basic premise of many fantasy stories (even Star Wars): Garion, a young boy raised on a farm is destined to save the world. Then he does.

Ok, so that's pretty simplistic.

Garion was raised by his Aunt Pol on Faldor's farm in the country of Sendaria. Throughout his childhood an old storyteller would visit the farm. His Aunt Pol called the old man, Old Wolf, and so Garion grew to call the man, Mister Wolf.

Garion would also be visited by a mysterious man on a black horse. The man never approached, never talked to Garion. He would just sit on his horse, some distance away, and watch. No one but Garion would ever see the mysterious man on the black horse.

Eventually Mister Wolf shows up at Faldor's and wisks Garion and his aunt off on an adventure. Something has been stolen that only Mister Wolf can find, something that involves Garion and his aunt, and so they can no longer stay at Faldor's as it wouldn't be safe.

They are accompanied by Durnik, the farm's smith who is a sensible and down to earth man, such as the Sendarians are.

They are soon joined by the rat-faced Silk from the country of Drasnia, and the hulkish Barak, a beared viking-like warrior from the country of Cherek.

The man on the black horse turns out, surprise-surprise, to be a bad guy and he wants Garion for nefarious reasons.

It's not long before we learn that no one, other than Durnik, is who they seem.

For those who have read it, you know what I'm talking about. For those who have not, I won't spoil anything, but you'll learn it all by the end of the first book.

What struck me most about these books, even back then, was how normal they were. And by normal I mean that the characters didn't necessarily act like fantasy characters. They were like regular folks who just happen to be in a fantasy setting. It made the book a really fun read.

I mean, they were all quite casual about a great many things, most especially when they would get into a battle with a group of Murgos, the bad guys. Barak, for example, after a battle would sometimes comment: "That was a nice little fight," as he would wipe the blood from his sword. I am, of course paraphrasing.

This was a series I had trouble putting down as our group of heroes quested from one nation to another, following the trail of the item that had been stolen.

What's great about this quest, this journey, is that the group not only picks up a few more companions along the way, but it allows the reader to be introduced to this epic world they live in. The reader does that through Garion's eyes. He's never before left Faldor's farm, so we experience everything for the first time as he does.

And this is a world rich with many people and cultures. There's even monsters and magic. After reading the Hobbit, Dragonlance, and Lord of the Rings, the Belgariad was a breath of fresh air.

Don't get me wrong, I loved those other books. Still do. I've read them all a number of times. But the Belgariad showed me that there was a different way to do fantasy. It was also my introduction into multi-book series that were more than (at the time) what I thought was the norm, which was the trilogy.

Little did I know when I started in on the Belgariad that once I'd finish, I'd have five more books to read with the Malloreon, the sequel to the Belgariad. By the time I was done, I had to buy a bookshelf to hold all ten of them.

So why do I love the Belgariad?

I love the Belgariad because of the characters. I found something endearing about each and would love to read more if Mr. Eddings would ever wish to revisit that world.

I recently just finished listening to all five of the Belgariad audio books and all five of the Malloreon audio books, which was a lot of fun.

While there were certain things I picked up on listening to them back to back that I found slightly annoying, such as the repeated use of the phrase "I don't quite follow . . ." from most every character throughout all ten books (something I never noticed when I was reading them), spending all that time with the characters felt like going home again. But seriously, the "I don't quite follow," thing. Wow, it pops up a lot.

So much so that I know I will include a similar scene at some point in Then a Penguin Walked In.

I've actually taken a lot of inspiration from both series for Then a Penguin Walked In. I've taken inspiration from most all the fantasy books I've read in my youth. In fact, I'd like to think that I've taken a lot of the typical fantasy tropes and set them off in a different direction.

For example. In many of the books I've read, our hero, the one destined to save the world, is given, or must search for, a magic sword.

The Belgariad and the Malloreon hold true to this, as well as the Sword of Shannara. The Hobbit has Sting, which is only magic so far as that it glows blue when it is in the presence of orcs or goblins, but still, it counts. The Memory, Thorn, and Sorrow series by Tad Williams has them, I've talked about that one already. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan has a magic sword, and so does the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind. I know there are tons of others that I've never read or just can't think about at the moment.

In the Belgariad, the item that Garion and his group are looking for, the thing that had been stolen, is called the Orb of Aldur. It is a magic stone created by the god Aldur and it attaches to the Sword of Riva which can then be used to do powerful things, but only by the one person who can wield it. Which, I'm sure you've guessed, is Garion.

In Then a Penguin Walked In, our hero, Dominick, is given his sword of power, called Arakis, quite early in the book. Very soon after it is stolen right out from under his nose as he's taking a bath. He even tries to cover it up at first. But eventually he has to tell the truth and so a group of companions are assembled and they set out to recover the sword.

If you've read the Belgariad, I hoped you enjoyed it as much as I did. I've read it many times and have it available when any of my kids ever come to me and say: "Dad, I've run out of stuff to read. Any suggestions?"

If you haven't ever read it, and you like fantasy, I urge you to give it a try. Sure, it's over thirty years old, but like the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, it still holds up.

Great fantasy always does.

NOTE: The book cover images used in this post were taken from the following site: TAINT THE MEAT. I wanted to contact the author of the blog post to ask for permission to use the images, but could find no way of doing so on the site. I use them here without permission, and hope that the fact that we both love the Belgariad will make it okay. The site showcases a few different covers used for the series based on release, those shown here are the covers to the books I owned.

If you like fantasy, read Then a Penguin Walked In as I write it. Join in on the fun HERE.

How about some Rural Fantasy? Follow the Adventures of Norman Oklahoma as he battles vampires, ogres, and even a mutant walrus man in the rural town of Eudora, Kansas HERE

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