I’ve been rereading the Elenium and the Tamuli, which I won’t do a full write up by book. But I wanted to say a few things. First: the Belgariad and the Mallorean are still Eddings’ better works, but these two series are very readable.
Second, and I don’t know if it’s because a friend recently started a blog to talk about religion in books, but I really got a kick out the religion in these books, this read around. The religion is overt – the main character is a member of an order of Church Knights of a Church remarkably like the Catholic Church (heck, the first series is based on the political consequences of the machinations, er, process of choosing the next equivalent to the pope).
What I love is that while that church likes to pretend their God is the only God, they’ve had to admit there are others out there. One of the other peoples of the world has a pantheon of a 1000 gods (and those are just the younger gods of their people), and the Church Knights actually utilize those gods to do magic to defend the faith. What the Church Knights realize, and pretty much have to forgot to mention to the rest of their people, is that magic is really a direct appeal to those gods, and in fact, the patron goddess of the particular order the main character belongs to decides to take a very direct hand in events, and manifests herself. What makes this even more fun is that she chooses to be a child, knowing full well the power over people this gives her.
The second series brings in a whole other sets of divinities (serving the next continent over), and this is where some religion’s lack of ecumenism gets hilarious, because there are clearly multiple gods about (including the gods of the Trolls, who are intelligent enough to have gods, even if those gods are rather limited, and even the ghosts of gods whose worshipers have died out, leaving them as empty shells). They even touch on evolution, which makes it clear that the gods don’t really have an influence over the creations of worlds. (Don’t worry – that is explained.)
I guess what I liked about this is that it takes an idea in fantasy (multiple gods and goddesses) that definitely has arguments about validity in the real world (and I will not go into that – I know my beliefs, but I’m not taking sides), and very cleverly wraps things up in such a way that anyone could be happy with their beliefs in this world (even the people that only believe in their own one god). There are days I wish our world was like that.