David and Leigh Eddings,
The Rivan Codex
(Del Rey, 1998)

Have you ever wanted to ask your favorite author where his or her ideas come from? Have you hoped they would tell you something more useful than "I subscribe to an idea service" or "I keep a little man chained up in my basement"? Well, in The Rivan Codex, David Eddings tells us exactly where he got his inspiration for the Belgariad and the Malloreon.

Eddings actually started out to write Serious Fiction. Then, bored one morning he drew a map of a land that did not exist which he then filed away for several years until the day he realized that The Lord of the Rings was in its seventy-eighth printing. And suddenly that map did not seem like such a doodle anymore.

The Rivan Codex begins with an introduction by Eddings explaining where he got his ideas, recommending that if one is planning to write fantasy, one should read medieval fiction which, unlike Victorian fiction, does not conveniently forget that boys and girls are different in very interesting ways. He gives some details of his life, mentioning his military service, his career as a teacher and his on and off career as a grocery store clerk. He also gives some tips for writing a good fantasy.

After the introduction, the book moves right into the background texts for the Belgariad, things which did not necessarily appear in the book, but which helped Eddings flesh out the series. These include "The Personal History of Belgarath the Sorcerer," "The Book of Alorn" (and all the other holy books of the various races), and histories of each of the Twelve Kingdoms, as written by the scholars of the Imperial Historical Society of Tolnedra, beginning as is fitting, with the Empire.

A short intermission follows, with more commentary by Eddings, and then the background material for the Malloreon appears. This is a much shorter section, because much of the civilized world had already been detailed in the studies for the Belgariad. Closing out the book is an afterword in which Eddings dares his reader to become more familiar with the classics of the fantasy genre.

The Rivan Codex is a fascinating study of what is involved in the crafting of a believable fantasy world, told with Eddings' characteristic dry wit. There is included in the second section a diary of King Anheg of Cherek that is absolutely hilarious in spots. Unlike the many books of J.R.R. Tolkien's notes that have been edited together and published, The Rivan Codex is quite readable and quite enjoyable. It also makes a good textbook for the beginning writer wondering just how to go about writing a fantasy epic -- and where to get a good idea.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]



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