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David Edding's series The Malloreon, consisting of five books, is set in the same universe as his prior series, The Belgariad, also consisting of five books. (These books are not small.)

Now, I've read The Belgariad, but not The Malloreon. However, if I have a friend who has the ability to read The Malloreon, but hasn't read The Belgariad, would it be understandable for them?

Is The Malloreon understandable without previously having read The Belgariad?

  • 2
    In my opinion, yes, although I didn't have a good objective explanation why. My memory is that it's self-contained enough, describing the background of the characters as they arrive, that you won't really miss anything from starting with the Mallorean any more than you'd miss out on Lord of the Rings for not having read The Hobbit. – FuzzyBoots May 29 at 18:40
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    I suppose so in theory but you'll lose a lot of backstory and plot detail. Personally, I'd recommend reading The Belgariad first. They're not that big. – Paulie_D May 29 at 18:40
  • It's been *cough* years since I've read The Mallorean, but as best I recall it might be possible but there's an awful lot of back story that carries over. – DavidW May 29 at 18:41
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    I would say Maybe you can. as they are set at different time periods (Its been awhile but I think Mallorean is set a year or two later?) BUT, While there is a synopsis in the Prologue, I would not tell anyone to start with The Mallorean. If they enjoy it, I would bet they would prefer to have read The Belgariad first. – NJohnny May 29 at 18:49
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    That's a great point. If they might want to read The Belgariad at some point, the entire half of the first book of The Mallorean is a massive spoiler for the first series. – DavidW May 29 at 18:53
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In theory yes, but it's not recommended.

You should at least know the basic shape of events in the Belgariad before you start the Malloreon. Fortunately, many (all?) editions of the Malloreon start with a prologue/introduction which summarises the Belgariad. So you can learn that overall shape quite easily, but you'd still be missing out on a lot.

The Malloreon is definitely a continuation of the story of the Belgariad: although the plot is fairly self-contained, a lot of the worldbuilding and character development was done in the Belgariad.

Plot

A very brief (mostly spoiler-free) summary is that the continuing narrative through both stories is essentially about a prophesied culmination of a long-running conflict between Good and Evil.

  • In the Belgariad, you learn about the prophecy and the people involved, and everything comes to a head in a culmination at the very end.
  • In the Malloreon, it's revealed that there's an extension to the prophecy and further events need to happen for an even more final culmination at the very very end.

That's what I mean by the Malloreon being able to function on its own in terms of plot. It has its own narrative arc which is separate from that of the Belgariad, although technically a continuation. As long as you get a brief summary of previous events, you won't feel like you're tossed into the middle of the story.

Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding is an important part of any epic fantasy like this, set in a completely fictional world with its own countries, continents, and cultures.

  • The Malloreon does have plenty of worldbuilding of its own, due to a lot of the action taking place in either Angarak countries or the second supercontinent of Mallorea, but it's pretty much assumed that you're already familiar with the countries and cultures prominently featured in the Belgariad.
  • If you read the Belgariad first, you get the common fantasy trope of the main character starting out on a farm with no knowledge of the wider world, so that he can act as an audience surrogate and learn together with you about the cultures of Sendaria, Arendia, the Alorn kingdoms, Nyissa, etc.

So in terms of setting, you would feel tossed into the middle by starting with the Malloreon. You'd need to quickly orient yourself with respect to all the different countries that the main characters already know very well. There's no real audience surrogate in the Malloreon (Errand is arguably a bit of one, but he's not the single main character).

Character development

This is strongly related to the last point about audience surrogates, and it's a common issue with series that have a "five/ten/fifteen years later ..." gap in the middle.

  • As well as an epic fantasy, the Belgariad is also sort of a coming-of-age story. The main character starts off as a farmboy and you can follow him through his learning curve, not only discovering other countries and cultures but also gaining skills and confidence and learning about himself. Some other characters have revelations making you realise they're not exactly who you thought they were.
  • At the start of the Malloreon, all the main characters are grown up and in most cases married with children, although the children aren't old enough to be the new main characters. New Malloreon characters also have some surprising twists (including some of my favourite characters in either series), but the old Belgariad characters mostly remain as we knew them at the end of the Belgariad.

If you start with the Belgariad, you can continue right on with the characters you know and love. If you start with the Malloreon, it might feel like going to a party where everyone knows everyone and you're the only outsider.

Spoilers

Obviously, if you read the Malloreon first, you'll be spoiled on the entire plot arc of the Belgariad. But I'm mentioning this last because I don't think it's a huge issue for two reasons.

Firstly, I seem to recall that you, OP, are one of those people who doesn't care about spoilers.

Secondly, the strengths of this series aren't really in its shocking twists that would be ruined by spoilers. In fact, one of the themes of this universe (a cynic might call it a genius in-universe excuse for some lazy writing) is its repetitiveness and predictableness due to a Problem that can only be resolved by that final culmination. Don't read these books for a thrilling plot; read them for witty dialogue, plenty of larger-than-life characters, excellent geographic worldbuilding, and some really good lead-up to series finales. (Seriously. Eddings prose is so distinctive I could do a convincing imitation of it; his characters are well constructed and memorable; the geography of his world is almost on par with Wheel of Time; and the building of tension before the climax, especially in the Malloreon, is really breathtaking.) Two of those four points would be decreased by reading the Malloreon before the Belgariad.


PS. "(These books are not small.)" Yes they are, says the guy named after the main character of the 4-million-word epic :-)

  • 4
    The repetitiveness is something I think is inherent to Eddings' books. The Elenium and the Tamuli series are very similar to these, just with a different setting. But they are still very enjoyable books. – CBredlow May 29 at 21:15
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    If you've ever read The Rivan Codex (which is Eddings breaking down his writing process), he literally says that every series he writes is built from the same components. The Redemption of Althalus is a single-volume story in yet another setting, but it's very easy to identify the counterparts in that one too. – ConMan May 30 at 0:45
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    @CBredlow Yep, that's what I said: it's an in-universe theme, although a cynic might take it as a good storytelling excuse for lazy writing ;-) – Rand al'Thor May 30 at 8:07
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    IIRC, in at least one part of the Malloreon (somewhere in the fourth book, maybe?) the characters specifically comment on the repetitive nature of their adventures in a rather blatant and fourth-wall-breaking manner. My memory's a bit hazy, since it's been literally decades since I read the books, but that detail stuck in my mind because it formed a key part of the literary analysis I wrote on that particular book for school once (because I hadn't managed to finish reading Hesse's The Glass Bead Game in time for the deadline, and needed a fallback plan :P). – Ilmari Karonen May 30 at 11:16
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    @IlmariKaronen I just happened to be currently rereading both series and just finished King of the Murgos. It's in that book that they first mention the repetitive nature of the quest: Garion notices some similarities when they are at the Great Arendish Fair and mentions it to Belgarath and they begin to keep an eye out for them. – eshier May 30 at 14:46
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As a bit of history. I read the Belgariad first and then, much later, I picked up book four of the Mallorean.

There is apparently enough call back to previous events that I didn't really feel like I was missing information needed to enjoy the book.

I did eventually go back and read all the prior books, and there were details that I had not known, but in terms of story flow, it didn't hamper my enjoyment.

I believe each book also contains a quick summary of the "story so far", so that may have been why I didn't feel like I was missing information.

5

From personal experience: yes, it's fine. The Mallorean is perfectly understandable without reading The Belgariad and does not significantly suffer from the lack of having read it, or knowing anything about it, beforehand.

I did read the rest of Edding's series later, and there were a few times reading The Belgariad that made things I'd read before in The Mallorean make more sense or seem more significant, so I think I'd recommend reading The Belgariad first if that option is open, but I do not believe it is in any way, necessary. Edding's successfully wrote the two series in a manner that makes them able to stand independent of one another.

4

Yes. Though there are a ton of events that happen in the Belgariad that are referred in the Mallorean. Luckily, there are prologues that explain some things that's happened in the previous series, or gives some sort of explanation about the people/areas of the world.

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