The Hidden City
By David Eddings
Published by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress
Read by Erik Sandvold
I think this is a case of a story going along just fine but someone (the author? The publisher? I don’t know) needed it to stretch out into a third rather thick volume. The result is somewhat disappointing. Instead of a nice, direct and action-packed story (the sort of thing one expects in Adventure Fantasy) this story just sort of drags on and on.
It is bad enough the plot of this series, “The Tamuli” follows the same pattern set in Mister Eddings’ earlier series, “The Elenium.” That was to be expected although it might have been nice to see what Sir Sparhawk and his mates might have done without yet another evil god to battle. There was a perfectly good mad mortal antagonist in the story the series really did not need to be a study in Deus ex machina ad extremis. Worse, the story at times hints at a sort of prophecy, such as in one scene when the Goddess Aphrael states a certain combination of characters must be involved or their ploy will not work. However, neither the character nor the readers are ever told why Aphrael says this nor is an actual prophecy ever mentioned, and yet why else would the goddess say such a thing? Well she is a willful little thing, so maybe she only thought they were needed.
Actually, there are a lot of inconsistencies that do not resolve even when, later, one of the characters ask about them, and I could not help but think that they were all being far too clever by half and that a direct approach toward 1) saving the kidnapped Queen Ehlana and her maid and 2) their upcoming conflict with the god, Cyrgon would have been far more effective.
And then there is Klael… I would like to say, “Please don’t get me started!” but it is too late. Now for five books we have been under the impression that the Bhelliom (outwardly, a sapphire carved into a rose, but actually a being of cosmic power that got stranded on the world because it contained too much iron (really) was pretty much the be-all-end-all of power, trumping even the thousands of gods in this world. Now, all of a sudden it turns out it has a nemesis called Klael with whom the Bheliom battles over the worlds that are created. A few books ago we briefly learned that Bhelliom was one of a number of such beings, but there was no indication that any of them were in the general vicinity (somewhere in the same super-galactic region). Now, all of a sudden it turns out Bhelliom is a comic book hero with an arch-nemesis. Yeah, okay, but a vague mention two or three books ago might have been better. As it is, it feels like David Eddings was making it all up as he went along.
Then again the flow of the story feels like that. Like I implied above, it seems as though he would get to a certain point and realize the book was not long enough yet, so just moved the action somewhere else and all the characters had to meander along. Of course part of the problem is, also as I said, the characters are all too clever by half and keep out-witting themselves. Either way, I found myself growing less enchanted as the story progressed. Fortunately, in spite of its flaws, the story does have a fairly satisfying ending, plot-wise, even if it was incredibly saccharine and led into an advertisement for Mister Eddings’ book, Belgarath the Sorcerer.
What I have said about Erik Sandvold’s reading in the previous books of this series stands. He is a fairly Talented reader and can bend his voice into a wide variety of sounds, but I was still not impressed by his vocal choices. Vanion, for example, sounds like a frail old man about to die in bed even though he is frequently shown to still be in excellent physical shape despite his age and Khalad, a young man serving as Sparhawk’s squire, sounds like someone ripped out his voice box at the age of two and replaced it with two sheets of sandpaper. Some of Sparhawk’s knightly companions sound rather dull even when they are being clever and so forth.
Part of the reason for this is that nearly all of Mister Edding’s character have the same vocal mannerisms and exhibit the same dry sense of humor so I suppose it was all Mister Sandvold could do to differentiate them. Even characters speaking in what I call “Forsoothly” with the these and thous, gradually picked up the same bad jokes as the rest.
So all told, the book and the series it concludes has to rate as wishy-washy, fit only for rabid fans of David Eddings and I am sure Erik Sandvold could have done better had he the material to work with.