King of the Murgos, David Eddings
Book Two of The Malloreon.
This is where The Malloreon starts to feel like a "Better Belgariad."
Let's be clear: this is an escapist fantasy series. We are looking for obvious heros with obvious powers that overcome mighty enemies. But we want that to take some time. We therefore have a quest, literally laid out in advance (and I mean the word "literally" literally), which we know will take five books, and which we know will follow the same path as the previous series.
If we can accept that we will not be surprised by the outcome, then we can immerse ourselves in the details: the language of writers who are clearly amusing themselves, the interplay of caricature and developed characters, and the modernization, the moral improvement on some of the themes that left the first series with some questionable taste. Finally, it is satisfying to puzzle out the little conundra that the group of heros continually get themselves into.
If the first series was racist (towards imaginary races, but still pricipally racist), then this particular book starts to show ways to move away from that racism. Given - we are still talking about racism between imaginary races, but the message throughout both these series that racism is Ok is somewhat foul. In this this book, we get hints that the authors are re-thinking that message, even if they do not do so fully.
Likewise with sexism, directed at women. In this book we start to get hints that women are equal to men, even if those roles are not fully realized equally. It is more about potential. The trend is going in the right direction.
That re-thinking: that reconsideration of individual character over caricature is what is exciting about The Malloreon and particularly about King of the Murgos. If Leigh and David Eddings had been alive to write a third series today, one feels that there may have been potential for something truly modern.