Book Review : Eragon

Book Review : EragonEragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) by Christopher Paolini
Published by Alfred A. Knopf on August 26th 2003
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 513
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three-stars

Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.

I first read Eragon when I was 15 or so. At that time of my life, I had not read the amount of fantasy books I have today and gobbled up Eragon enthusiastically. I still enjoyed the novel upon rereading it, but I do not think I would have liked it quite so much if I had not adored the book when I was younger. I still love the magic system, the villains of the novel, and the world-building of the novel, but I can now discern that the writing leaves a lot to be desired—characters are flat, their interactions awkward, and the author heavily “tells” instead of “shows”. Considering that a 15 year old actually wrote this book, it’s still a very impressive feat that deserves recognition, even if the book lacks some serious originality.

 

The novel begins when 15 year old Eragon stumbles across a magical blue stone while hunting in the eerie mountain range, known as the Spine. From the beginning, Eragon is marked as different, not only is he an expert archer, but he is one of the only people that ventures into the Spine, at all, let alone to return. Hoping the mysterious stone can feed his struggling farming family, consisting of his uncle and his cousin, he tries to pawn it off in the village. However, no one will buy it as the stone came from the taboo Spine.This turns out to be a stroke of luck when the stone hatches into a beautiful dragon named Saphira. Eragon becomes the last free dragon rider since the beginning of the reign of the evil emperor Galbatorix.

 

One of the strongest suits of the book is the origin story of Galbatorix, a former Rider driven mad by the death of his original dragon. Driven by grief, he steals a new dragon egg from the Riders, and together they destroy all but 13 of the Riders. These Riders, known as the Forsworn, betrayed and murdered the remainders of the Riders, killing all who refused to swear fealty to their king. Remind you of the Ringwraiths in Lord of the Rings? Me too. Anyways, Galbatorix ruthlessly hunts for Eragon, seeking to twist him to his side, and employing Urguls (definitely reminiscent of Orcs in Lord of the Rings, with their tougher brethren known as the Kull being ripped right from the Uruk-Hai’s pages), Ra’zac, and Shades to do his bidding. The Ra’Zac were my favorite of the supernatural creatures in Galbatorix’s employ, being creepy, mysterious, foul-smelling, and sinister.

 

But I did not enjoy the characterization of the good guys nearly as much as I did of that of the villains. The thing that most surprised me was how annoyed I was by the titular character. I did not remember Eragon being arrogant, impulsive, and quite frankly, an extremely poor decision maker. If Eragon hadn’t had Brom with him on the beginning of his quest, and Murtagh later, I’m 100% certain he would’ve gotten both himself and Saphira killed. He’s just that foolhardy. I think one of the great mysteries of this book was why Saphira chose Eragon out of all the possible candidates in the world; he certainly does not seem worthy of a dragon.

 

It was also irritating to me how quickly he picked things up. Eragon learns to become a master swordfighter in a mere few weeks, picks up magic easily (despite almost killing himself a few times in the process—something that one begins to expect with this boy), and is apparently an amazing archer as well. The only thing he does not really exceed at is using his brain—especially when it comes to women. Eragon meets the elf Arya in his dreams, and it is obvious that she is the one to whom Angela the witch was referring when she prophesied that Eragon would have an “epic romance,” (yes those are literally the words used to describe Eragon’s future love).

 

Of course, Arya is beautiful, capable, graceful, and powerful—both a master swordswoman and wielder of magic—she easily wipes the floor with Eragon on every field. But, Eragon is obnoxiously still concerned for her safety when she does not flee with the other women before the major battle of the novel. I cringed at every single one of their interactions, but that one was by far the worst. This is where publishing at a later age with more maturity and romantic experiences might have come in handy.

 

Though I really could not stand Eragon and found his dragon, Saphira pretty one-dimensional (she’s the epitome of the dragon stereotype, wise and bloodthirsty), I adored Murtagh. Murtagh is the son of Morzan, one of the Forsworn and is everything Eragon is not. He is capable, a strategist, and most importantly, calls Eragon out on his bullshit, something I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

 

“’What else could I do but help you with Ra’zac? And then later, at Gil’ead, how could I have left you with a clear conscience. The problem with you,’ said Murtagh, poking Eragon in the chest, ‘is that you’re so totally helpless you force everyone to take care of you!’”

 

 

I lived for that moment, so great was my growing dislike of Eragon. Murtagh also refuses to let his mind be invaded by anyone, is an amazing fighter, and pretty loyal to Eragon…so far. I often wished that I were reading Murtagh and Arya’s story, complete with their “epic romance” and not Eragon’s. I thought it would make for a much more interesting tale, rather than the typical goody-goody hero and his elf princess love interest.

 

Much of the magic of the book revolves around the ancient language of the elves. In this language, one cannot tell a blatant lie. I’ve read this in other books, such as Mercedes Lackey’s Obsidian Trilogy and cannot really say that Eragon does it better. Likewise, you cannot have heard of Eragon without hearing of the drama surrounding it—that it is a blatant rip-off of both Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. I’m not going to delve too deeply into these countless similarities as they are so obvious upon reading the novel and there are about a thousand other reviews remarking outlining them. Lucky for me, I love both those series and am still able to enjoy the book regardless of its glaring resemblances, most likely because I read it when I was around the same age of the author when he wrote it. And frankly, almost every genre is filled with tropes—this is especially obvious in dystopian YA novels and those are still popular—so I think the hatred this book is getting for imitating Lord of the Rings, the father of modern day fantasy, is a little egregious and over the top. Almost every fantasy novel bears some resemblance to Tolkien’s work.

 

The magic system also makes it possible to gain complete control of a person or thing by knowing its true name. This makes it extremely dangerous to tell a person one’s true name, as this person can than use this true name to gain complete control over him or her. I have read in other reviews that this is similar to Tales from Earthsea but as I have not read those books, as of yet, I cannot comment. However, I always found this an interesting concept and feel that there will be much to learn surrounding Eragon’s true name, especially because the circumstances of his birth and his mother are so mysterious. I am looking forward to discovering that information out.

 

I personally had no issues with the world-building of this novel (other than the fact that it wasn’t the most original), and enjoyed reading about the different races, their habitats, and climates. I will say that it was certainly not the most complex world-building system I have ever read. Others remarked that it seemed childish that Eragon’s world was home to every climate—deserts, plains, winters, woodlands, etc.. This is a very good point, but I honestly did not notice or think anything of it during my read. I was more confused by how the dwarven city inside of a mountain was over 10 miles wide and could not really fathom it.

 

Though I liked the magic systems and world-building, I really struggled with the author’s voice. He has a tendency to state things outright rather than to show them to the reader. For instance, as stated earlier, during Angela’s fortunetelling for Eragon, she blatantly predicts that he will have an “epic romance.” It does not poetically proclaim or insinuate why it is epic, but instead, simplistically states it. Similarly, I was annoyed by how many times Eragon stated during his training with Brom that he was now lean. The boy was a farmer and gamesman and you are telling me he was not already muscular? Sigh. I guess this was an attempt to appeal to the physical ideal of a warrior, but it would have been better if his clothes no longer fit due to increased muscle mass, rather than Eragon simply telling the reader.

 

At other times, the author is unable to ramp up an exciting atmosphere where the reader wonders if the hero will make it. During the largest battle of the book, Eragon is sliding down an extremely dangerous, erm, dwarf slide, and I felt absolutely no tension or fear for his safety. This dwarf slide is something that has killed humans in the past, but it feels very anti-climactic. Instead of a harrowing rush back to the battlefield, it felt as if the author was describing the weather or something:

 

“The stone slide was smooth as lacquered wood. With the leather underneath him, he accelerated almost instantly to a frightening speed, the walls blurring and the curve of the slide pressing him against the wall. Eragon lay completely flat so he would go faster. The air rushed past his helm, making it vibrate like a weather ane in a gale. The trough was too confined for him and he was perilously close to flying out, but as long as he kept his arms and legs still, he was safe. It was a swift descent, but it still took him nearly ten minutes to reach the bottom.”

 

 

I am planning to read the rest of the novels in the Inheritance Cycle, as I never got past the second book, and am curious to see where it all goes. I hope to find that as the author aged, there will be greater creativity in his books, and more maturity in his character development. But ultimately, I am reading these books for nostalgic fun and not a complex, epic fantasy story. If you are someone who gets annoyed by tropes, whiny male leads, “rip-offs,” or most enjoys super serious fantasy reads, you will not enjoy this book. Ultimately, I think the best possible audience for the series is someone who, like myself when I first read Eragon, was dipping their toes in the fantasy pond for the very first time.

 

three-stars
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Book Review - Eragon - Blogging with Dragons

Posted August 10, 2018 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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