The Reading List: Eragon

Eragon coverEragon by Christopher Paolini

Rating: Avoid
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I know I’m going to ruffle a few feathers with this review. This book sold really well, and it certainly has its champions (though the movie tanked, so they obviously aren’t as dedicated as they could be).

Eragon wears its influences on its sleeve. And on its head and feet and hands and legs and anywhere else it could find to put them. This isn’t so much a story as a high school creative writing project by a fantasy-obsessed teen. Others have pointed out just how much Paolini has borrowed, so I won’t rabbit on too much. Let’s just say that this book is pure fantasy-novel comfort food: absolutely nothing new, no surprises and chock full of the cliches you’d expect in a book about a dragon. You’re also provided with more sub-Tolkien-style names than the average reader could probably stomach.

Here’s a way to know if you’ll like this book more than I did. Eragon’s uncle Garrow is killed by a band of Ra’zac. He’s taken in by wise old Brom. They meet Murtagh, son of the evil Morzan, and travel to places such as Gil’ead, Farthen Dûr, the Hadarac Desert and Ellesméra. They have to face off against big baddy Galbatorix, tyrannical king of Alagaësia. If you can get through that muck of horrible names, the book is yours to enjoy.

A lot was made about how young Paolini was when he wrote the book. Even with editing and later re-writing, it’s bloody obvious how young the author was. It isn’t a badge of honor here. If anything, it’s the only excuse for this book’s shortcomings.

The book could be significantly shortened if the author didn’t need to explain the obvious through inner thoughts and diatribes by other characters. Sadly, the readers aren’t given a chance to think for themselves. The hero sees someone with pointed ears. “An elf!”, he thinks. Well, duh! This happens constantly. And too often, you think “I know what’s going to happen.” And it does. Because you know Paolini’s influences and he has failed to rise above them. There’s foreshadowing and there’s standing there screaming “look, there’s a clue, there’s something that’s going to happen, look there, look, look!!”.

I did make it through, but saints preserve me from having to read any of the sequels. Besides, I know the origin of certain parents from Star Wars and other details from Tolkien. I doubt there are any surprises. There weren’t in the first book, anyway.