Review: Eragon – Christopher Paolini
Eragon is one of the many novels I have wanted to read for a long time but never got round to. At home, Mrs B and I have many bookshelves filled with unread books but very slowly I’m starting to work my way through the intimidating pile. As a writer of fantasy, I am always interested in trying new authors in this field, learning from the best and avoiding the styles of those I find disagreeable. Eragon author, Christopher Paolini, intrigued me, having first started his novel at the tender age of 15! I didn’t conceive the idea of Elenchera until I was 17 let alone start writing a book, so in approaching Eragon I was curious to see how young Paolini would compare to the veterans of this field.
The novel, set in the world of Alagaesia, follows the journey of Eragon who discovers a mysterious blue stone while hunting close to his home in Carvahall. Initially trying to trade the stone for money, Eragon is soon left with a dragon hatchling he names Saphira. When King Galbatorix sends his legions in search of the stone/egg, Eragon and Saphira are faced with a difficult choice – join the king’s forces or seek out the Varden – a race of elves, supported by dwarves, who are in direct defiance of Galbatorix. To stand together against both sides is simply unthinkable.
Being the first in the Inheritance series, Eragon has the difficult job of setting the background to the key characters that will take part in the overall picture. Paolini handles this well and although some early segments are inevitably plodding, I didn’t find myself bored and once Eragon leaves Carvahall with Saphira the book really comes to life. Eragon is a hero inexperienced in combat but gradually flourishing under the guidance of his friend, Brom, and in the adversity he faces on the road. The relationship between Eragon and Saphira builds tenderly, revealing the close connection between them in their ability to speak through their minds. Being young, Saphira is impressive but vulnerable in combat and whatever dangers she and Eragon face things are never straightforward for them. Eragon himself begins learning magic but finds it is a risky business with the loss of control over some spells potentially costing the caster their life!
While Eragon and Saphira are the principal characters, the book offers a great supporting cast for the duo. Brom is something of a closed book with an in-depth knowledge of ancient languages while being a fully competent warrior. He is instrumental in training Eragon to be a Dragon Rider, a group nigh on extinct in Alagaesia. A later companion, Murtagh, also has secrets but is happy to travel with Eragon and Saphira, his motives remaining open to debate until the latter stages of the book. Finally, there is an elf maiden, Arya, whom Eragon rescues and chooses to return to her people – the Varden, enemies of King Galbatorix. Paolini’s characters and settings are given detailed descriptions but not to the extent that I was wishing he would just move things along. His depiction of the fearsome Shade, Durza, was one of the highlights for me while the Urgals are the vicious army in this book, the equivalent of the Uruk-hai and Orcs in The Lord of the Rings. Individual characters’ histories are neatly introduced and revelations leading up to the novel’s climax are well-timed.
Being the first in a series of novels, Paolini was under pressure to end the novel on a decent cliff hanger, leaving you yearning for the next book. With Eragon the concluding segment sees Eragon and Saphira fighting alongside the Varden against a massive Urgal army led by the imperious Shade, Durza. It’s a bloody but well described exchange beneath the mountain, Farthen Dur, and in the aftermath the next stage of Eragon’s journey is laid out before him. It’s a fitting end to what has been an epic journey.
Christopher Paolini deserves a huge round of applause for Eragon. It follows some standard strains of fantasy novels but it’s becoming harder to create something completely original in this field. Tolkien is unlikely to be overhauled as the pinnacle of fantasy excellence but in Christopher Paolini there is a young author with many years of novels ahead of him. All I have left to say is that the sequel to Eragon, Eldest, will be finding its way onto my reading pile very soon.
(Book source: reviewer’s own copy)
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