Eragon, Christopher Paolini

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005, 503 pages

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2005, 503 pages

It was several weeks ago now that I finished boy-genius Christopher Paolini’s first novel, Eragon. Written when the author was fifteen, the book is an impressive feat of its own. This is strong, young adult high fantasy. It’s also extremely polarizing, one of those books that people either seem to love or hate (at least if we’re going by the reviews on Goodreads). Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle, though I lean slightly more toward the positive end of the spectrum. I quite enjoyed this book. I also can see where a lot of the complaints are coming from. Before I address both sides of the argument and set up my who-should-read-this guide, however, I need to set up the plot.

Eragon is a hapless 15-year-old boy when he one day finds a mysterious blue stone in the forest. Its bright colour and smoothness immediately tell him it’s rare and worth holding on to. Right he was: the “stone” soon hatches a dragon, and with it a new path and legacy for Eragon to follow. Several generations have been ruled by an evil king with extraordinary talent for dark magic, and the rise of a new Dragon Rider could mean the beginning of a new era. The story quickly turns into a series of quests, as Eragon is pushed to find certain individuals, acquiring both allies and enemies along the way. As one question gets answered, another is posed, and so the story moves along at a measured and exciting clip.

So Why Do People Hate It?

Frodo and Gandalf

Hark! There are no wizards or short Hobbit-like creatures in Eragon.

Initially, I was surprised. Being outside the target demographic myself, I didn’t know much about it and was thus a bit shocked to read so many scathing reader-reviews when I looked it up. People were tearing apart what I thought was an innocently fun story with solid writing and editing. Yet there was a common thread: all these people were ardent Lord of the Rings fans. Yes, it’s true: Eragon has a distinctly Tolkiensian feel. Yes, I’ll admit that some elements of the book feel a little ripped off. For example? There were several similarities in character names and circumstances: Paolini’s hero Eragon vs. Tolkein’s hero Aragorn; the Elven love-interests for both of them (Arya & Arwen, respectively); the use of old-sounding author-invented languages. Indeed, even the creatures chasing after Eragon were creepily similar to Tolkien’s villains. (The “Ra’zac” were similar to Tolkein’s Nazgul; his description of the Orc race was similar to Paolini’s Urgals, etc.) So what can we make of this? Did the young, new, author steal from an established literary great? To begin with, I’m not the biggest LOTR fan out there (I loves me the movie trilogy, but have yet to finish the bookses). That said, as someone with a great respect for LOTR, I still have to disagree. Eragon (and, I presume, the rest of the Inheritance Cycle series) isn’t the most original of stories, but it’s not a copy. At most, I venture to say Paolini was heavily influenced by Tolkien. So what?

A Word, Then, About Who Will Like It.

For anyone who isn’t attached to LOTR in a deeply spiritual way – you know, those of you who like it rather than love it, Eragon may be of interest. It’s also worth noting that this is suited for a younger set. Not to say that LOTR is inappropriate for teens – it simply requires a more advanced (patient?) reading level. So, I actually think this would be a great foray into, you know, good fantasy (as opposed to the Twilight/Beautiful Creatures side of the genre). I know I’ll be recommending it to the nearest tween in my life!

Have Your Say in the comments section! If you’ve read Eragon, please tell us which side of the love-hate spectrum you land on.
 
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2 responses

  1. I’m on the “love” ish side of the spectrum. My paperback copy is all worn and dog-eared, and I just love touching the book sometimes because it holds a lot of good memories for me (now I sound creepy, don’t I?) The “ish” part of my love comes from the remainder of the series, which I’m not a fan of. I actually still haven’t read the fourth book, and it’s been sitting on my shelf since it was released.

    So I guess I love the first book, middle for the second, but fall into the hate for the third book.

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