Home > Book Reviews > Review: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Review: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

This is the second time that I’ve read Eragon by Christopher Paolini.  I’d had a poor response to the book the first time I read it, but with several more recent recommendations, I decided to give it another shot.  After this re-read, I suspect that I had listened to an abridged version of the book, rather than the full text, since this time I felt that it had more depth.

Essentially the book is standard epic fantasy fare:

  • young boy whose parents are, or presumed to be, dead is more than he seems
  • wise, old mentor trains the boy but is eventually killed before training is complete
  • telepathic bond with a magical creature (in this case, a dragon)
  • a quest and a sword
  • a dramatic battle at the end

But for all of that, it’s still an enjoyable read, although it clearly has derivative roots in The Lord of the Rings and the Dragon novels of Anne McCaffrey, among others.

Some of its strong points:

  • Eragon himself exhibits some flaws.  He overreaches, he forgets previous lessons, and he becomes, for a short time, consumed with hate for revenge.
  • There are multiple factions within the “good guys”.  Often, the side for good is too united, which is perhaps a bit naive.  The rebel Varden are strained by tensions between the elves, the dwarves, the magic users, and those following the Varden leader, Ajihad.
  • I really enjoyed the characters of Brom and Murtagh, who again have more depth in their personalities and histories than a first novel might have.
  • I was touched by one early scene where a young Saphira (a newly hatched dragonling) is compelled to stay at a remote location and essentially leashed up in a tree for safety.  Her straining at the leash, not quite understanding why Eragon had to leave her was quite real to me.

There were a few areas, however, that were not as well developed.  For example, other than a few references in the book, Paolini was oddly silent on the tight bond between Eragon and his dragon Saphira.  Other novels using a telepathic, almost predestined, pairing of human and animal explore the emotional link much more clearly — and each separation from one another causes a painful tearing of their souls.

Plot-wise, I had two complaints:

  • The early wanderings to find the Ra’zac who killed his uncle seems quite random and not fully conceived, almost as if there had been a change in plot during the writing of the book.  I also thought the relative lack of clues to the passage of time hurt the novel a bit, since it was difficult to truly buy into Eragon’s education in swordplay, in magic, and even to read.  It was quite late in the novel by the time Eragon reflects that six months had passed since finding Saphira’s egg.
  • The final portion of the novel from the time that Eragon enters the valley of the Varden to the final conflict seems somewhat over lengthy and perhaps a bit underwhelming.  The pace might have been better if the Urgals had arrived literally on their heels and the battle fought immediately.

The ending is well set up for the next volume, which I plan to read soon, since I suspect that Paolini will be more original in some of the plot devices.

(btw, the movie is OK, but the detail and motivations in the book are better)

4 stars out of 5 (finished February 19, 2011)

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Currently reading:  Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom, Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris,  Daggerspell by Katherine Kerr, & Starship:  Mutiny by Mike Resnick

 

 

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  1. Sarah
    February 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    IT is funny that you mention the link betw Eragon and Saphira is undeveloped. That is one of the most compelling parts of the series to me so it must be further developed in the other books. Paolini also becomes a better author as he goes…

    I have to say, my fave part of book one is when Saphira crows to Eragon “I breathed fire!”

    • michaelldennis
      February 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm

      I’m looking forward to reading the later books and I suspect that you’re right. In re: Eragon/Saphira link, there were a few instances (Saphira says “I love you” once to Eragon, she coils around him to keep him warm, the first real ride through the air) but it didn’t totally convince me. For me, I suppose it hit home that it hadn’t been fully developed was when she said “I love you” — it took me aback a bit, so that must mean I wasn’t sensing it much before.

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