I hadn’t had any real intention of reading Eragon before a couple of weeks ago: the charges leveled at it (that it’s was a mishmash of preexisting works by Tolkien and McCaffrey, & al.; that its writing is banausic and pedestrian), and its aim at a younger group of readers, was enough to dissuade me.
A recent exchange with an old acquaintance managed to change that when she heartily recommended the book(s) to me; in her defense, she teaches middle school, and is thus always scoping out new literature for young adults. Thinking that, like the Harry Potter series, it would be a quick read, I decided to give it a go.
Eragon is the story of an eponymous 15-year-old boy who comes across a dragon egg, becoming the first Dragon Rider in perhaps a century (the original generation having been killed by one of their own, who assumed control over the Empire). After his family is killed, he is taken under the figurative wing of his dragon, Saphira, and the figurative wing of a mysterious old man, Brom, who begins to train him in the use of a sword and of his dragon. If you haven’t figured it out already, Paolini also watched a lot of Star Wars as a kid.
I’ll tell you flat out that Eragon is every bit as derivative as its critics accuse; perhaps more so. Paolini attempts Tolkien’s flair for language without any of his methodical research or construction; he steals/borrows ideas and events from all across the canon. He even takes at least one name (Hrothgar) from Beowulf. I could simply say that he wrote it at 15 years of age, and thus it’s no surprise that so much of his debut novel is inspired by—or lifted from—his favorite books and movies; that’s not really an excuse, however.
I will say that even though Paolini’s plot is a bit, well, flat, it did at least manage to keep enough of my interest to read through the end, and promised to follow Eragon with books of even more action, excitement, and a steamy love interest with a raven-haired Elf princess (try not to picture Liv Tyler when you read: it’s impossible).
Yes, an editor probably could have cut 100+ pages of useless sentences from the book (silly passages that are nothing but lists of action: he drank water; he ate; he rested; he walked over there, and then he walked back). It’s got the slug-slow pace of a bad RPG, but you do begin to care for the characters, annoying and whiny as Eragon may be1. Perhaps I’m simply too empathetic a reader.
It seems to be that Eragon is the first of at least four novels; I actually plan to read, or at least start reading, the rest. I’m curious to see how Paolini progresses as a writer, and if the tone and content of the novels will change over time in the way that it did for J.K. Rowling. If you’re not sure whether to read Eragon, asking yourself these questions:
- Is Tolkien (print format) too dry or obscure for you?
- Did you like Star Wars?
- Do you like, or can you tolerate, teenage protagonists?
If you answered “Yes” to those questions, then Eragon might be right for you. In any case, it’s a big book but an easy read, and it shouldn’t cost you very much time to consume it.
- It’s been so long since I’ve read books about young teenagers that I’ve forgotten what awfully irritating they can be[↩]