Inheritance Book 1: Eragon - Christopher Paolini

When Eragon was published a few years ago, a big deal was made of the fact that Paolini was only fifteen when he started writing it. It's a fantasy about a boy and a dragon, in a world that will inevitably be compared to Tolkien's Middle-Earth. While I do agree that it's an astounding accomplishment for such a young author, I feel that there were also allowances made for him that wouldn't have been made for more experienced writers.

Weighing in at just under 500 pages (excluding the appendix of pronunciations and translations), it's no small feat. Just turning out this much writing is pretty impressive for a writer of any age. However, just because someone spent a lot of time writing something doesn't necessarily mean it's any good. (Just think of all that email you get.) Without getting into a bunch of nitpicking (which Robyn and I have been engaging in quite a bit), I will say that the main problem with Eragon is simply that it's unoriginal.

Granted, it's impossible these days to publish anything about elves and dwarves and dragons and great heroic deeds without being compared to the 900-pound gorilla of the fantasy world, The Lord of the Rings. And of course it's unfair to expect a fifteen-year-old to top Tolkien. Yet Paolini's characters, places, and events just felt too much like they were written by somebody who had spent all his time reading Tolkien and watching Star Wars.

Briefly: you have Eragon, the young country bumpkin, orphaned and living with his uncle, who is killed in a big explosion by agents of the evil Empire. You have Brom, the mysterious old storyteller who has abilities far beyond expectations, who takes Eragon under his wing and trains him. Elves who live in the forest, masters of archery and magic. Dwarves who live in vast tunnels under the mountains, including a huge underground city whose impenetrable doors sit next to a lake.

The names start to border on ridiculous (how's "Ajihad" for you?) and Eragon, despite all his training in battle and magic, never fails to surprise you with his dim-wittedness. Just before he and his dragon are to fight the climactic battle, the dwarves bring out armloads of plate armor, "an inch thick in places and very heavy ... far too many pieces for one person." What could it possibly be for? Eragon simply couldn't figure it out.

In short, it's not bad for a first-time teenage writer, but I probably won't be waiting in line for the next volume. I would only recommend it for younger readers who aren't ready to tackle The Lord of the Rings yet; but if you're a fan of Tolkien, stick with Tolkien.

Fed to jonathan's brain | January 26, 2005 | Comments (0)


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