Eragon is the first book in Chrstopher Paolini’s Inheritance series. It was officially published in 2003 (the first edition was published in 2002). It is based around a teenage boy, Eragon, and the dragon egg he finds in his small village in the fantasy land of Alagaësia. Warning that this post may contain spoilers.
I’m just going to get straight into the nitty-gritty of this review. This novel has a lot of flaws; and I really mean a lot. The first part of this review will probably be a half-review half-rant, but bear with me, because I will get to the positives of the novel eventually.
A lot of the time, it feels as though Paolini is trying so desperately to give the novel a Tolkien-like feel of epic fantasy and adventure, that it falls flat on its face. Location names like Urû’baen, Father Dûr and Gil’ead just feel, for want of better word, try-hard. You don’t need excessive punctuation to make a word sound like it’s not from the Earth we know. It wouldn’t bother me as much if it weren’t for the fact that almost every character, location, and even gates are given names like these. Put three or more into a sentence, which occurs more often than is needed, and the voice in my head just speaks gibberish for half the sentence because I can’t be bothered trying to pronounce words when I can’t even remember what they’re referring to. Yet the fact that I don’t remember what they’re referring to (and usually skim over them) doesn’t make the plot any more difficult t understand than it should.
This is another problem with the language, A large number of new names are difficult enough to remember as it is, but when these names don’t even have any vague resemblance to words in modern English, remembering their pronunciation and what they are the names of becomes a tiresome and difficult task. The unusual language in itself just seems so unnecessary and I honestly can’t take it seriously considering its whole point (I can only assume) is to make the adventure feel more grand and important.
One of the serious major flaws in the novel was almost the complete lack of distinguishable characters. Normally, I wouldn’t mind too much because women in fantasy novels are usually pretty scarce, but in Eragon it was startlingly obvious. I can remember only six female characters in the 500 page novel who were given a name and actually appeared (as opposed to being in a flashback). Of those, only three of them were given any discernible characterisation, and only one of these two was actually human (one was an elf and the other a dragon, who I don’t even know should be counted). Forget about the Bechdel Test, this novel didn’t even have a single conversation between two named women. I realise Paolini was only 15 when he wrote the novel, but this is no excuse for having such a complete lack of women in a novel that has no difficulty in creating a wide variety of male characters.
Then, there’s the actual writing. Most of the time it’s pretty good except in two situations; when there’s something exciting or emotional occurring, and when a new area is entered. I’ll talk about the latter first. Long story short, Paoilini sucks at descriptions. This wasn’t overly noticeable at first until late in the novel (mostly because there weren’t very intricate new locations) but when Paolini described a new location it is one of the most boring things I have ever read. Some of the time, I couldn’t even be bothered scanning the description, but instead skipped whole paragraphs in a desperate attempt to reach the plot. True, I’m not a fan of lengthy descriptions in novels, but even the page-long descriptors in classic novels like The Lord of the Rings and Sherlock Holmes held my interest to some extent. Yet the long descriptions of hallways and rooms that we only see once in dull a dull and monotonous manner really just made me want to put the book down and stop reading.
Now, the former; the writing in scenes when there’s something exciting or emotional occurring. The writing is pretty good when it come to the day-to-day activities (usually the more dull parts of a novel) but the moment there’s a big battle or something, I find that the novel reaches it’s most boring points. It’s almost as if I don’t care anymore. Although, this could be because in almost every major fight scene to date Eragon ends up being predictably knocked out partway through. Then there’s the emotional scenes. About halfway through, a character we’ve known from the very beginning and had grown on the reader to an extent, dies. This is the second major death in the novel and the first which involves a character we’ve known for a while.Can I just say, I cry extremely easily. Those 30 second Worksafe ads you see on TV make me cry every single time. Yet this novel? Nothing. Even less than that, I didn’t even feel remotely sad. During the pages of grief and mourning all I could think was “get over it”. Maybe I just wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters? But a good writer should make me emotionally invested. And Paolini just didn’t.
You’ve probably noticed by now that I keep using one word in particular; unnecessary. There is just so much unnecessary blabber hiding the actually interesting plot that I almost considered not reading to the end.
With all this negativity, it may seem as though the novel has no positive points at all, however it does. Although small moments in the plot may be overly cliché and predictable, overall I don’t have much of an idea where the story is going. I want to keep reading and I want to know what happens next. That’s one of the main things I look for in a novel.
The vocabulary throughout the Eragon is also extraordinary. I often found myself surprised that a book written by a 15-year-old could have such sophisticated language. Yet even though the language is quite complex at times, it doesn’t to any extent make the novel more difficult to read.
In the end, I’d like to say that although Eragon needs a large amount of improvement in the aspect of female characters and unnecessary bits and pieces, considering that Paolini is so young. Do I recommend it? Probably not, but I will have to finish the rest of the series before I give a definitive decision.
Rating; 2/5 stars
Book cover: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eragon