Book of April

The movie is the second worst movie I have ever seen, everyone thinks so, so don’t think that you can watch it instead of reading. Watching it will only lead to disappointment.

Eragon

Christopher Paolini

This was the first high fantasy I read, and the second long series after Harry Potter and now I have read it for the fifth time? ( I’ve read it so many times that I have lost count) so I will in no way be able to give a fair assessment of it. It is after all the book that really made me fall in love with fantasy. Surprisingly enough, it is not Harry Potter, while those books are good and will always have a special place in my heart, they aren’t Eragon. The thing that made Eragon so special is that it was really a totally different world, not just Britain with magic. Eragon takes place in a medieval alternative world where magic is present, dwarves are common and elfs are fantastic, there’s also dragons! While that may sound a lot like other high fantasy books (like Lord of the Rings) there are also other creatures that make it a bit more unique, like Urgals and Ra’zac. 

When I read it for the first time I had not yet seen Star Wars, nor did I know of the critique that Eragon had faced for being too similar to Star Wars. Now that I have seen it and now of the critique I can tell that they do have a lot in common (Eragon does it better) but from my vague memories from the next books I can tell you that they do differentiate. I also find Eragon’s story and growth more fulfilling than his Star Wars counterpart Luke. Even the side characters have more interesting storylines, all of them are phenomenal and interesting and different from one another. All of the females are different, have their own motivations and goals and are badass in their own ways.   

Despite no longer being eight years old, and having read a loooot more fantasy since then, I feel safe to say that the story still holds up. I can also tell you that my father read them when he was fourtyish so they don’t just work for a younger audience. This is the story with my favorite magic system (spellcasters actually has clear limits and get tired!), the story that made me fall in love with everything medieval and all things magic. This is the story that started my lifelong obsession with dragons and made forests fantastical. I have even kind of written fanfiction about it (in fifth grade, no one is ever going to be allowed to read it). This is the most defining book of my childhood and even now, ten years later it has the power to make me write a 550 words essay-like review, it is even structured like the essays we write in school (this was not intentional).  

In conclusion, sure, it may be somewhat like Star Wars (Paolini was 16, give him some slack), but it is so good that it doesn’t matter. The entire thing is marvelous and everyone should read it. I should read it more often. 

PS. The movie is the second worst movie I have ever seen, everyone thinks so, so don’t think that you can watch it instead of reading. Watching it will only lead to disappointment. 

The Eldest 

Christopher Paolini

The sequel picks up three days after the end of Eragon with a rather weak beginning. I do not like how the disappearance of Murtagh is told, it feels rushed and unpolished. I understand that it is great for the plot, I just feel like Paolini should have rewritten it in a better, more impactful way. 

Beside the rather weak start The Eldest is very much a filler book. By that I mean that instead of focusing on bringing the plot forward, the focus is character development and world building. It is very much necessary in order for the next book in the series to work. After all, the only way to avoid the overpowered chosen one cliche is to have an ordinary chosen one study and get better. I do really like that Eragon isn’t super powerful in the beginning and even in the end he acknowledges that he still has a lot to learn. 

Eragon’s character develops in other ways as well. He goes from being ignorant to being more open minded and becoming way more strategic. He also learns from earlier mistakes and strives to rectify them. Orik, the dwarf has the least development out of the main characters, but I know that he gets more of it in the next book so I’m fine with it. On the other hand we learn a lot more about Arya, the elf. Mostly that she doesn’t approve of a boy 80 years younger than her falling in love with her. Honestly, girl I feel you. In the end Eragon’s uncomfortable crush hinders her book-development, but it will get better once he realises that the age gap is truly inappropriate.       

Despite being somewhat of a filler book there is action, in the way of Eragon’s cousin Roran. When I read the books the first time many years ago I did not like when the story’s point of view changed to him, he wasn’t the main character and there was no dragon with him. But now that I’m older I find that I actually look forward to Rorans chapters. He’s there to provide the action, a nice break from Eragon’s studies, and from the romance. All of his determination comes from his love for Katrina, and it is charming to read. 

I can’t decide if I think that the ending is weak in the same way as the beginning, or if I think that it is ok. I think that what bugs me about it, is partly that we have another shockingly quick death of a leader, like in the beginning. Another problem is that it feels a bit rushed from Eragon’s perspective, we get some POV from Nasuade (the leader of the rebels) that balances it out, but it still feels like it happened too quickly? I don’t know, something just feels off about it. Weirdly enough I don’t have any problems with the final battle between Eragon and the new Rider. (Major Spoiler: It is Murtagh).

First thing last, it bothers me that it is Thorn that is the dragon on the cover when he doesn’t appear until the last fifty pages when Glaedr appears way earlier. Instead he is on the cover of the next book? Thorn and Glaedr should switch places.     

One quick last thing: I love that Nasuada finances Varden (the rebels) by having the magicians make lace. It is possibly the best thing ever.       

Brisingr

Christopher Paolini

This is so far the most well paced book, it mixes action and other, more time consuming plot things in a much more cohesive way, then the previous books. I particularly love the beginning when Eragon, Shapira and Roran team up to revanges their uncle/father Garrow and to rescue Katrina.

Katrina and Roran are soulmates and they have a super cute relationship. I like that romance isn’t a great focus of this series, beside Eragon’s ill fated crush. But the romance that is featured, is well written and very sweet. Roran makes it hard for all the other men to look good, it is hard to measure up to a guy who literally moved an entire village worth of people and killed, who knows how many, people in order to save his love.

On the topic of killing, Paolini actually writes the killing and the war as traumatic for the characters. Roran always feels guilty afterwards and Eragon even suffers from PTSD. Often in fantasy books the characters just go thru the war without any lasting means from it (especially in “older” fantasy, think Harry Potter) so it is (and was) refreshing to see characters that face realistic consequences of war. 

This is the book when many questions are answered, for example how does Galbatorix have so much power. The answer is magical and therefore can’t be realistic, but in this world it feels believable. The dragons have an extra “heart” in their body, that can be spit out and then works as a source of power, also their consciousness lives on in it. Paolini foreshadows the answer a lot in the earlier books, such a way that younger me did not pick up on it (it is not too obvious) but nowadays me thinks it is clever. It is not just the power thing that is foreshadowed, and nowadays me really liked noticing all of the hints.  

Speaking of Galbatorix, this is the first book when he is actually kind of in. He possesses Murhag and does what he does best, kills Oromis and Glaedr, the dragon rider pair that escaped Galbatorix the first time and then acted as mentors to Eragon and Saphira. It is nice to finally be introduced to the main villain, but I quite like Paolini’s choice to not actually have him in it yet. It upholds his larger than life status.   

So far I think that this is my favorite out of the four, but we will see what happens after I read the final one.

Inheritance

Christopher Paolini

First of all, I read this in the beginning of May, but I wanted to review them all in the same post. Sorry about that. 

The first four hundred pages are fine, a lot of plot necessary things happen, mostly warfare. It is after the four hundred page mark when the fun really starts. Nasuada gets kidnapped and then we are at last introduced to Galbatorix in the first of many chapters from her pov. He is just as dreanges as you would expect a mass murdering conqueror to be. But at the same time he is charismatic, making for an interesting and scary villain. Murtagh gets more page time too, and a start of a redemption arc.   

Murtagh is an interesting character because he is not a real villain in a sense. He was forced to do most of the bad things he did by Galbatorix. So he doesn’t need redemption arc in the same way that other former villains do. Beside being forced to do most of the bad stuff he does, he also did his best at thwarting Galbatorix, both by letting Eragon go, but also by trying to tell him where his and Galbatorix power came from. Any way, his redemption is centered around trying to protect and save Nasuada from Galbatorix torture, and it is a redemption that works well in this story.

At around five hundred pages into the book Eragon, Saphira and Glaedr travel to the abandoned riders island. The reason it’s abandoned? An elf made himself an atomic bomb and the whole place is full of radiation. I like how Paolini mixes magic and science, he does it in earlier books too, but not in such an explosive way. At this island they discover more “hearts”, some of the older dragons spit theirs up and they stashed them in a cave when they realized that Galbatorix was going to win the war. While laying in the cave they influenced a lot of the things happening, and thanks to that the book no longer suffers from random chosen one. Some other plot uncertainties are also explained.

Despite acquiring the help and power from the many “hearts” Galbatorix is still way more powerful. They all know this going into the final battle, but they go into it anyway, with hope as their last weapon. They lose badly, Eragon has no chance against Galbatorix, not with magic nor with swordplay. Galbatorix completely wipes the floor with him, something I like, it is realistic. Galbatorix takes over Eragon’s mind in order to get him to swear loyalty to him and the crown. While he does that, Eragon uses wordless magic to try and show Galbatorix all of the pain he has caused. It starts with just Eragon’s pain, but then the dragons join. Galbatorix gets so overwhelmed with pain that he kills himself. Essentially, they beat him with compassion. Quite a good way to defeat a madman.        

The last hundred pages are spent tying up loose ends, while doing it Eragon thinks and thinks and comes to the conclusion that the best place to raise the next generation of dragons is in a different place altogether. I agree with him, it makes the most sense, what I have a problem with is that he thinks that he’s never going to return again. And we are supposed to believe so too? All thanks to a prophecy from the first book. I refuse to believe it, he has a dragon, basically his personal flying taxi, it would be so easy to go back and visit. But no, he left to never return again. Stupid.   

I both liked and didn’t like what happened with Arya in the ending. She gets her own dragon, awesome. She becomes queen of the elves, stupid. I never got the impression that she would like to rule, or that she would be good at it, and also she is a dragon rider now, they are supposed to be impartial. Also, the elves are somewhat of a democracy, and I do not believe that these super old elves voted to make likely the youngest elf their new leader. 

Another thing that I liked about Aryas ending is that she did not end up in a relationship with Eragon. The ending makes it clear, that it will potentially happen in the future, and that I’m fine with. They seem to be good for each other, and during the books they have grown to respect and care for each other. Despite that it would have felt forced to have them end up together at the end of the series, beside the large age gap it would also have been diminishing to Aryas plotline.

Overall, a strong and good ending to the series that felt satisfying and tied up most loose ends. There are some mysteries left. Like Angela, but it is no bother and paves the way for future books in the same universe. It would be fun to see what an older and more experience Paolini would do. The third book remains my favorite.      

Disclaimer: I am aware of the fact that these reviews are very much influenced by my childhood love for them. Nevertheless I do believe that they are a perfect introduction to fantasy for young children, it is a solid fantasy story that isn’t too long or too complicated. Paolini was just 16 when Eragon was published and younger me thought that was really cool, he showed me that writing matters and everything is possible, even if I’m young.     

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