Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon, PaoliniKnopf Books for Young Readers, 2003
ISNB-13:  978-0375826689
Ages 12+

When Eragon, a poor farm boy, comes across a large blue egg while out hunting, the last thing he expects is that he’s taking home a dragon.  But soon one hatches, bringing with her an upsurge of danger and adventure.  At the death of his uncle, Eragon is forced out into the world beyond his humble home to face terrible foes and realize his destiny as the first of a new generation of dragon riders.

Christopher Paolini is an intelligent kid who has clearly read a lot of fantasy, so, having followed the example set by those novels, his own work is fairly fleshed-out — meaning it’s not the worst I’ve read.  The popularity of the Inheritance Cycle (of which Eragon is book the first) is undeniable, but I firmly believe it got kicked off for the wrong reasons, namely the author’s age when he started writing the series.  If one ignores the hype, as I have tried to do, and examines the quality of the work objectively, there is in actuality quite a bit to criticize and not much to praise.

First things first, the writing itself.  As I said, Paolini’s got a brain in his head, but he isn’t a natural writer, not by a long shot.  His sentence structure suffers, with regard to tenses in particular.  His descriptions wander into purple prose territory, too much so even for the imagery-friendly fantasy genre.  Where the largest problem lies, however, is in his blatant overuse of the thesaurus, a common problem which leads to words used incorrectly, phrases that contradict each other or just don’t make sense, and a forced narrative that makes it seem as though Paolini wants to impress us with his vocabulary.

As for the plot, it is Star Wars wearing a Tolkien cloak, with a little Anne McCaffrey thrown in for good measure.  The story follows George Lucas’ epic beat for beat (with the exception of the huge dragging section in the middle of Eragon where nothing happens); the elves, dwarves, and overall setting bring Lord of the Rings whooshing back; and poor McCaffrey’s lost her dragons and her entire magic system.  There’s a difference between drawing inspiration from other works, even using similar plot devices or settings, and plagiarism; the lack of originality in Eragon tips it toward the latter.  I can’t call to mind a single characteristic from the book that is peculiar to Paolini’s work.

In short, Christopher Paolini’s writing has reached a point where it is in effect beyond reproach — people will buy it and enjoy it no matter what is said by critics such as myself.  But as a supporter of the integrity of the book industry, I cannot in good conscience recommend this book.

2/5 stars

— Reviewer Anonymous

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