Eragon (Christopher Paolini)

Be warned, this is not a recommendation. This a frustration fuelled review of a book I desperately wanted to DNF, but sheer determination to provide a complete review (and a desperate hope that it would pick up) kept me at it. I’m glad I borrowed Eragon from the library and not from someone at work, at least I don’t have to make polite noises about my opinion (like I did with the DVD of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – BOY DID I HAVE OPINIONS ON THAT).

Eragon is a farm boy from a small village in Alagesia, high up in the mountains. He is named for the first legendary dragon rider, and his mother is missing (presumed dead). One day, a dragon egg practically drops on his head. He doesn’t know it’s a dragon egg, and takes it home, thinking he can sell it for the harsh winter months ahead. Instead, a couple of days later, a dragon pops out. Eragon trots off to speak to the Storyteller Brom (who seems to know an awful lot about dragons and dragon riders…fancy that). Eragon names his new dragon Saphira, and by the end of winter, some creatures arrive under the bidding of the king, and kill Eragon’s uncle. Eragon, Saphira and Brom embark on a quest to kill the creatures, and eventually join the Varden (Rebellion) and try to free Alagesia. End book 1.

As you might tell by the way I have written the summary, I found it a somewhat funny/annoying clichéd read. Eragon is named for the first rider, WHAT HO, he’s found a dragon. And he just so happens to have wealth of information Brom living in the village. It’s all medieval, no electricity, magic, swordfighting, Orcs – oh, sorry, they aren’t called Orcs, they’re called Urgals – a long-ass adventure. For crying out loud it’s Lord of the Rings with everyone freaking out about a freaking dragon rather than a ring and with significantly fewer in the party crossing deserts rather than New Zealand. It was frustrating. Very frustrating. Eragon is short tempered, and whiney. Saphira has had enough of his bull-headedness, and insults him by calling him Hatchling half the time. She also gets annoyed with the amount she has to hide while Eragon and Brom get themselves in trouble. I like the dragon. Murtagh isn’t too bad either, but that might just be in comparison to Eragon, or the fact he is very upfront about most of his intentions.

Representation! Men are angry, strong, swordfighters and politicians. The first woman introduced to the narrative is an elf who is ambushed and collapses. The second is Selena, Eragon’s (presumed dead) mother. The third is known only as the blacksmith’s wife. Other Notable Female Characters include Arya, the elf from the start who spends at least two thirds of the book either in Eragon’s dreams being tortured, or strapped to Saphira comatose; and Angela, a batty witch with a werecat. The treatment of Arya as a character annoyed the living beejeesus out of me. Almost any mention of Arya (or the Woman or the Elf as she was called before you learn her name in like, chapter 102) is fixed with some mention of how stunningly beautiful she is, how she makes it harder for pubescent Eragon to concentrate on his manly pursuits of saving the world. She spends half the book in a coma induced by being tortured by men, and even when Eragon is patching up her wounds, he’s looking. It say “He didn’t mean to” or “he couldn’t help himself,” but REALLY?! When Arya finally gets to be a character in the last third of the novel, she is badass – she’s one of the best magic-wielders/bowman the elves have – but Eragon is still all like “oh, now, let me protect you, I’m a dragon rider!”. Not great representation. Yes, I’m annoyed.

I also felt like the sentence structures were incredibly basic. Very few sentences were longer than eight or nine words, and it made the narrative feel very clipped. The descriptions were of wide sweeping mountain ranges and maybe it’s just my personal writing style, but I’d have expected longer sentences for those descriptions. At school we were told short sentences build tension, so maybe the author just wanted his audience really tense for the whole 497 pages. Who knows. I just know that I found it hard to get into the story because I kept noticing this sentence structure. Maybe I just need to let the grammar go, but I did find it stacked the deck against the book.

I really wanted to read this when I was a teenager. I loved dragons and magic and witchcraft and everything that would put this on the TBR list. But, having read it, I’m not just disappointed, I’m frustrated. The plot was a rip-off, the world was unimaginative, the main character was annoying, the representation was backwards. I mean, it’s impressive that Christopher Paolini wrote this at fifteen, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I think this is the first 1* I’ve given on goodreads.

Honestly, if you want good dragon books, I’d recommend How to Train Your Dragon or Dragon Rider. Both middle grade books but good ones.

 

2 Comments

  1. I picked this book up in middle School way back when and loved it. I own every book in the series, the last one coming out when I was in college… And I couldn’t even finish it. After being exposed to the other great fantasy works, I realized all of the problems this series has, pretty much everything you stated. You nailed it.

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    1. Thank you! I’m glad it wasn’t just me. I think I’d have liked it at school before I discovered how utterly awesome fantasy could be. I hate it when you get too old for a series, it’s just so disappointing when you realise that your memory lied to you. I’m reluctant to reread some books from my childhood just in case I find I hate them as a grown up.

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