Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Christopher Paolini

At the opening of this novel a Shade, which is a kind of evil sorcerer with red hair and eyes and superhuman strength, lies in ambush. He is accompanied by Urgals, a species of hulking, ogrish monsters best suited for use as disposable minions. They wait to attack some elves. The symbolism is crude: elegant and attractive elves versus dark and foul-looking creatures. No prizes for guessing who the bad guys are, then.

Eragon is a boy of 15 who has to catch game in order to feed himself and his family. Whilst out in the hills his hunting is interrupted by an explosion, and the arrival of a large blue stone. Time are hard, so he hopes to sell it in order to buy meat to feed himself and his family for a few more days. But when the stone turns out to be an egg, and a dragon egg at that, Eragon finds the implacable hand of destiny smacking him around the ears and pointing him away from the life of a simple farm boy.

The early chapters of Eragon are very clichéd, derivative of many other novels in this genre without bringing anything new or insightful. The author's extreme youth does come through in the writing, unfortunately. This book was written and published during Christopher Paolini's mid to late teens, and his lack of life experience is reflected in the characters he has created.

Eragon soon discovers that dragons and their riders attract all the wrong kind of attention in Alagaesia. The further he travels the more unrest and suffering he discovers. Urgals are encroaching into new territories, whilst war between the Empire and the Varden looks increasingly likely.

Luckily for Eragon he has the help of Brom, the town's old storyteller. Brom seems to know an awful lot more about dragons, magic, and the king's business than any small town entertainer ought to. King Galbatorix is widely disliked and feared, and with Brom's help Eragon learns just how ruthless and underhand the king truly is.

The dialogue is peppered with ham archaic speech, abounding with phrases such as "Woe unto you!" and so on, and this drives home the hackneyed aspects of this book. However, the story gains personality and complexity as it progresses, and it improves steadily. The political situation becomes more nuanced the further in you read, and there are hints that certain characters have something to hide or stories to tell. The relationship between Eragon and Saphira strengthens, although in some ways the pair of them are a little too good to be true, too heroic and noble to be entirely credible.

There's enough mystery sown in Eragon to make you want to pick up the sequel. Some of the flaws in this novel carry the hallmark of an inexperienced writer, which is entirely understandable. Yet in spite of this Paolini has achieved something that authors decades older than him don't always manage, which is to write an entertaining narrative set in an immersive world and built around likeable central characters. It's a promising début.

Book Details

Year: 2002

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
  Male Protagonist  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Christopher Paolini