Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Published by Alfred A. Knopf on August 26, 2003
Series: The Inheritance Cycle #1
Genres: Dragons, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
Length: 513 pages Source: Gift from Family
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Fifteen-year-old Eragon believes that he is merely a poor farm boy—until his destiny as a Dragon Rider is revealed. Gifted with only an ancient sword, a loyal dragon, and sage advice from an old storyteller, Eragon is soon swept into a dangerous tapestry of magic, glory, and power. Now his choices could save—or destroy—the Empire.
Eragon is one of those books I feel a strong connection to, because I read it over and over again in my youth. I grew up with both Eragon and Eldest, even though I didn’t finish the cycle until I was an adult. The story of the dragon rider and the evil king captured my imagination, as tales of good and evil are wont to do.
There is a bittersweet sadness to coming back to a book I loved so much as a high schooler only to find it riddled with flaws. I want so desperately to be in love with Eragon the way I used to be, but I suppose we have to appreciate the things old stories gave us, and move forward. I will always appreciate Eragon because this is the book that got my husband reading, and it is a joy to share the things I love with him.
Foremost, the writing is overly simple. While Eragon feels like a YA story, the writing itself is on the edge of middle grade. At its most fundamental level, the transitions are clunky and the dialogue too direct. Also, too abundant? Eragon reads the best in the midst of action sequences. The battle scenes near the end of the book are the strongest scenes in the novel, and the execution of the fighting was well-done. It’s the traveling sequences I find a little more difficult to swallow. There has to be a little respect here, and it’s pretty well known Paolini was 15 when he wrote Eragon, and the book was self-published at 19. That’s awfully young for a debut, and when I hold it up to other debuts… well… the writing style makes more sense.
Where this story still succeeds is in its world building. If I remember correctly, Eragon and the Inheritance Cycle received a lot of criticism for relying on a Tolkien-esque setting. Having read a bit more epic fantasy than just The Lord of the Rings… and more from before this era, I think that some of the criticism is unfair. Just as Rowling was condemned for her reliance on mythology at the time, I think that Alagaësia is a rich fantasy world and it honors the ones that came before it without feeling too copy cat. I know others will disagree with this, but I think the depth of imagination in this world and many of its rules is gripping even now.
Eragon is a great starting point for those interested in fantasy, but just starting out. To seasoned fantasy readers, the story may feel a little stale. Nonetheless, it holds a place in my heart as an important series in my childhood, and I treasure my battered hardcover. Which I may or may not have swiped from my little brother at some point in our childhood.
Eragon will stay on my shelf.
I’m hopelessly nostalgic about childhood favorites and I think that even if I ended up giving this a two star review, it would have stayed with me. It’s followed me through six different moves and it’s a welcome book to pull out when I’m felling particularly nostalgic or I need my dragon fix.
What is your favorite dragon book? I’ve read far too few and I know I need to get to the Dragon Riders of Pern… leave me some suggestions in the comments and I’ll add them to my TBR! <3