From the book
jacket: Darkness falls
Eragon and his
dragon, Saphira, have just saved the
rebel state from destruction by the
mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel
ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must
travel to Ellesmera, land of the elves,
for further training in the skills of
the Dragon Rider.
Comment: As you probably know, home-schooled Paolini wrote the first volume in his planned trilogy when he was 15, having graduated from high-school via correspondence course. When it was finished the family had the book printed and Paolini toured over 135 schools and libraries to promote it, dressed in a medieval costume of red shirt, billowy black pants, lace-up boots and a jaunty black cap! His big break came when he spoke at the school attended by Carl Hiaasen's step-son. Hiaasen read Eragon, recommended it to Knopf (part of Random House) and they published it in 2003. If you happen to have a copy of Eragon published by Lightning Source, complete with hand drawn maps and cover art by Paolini, treat it well as it's currently worth about $1,000! Eldest followed in 2005 and is just now out in paperback.
A quick look at the almost 300 reader reviews at BookBrowse for Eragon and Eldest will show you that readers tend to either love or hate the books. Many in the latter court point to similarities between Paolini's characters and those found in other books, in particular Lord of the Rings and Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Rider series. They also make much of the fact that Eragon was first published by his parent's, who owned a small publishing company.
That some of his characters share more than a passing resemblance to those from other books is indisputable, but the same could be said for a multitude of heroic/quest fantasy books with their casts of dwarves, elves, dragons, et al. As for the claims that he only got published because his parents published him - frankly, this is a red-herring as these days with print-on-demand publishing anybody can get anything published - but the point is will anybody buy the finished product!
Speaking personally, I find the books very hard work. I've tried to read them but simply can't make it through. Paolini appears to be firmly of the belief that one should never use one adjective when five will do. The reviewer for The Boston Globe sums up his writing style with the immortal words: "He is to English as a dog to a chainsaw: he worries it, and worries it, and devastation spreads around him."
Having said that, nothing that I or other reviewers say can take away from the fact that a multitude of children absolutely adore these books. Our then 11-year-old son positively fell on the advanced readers copy of Eldest when it arrived, and scuttled off to his room, emerging two days later with the verdict that it was even better than Eragon - and this is a child who has read his way through a great many books including most of the fantasy books that Paolini's writing is regularly compared to.
Added to which, I owe a debt of gratitude to Paolini for writing the book that tipped our 11-year-old daughter into reading her first really "big" book. She started Eragon at the suggestion of her brother and is now as besotted as he is, and is currently reading and greatly enjoying Eldest.
The publication date for the third volume has yet to be announced, but when it is published it will be interesting to see what the now 23-year-old Paolini comes up with to complete the cycle that he began when he was 15-years-old!
This review was originally published in September 2005, and has been updated for the March 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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