Darkness falls…Despair abounds…Evil reigns…
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 magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider.
It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn’t sure whom he can trust. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall — one that puts Eragon in even graver danger. Will the king’s dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life. (Goodreads)
I was so bored by this novel that it took me 5 months to complete it.
Eldest is the second novel in Christopher Paolini’s epic fantasy series, the Inheritance Cycle, about a farm boy named Eragon who learns that he’s a dragon rider. In this installment, we mostly watch Roran on his journey to Surda and observe Eragon as he learns to be a dragon rider, i.e., learn the ways of the elves.
I was surprised at my reaction to this book because it’s a series I enjoy and often recommend to others, especially those seeking to start reading epic fantasy novels. I decided to reread the series because I’d forgotten parts of it and I wanted to spend time with my favorite character, Angela, again, but I almost gave up on that goal because of how boring this installment is.
The major problem with this book is that though it is almost 1000-pages long, not much happens. It’s exciting and distressing to see what happens to Carvahall when the Razac terrorize it and the people decide to leave, but much of the villagers’ exodus from their homes was uninteresting. I didn’t care much for Roran (I didn’t care much for him when I first read the series either) and that adventure wasn’t very exciting to read.
The other major plot line in the story was the focus on Eragon’s studies as a dragon rider. We see him leave Tronjheim and travel to Ellesmera to live and study with the elves, but again much of the story there was uninteresting and boring because nothing happens and the things Eragon learns and observes weren’t insightful. Much of his observances were of obvious things. I rolled my eyes the entire time I read and was driven to skim and sometimes skip whole passages that I knew were of Eragon observing obvious shit and being amazed by it.
I believe I had a hard with this installment on my first read through as well. Back then, I enjoyed the first book but slowed down when I got to the second. I think my interest perked back up on the third book, and I hope that will be the case this time as well.
As on my first read, I admired Nasuada, pitied Murtagh, and liked the descriptions of Ellesmera. The elves interested me and when his lessons weren’t entirely banal, I took interest in Eragon’s discussions with Oromis, his teacher. However, their discussion on the elves’ nonbelief in a higher being vs. the dwarves’ belief in gods nettled me because it seemed a bit heavy-handed in forcing Eragon, and thereby the reader, in viewing belief in a god as something silly.
That probably wasn’t the author’s intention, but that’s how it came across to me. Though it’s possible that I read it such because the elves do see themselves as more advanced than all creatures in Alagaesia, so they would scorn the beliefs of those lesser than they. So, much as I admire the elves, I do not like them (but I think I did on my first read).
Another thing that stood out to me was the healing of Eragon’s back. His wound crippled him making him a lesser warrior and opponent to Galbatorix. I see the need for him to be healed so he can have a chance at defeating the tyrant, but…eh…it’s just too convenient that he was able to be healed, and not only healed, but remade in the image of elves. It gives the impression that all races in Alagaesia should aspire to be elf-like. Because of this, I prefer the dwarves. The elves are too suck up their own arses.
I also don’t like how dragons, or rather Saphira, is treated. Though there have been compromises between other beings and the dragons, the dragons are still sometimes regarded as beasts, namely beasts of burden. I began thinking this toward the end of the novel, which is around the time I began reading Robin Hobb’s Ship of Destiny. Tintaglia in Hobb’s book demands respect and refuses to act at any human or other creature’s whim. However, Saphira isn’t given as much respect and is often just ordered around by Eragon.
I like Eragon, but sometimes I think he’s insensitive toward Saphira without either of them realizing. Their huge battle toward the end of the story with Murtagh and Thorne must have been very trying on Saphira’s part. I guess it’s mostly a fault of the author here that we don’t hear much from Saphira except to express concern for Eragon’s safety and seek to attack their foe to protect Eragon and fight for the Varden. It’s good to get such thoughts from her, but I also wanted to hear how she feels about seeing another of her kind when all along she thought Glaedr and her were the last dragons living in Alagaesia. Also, how does she feel about having to attack Thorne? Is she conflicted? It’s possible that all this is answered in the third book, but I’ve forgotten much of it since my first reading.
Eva didn’t stand out much as I read, but when I listened to a podcast featuring an interview with Paolini, my intereste in her was perked. In the interview, Paolini said that he messed up the wording of the blessing Eragon gave Eva in the first book causing Eragon to bestow Eva with a curse instead. Paolini decided to keep the mistake in the story, which I think is pretty cool because I like that element of the plot. Eragon’s understanding and remorse for what he had done shows how much he has learned and matured.
Regardless of my complaints, the story is pretty good and has some strong world building. Despite my boredom while reading this book, I’ll continue with the rest of the series. I believe it gets better. I believe I really liked the third book when I first read it.