Eldest – Christopher Paolini

I’ve been reading this book since the age of Antiquity . . . at least that is what it feels like.  The funny thing is though, I’ve essentially read it in two bursts.  I read the first third of the book in a few days.  I read the last third of the book in a few days.  It was the middle portion that caused such an extended span of time to pass before I finished reading this book.  I don’t know what it is about the Eragon series.  The world that Paolini created is very textured and I find the ancient language quite fascinating – but I can’t read more than a few chapters a day it seems.  Perhaps it is the similarities to the Lord of the Rings that bothers me.

 

Eldest begins with the aftermath of the Varden’s duel with the Urgals and the Shade Durza.  The Varden must choose a new leader and they do so in the daughter of Ajihad, the former leader.  Eragon learns that this is a political ploy so that certain others of the Varden will get their way.  Little do they know that Nasuada is not that easy to control, despite her young age.  Among the suspected dead are Murtagh, a particular friend of Eragon’s, and the twins: two magicians who had a penchant for sadism.

 

Soon after the end of the battle with the Urgals, Eragon sets off to continue his training as a rider with the Elves in Du Weldenvarden.  There he learns that he and Saphira are not the only dragon and rider after all.  He is instructed by an old, and ill Elf named Oromis.  His power and endurance grows, as does Saphria’s.  In due course they learn of an attack on the Varden and venture to Surda to lend their support.

 

In the meantime we learn what is happening with Eragon’s cousin Roran.  He has returned to Carvahall after the death of his father.  He is understandably distraught over the loss of his father, but also because he has lost his home and thus cannot marry Katrina, the butcher’s daughter.  He very shortly comes to learn that he is wanted by the Empire as a result of Eragon and his disappearance.  Roran refuses to surrender himself and he and the majority of the inhabitants of Carvahall fight the Empire and the Ra’zac.  Several of the villagers die in the process, and several more become warriors, slaying their enemies.  They know that their efforts are futile for King Galbatorix has limitless soldiers at his command.  Therefore they make the decision, some most unwillingly, to travel to Surda and the Varden.  Thus begins the tale of their travels.

 

The villagers arrive in Surda in the midst of a battle between the Varden and the Empire.  Roran defeats the twins at a time that Eragon is facing off against another rider: his brother, Murtagh.  The trio of reportedly dead people were under the instruction of Galbatorix, Murtagh most unwillingly, Eragon is told.

 

 

My thoughts on this book:

 

Writing the above synopsis seems very short compared to the length of the book but there are many chapters devoted to the specifics of Eragon’s training.  When I was first reading it I began to wonder if Paolini was giving readers too much information, but I cam to realize that it might be more necessary than this one novel will supply.  The series is titled the Inheritance Cycle.  Would the title not lead to the idea that Eragon will eventually  be assisting in the instruction of future riders?  If that be the case he is going to need to know all of this.  We, as readers, may not get to see this but we’ll have all the information we need from what we gleaned of Eragon’s training.

 

Continuing on with our comparisons I have another small comparison.  Eragon, Saphira and the Dwarf Orik leave Ellsmira in a hurry to join a battle forming in Surda.  Before they leave, however, Eragon promises to return to complete his training.  I have a vision of Luke Skywalker saying the exact same thing to Yoda.  I suppose, however, that there is still more plot to go through so he will have to return.  More to the point though, there are only so many plots out there, particularly in the fantasy genre, so there are going to be similarities.

 

I have to say that I like the explanation of why Elves are vegetarian.  The idea of being able to connect with the consciousness of animals would most certainly turn me off meat if I wasn’t already a vegetarian.  While I do like this choice for my own personal reasons I must wonder how that lends itself to the story.  Well, thinking about it just now, I suppose it goes to show Eragon’s difference from Galbatorix.  That is, he does take the feelings of others into account, as his enemy does not.

 

One of the biggest parallels I see between this series and the Lord of the Rings is in the climax.  We have Eragon racing to get to Surda in time to fight.  This reminds me of Aragorn (notice the similarities in their names?) rushing to the aid of the people of Gondor in Return of the King.  It is true that it was Roran and not Eragon who arrived on the boats, unlike in Tolkien’s works, but just the fact that the boats were included at all bares a comparison between the two books.

 

I must admit that my favorite parts of the book dealt with Roran.  I see several reasons for this.  The first is that I had part of book three spoiled for me.  Roran and Eragon attack Helgrind, so I knew that they got together.  This interested me in finding out how Roran and his cousin met up again.  I think though, there are two other important things that interested me with Roran.  The first thing that attracted me to him was his sheer determination.  He thinks many times about how he will rebuild his farm himself if necessary so that he can gain back his livelihood and marry Katrina.  It is this same stubborn determination that makes him fight again the Ra’zac and the Empire.  He, a simple farmer, was able to resist the Empire.  The second reason which, I think, ties in to the first, is the fact that he acted a lot more mature than Eragon.  How much this character difference can be attributed to the growth of the author as opposed to the differences in character I know not, but it was interesting whatever the case.  I just like the fact that he is a man of action and not one who tends to burst into tears over every minor irritant as Eragon seemed to do in the first book.

 

On that same token I think that Eragon was a lot more tolerable in this book.  He did start to annoy with his impatience over his training, but I think that it does attest to his character and I have to say that it reminds me a little of Harry (Potter) when he was trying to learn Occlumency.  I rather liked the growth that we saw in Eragon’s character towards the latter part of the book.  That is, things like his decision to abstain from meat, his acceptance (albeit grudging) of the Urgals support, and his reaction to Roran’s anger over his responsibility for Garrow’s death.

 

Now to the part that I would like to say I foresaw coming: the revelation of who Eragon’s father was.

I had rather thought that the dragon appearing in the battle at the end of the book was Galbatorix and wondered how Eragon was going to get out of it, but I forgot that his dragon was black.  At first when I read it I was shocked at the idea that Eragon was Morzan’s son, but then a memory came to mind.  I think I thought that Murtagh was Eragon’s brother from the first book.  As hindsight is 20-20 though I will not stick to that belief too strongly.  I can’t speak of how well this was foreshadowed because of the span between my reading of the first and second books, but I really like the idea.  Here again are demonstrations of two things: we are all rulers of our own fates.  It is our choices that define us, not our blood and our upbringing can have an effect on those choices.

 

Here are my predictions for the last two books of the series:

 

  • Galbatorix will be defeated.
  • Methinks thou dost protest too much.  So many times it has been stated that Eragon has feelings for Arya but she does not return them – she cannot, and his feelings are making her uncomfortable.  I think that she has feelings for him too, but she should not, and that is what is making her uncomfortable.  In the end they will be together – that’s what I predict.
  • I think that the Ra’zac are going down in Brisingr
  • Roran will be the third rider and that he and Eragon will steal the last egg from Galbatorix.
  • Orik will be the new Dwarf King after Hrothgar’s murder.
  • I predict that it will be Nasuada who dies at the end of book three.

 

I’m just about to start reading Brisingr now so I will find out how good my predictions were.  Then if I am right I don’t have to question myself.  I will know that I guessed correctly.  So I am off to read Brisingr.  Look for the post on that book in the next six weeks or so.

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