Friday, March 28, 2008

Christopher Paolini

by Christopher Paolini
Recommended Age: 12+

Many, many, many, many readers have urged me to read this book by an American child prodigy who began writing it after he graduated from high school at age 15. But I fended them off with some excuse about waiting for it to come out in paperback (which was a good excuse, because I do spend too much money on books as it is). Confession time: that wasn't the only reason I dragged my feet.

You see, I was writing novels at age 15 too, and I thought I was a child genius; and looking back on those novels I frankly don't think too much of them. Plus I did the whole Advanced Dungeons and Dragons thing with my friends, who all thought we were the heirs to the spirit of J. R. R. Tolkien and that we were creating a great fantasy adventure together... and now I want to hide my 20-sided die with shame just to think of it. So I was a little hesitant to jump on the Eragon bandwagon. I figured it would be like reading the stuff I wrote at that age, or a transcript of guiltily-remembered conversations around the Dungeonmaster's kitchen table.

But now that I have read Eragon, I must confess that I AM SEETHING WITH ENVY.

This kid has really got it. What has he got? He's got a good, solid adventure story for starters, with all the necessary parts in due balance. He's got an intricately-laid-out fantasy world with much of the geographical and linguistic detail of The Lord of the Rings. He's got a magnetic young hero wrapped up in relationships you feel and believe in. So the settings, characters, and story hold together well. So what? But then he also has a talent for pacing revelations out, another talent for creating suspense and excitement, still another talent for depicting battles. He has an eye for detail, an ear for dialogue, and a winning writing style that I, at twice his age, STILL dream of having.

So basically, it sucked to read this book.


Even with my sense of grievance at being denied the greatness this young author is sure to achieve, I enjoyed the book immensely. I enjoyed the story of a 15-year-old farm boy named Eragon who suddenly becomes the first dragon rider in a century - of his developing relationship with the dragon Saphira, the bard Brom, the swordsman Murtagh, and the elf Arya, among others - of the dangers and enemies that hem him in on all sides, and of the great destiny that lies before him if he survives-- and finally, of the climactic battle involving dwarves, men, an elf, a dragon, a witch, a horde of hornèd monsters, and another enemy so powerful that few have faced his kind and lived. I had a grand time reading it, right down to the glossary and pronunciation guide at the end of the book. And I look forward with bated breath for the second book in Mr. Paolini's projected Inheritance Trilogy, to be entitled Eldest.

How, you may ask, did I get over my taboo against buying the hardcover? I didn't. I used my library card. Why didn't I think of that sooner?

EDIT: I have had Eldest on my bookshelf for ages, but for some reason I have never gotten around to reading it yet. Maybe one reason is that the film version of Eragon was "just OK" - and that's being generous. Nevertheless, I do plan to see this trilogy through to the end!

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