Bewildering Stories

Christopher Paolini, Eldest

reviewed by Jerry Wright

Author: Christopher Paolini
Publisher: Knopf/Randomhouse
Hardcover: August 2005
Length: 704 pages
ISBN: 0-375-82670-X
Price: $21.00

The kind folks at Randomhouse Children's Books have opened up the floodgates and sent me several books. One is a girl's book I just glanced at, one is John and Mary Gribbin's look at the science behind Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials and the third book was a copy of Christopher Paolini's new book Eldest. So I grabbed THAT and devoured it.

I haven't read Eragon yet, for my sins... However, I didn't need to. (Although I want to...) Paolini is wise enough (or willing enough to listen) and started the book with a prologue of "What Has Gone Before". And I appreciated that. It got me up to speed enough that when I dove into the book, I didn't have to say "Whaaaa??" This book kept me company on a flight to Henderson Nevada, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Unlike another young writer's writings on Dragonocitousness, Eragon and Eldest don't try to break any new or weird ground in dealing with Dragons. Paolini shows the influence of Tolkien, of course, as well as Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and Raymond Feist. In fact in many ways I was reminded of Tomas' metamorphosis into Ashen-Shugar.

However, although Paolini's Elves and Dwarves pretty much match the consensus of what Elves and Dwarves should be, there are enough differences to make them quite interesting with deeply religious Dwarves and atheistic Elves. Among other things. Eragon, the callow youth of the first book, has matured quite a bit, and by the end of Eldest has gone through changes that could break a lesser man.

Yes, this is a quest book. Yes, this is a coming of age book. Yes, this book was written by a kid. Eragon was started at the age of 15, published at the age of 17, and now, at the ripe old age of 21, Paolini has given us a book that just gets better and better as it goes along. It was interesting to me to see the growth of Paolini as a writer from the beginning of this book, which was good, but not mind-bogglingly outstanding, to the end of the book wherein we see characters with depth, and characters we care about, and a story of passion and meaning.

There was quite a bit of speculation on various "Eragon" oriented websites about who or what the "Eldest" was, and ah well, the cover gives it away, with this very mature Red Dragon on it, because, of course, Eragon's dragon Saphira is sapphire blue. Are we surprised? Well, only if we never read the first book. By the way, Book One and Book Two are available in a twinpack for under $28.00 from Amazon, which causes me to say: What a DEAL!

A quick blurb about the book from Amazon:

The land of Alagaesia is suffering under the Empire of the wicked Galbatorix, and Eragon and his dragon Saphira, last of the Riders, are the only hope. But Eragon is young and has much to learn, and so he is sent off to the elven forest city of Ellesmera, where he and Saphira are tutored in magic, battle skills, and the ancient language by the wise former Rider Oromis and his elderly dragon Glaedr. Meanwhile, back at Carvahall, Eragon's home, his cousin Roran is the target of a siege by the hideous Ra'zac, and he must lead the villagers on a desperate escape over the mountains. The two narratives move toward a massive battle with the forces of Galbatorix, where Eragon learns a shocking secret about his parentage and commits himself to saving his people.
gives you a brief overview but absolutely NOTHING of the flavor of this excellent and worthwhile book.

So... Now I have to get a copy of Eragon and wait impatiently for Book Three of the Inheritance Cycle.

Copyright © 2005 by Jerry Wright for Bewildering Stories

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