Eldest by Christopher Paolini

(Cover picture courtesy of Gil T.’s Pleasures.)

Darkness falls…

Swords clash…

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 Ellesméra, 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.

Oh dear, where do I begin with this book?

First, let’s start with the many clichés, shall we?  The farm boy with secret powers/a special destiny is already as old as dirt, but what really annoys me is all of the races in Christopher Paolini’s world.  The elves are fair, powerful and are forest-dwelling agnostics/atheists.  The dwarves are shot, good stonemasons and are mountain-dwelling polytheists.  What bothers me is not the religion (which is a mark of good world-building), but the fact that these elves and dwarves are exactly the same as all of the other elves and dwarves in high fantasy.  They’re all based off elves and dwarves in Norse mythology, which is fine, but I’d like to see a bit more variety.  Why not use races from African or Asian mythologies?

Second, the plot drags on and on, rotating between Eragon and Roran.  This would be okay if either character was sufficiently developed so they could hold my attention for more than a page.  But they aren’t, which makes the changes seem like head-hopping.  The entire plot of Eldest is pretty much Eragon travelling to or spending time with the elves and Roran pulling a Julius Caesar.  Of course, Paolini adds in a quick battle at the end with a ‘plot twist’ most Star Wars fans could see coming a mile away.  Roran and all of Carvahall come in one ship and completely turn the tide of the battle, which almost—but not quite—a Deus ex Machina.

Third, Paolini still uses way too much description.  I love vivid imagery, but my patience (and attention span) has a limit.  If Eldest had been written by someone like Conn Iggulden or Michael Scott, who have just the right amount of description, it would have been pared down to less than 300 pages.

I give this book 1/5 stars.

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