Fantastic Reviews - Fantasy Book Review
Eragon cover art Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Alfred A. Knopf - copyright 2003
(previous self-published edition copyright 2002)
497 pages

cover art by John Jude Palencar

Book reviewed September 2005

Review by Jackie Sachen Turner

          With my first glimpse of Eragon's cover, I assumed the book would be about a blue dragon named Eragon.  I thought -- just remove the "E" and stick in a "D" and you get Dragon....  Well, I was wrong.  Eragon is the name of a young lad, the book's 15-year-old protagonist.

Eragon, the first novel in the Inheritance Trilogy written by teen author Christopher Paolini, follows the adventures of young hunter, Eragon, who discovers a blue rock that turns out to be a dragon egg.  After the egg hatches, the dragon Saphira and brave Eragon form a mind bond as permanent as the silver brand that forms on Eragon's palm.  Soon, two nasty creatures called Raz'ac mortally wound Eragon's uncle while trying to discover the dragon's whereabouts.  Anger, vengeance, and guilt propel Eragon to leave his hometown to find these deadly creatures and kill them.  The evil king Galbatorix, dragon rider himself, seeks to capture and control Eragon and Saphira, and he sends all kinds of evil creatures to try to capture them.  Brom, old friend and storyteller as well as mentor, accompanies Eragon on his trek, teaching him the ways of a dragon-rider and bits of magic when deemed necessary.  Fortunately, Eragon finds friends along the way to help him through trying times and to share in his adventures.

Teen author Christopher Paolini has absorbed much from his fantasy and science fiction readings, extracted parts of each, and turned those elements into a book about a boy, his dragon, and their adventures.  His scenery (note the 10-mile high mountain) comes from the Beartooth Mountains near his home, located by the Yellowstone River, so says Paolini in a March 2004 interview in The Writer Magazine.  Such lush surroundings, home-schooled opportunities, and love of fantasy led him to write a book about the magical realm of AlagaŽsia and the fight against good and evil as well as the importance of friendship and loyalty.  He built an interesting world filled with twisted-horned Urgals, crimson-haired Shades, bird-like Raz'ac, intelligent Dragons, magical Elves, loyal Dwarves, and a human population where many easily fall for the propaganda of their evil king Galbatorix and his scary henchmen.

Many authors have borrowed fantasy creatures, mind links, and magic to write their own wonderful stories -- ideas taken from great authors such as Tolkien, McCaffrey, Lucas, and Le Guin to name a few.  Some people have criticized Paolini for usurping these same creative ideas for his own novel Eragon.  Because of his young age for his first novel, I give Paolini some leeway for using elements he admires from other books -- albeit lots of elements.  I do like Paolini's idea of "feeling the magic," which Eragon has to find deep in his mind in order to call it forth.  If this concept is taken from another author, I don't remember it, which makes me think that many of the "borrowed" ideas won't seem overused by young readers who haven't read Tolkien, McCaffrey, or Le Guin.  Instead, Paolini's fantasy creatures and plot similarities will read like new ideas, thus making this novel seem fresh and creative to some younger readers.  I like his vocabulary, although some reviewers say he uses too many adjectives.  Most sentences flowed well and many passages became exciting page turners for me.

As with most novels, Eragon contains some rough spots.  First of all, Eragon's need to leave town for the sole purpose of finding the Raz'ac creatures and killing them seemed weak.  Vengeance never fixed anything, in my opinion, and I felt surprised that the wise, experienced character Brom would go along with that.  Still, Paolini is a young author and doesn't have the experience behind him to flesh out a character of age and wisdom.  And why would Brom hold back magic and advice that could have helped Eragon during Urgal attacks?  The holding back of knowledge sometimes resulted in wounding Eragon, mentally and physically, which leads me to another point.  Eragon gets clunked on the head far too much.  Most people wouldn't recover as quickly from so many concussions.  Eragon sustains serious injuries, broken ribs, internal bruising, and keeps on moving.  Speaking of injuries, there are some scenes of violence that went beyond what I like to read -- one brutal scene in particular went over the edge for me and I suspect would so for other readers.

I call this an adventure book rather than a quest story because the focus seems to be on the trek rather than Eragon and his internal mind.  During the trek, Eragon goes here, then he goes there, etc., which actually bogged down the story for me a bit; and all the while, Eragon stays the same person and doesn't seem to grow in depth.  Maybe that will change in the second or third book, but I don't see internal change in Eragon other than a build-up of anger and desire for revenge.  Eragon does change externally, from farm boy and hunter to important Dragon-rider, and his skill with sword, magic, and dragon communication improve -- all needed skills as he faces deadly adversaries who wish him harm.

          Christopher Paolini is in his early 20s now, and I'm sure he's learning the writer's fate of developing a "thick skin."  His first book's rating was not the most favorable in the Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club, and one review I read for Eldest, the second book in the Inheritance Trilogy, trashed the book completely.  Despite any negativity toward the second book, I do want to read it, especially because I enjoyed reading the first book.  I placed a hold on Eldest at my local library, which added me to a waiting list; I am number 186.  Wow!  Maybe the library will call me next year to say it's my turn!  This tells me that Eragon, like the Harry Potter books, brings many kids to the library and encourages the joy of reading.  For that, Christopher Paolini and his book Eragon both get positive praise from me.
The movie Eragon opened in the USA on December 15, 2006.  Distributed by 20th Century Fox.  Runtime 104 minutes.  MPAA rating PG.

The film was directed by Stefan Fangmeier, known mainly for visual effects work, a first-time director.  Peter Buchman, who wrote the script for Jurassic Park III, wrote the screenplay.  It was filmed in Hungary and Slovakia.  Special visual effects and animation were by Weta Digital and Industrial Light & Magic.

In the movie, newcomer Ed Speelers plays Eragon.  Jeremy Irons plays Brom;  Sienna Guillory is Arya;  Robert Carlyle plays Durza;  John Malkovich is Galbatorix;  Garrett Hedlund plays Murtagh;  Alun Armstong is Uncle Garrow; Chris Egan plays Roran;  Gary Lewis is King Hrothgar;  Djimon Hounsou plays Ajihad;  Singer/songwriter Joss Stone is Angela;  and Rachel Weisz is the voice of Saphira.

Eragon movie tie-in paperback cover (right)
Eragon movie tie-in cover

Eragon - Paolini International cover Eragon (Inheritance, Book 1) by Christopher Paolini
Paolini International - 475 pages (self-published edition)
Copyright 2002

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Other Christopher Paolini book reviews on Fantastic Reviews:
Eragon  (review by Aaron Hughes)

Our book club's web page for Eragon by Christopher Paolini:

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Links to websites about Eragon & Christopher Paolini:
Randomhouse official site: Eragon, fantasy novel by Christopher Paolini, Inheritance Trilogy | Author Profile: Christopher Paolini
BookLoons Reviews - Eragon by Christopher Paolini - profile of young author Paolini
Green Man Review: Christopher Paolini, Eragon (Inheritance, Book One)
Christopher Paolini and Eragon: A Homeschool Success Story
Shur'tugal :: Inheritance series

For information on more science fiction and fantasy books:
Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

This page was last updated - 14 August 2010