Eldest by Christopher Paolini
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I try not to read sequels as they come out. With the exception of every Harry Potter book (yes, I attended three of the midnight release parties) and Breaking Dawn (which I bought two weeks after it was released), I wait until an entire trilogy, quartet or series are released in paperback before starting the first one. Like the Faerie Wars or the Derkholm books. I mean, I’m a Tamora Pierce junkie, but I'm still waiting to start the Terrier series.
(Note on paperback v. hardback – it’s a preference thing. Yeah, hardbacks are more expensive, at first, but mostly they’re too cumbersome and unwieldy. I love the way a paperback nestles in my hands, bending slightly to my touch.)
A series of events ensued which resulted in my storming out of the house and to Target, just to get away from the insanity that surrounds my toddlers. I For escapist fiction, my choices were Eldest by Christopher Paolini or The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman. I’ve read Eragon, but not The Golden Compass.
Yeah, I bought Eldest.
It went against my nature to do so, despite the fact that I bought it in paperback. But I figured that since the final book, Brisingr, was due within a few weeks (it was released today, September 20), I’d go ahead and read Eldest, even if it meant I bought Brisingr as a hardback.
And then DAMMIT if I didn’t find out too late that Brisingr is NOT the last book in the series – that there’s a fourth and final installment.
I’d read Eragon because I was keenly jealous of child-prodigy self-publisher Christopher Paolini. He began writing the book when he was 15, finished it when he was 19, and then self-published and marketed it before Knopf snatched it up. I was....ambivalent about Eragon. It was...okay.
When they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I don’t think it was a blanket acceptance of plagiarism. By the time I read Eldest, I expected the familiar plots, the Middle Earth sounding names, the slightly stilted language, the Star-Wars-type rebellion. I even started making a list.
And those are just the words that sound the same. (Ra’zac=Nazgul, anyone?)
Paolini has grown leaps and bounds as a writer, however. His dialogue, which has always been decent, really shines in Eldest. Further, he’s successfully tackled the challenge of interweaving different story lines. His characterization has gotten much tighter, showing in the actions more than in too much description. The relationship between Eragon and Saphira continues to be endearing, showing Paolini's mature grasp of intimate friendship in a really delightful way.
Eldest continues the tale of Eragon, country-boy-turned-Dragon-Rider, who has joined forces with the rebel band to overthrow the evil Darth Vader….er, I mean, King Galbatorix. In addition to Eragon’s story, Paolini develops the story of Roran, Eragon’s cousin. Roran, another country boy, defends the village when the Ra’zac come looking for Eragon, and helps evacuate when it’s clear that’s the only choice left for the villagers. Their exodus story juxtaposes nicely with Eragon’s journey to Ellesme’ra to develop his magic under the tutelage of Obi-Wan Kenobi, er, Oromis.
I hate to admit it, but I really, really enjoyed Eldest. While I’m not going to any midnight release parties for Brisingr, I certainly will be buying it (in paperback. After the fourth book is released in paperback.) I love the Inheritance Cycle so far. It’s enchanting; while familiar, it’s escapism at its best.
It’s like the CW’s new show, Privileged. I want to hate it, but I just can’t. I mean, come on, Paolini was homeschooled. Every time I think of it a new geek joke springs to mind. (And I have the right to tell geek jokes, as I am one. And blonde jokes, as I am one – well, artificially, anyway)
But, as someone pointed out to me, Paolini has a legitimate “runnin’-with-the-big-boys”** contract. Complete with paycheck. And a pretty decent book in the process. Here’s hoping Brisingr continues the trend.
**and girls – my addition.