When Eragon, a poor farmer’s boy, finds a stone in the depths of a forest he thinks of nothing beyond what value it may hold at the market, little aware that–as he picks it up–his destiny is about to be changed forever. For the stone is a dragon egg and when it hatches Eragon becomes a Dragon Rider, an ancient order that once protected the land, but were destroyed by one of their own, the Emperor Galbatrix who will do anything to control the last free Rider.
Eragon, written by Christopher Paolini, is one of my all time favorite reads for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s Eragon himself. An orphan whose been raised by his uncle in the absence of parents he’s never known and struggling to help his family support themselves, he’s a character anyone can relate to, even if you’ve never dug through the dirt. This empathy is further enforced when the Razac–agents of the Empire–kill Eragon’s uncle and destroy the farm in an attempt to regain the stone. With almost everything he treasures destroyed you’re not surprised that Eragon eventually sets on revenge as his course of action, but it’s his growth as a character which takes him beyond this that helps people to care about his plight as he struggles to evade the Empire.
One of the other areas that I find especially impressive is the dialogue between Eragon and his dragon, Saphira. In the Inheritance cycle, dragons are intelligent creatures who can communicate mentally, but don’t have the ability to vocalize their speech. Christopher handled this well in several ways; italicizing the text where Saphira speaks, giving her a powerful voice, and carefully crafting the dialogue and supporting actions between the two. These three things were so exceptionally done that I never had difficulty imagining the mental conversations as actual dialogue nor who was speaking when it didn’t say otherwise.
A fantasy novel with dragons, elves, and dwarves would be nothing without magic and this is another area that has been thoroughly and carefully crafted. In the book, magic can only be used in conjunction with the Ancient Language which controls magic. This, however, isn’t merely a series of words that were thrown together, but have an actual grammatical structure and syntax similar in someways to the languages in J.R.R. Tolkiens books. This gives it a more realistic feel and that the words themselves actually have something to do with the spells that people are casting.
While the book is long, it’s one that I’ve never gotten tired of reading. Not only are the characters and story compelling, but it portrays old concepts such as elves, dragons, and magic in either new ways or in terms that haven’t been seen in a long time. By the books end you’ve been introduced to an excellent character, a marvelous world, incredible stakes, and are left with a burning desire to see where Eragon’s destiny will lead him next.
Disclaimer: I do not own the imagery used in this blog post and don’t have any claim to it.