In Eragon you’re introduced to a young farm boy whose discovery of a strange blue stone shatters his peaceful life and thrusts him into the center of a conflict between a group of valiant rebels and a corrupt Empire. Trying to hunt down those who destroyed his family while staying one step ahead of the Empire’s servants, Eragon and his dragon struggle and grow, slowly coming to terms with their destiny as dragon and Rider.
By the end of the book the two have come into their own and helped the rebel Varden deal an import an blow to the Empire. But as the fog of war fades within Farthen Dur it becomes clear that things are far from over. Eragon and Saphira will have new challenges to face and as Eldest shows, the war with the Empire is just beginning–in more ways than one.
One of my favorite things about Eldest is its use of multiple POVs. Unlike Eragon where the entire narrative–except for the prologue– is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Eldest’s POV is split between three characters; Eragon, Nasuada–the Varden’s new leader, and Roran–Eragon’s cousin. Not only is each section well written, but they are well placed. Each POV is several chapters long and usually ends when an unknown length of time will elapse between that point and when events pick back up. The events are also woven into each other, slowly merging as the book progresses. For example, we learn in Eragon’s POV that the child he blessed in Farthen Dur was actually cursed. When Nasuada’s POV picks up afterwards you meet Elva and learn precisely what Eragon’s “blessing” has done to her.
Another thing that I enjoyed was how Christopher Paolini found new ways to test Eragon and Saphira, both in terms of themselves and each other. During the Battle of Farthen Dur, Eragon kill the Shade Durza, but suffered a grievous injury across his back. In Eldest this injury causes Eragon intense, debilitating pain that gets worse as the plot progresses to the point that Eragon can barely function. A great deal of Eragon’s growth as a character is in how he dealt with and tries to overcome the injury. It’s a plight that many people can sympathize with and makes him more human as a result.
Saphira’s personal challenge is one that tests her as feel as her bond with Eragon. With all other dragon’s having been killed in the Fall of the Riders–except those bound to Galbatorix and the Forsworn–she’s the only known free dragon in Alagaesia, an aspect that brings her great loneliness as she comes to terms with it. When she and Eragon venture to the elven kingdom of Ellesmera for further training they learn that their teacher are survivors of the Fall—a Rider and a dragon by the name of Oromis and Glaedr.
Saphira is so estatic at not being alone and so enamor with Glaedr that she ignores Eragon to focus exclusively on her dragon teacher whom she makes several advances towards him. Her actions place a great deal of strain on her relationship with Eragon, to the point of causing severe disagreements between them. Eventually, Saphira recognizes the mistakes she’s made, growing as a person in her own right and strengthening her bond with Eragon.
As Eragon and Saphira struggle to become stronger a full-blown war with the Empire looms on the horizon. Will they be ready? Will the Varden? And when the dust settles and Eragon is forced to face his past, what consequences will he be dealt? For once started, a war with the Empire must be completed and Eragon and Saphira must decide what it truly means to be dragon and Rider.
Everything that I loved in Eragon I found in Eldest which expands upon the first novel wonderfully. I never get tired of reading these books and reliving the adventures found on the pages.