Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eragon - Christopher Paolini

There is something beautiful about a book which you can read without much effort.  Granted, I will never prefer them over books which make me think or books which are exceptionally well written; but something should be said for the books which are, at their highest level, an escape from reality.  A book which you can read at the end of the day when all thought is exhausted.  Everyone needs these books from time to time.  For me, the best examples of such books are ones which are so far removed from reality they cannot be real.  What I'm saying is, they need dragons...or fairies...or elves...or something which renders them unable to take place in our world.  

Recently, I had hit a point where the other books I was reading were heavier books - not anything that I could fall asleep reading as they required too much intellectual engagement. Now, I love to fall asleep reading, so I knew I needed to find a book which would merely carry me along on its journey - no thought required.  It was in a search for such a book that I started Eragon.  Christopher Paolini wrote his first draft at the age of 15 and, with the help of his parents, had the book published two years later.

The story follows 15 year old Eragon, who lives in a small village with his uncle and cousin.  His life can only be described as unremarkable.  While hunting in the mountains, a mysterious blue stone appears and he takes it home.  The stone, it turns out, is no stone at all, but a dragon egg.  Eragon soon finds himself in possession of a young dragon, who he names Saphira.  The evil king has sent the Ra'zac, a mysterious pair of beings who hunt dragons, to capture the new dragon Rider.  In the process of their hunt, they kill Eragon's uncle and burn their farm.  Eragon must flee the village with Saphira and the town's old storyteller to save his life.  Turns out the story teller has a long history with dragons and magic himself and he begins to train Eragon.  They journey across the kingdom in search of the Ra'zac so Eragon can avenge his uncle's death.  Of course, the story develops and becomes more complex from there.  By the end of the book, Eragon finds himself leagues away from his childhood home, deep in the mountains, fighting with the Varden, the rebels who defy the king.  The storyteller is dead, but Eragon and Saphira have made many new friends, including a beautiful elf named Arya.

It's basically your classic adventure fantasy novel.  Magic tutorials, interesting creatures, strange languages, sword fighting, and a young adult discovering he is not as ordinary as he thought.  Despite having the building blocks of an epic adventure, or perhaps because of having them, Eragon maintains a simplistic, surface-level read.  With no offense meant to teenagers, the book reads as though written by a high school student - which it was.  Paolini offers very little character development and no surprising plot point.  He followed the formula for countless other successful stories; and his has been moderately successful as well.  Success, however, which I believe has come from a predictable audience, not from originality.  In the rash of young adult novels since the turn of the century, there have been very few to be truly original.  Most have taken some sort of formulaic approach.  Yet, the best young adult novels offer strong character development, which, to me, is always the ingredient that will take a book from good to great.

In spite of its predictability, I did find Eragon to be an enjoyable read.  In fact, I have already started book two in the series.  Eragon turned out to be exactly the light read for which I was looking.  It fits the bill it advertises and does not go beyond.  I can only hope that in future installations, Paolini will show character growth, if only in Eragon.

Pages: 503
Date Completed: February 20, 2013

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