You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Lest one get the impression that this entire blog will be raves about books, this will be a review of a book that I was not that impressed with. First let me say, Eragon is quite an accomplishment considering that the author, Christopher Paolini, was 15 years old when he started writing it. The book I wrote when I was 15 and 16 was pretty unreadable. Paolini shows a lot of potential, and his next series is likely to be much better.

Now let me check off the cliches:
1. Main character is an orphan living with an aunt or uncle. Check.
2. Mysterious friend turns out to much more than he seems. Check.
3. Main character has hidden magical powers that start to manifest. Check.
4. Sinister forces appear in the main character's hometown and cause trouble. Check. This kicks off the main conflict.
5. Heroes traipse across the map on a long journey, seemingly knowing where their destination is but often backtracking. Check.
6. Orc-like enemies destroy entire towns in their rampages, including women and children. Check.
7. Magic sword. Check.

The true question of what I think of a book is answered by whether I plan to read the sequel. In this case I don't. There wasn't enough original in this story to merit reading any more in the series. I suppose the book would seem fresher to someone who wasn't familiar with Tolkien, or Anne McCaffrey.

(Warning: spoilers below)
Quick synopsis:
Eragon is a boy who lives with his uncle and cousin. He finds a dragon egg and it hatches, the dragon bonding to him. The sinister forces come searching for the egg and kill the uncle, then run away. Eragon's friend, Brom, turns out to be much more than a storyteller. Brom's history unfolds over the first half of the book, as he is very secretive. Brom helps Eragon find the people who killed his uncle, taking him to one town and then another. The bad guys ambush the two, Brom is killed, and Eragon is rescued by another mysterious guy named Murtagh. Murtagh and Eragon travel some more, and Murtagh rescues Eragon again, this time from a prison of the emperor's. They race to the hidden city where the empire's rebels live, taking an unconscious elfmaiden with them. There they make a last stand against the emperor's secret army of orc-like monsters.

The characters are broadly drawn. Eragon is the only one with any real depth, known mainly for his love of his hometown and valley, and his desire for revenge. We never see more of Murtagh other than anger. Brom is basically Eragon's search engine: he has all the answers, or can find them, but he's quiet about what it all means. This does create some suspense, but I think it's a little overplayed. Eragon's dragone, Saphira, has more potential, but she's not more developed than an animal. Actually I think my favorite character was the talking cat.

My biggest problem with the plot is that the characters seem to be moving around the map as if they're pulled along by the author's strings. First this city, then this city, now let's go here. Eragon wants to find the sinister ones who killed his uncle, but why? Does he intend to kill them? He does a pretty poor job of it, and the result (being ambushed and nearly killed, getting Brom killed in the process) is pretty predictable. Why do they then travel towards the emperor's stronghold? Is it so Eragon can get captured and find the elfmaiden? And why do they travel to the hidden city? It must be so that the author can get them where they can help defend the city. In Saphira, Eragon has a great weapon that he can use to get himself out of trouble (they can communicate telepathically), but he never calls her at the right time. Also, I was a bit put out when Murtagh, who helped get Eragon to the secret city, is imprisoned there, and Eragon takes two days before going to see him, and has to be reminded that he's there! They just spent weeks in the desert together and Murtagh saved his life twice! Some thanks.

Brom teaches Eragon some basic lessons in magic, but when he's gone Eragon is reduced to trying random things, and lucky for him they work. It seems like too much of his success depends on luck, and not enough on thought or ability.

A few things stand out. Like the hidden city, which is remarkable in its scale. But its people are vague, and we never get a real impression of what living there is really like.

I'll give the book a C. It deserves its status in the Teen section of the library, and it's been pretty popular among that set.


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10:26 AM, July 21, 2006  

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