________________ CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006

cover

Eldest. 

Christopher Paolini.
New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf (Distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada), 2005.
681 pp. cloth, $27.95.
ISBN 0-375-82670-X. 

Subject Headings:
Fantasy.
Dragons-Fiction.
Youths’ writings.
 
Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.
 
Review by Dave Watson.
 
*** /4 

excerpt: 

That evening, the villagers gathered around a small banked fire in order to hear what had transpired in Narda. From where he knelt on the ground, Roran stared at the pulsing coals while he listened to Gertrude and the three brothers describe their separate adventures. The news about Roran’s and Eragon’s posters caused murmurs of unease among the audience.   

When Darmmen finished, Horst took his place and, with short brisk sentences, related the lack of proper ships in Narda, how the dockworker recommended Clovis, and the deal that was brokered thereafter. However, the moment Horst mentioned the word barges, the villagers cries of ire and discontent blotted out his voice.

Marching to the forefront of the group, Loring raised his arms for attention. “Barges?” said the cobbler. “Barges? We don’t want no stinking barges!” He spat by his foot as people clamored with agreement.
 
 

Reading only Book Two in a trilogy is a thankless job for any literary reviewer. You can expect page after page of synopsis of Book One and the set-up for the big finale in Book Three, getting at best in Book Two a teaser ending that makes you want to buy Book Three. Wunderkind author Christopher Paolini’s second novel in his “Inheritance” trilogy, Eldest, is no exception. Eldest weighs in at a hefty 681 pages. It is a mega best seller. It does not need me to become any more of a success than it is. I managed to misplace it when my girlfriend moved in last fall, but, like a boulder in an Interlake field, it has since resurfaced. As Book Three has yet to be published, here is my long overdue review. 

     Being as young as he is (under 20) Paolini’s literary and cinematic sources aren’t buried very deep at all. The quoted section above is a humorous lift from a late night movie classic. (Hint: Substitute ‘badges’ for ‘barges.’) It shows promise of the mature writer Paolini will one day be, hopefully a writer a little less serious and a lot more playful. “The Lord of the Rings” is Paolini’s major literary source, of course. As our hero, the teenaged orphan Eragon, masters his magical powers, we, of course, think of young Master Harry Potter. Anne McCaffery’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series is honoured with the inclusion of Eragon’s partner/dragon, Saphira. The “Star Wars” series is in there, of course. Who is our hero Eragon’s father? Why was Eragon raised by his now murdered uncle? The “Matrix” Series is paid homage to, what with its evil Twin magicians and Eragon’s newly acquired super-human reflexes. Paolini graduated from high school at 15. He lives in Montana. What he knows of the world is mostly from videos and books. The question is  - Do I recommend his books (plural)? 

     Yes, actually, I do recommend them. 

     Paolini has created an artful synthesis of his many sources to create a plausible medieval world where the races of elves, dwarves, humans, dragons and Kull (not Orcs) live under the tyranny of the evil Galbatorix. In our modern world of grey upon grey morality, the black and white world of battling a Sauron or Voldemort is appealing to the teenaged reader. Teenagers want to see evil vanquished, preferably in a bloody fashion. While Paolini has an annoying tendency to rush through sections that should be savoured and to dwell on passages that should be hurried through, his pacing can only improve with time. His Book Three will be an even stronger effort. Until it is released, by all means buy copies of Books One and Two for your school library. After students have been inspired by Tolkien to continue reading fantasy, Paolini should help them continue that reading habit a little bit longer. After this series is over, I look forward to reading the novels of a young man who has paid all of his homages and is ready to say something truly original.  

Recommended.
 

Dave Watson is a guerrilla EAL teacher, a researcher for the Winnipeg Green Party, and a Master's candidate in something or other. Still very angry that the deer ate ALL of the tomatoes, Dave is currently designing the ultimate non-lethal deer/rabbit fence.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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