Today's book discussion is going to be about Eragon, the first book in the four-part series called The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.
I had been meaning to read this book for a very long time, I grew up constantly hearing about it, and now I finally have. And since beginning it, I was made aware that Eragon is actually quite the controversial book. Some people hated it with a burning passion and others defended and loved it with a burning passion, and then others just said "eh it's a thing" and left it at that.
Now I want to put my two cents into the hat.
I want to start by saying no, you cannot watch "Star Wars: A New Hope" and know the entire story of Eragon. They aren't the same stories. Paolini did not just rewrite Star Wars.
But I will follow that up by saying yes, inspiration was clearly taken from Star Wars (and also Lord of the Rings) for many elements of this book.
It seems to me that Paolini did what many young writers are guilty of; they absorbed their favorite story and - likely unknowingly - leaked parts of it into their own story. Eragon is a farm boy, there is an evil Empire, Eragon lifts rocks with magic at one point, Eragon has an old man mentoring him, and three spoiler-y things happen that are very clearly taken from Star Wars.
While at a glance this seems to be a plagiarized story, Paolini took a different approach to each thing and they all carried a different weight and/or consequence (good or bad) that was relative and relevant to the story. And that is not all that Paolini did. He did write non-Star Wars-y things (it's an almost five-hundred page book, after all).
So is it like Star Wars? Yes, very much so.
Is it Star Wars? No, it is not.
Will it bug a Star Wars fan to read? Very likely.
Does this alone determine if it is a good or bad book? No, it does not.
Okay, so there's my thoughts on that part. With that out of the way, let's talk about some other things Eragon takes from.
Eragon is one of many fantasy stories which uses the "classic" fantasy themes. Dwarves use axes and live underground, elves are regal and don't like dwarves or humans and they use bows, and humans are humans. The "chosen one" trope is definetly here. It's got its own equivalent to Tolkien's orcs. It's got a battle. It's got a cool sword. It's got a dragon. It's got a girl good with swords.
Part of me wanted to dislike that, but then I thought about how that wasn't exactly an overused set of tropes and themes back in the day, and that even if it was, it's one of those things that isn't necessarily bad to be used repeatedly. What I mean by that is there's some things that get bad the more you use it, and some that you just come to appreciate for being a "classical" element. Like how some dairy products you do not want to sit around forever, but the longer cheese is set the better it is. Kinda.
So those classic elements aren't something that I hold against the book for reusing. And I actually really liked how Paolini went about doing them. Because, again, while he did take things from previously established stories and reused them, he didn't just do that. I wouldn't say he made it his own, but he made it so it's not quite the same, which kept it interesting.
And then there were the things that he actually made himself. Such as the world (which was thoroughly designed), the languages (which were mostly used for cultural purposes, such as names, but well thought out), the magic system (which was a language and was very believable). Some of which I've actually seen in some of my favorite fantasy books, having no idea that they were taking from Eragon.
The storyline is a classic fantasy storyline. Boy finds out he's the chosen one, boy goes on mission to... well no, not save the world. Actually, he just wants revenge. Hm. That is kinda different for a "chosen one" trope. I appreciate this.
Anyways. It isn't an incredibly unique storyline, but it is familiar and again, interesting, and the other elements which I mentioned helped to flesh it out considerably.
Now, let's talk about the writing style. Because I think this is the part I had the most confusing time with.
Paolini's writing style was very confusing to me. Not because he wrote in a super complex way, but because usually the narrative was fairly bland, but then it would become engaging at other parts. If I were to see this problem in my own writing, I would say that it was probably happening because I as the writer wasn't as engaged in some places as I was with others.
That may be Paolini's reason as well, but I don't quite think it is. And I say that because it wasn't always the exciting action-y parts that got me engaged, and it wasn't always the slow conversation and journeys that lost me. I don't quite know how to explain it.
To deal with the parts when I wasn't engaged, I either skimmed, or I had to really lend the book my imagination so I could get more entertainment out of it (by that I mean I would have to add tones to the narration and dialogue, decide what the characters were thinking to make what they said more relatable, change the ways characters worded things, and at times add body language and facial expressions where they were lacking. Basically, I had to insert my own ideas that seemed mostly in line with what was actually happening so that I would stay interested).
Then there was the lack of characterization. I believe this contributed to my above issue. I don't mean to say that the book had no character, but more of that the character that the book did have was spread across everything, including the actual characters.
This may just be a personal preference, but when I write, my characters use different vocabulary from one another and from the narration. For example, in my current WIP, my MC would say "maybe," and my supporting male lead would say "possibly." It goes a bit deeper than that, but I'm sure you get the gist of it.
Paolini's characters, specifically after the first hundred pages or so, didn't do this very much. The exception would be with Brom, Orik, and Saphira. Everyone else tended to use the same wording and for the most part think the same way, which made it hard to really like any of them, because they didn't stand out from one another in any consistent way.
Overall, it was a decent book. I didn't enjoy all of it, or even most of it, but it did keep my interest and I don't regret reading it or anything like that. I still have a lot of respect for the book given that the author was so young when he wrote it. He proved that a young author can succeed, and for such a young author he did a really good job.
So, I respect Eragon and Christopher Paolini quite a bit in that regards. However, I didn't really like the book itself. It was okay, and I don't have any direct issue with it, and I did really like some aspects of it and certain lines, descriptions, interactions, etc., but it's not really a book that I'd miss if I lost my copy, you know?
However, I do plan to read on through the rest of the books This is partly because I'm curious about what will happen (how the story will go from where it left off), and now I'm invested in just seeing how Paolini went on as a writer through the series. The evolution of his writing, I suppose, as I then want to read his newest book, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars.
So, those are my fresh thoughts on Eragon. I wrote this the day I finished it, so I might have left out some things and my thoughts might not be concrete, but it is what it is.
What are your thoughts on Eragon, The Inheritance Cycle, and Christopher Paolini as a writer? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
P.S. Yes I'm still being lazy and not including post graphics. bite me.