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Book Review: Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Author: Christopher Paolini
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Pub. Date: April 2005
Series: Inheritance Trilogy, #1
Format: Paperback, 528pp
Age Range: 12 and up
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Eragon is a work mostly built on other’s shoulders. Little in this book is original, and ideas are almost wholesale lifted from the works of the great fantasists. I found elements of The Earthsea Cycle, a little Raymond E. Feist, some Jordan, and some attempts at humor reminiscent of Terry Pratchett. This does not make this a bad work, only unoriginal. But then, Christopher Paolini alludes to his avid fantasy and SF reading, so one would expect that much of his own story would borrow trace elements from these authors and their works.

Most people who read this review will know that the story of Eragon is the story of a poor young boy (Eragon of the title) of little history who becomes a hero. This is standard fare in the fantasy genre, and each writer who employs it usually does well due mostly to its simplicity and inherent popularity. Paolini is no exception in this regard.

The first book in the Inheritance trilogy, Eragon spends the majority of its pages in character development. Some action interrupts at opportune times, but for the most part, the reader spends his time learning about Eragon himself. We find hints of his history, his future, the world in which he lives, and the philosophy he is beginning to develop. Minor characters such as Brom and Murtagh help him see the world in different ways, allowing Eragon to formulate a philosophy of life.

It is obvious why this book is so popular among teens and is most often sold in the young adult sections of the bookstore. The chapters, especially at the beginning of the book, are very short, appealing to the ADD generation. Secondly, the teen angst that Eragon goes through as he moves from no name boy to hero and the philosophical meanderings would appeal to the current teen generation. Many of the questions he asks deal with the lack of moral absolutes so prevalent in our culture. These questions reveal the nature of what it is like to grow up in such a culture, as Paolini has, and the Eragon character evidences.

Ultimately, this is just a fun book. It is a simple tale of the growth of boy to hero, unoriginal but still a fun romp through a standard fantasy plot.