Christopher Paolini, only 15 when he started writing his epic fantasy, has created a majestic, vastly enjoyable series that has become a family favourite. A measure of its value is that despite the books, especially the last two, being doorstoppers, they are have been read and reread a number of times (witness their dog-eared and tattered state) by myself and two sons with different tastes in novels.
The world Paolini has created across the Novels, Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance is complex and fascinating with a slightly different take on the usual suspects of Dragons, Elves and Dwarves. The action is fast-paced and descriptive elements are kept to a minimum with an emphasis on the thoughts and motivations of the characters which involves the reader.
Fantasy usually involves self-growth if not epiphanies and this learning is made more vivid by magical and fantastical elements. The journey Eragon goes on is far-reaching and forces him to confront every flaw and weakness.
Paolini has created a unique character in Eragon in his refusal to align himself with one race or group. The forming of strong relationships in extraordinary circumstances leads to multiple loyalties and this allows him to be a powerful catalyst for the future. Physically he actually takes on aspects of every race and this willingness to let go of self is a particular and relevant metaphor. It also leads us to understand the different races more deeply and his willingness to see beyond superficial differences to the connections between races is a great lesson.
Arya is a complex, mysterious character and her thoughts and agenda are never fully revealed to readers. Their relationship evolves from Eragon’s romantic yearning into a deep abiding connection and this pathos is a current that flows through the action.
Love is central to the development of the characters over the series and does not follow conventional patterns. Around this central relationship are a range of wonderful, brave, heroic characters. The interweaving of their distinct destinies and their struggles is compelling. The impact of violence and trauma on the characters is significant and lasting.
While this work has been labelled derivative, I don’t see this as a negative within the fantasy genre. A lot of novels are referential and the classic storyline of an orphan going on a personal quest and at the same time saving the world is the basis of many successful series. It is the way authors differentiate the story that makes them enjoyable. The Inheritance series distinguishes itself with original characters. The ending of the series is actually a perfect one, with only some ends being tied together and the rest left for one’s optimistic imagination.
Highly recommended entertaining read for when you have some spare time as you won’t be able to put it down. For readers 12 and above due to the nature of some of the content.
Being one of our favourite stories, the movie Eragon was hugely disappointing. While it followed some of the major plot aspects, the treatment was reduced to a one-dimensional adventure tale. This sort of series deserves a Peter Jackson-style treatment, with such grand settings and far-reaching themes. One particularly grating element was the character of the dragon Saphira, whose pleasant voice sounded like an airline steward rather than a savage, vain, carnivore. A significant feature of the novels is the fear and awe that the dragons inspire and this was not well-portrayed. While it may have been interesting for people new to the story, not a hit for these fans of the series.