I have to confess that this was another recommendation by my sister (although I’d heard many good things from a range of sources) and, as much as it pains me to say it, she was right, it is excellent. I’m a relative late-comer to the Fantasy genre but, if you look at my reading page, you’ll see that it’s making serious inroads on my reading material. I think I orginally shied away from it because it all seemed to be about unstoppable warriors saving helpless women (at least, to me), and I like my stories a little more complex than that. Anyway, for those of you following my entries, you should know that I’m a Harry Potter fan and that I’ve started writing a children’s novel. So I try and stay up to date on what’s hot in the field and Christopher Paolini certainly is.

Eragon is generally referred to as a children’s book but it’s something of a misnomer in the same way Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy are referred to as a children’s novels. The only reason for that is that they feature youngsters in the main role, but where most others are in the low teens, Eragon‘s main character (also called Eragon) turns 16 in this adventure making him fall into the young adult category and it means the story is told from a significantly older perspective than the others (how many characters fight sword fights against fully grown and/or numerous opponents?).

To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed the book, I read it in three evenings, tearing through the pages with only my discipline and a strict eye on the clock forcing me to put it down. It tells the story of Eragon, a simple farm boy living in a remote backwater. One night, while out hunting in deserted woodland, a large blue stone drops from th sky and lands near him. It turns out that the stone is, in fact, one of the last dragon eggs given to man and elf. The eggs don’t hatch to a timespan, they wait until they find their partner and hatch only when they are before them. Eragon is chosen by this dragon, later named Saphira, to become one of the fabled Dragon Riders, gifted warriors who once kept the peace, until one of their number betrayed and killed them and, with the help of a few loyal followers, he wiped out the other Dragon Riders and installed himself as king. Now Eragon must try and stay safe and learn to use his newfound strength and magical abilities while hunted by the forces of this evil king. His choices are slim and he doesn’t know who he can trust, none of his options are easy, or safe, but he must choose a side.

It was a tense, action-packed read with a near-relentless pace. Eragon and Saphira are hunted on all sides and find themselves in a lot of trouble, while also trying to do the right thing. I enjoyed seeing a hero who didn’t have it all figured out, who constantly makes mistakes, who spends much of his time tired or injured and unsure of what to do, but through all that it just makes him seem more heroic. I’m not sure he gets through a fight without either falling, or being knocked, unconscious. There is also an interesting amount of self-examination and self-doubt, which is unusual for Fantasy character, but welcome. The scenary and landscape are drawn vividly, as are the characters, which helps make for an engrossing story and the legends that surround the main narrative are almost Tolkein-esque in their detail and history. The main Fantasy races are all here, although some would argue they tread the stereotypes with too little deviation, and there are new races too.

As you may have guessed, I loved the book, and the good news about discovering an author late is that you can read some of their other material. Eragon is the first book in the trilogy, with Eldest, the second part, recently released. The good news for me is that my sister has a copy of that I plan to steal too, the bad news is she just went on holiday and took it with her.

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Reviewed: 22nd October 2005

Recommended: Yes