Book Review: Eragon (Inheritance) by Christopher Paolini


Eragon by Christopher Paolini, an epic dragon rider story.Series: The Inheritance Cycle, #1

Author: Christopher Paolini

Genre: Fantasy

Book Description:

What was once your life is now your legend.

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes that he has stumbled upon a legend nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.


Eragon is an epic fantasy that begins when a not-quite-ordinary farm boy finds a dragon egg – for Eragon is the only hunter of Carvahall who dares to hunt in the Spine, a range of mountains feared by all. For the most part I found it interesting and easy to read, though dialogue and phrases sometimes seem out of place, and not as if they would be spoken by that character then and there, as if trying to evoke an archaic feel that did not quite suit, as if an epic narrated in a bardic style that as alien to the rest of the style. Descriptions are sometimes over-done, not necessarily in being overly detailed, but in being descriptive of things which have no bearing on the story, or the mood evoked by the scene.

Not all the characters are flat, but none of them are so vivid that I can hear the tone of voice, see their mannerisms, feel the way they move or the shifts of their moods. My favorite was Saphira, Eragon’s blue dragon. I loved the chapters before tragedy strikes, when he is keeping her hidden in the woods and slowly getting to know her. I love her personality, her alien wisdom, and her fierce protectiveness of Eragon. It seems to me that he’s the only person she really cares about, almost the only thing in the world that even merits her respect. She is fierce and violent, and readily understands his desire for revenge so that her desire becomes one with his in the task. But she is always chiding him for being stupid and putting himself in danger, and it is my firm conviction that if he wanted to thumb his nose at the Empire and the whole mess in Alagaesia, and live with her beyond the Hadarac Desert with nothing more complicated or dangerous than surviving the winter to threaten them, that she would whole-heartedly accept – even approve – of the decision. She does naturally hate the King Galbatorix for the evil he’s caused them and done, and wants to rescue the rest of the dragons from him, but really Eragon’s safety, happiness, and desires seem to be all she cares about. And I really loved her.

Eragon is a solid protagonist. He is definitely stupid from time to time, and he is meant to be, but I’m not sure all of his stupidities are really that. He is without much in the way of guile, and generally kind-hearted and compassionate, not wanting to kill. He is also reckless and relishes a challenge. He is sometimes strongly chided for all and each of these, but in them I think lies what will ultimately separate him from Galbatorix and Morzan and others of their ilk. Crushing these traits may make him a better weapon, but in the end it will solve nothing and it will not make a better world, or a better person. And dealing with these issues of his, to the degree that they are issues, is something I think best left solely to Saphira. She might be a dragon, capable of recklessness herself, but she wants to keep him safe – almost like if he were her hatchling, it feels like – and so through their bond and relationship, she could gently guide him into something like sense, without crushing anything of his wilder impulses. In the same way, her fierce, alien mind-set, unchained by the oddities of his human culture and his odd notions of fair combat and justice, could slowly show him that sometimes what he sees as wanton, unnecessary killing is entirely reasonable (if you are willing to kill at all) and that his ideas of fair combat and justice have far more to do with cultural prejudices than reality, without in any way chaining or crushing his compassion and his desire to avoid killing if at all possible – even if it’s something like an Urgal, a creature of which he knows only brutality and evil. That compassion is what makes him the right person to take on the mantle of the Dragon Riders. It is what sets him so far apart from the evil king.

However, his old storyteller teacher, Brom, seems oblivious to this, and often chides him in ways that I think are unwise. In some ways, it’s not his fault, as Brom has his own reasons to hate the Empire and has been damaged in some very severe ways that are eventually revealed, but I think it is definitely unwise.

Murtagh is another interesting character. We meet him near the end, but he seems more alive – in the sense that I feel him more – than many of them. He is such an interesting and compelling combination of jaded towards the world, and compassionate, of always looking out for the next threat, and living each day as it comes. Though he kills without hesitation, his compassion and courage are as great as Eragon’s. But it seems as if he would be happier as a scholar than as a warrior, and when he gets a tiny sliver of that life, I find myself almost hoping he does turn into that fat scholar.

I did not like the Varden at all (this is the small underground group of rebels that oppose the Empire). It seems to me upon meeting some of them and the way that they are doing things that they are becoming – or perhaps always were – as evil as the king they seek to depose, since they demonstrate no respect for personal freedoms and boundaries. Their leader, Ajihad, also seems oddly stupid, unable to draw what are likely conclusions, and obvious possibilities, from strange and traitorous behavior. I really did not like how Eragon and Saphira did such a poor job of standing up for themselves when dealing with them. Up until that moment, Saphira has always been so fierce – and almost reckless – in her protection of Eragon and of his right to make his own choices, that I would have expected her to defend them there. She is quite confident in her power as a dragon and has no respect for human hierarchies or societies, so I don’t know why she does not encourage him to leverage their status as dragon and Rider, and threaten them all with their combined wrath if they try to violate Eragon’s personal boundaries – after all, they have a great deal of unique power between the two of them, both substantive and political. Instead, while she supports him in some ways and protects him as he could not protect himself alone, she also encourages compliance where I would have expected her to be enraged, given that she can be quite venomous. I really hate it when protagonists act out of character to move the plot in the right direction. It would have been so much more interesting, I think, too if Saphira (and to a lesser extent, Eragon) had acted like themselves.

Finally, there is some rather neat fore-shadowing. And of lesser significance, but the author does not always seem to keep the relative sizes of things in mind. Saphira (who is by that time quite large) is fit into a room that may be large, but there is no hint given that it is anything like large enough to fit a dragon or, even if it is, that the door is large enough for her to have fit through it.

Christopher’s Website

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