Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Eragon" by Christopher Paolini

If you've gone into a bookstore in the last five years, or even walked down the books aisle at Wal-Mart or Target, you've probably seen this book. It probably made the biggest splash in the young reading market since Harry Potter. Several of my friends read it, read the sequel (Eldest), and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the final book (Brisingr) later this year. So why did it take me this long to read it myself?

Probably because I kept reading/hearing that it was really just a rehash of Lord of the Rings. Or of Star Wars. Or of Harry Potter. People also said it was badly written, or immaturely written, or predictable, or boring, or... you get the picture.

So I decided to read it for myself, to see if it was as good, or as bad, as people said.

It is.

Christopher Paolini started writing Eragon when he was a teenager. And it feels like it was written by a teen, with some odd pacing and writing that is both spare and wordy. S. E. Hinton he isn't (but who is?). So don't read this book if you're looking for sparkling prose or perfect plotting. But if you want a fun, fairly fast read, something to divert you this summer while you're on a plane or the beach, go for it! I liked it well enough that I got the second book out of the library.

Oh, and as for the accusation that it's similar to Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or Harry Potter -- of course it is! It follows the pattern of all great myth-based stories. Our hero gets a call to action, acquires a mentor, meets up with some archetypal characters, and engages in a big battle against the Evil One. I don't call that copying, I call that utilizing the mythic story structure. For more info on that, read The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey or The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

(Originally posted on Inscriptions on Jun. 22, 2008.)

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