CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 9 . . . . December 22, 2006
Reading only Book Two in a trilogy is a thankless job for any literary reviewer. You can expect page after page of synopsis of Book One and the set-up for the big finale in Book Three, getting at best in Book Two a teaser ending that makes you want to buy Book Three. Wunderkind author Christopher Paolini’s second novel in his “Inheritance” trilogy, Eldest, is no exception. Eldest weighs in at a hefty 681 pages. It is a mega best seller. It does not need me to become any more of a success than it is. I managed to misplace it when my girlfriend moved in last fall, but, like a boulder in an Interlake field, it has since resurfaced. As Book Three has yet to be published, here is my long overdue review.
Being as young as he is (under 20) Paolini’s literary and cinematic sources aren’t buried very deep at all. The quoted section above is a humorous lift from a late night movie classic. (Hint: Substitute ‘badges’ for ‘barges.’) It shows promise of the mature writer Paolini will one day be, hopefully a writer a little less serious and a lot more playful. “The Lord of the Rings” is Paolini’s major literary source, of course. As our hero, the teenaged orphan Eragon, masters his magical powers, we, of course, think of young Master Harry Potter. Anne McCaffery’s “Dragonriders of Pern” series is honoured with the inclusion of Eragon’s partner/dragon, Saphira. The “Star Wars” series is in there, of course. Who is our hero Eragon’s father? Why was Eragon raised by his now murdered uncle? The “Matrix” Series is paid homage to, what with its evil Twin magicians and Eragon’s newly acquired super-human reflexes. Paolini graduated from high school at 15. He lives in Montana. What he knows of the world is mostly from videos and books. The question is - Do I recommend his books (plural)?
Yes, actually, I do recommend them.
Paolini has created an artful synthesis of his many sources to create a plausible medieval world where the races of elves, dwarves, humans, dragons and Kull (not Orcs) live under the tyranny of the evil Galbatorix. In our modern world of grey upon grey morality, the black and white world of battling a Sauron or Voldemort is appealing to the teenaged reader. Teenagers want to see evil vanquished, preferably in a bloody fashion. While Paolini has an annoying tendency to rush through sections that should be savoured and to dwell on passages that should be hurried through, his pacing can only improve with time. His Book Three will be an even stronger effort. Until it is released, by all means buy copies of Books One and Two for your school library. After students have been inspired by Tolkien to continue reading fantasy, Paolini should help them continue that reading habit a little bit longer. After this series is over, I look forward to reading the novels of a young man who has paid all of his homages and is ready to say something truly original.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.