Eragon (Inheritance, #1)

Eragon (Inheritance, #1) - Christopher Paolini Eragon is one of those books that has potential. It has potential to be a really well-written fantasy, albeit one with little originality to it. Too many aspects of it are taken straight from things like Dragonriders of Pern, Lord of the Rings, possibly even Magician (though I haven't read that or anything related to the universe in so long I can't make a good comparison) and many others to boot. It is so full of tropes, stereotypes, and clichés, that my head ended up swimming with all of the I've Seen This So Many Times. Frankly, everything Eragon tries to be just...doesn't. It doesn't work. Fantasy has always struck me as a genre that you can create very rich and interesting worlds around old ideas and rehashes, bringing your own spice of character and world-building to it. Or it can be utterly ground-breaking, setting new standards for modern fantasy - much like Lord of the Rings, Magician, pretty much anything Pratchett or Eddings (though I haven't read Eddings yet, I'm sorry!) and (in my own personal opinion) the Realm of the Elderlings series.

Eragon has none of that. There is no spice, no flavour, no heat to his characters, and far too few of them are interesting. There were also too many characters based directly off of real people for my own comfort (though, saying this, Angela still ended up being one of the more interesting ones). Everything about the story - the world-building, the plot, the characters most importantly - are bland and dull and hair-rip-outingly boring. Even Saphira, who should really be the star of the show, isn't anything apart from your stereotypical, standard dragon character, able to speak to an extent and arrogant at times. Nothing new there. Though, for those faults, the plot development was actually not too bad. There just wasn't much of an interesting plot to begin with, though.

Spoilers and such below~

What's that? A fantasy story about dragons and a fifteen-year-old boy who's adopted and discovers he has a mysterious past and ends up gaining magical powers and extremely unrealistic prowess with a blade and angst and beautiful elvin ladies who shed enough single fucking tears to fill a lake and something about an epic romance? Wow, oh boy!

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There was so little that I ended up enjoying about Eragon this reread. I remember enjoying the simplicity of it back in...I think it was 2010, when I first read it, and didn't consider it all that terrible. Not this time. The constant fact that this book did not gain its popularity the old-fashioned way - through skill and the right people taking note - and was essentially forced into the fantasy scene stung, hard. It reminds me so very keenly that so many writers out there do not have the luxury of parents with a publishing company who can pay for a ton of public appearances and advertising. Many good writers' work never sees the light of the public eye, or at least not in the amount that it would deserve...yet this did, without basis.

It is not well written. The world is flawed, and not in a good way. The relatively small land of Whateverthehellitiscalled has enough climates to span an entire world, making that particular aspect of the story feel forced and plastic. There are so many unnecessary accents in words, a forced and again unnecessary bunch of languages. Replacing an English word with something clearly 'inspired' by Nordic does not a language make. Not even close.

The characters are unrealistic, uncomfortable and not pleasant to read about. Brom was the cliché old dude with a lot of secrets guiding Our Little Rider into future heroism, never sharing his mysterious information until exactly the right time. For a character that was supposed to be wise and intelligent, he came of as an utter idiot - that part about the Seithr oil? How Eragon suggests they check shipping records to track the Ra'zac? And Brom is so pleasantly surprised because he's never thought of that before? Oh my god no. Even a dimwit could think of checking shipping records, yet Brom can't even do that. No. Nope.

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Murtagh, I'll admit, isn't too bad. He actually has an interesting past that he's trying to escape. He clearly wants nothing more than to run from who he really is - Morzan's son - and simply find a place where he can be at peace, while simultaneously knowing that that just can't happen for him. We see him struggling with that burden in the story, often lashing out at Eragon and losing his temper. Not gonna lie though, one thing that irritated me when he revealed who his father was was the entire 'son of bad guy, HE MUST BE BAAAD' deal going on, both from Eragon/Saphira and the Varden. Yes, because that's how people work.

Angela and Solembum were both fairly interesting as well. They both clearly have a past, yet little if nothing of that is revealed, only extremely vaguely hinted at. Which - if that past is explored more deeply in any of the sequels, is interesting and decent. If it's not, than just stop and stop and stop. That's nothing but a feeble hook if she doesn't actually follow through on that and let us know more about herself. Don't make two possibly interesting characters utterly and infuriatingly pointless by having them show up and hint about being something more than what they seem to be, and then doing nothing with them. Just don't.

As for Eragon himself:
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How the hell am I even supposed to tackle this? Where do I start? Well, he's fifteen, not far off from sixteen, when the story starts. Okay, I suppose that's not terrible - a little overused, perhaps done to death, but not bad. This better be impressive though, please. What? He's adopted and doesn't know who one of his parents is, in this case his father? Oh. Well. Hm. Let's just keep reading. Wait, a magical stone teleports into a mountain chain and he just happens to be there to find it when that wasn't its intended destination? Neurgh. Yadda yadda old storyteller who is mysterious, blahblagh oh so that stone was actually a dragon egg, yadda monsters show up and burn down the farm and kill his uncle, yadda cue big adventure and coming-of-age story.

I am all for coming-of-age stories. I seriously am. But they're so common and tend to all follow a set formula that I like seeing ones with some actual appeal to them. Harry Potter? Yup, definitely. All over that. Lord of the Rings? Perhaps not exactly what I'd consider a coming-of-age, but it does follow Frodo getting older, and enduring a journey that will change him so harshly from who he originally was, so I tend to consider it one, whether it is or not. Assassin's Apprentice? Yes please. More of that literary stew. Even Howl's Moving Castle deals with it in a pretty amusing fashion.

Eragon just piles one Gary Stu quality on top of another until we're stuck reading about this towering, wobbling mass of bland, lukewarm, flavourless Stu. (Ohoho.) He's attractive, loses his natural fat pretty quickly and puts on 'rippling muscle', he tans up and has a dragon. He is super duper proficient with a bow, even carrying it around towns for self-defence. I'm sorry, maybe I misread all of those sequences. Really, the only thing more practical and concealable than a bow and quiver is a siege weapon. Maybe you should try one out. (Did 'master of the blade' Brom seriously never teach Eragon how to use a simple, run-of-the-mill knife?) Not to mention he learned to use a sword, and use it well - well enough to be called 'unmatched' - within a few months. Because it doesn't take years of constant training to handle a weapon like that, no sirree. Oh, and he's really mature - accepting all that sudden responsibility and just abandoning his cousin without further thought and taking on the mantle as a leader without much question, despite being a kid and quite a bratty one at that. I think it takes a certain type of person with a certain type of brain to also learn to read in a single week - and I highly doubt that Eragon is that sort of person. But that's okay, his Stu powers will give him that much.

I also have absolutely no idea why Saphira doesn't have a ton more importance in the book. She seems like nothing other than a flying horse to me - something that you can feel affectionate for, but can't ever really consider an equal, no matter what you tell yourself. She rarely has a say in things, Eragon has all of the power in their supposed partnership, despite the fact that she is a dragon and apparently a 'creature with equal or greater the intelligence of a man'. For something on par with humans, she is certainly not treated with the same afforded respect that Eragon gets, when in my eyes she should be the one doing the thinking between them. She's certainly a hell of a lot smarter than her Rider is.

Arya. Arya. Of course there has to be a beautiful Elf with long flowing raven hair and striking green eyes and magical powers who is also really shapely and thin and svelte and is super good with a sword and a bow and did I mention she's beautiful? Single beams of moonlight have this really curious addiction to falling across her face and accentuating it, too. And of all the single tears that show up, she sheds at least have of them. Of course the only exotic, white female would be the one that Eragon would be destined to have an 'epic romance' with. Why are elves always extremely white?

Asides from the sheer amount of problems with the world-building and character-building and plot-building, a ton of tiny other things just seriously got to me:

-Paolini seems to have this inescapable love for describing things. Distances, numbers, anything really. He spends too many valuable words telling us things we really do not need to know.

-One of the pieces of advice that Garrow gives to Roran and Eragon is 'Give men your ear, but not your heart.' Wait what? Am I reading that correctly, or is there possibly some hidden meaning I'm missing? If not, than that unsettles me. There's too much Beautiful = Good in this story already, don't add what can be construed as homophobia into it as well. I hope I'm just reading into it way too much.

-Angela tells Eragon's fortune pretty early in the story, not long after they first meet. It isn't the act of fortune-telling itself that aggravates me - it's the fact that it's apparently a very precise prediction, using the bones of a dragon and runes that 'can't lie'. The fortunes themselves were straightforward enough that there would seem to be no point in deviating away from them. In which case, thanks for the spoilers, asshole.

-At one point Eragon idly thinks something about the nation of Surda, claiming that people have told him they secretly support the Varden. Then it's not a secret, is it? If people in some secluded little farming town know about it, you really think it's a secret everywhere else?

-Eragon needs to get Murtagh to make a litter for Arya (who is still in her poisoned sleep at this point) because he isn't strong enough, due to exhaustion and his broken ribs. Yet he quite casually strings his bow, ready for use and battle. Just stop. Bows are not weapons for weedy little people; they take a lot of strength to use properly. If you've broken your ribs and try to use a bow right after, it is not happening. Stop making that bow of his a go-between weapon.

-It really only needs to be mentioned once that Ajihad and his daughter has black skin. Those who enjoy the characters won't forget it, those who don't enjoy them won't care. I get uncomfortable when it's pointed out more than once in any story.

-Durza was wearing a suit of armour in their final battle; how did Eragon, injured and very much in pain, manage to stab him through the heart?

-Eragon, our hero, survives a great battle with Urgals. He even survives an encounter with a powerful Shade, even slaying him in the process. Yet when he wakes up with a very well-healed scar on his back, groggy yet in good health, his life is clearly ruined because he is disfigured.

Fucking deal with it, you ungrateful kid. Wow.

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This book could've been good if some editors out there were actually willing to smack him upside the head and point out everything that was wrong with this. Which was most of it. This goes to show that popularity gained through publicity is not always duly warranted.