eldest
“Too many problems in this world are caused by men with noble dispositions and clouded minds.” – p 350

Paolini is a good storyteller. He’s just not a very original one. My husband can quote you endless examples of how these books take from Tolkien’s writing, Lewis’s writing, and the Star Wars series and use them shamelessly. If you’ve read my review of “Eragon,” you’ll know that I’m not quite as upset about this as I used to be. Lots of books in the sci-fi and fantasy genres do this; so much so that it’s hard to find a new and fresh plotline in any book coming out in these genres. So it’s a little unfair to run Paolini over the rails for doing what a lot of other people are.

The newest problem with Paolini’s storytelling in this second book, unfortunately, is a very frustrating one. He attempts to carry on three storylines at the same time and runs into a problem I’m sure a lot of newer authors have struggled with: pacing. After ending on somewhat of a cliffhanger in his first novel (after a large battle), we would expect the pace to be quick and exciting as we transition to the second novel…picking up where the first one ended abruptly. Instead, we are presented with a slow and dragging story centered around Eragon and politics.

Then it switches to focusing on a character we have heard nothing about since the first chapters of the first book and another character who had one appearance in book one. Near the end of the book – a convergence between the storylines occurs, which is the most jarring error in pacing I’ve ever read. Many of these characters’ actions are examined in minute detail as Eragon evolves as a rider on his own, but when the time comes for them to interact…several weeks are skipped over in a few paragraphs – leaving us wondering how the heck they all got there.

The reintroduced character of Roran provides most of the action for a large portion of the book while Eragon goes through his initiation with and training by the elves. Which…defines the very word boring. He also fumblingly addresses the romantic parts of the novel while Eragon and Saphira are with the elves.

Maybe it’s something about elves, but Paolini is at his pinnacle of verbosity during this part of the novel. Anytime we read about them, words are flying left and right that we may not recognize. Again we have to endure the pretentious writing of Paolini, which assumes we are all well-read homeschoolers, instead of the audience who enjoys this book the most – pre teens. Here’s a good example:
“When he felt weary and lay himself down to rest, he entered a state that was unto a waking dream. There he beheld many wondrous visions and walked among the gray shades of his memories, yet all the while remained aware of his surroundings.” – p 530

Overall, it felt like Paolini completely switched gears in this novel after the first one. He de-emphasized plotlines and characters which could have been expanded into something interesting. He also began to re-introduce and emphasize things he barely mentioned in the first book – even to the point where so little was written about them before their appearance in “Eldest” that we are forced to go back to “Eragon” and flip through to find out who they are. It felt as though he suddenly realized people were saying he was a good author and felt as though he had to add more twists and turns to an already mediocre and confusing series.

I always like to include a few good qualities, no matter how bad the writing is in any book. As she did in the first book, Saphira as a character is brilliant. She gains more facets, no longer the all-knowing dragon, but finding herself lacking in the training and history of her race. She, too, has to deal with emotions of being the only one of her kind. Paolini is a bit more standoffish when it comes to dealing with feelings coming from a female character, which is something I’m sure will be remedied as he becomes a more experienced author. Hopefully the other qualities of a good writer will pick up the pace in their improvement.

“Eldest” was published in 2005 and written by Christopher Paolini.

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