Ahhh, high school.
I know so many people look back on high school with anger or unhappiness, but not me. I was the world’s biggest band nerd, and my high school band was the most accepting and caring group of human beings I have ever been a part of. I had friends, so many friends, good friends, and encountered very little of the cattiness, cliques, and bullying that dominate so many high schools. I was a part of something, and I felt like I mattered. That’s special, and I treasure it.
So unlike most people, I look back on my high school experience fondly.
But honestly, I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I can’t remember what books I used to read.
I mean, I remember a few of them, but I know I was an avid reader, and I just genuinely can’t think of enough books to account for all of that time. One of the few books I definitely remember, however, is Eragon.
Oh, goodness. I was in love with this book. First of all, I love dragons. Any dragons. Second, I am fascinated by magic and the different ways authors interpret magic. So Eragon was almost written just for me. And it really is a well-written novel, so it’s no surprise that it hooked my friends and I. I remember hauling the second book, Eldest, in my suitcase all the way to Europe on a family vacation, despite the fact that it’s a mammoth 650 page hardback. Who needs clothes? I just had to know what happened next. When the final book came out my freshman year of college, my mom and brother drove it to me the week it was released because they knew how excited I was. That’s love, right there.
So, I don’t know, as I think about High School I have to think of Eragon. It’s so nostalgic for me, and I still love it.
What You Need to Know
Christopher Paolini was only 19 when Eragon was published.
I think I remember reading somewhere once that he finished it at age 17. Don’t know how accurate that is. Anyway, he was published at only 19! That’s amazing! Of course, it helps when you’re homeschooled and your parents self-publish for you. Still, it was picked up eventually by Knopf, so it was obviously good. And I mean, it’s very well written, you would never know it was written by a high schooler.
The first book is the best.
There are four books in The Inheritance Cycle. Unfortunately, the series got progressively worse as it went on. By no means was the final book, Inheritance, bad, it just wasn’t nearly as good as the first two. I think as Paolini got older and more educated he started trying a little harder, instead of trusting his instincts. Also, I think his desire to write something epic took over. So the result was a long, drawn out book with not the best dialogue.
Very Lord of the Rings. Sort of.
I’ve heard Paolini criticized before for how similar The Inheritance Cycle is to the Lord of the Rings in terms of world building. Some people think he ripped Tolkien off. The elves are secluded, live in the forest, and are immortal. The dwarves live in the mountains and love to make war. The Urgals (while looking nothing like goblins) serve a function very similar to the Orcs. And, like Tolkien, Paolini created languages for the elvish culture, although I don’t think he went as far as Tolkien did.
But really, to me, this is an unfair thing to say. So many fantasy novels piggy back off of Tolkien’s elves and dwarves for a very good reason. THEY ARE INGENIOUS AND THEY WORK. And Eragon is in no way like The Lord of the Rings in terms of plot, magic, dragons, main character, or really anything other than the four races. So while I do recognize the similarities, I think those who got hung up on them were just looking for something to dislike.
The dragons! So awesome!
I think one of the things that is probably the most difficult about being a fantasy writer is finding a unique and believable dragon lore. I’ve read a lot of good dragon books, but plenty of bad ones too. Paolini got it just right.
The dragons in Eragon are sentient, but they don’t talk with their mouths. They kind of thought speak. They fly because they are magical, because otherwise it would be physiologically impossible. They have access to magic, but they can’t really command it, it just comes when it comes. Dragons look more or less the same, but come in a variety of beautiful colors. Dragons weren’t always bonded to humans and elves, but that came about as a way to stop wars between them. Now a dragon will only hatch when it senses a worth partner.
It’s unique, it’s interesting, and it makes sense within the world. Perfect.
Overthrow the tyrannical government!!
This theme has become almost obnoxious in its ubiquity, but back when Eragon first came out it hadn’t permeated every corner of YA fiction yet. It was definitely on the leading edge of that fad, anyway. But, yeah, that’s the overall plot of this novel.
Many, many years ago a dragon rider named Galbatorix managed to kill all of the other dragons and their riders, and through his magical prowess then took over the land. When Eragon finds a dragon egg and it hatches, he is now the only chance Alagaesia has to overthrow Galbatorix and restore peace to the kingdom. Along the way he will find help from every nation, and eventually meet up with the rebels who are ready to come out from hiding in the shadows.
Sounds pretty cliche at this point, but again, at the time it was relatively original still. And its very well done, much more so than some of the YA novels I’ve read written in this decade.
Aren’t the covers lovely?
You don’t really need to know that, but I still think it’s worth saying. *sigh* I’m a sucker for some beautiful artwork.
Whatever you do, do NOT watch the movie.
And if you have watched the movie, don’t judge this book based on it.
I know, I’ve said this before. But please believe me when I tell you this is one of the most unanimously hated movies OF ALL TIME. Fans and non-fans alike hated it equally. It was just bad in every way it is possible for a movie to be bad, and changed almost everything that was good about the books.
So if you read the book and you’re thinking to yourself, how bad could it really be?, just trust EVERYONE and stay away. And if you saw the movie and thought God, that was awful, I never want to read the book, please reconsider. Unless you don’t like fantasy, you probably won’t regret it.