Just finished reading Eragon.
The book has been on my reading list for a looong time, last not least because it intrigued me that it was written by a teenager.
Eragon is the first of a series. Now, there are various ways authors approach series; there is the loose-standing Disc-world “series” by Terry Pratchett where every book is a complete, separate story; there are series such as the ones by Jean M Auel, once again each book more or less stand-alone but connected by a storyline that ties over; and then there are series where a book cannot stand alone.
This is one of those.
I had hoped it would be more in the line of Ann McCaffrey (we’ve been so spoilt, we readers from the 80’s). Her “Pern” series also deals with dragonriders, but each book stands more or less alone. If you’ve read one, you can go for two years, then pick up the next and it will be enough of a stand-alone that you can read it on its own. Because people who are in the middle of their lives, and especially those who drive a business after hours, after working normal hours every day, and then still try to find time to squeeze in writing, generally don’t have all that much time to read.
If it’s a series, like Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”, then the pull towards the next book needs to be incredibly strong at the end of the first book (and each one after). This means of course that the pull within the book itself must be like an ocean current coming too close to the swimming beach – dragging you along inexorably, unable to fight free of it.
Imagery, such as the quaint little house of the Gaffer in the quaint little town of Mousehole (which does btw exist, in Scotland) in the book “The Little Country” by Charles de Lint, helps put the reader inside the story. Paolini does imagery quite well: The “Spine” near the original village, Carvahall, retains something mysterious (mainly because people are superstitious of it).
It’s not a bad read. If I’d bought it for myself, I’d have passed it onto my daughter (in fact I bought it for her, and the excitement and the way she adored the read, were great rewards).
As classic fantasy goes, maybe I’m a bit jaded and bored of the genre. Ann McCaffrey sort of said-it-all concerning dragon riders. Paolini didn’t really add much new. His “Urgals” remind me of something between Tolkien’s Orcs (though these have horns) and the Minotaurs of Spellforce (the game). The elf is (unlike Pratchett’s elves in “Lords and Ladies”) vividly beautiful; it’s what we expect from the High Elves, Tolkien already overdid that. Then there is the trek, first through the plane, then through the desert. Once again I’m disadvantaged by having read the epic Western books by the German author Karl May. He “did” the desert and the prairie masterfully, you hear the wind ripple through those grasses or get sand blown in your eye. As for the dwarf place: Very nicely done; though it doesn’t really touch on Barad-Dur and similar Tolkienish setups. The Dwarves are just a wee bit too human and not quirkishly dwarfish enough. (The same goes for that elf.)
I’ll say it again, we readers of the 80’s were thoroughly spoilt, so that by now we find books such as Harry Potter and Eragon, a bit of a rehash. Though I have to add that Harry Potter has Quidditch. She invented a whole game for her book. But if you read it as one of your first fantasy novels, i.e. before you touch Tolkien, McCaffrey, de Lint, Karl May, or Marion Zimmer-Bradley, you’ll find it a wondrous new world and be agape about the amazing adventures.
I strongly recommend Eragon for your teenage children (or grand-children in some cases). They will read the whole series, walk in a dwaal for a few days and get thorough enjoyment out of it.
Myself: I’ve got a better review for a number of other books.
- The Wind Singer. (My daughter found it “spooky” – and it is!) Read it – I’ll say nothing, it’s got everything in it that you’re looking for, except what you expect to find.
- “Queen of the Witches”. (A recommended read for the Ark, btw.) It is really cute, rather funny, over-the-top and very human. It’s the humanity in this modern Wiccan skit that is so very endearing.
- Charles de Lint: “The Little Country”. If you haven’t yet read it, do so! It’s a haunting saga, with dual reality and two storylines unfolding in parallel. You get as drawn into the politics of the one as the magic of the other.
- Anything by Marion Zimmer-Bradley – her tomes about historical fantasy give “fantasy” a different slant; but what I especially enjoy is her science-fiction. Once again it’s the human element.
The list goes on. And on. Of my recently-reads, I most enjoyed the antics of “Kaptein Oloff die Seerower”, which is a pirate romp for young teen and preteen boys. It is fast-moving, action never stops, and despite it being a series of rather thin books, one gets drawn into the stories so much that one needs to read the next on putting down the one.
I also enjoyed the “Hannah Montana” booklets for preteen and teen girls: Same reasons, they are school stories with a slightly surreal twist, and they are very funny. I can cut through one in about an hour, but I feel satisfied, as though I’ve read a really good book.
No, I’ll resist the temptation to punt P’kaboo’s books here; you’ll find a bit of everything in them but I shall not mention them here! You know where to find them.
(M, D, L: We’re working on our review and book display pages – in our minds, once the concept is formed completely, we’ll implement them.)