Many books in my book queue are waiting to be read, and a common theme among them is they’re all part of a series, trilogy or saga. Each Sunday, I’ll share a book from a series. You can read along with me, or add the books to your own reading list. This week, I’ll be reviewing “Eldest,” the second book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.
Warning: This review might contain spoilers.
After the battle of Farthen Dur, Eragon and Saphira are called away to the elven city of Ellesmera. Eragon has been wounded badly by Durza the Shade, and when he tries to duel, his cursed wound causes him to experience seizures. Later in the book, at the Agaeti Blodhren (an elvish festival), Eragon’s wound is healed and he morphs into a different creature entirely, half-man, half-elf.
While in Ellesmera, in addition to honing his swordfighting skills, Eragon meets with Oromis, an old dragon rider, and his dragon Glaedr.
This is where the book slows down tremendously. About a third of the way through “Eldest,” Eragon and Oromis read, paint, translate runes, duel, cast magic spells, and do some weird fictional form of yoga. The dialogue between Eragon and Oromis is forced, formal and awkward: Eragon playing the part of the whiny student and Oromis playing the archetypal wise teacher role. Saphira and Glaedr hang out, and Saphira eventually falls in love with Glaedr, but she’s rebuffed.
In parallel, Eragon also confronts and makes known his feelings for Arya, and he is also rebuffed. Arya, Eragon finds out, is a 100-year-old elf princess: Way too old for him, way too wise and way too immortal.
After some time, almost two-thirds of the way through the book, Eragon is called back to the Varden as imperial soldiers march on Surda, a city close to the Varden’s hideout. Battle ensues, and some of a prophecy that was made in the first book comes true in the second. But I won’t spoil it too much for you.
“Eldest” is somewhat less linear than “Eragon.” The story jumps around from Eragon’s yoga lessons (big yawn), to the political maneuverings with the Varden and Nasuada, the Varden’s learder. Some page time is also given to Eragon’s cousin, Roran.
After Carvahall (Eragon’s hometown,) is invaded by imperial forces and the Ra’zac, Roran flees with the villagers toward Surda to find refuge with The Varden. Roran’s transformation from a small-town bumpkin into a hammer-wielding survivalist warrior is pretty awesome. Along with Arya, he’s one of my favorite characters.
Paolini definitely hones his craft in the second book. While Eragon is continuing his education, and it isn’t all that exciting, the writing, in general, is less clumsy. I can picture the characters in my head and scene after scene plays out like an action-packed movie. Except for the part where Eragon meditates about ants while sitting on a tree stump. That part reminds me of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” my least favorite book ever. I’d be curious to know if Paolini thought of Thoreau while writing the scene.
Overall, “Eldest” is a great continuation to “Eragon.” Next week, I’ll be continuing the series with “Brisingr,” the third out of four books in the series so far.
Did you miss last week’s review of “Eragon?” Click here to check it out.
Also, vote on my poll for which series I should read next!