Tuesday, March 4, 2008


When I saw a trailer for the movie Eragon, released December 2006, I thought it was something I would enjoy seeing, but I also knew it was based on a book. I wanted to read the book before going to see the movie. Eragon, written by Christopher Paolini, can be found in the "Young Adult" section at the bookstores, so it isn't really a "children's book", although I know of at least one third grader who was reading the book when I subbed in her class earlier this school year.

Eragon, Book 1 of the Inheritance Cycle, is the story of an orphaned farm boy who has grown up in his uncle's household, in Carvahall, a village at the farthest reaches of Alagaësia. When we first meet the 15-year-old Eragon, he is out in The Spine hunting to help feed his family. With his bow and arrow ready and a doe in his sight, there is a sudden explosion - the herd of deer are gone, and trees and grass have been burned. "In the center of the blast radius lay a polished blue stone. (p. 7)"

That polished blue stone will change Eragon's life in unimaginable ways. He returns to his village without any game, but he does bring back the stone, hoping to sell it in order to buy the food his family needs. He goes to the village butcher, Sloan, before going home and attempts to trade the stone for meat. Sloan is interested until he find out Eragon brought it back from The Spine. Days later, when the traders have come to Carvahall, Eragon and his uncle, Garrow, try to sell it. The trader examines the stone, making the observation that the white veins running through the blue are of the same material, and that it is hollow. The stone is not a practical item, and the trader doesn't want to risk not being able to sell it. Eragon informs him that the stone was brought back from The Spine, to which the trader tells Eragon and his uncle of other strange happenings throughout Alagaësia. While still in the village, Eragon hears other traders talking among some of the villagers about how the king, Galbatorix, is working hard to protect the people from the rebel Varden, and their supposed new allies, the Urgals. Not everyone is buying that, though - they hear the Varden would seek to help the people of Alagaësia.

A while later, Eragon hears Brom, the village's old storyteller, spin tales of Dragon Riders - those whose responsibility it was to protect and guard the people. The Dragon Riders were immortal, but could still be killed. Then, a boy named Galbatorix was accepted as a Rider. One day, Galbatorix's dragon was killed in an ambush. "Then were the seeds of madness planted. (p. 32)" Galbatorix eventually finds his way back to the Riders.

"Unconscious, he was taken to their holdings, and his body healed. He slept for four days. Upon awakening he gave no sign of his fevered mind. When he was brought before a council convened to judge him, Galbatorix demanded another dragon. The desperation of the request revealed his dementia, and the council saw him for what he truly was. Denied his hope, Galbatorix, through the twisted mirror of his madness, came to believe it was the Riders' fault his dragon had died. Night after night he brooded on that and formulated a plan to exact revenge. (p. 33)"

Brom continues the story of how Galbatorix, through treachery and deceit, destroyed the Riders and "anointed himself king over all Alagaësia.(p. 34)

With the completion of the story, Brom shuffled away with the troubadours. Eragon thought he saw a tear shining on his cheek. People murmured quietly to each other as they departed. Garrow said to Eragon and Roran, "Consider yourselves fortunate. I have heard this tale only twice in my life. If the Empire knew that Brom had recited it, he would not live to see a new month.(p. 34)"

Once back on his uncle's farm, Eragon examines the stone as the trader had done, and just before putting the stone away, he thinks he heard a squeak. Eragon is awakened in the middle of the night. He listens, but does not hear anything. Nonetheless, he decides to grab his knife from under the bed before drifting back to sleep. A squeak wakes him up again, so he gets out of bed, unsheathes his knife and lights a candle, but he can't find where the noise is coming from. Eragon picks up the stone, and the next squeak, he realizes, is coming from it. He puts it away again and goes back to bed, only to be awakened yet again, this time by the stone moving on the shelf. Deciding the stone is trouble, Eragon is going to take out and bury it. The stone falls off the shelf and rolls toward him.

Suddenly a crack appeared on the stone. Then another and another. Transfixed, Eragon leaned forward, still holding the knife. At the top of the stone, where all the cracks met, a small piece wobbled, as if it were balanced on something, then rose and toppled to the floor. After another series of squeaks, a small dark head poked out of the hole, followed by a weirdly angled body. Eragon gripped the knife tighter and held very still. Soon the creature was all the way out of the stone. It stayed in place for a moment, then skittered into the moonlight.

Eragon recoiled in shock. Standing in front of him, licking off the membrane that encased it, was a dragon.(p. 36-37)

The dragon was the same sapphire blue as the stone, which he now realizes was an egg. It begins exploring the room and jumps up onto the bed. Eragon reaches out and touches it "A blast of icy energy surged into his hand and raced up his arm, burning in his veins like liquid fire(p. 39)." The pain incapacitates him for a while; when he is able to move, he finds "the middle of his palm shimmered and formed a diffused white oval (p. 39)." He also begins to feel something in his mind, but withdraws from it. He suspects the dragon. It rubs against him, but he does not feel the same pain again, so he touches it on its head. His mind is touched again, but with a feeling of hunger. He finds some dried meat and begins feeding the dragon. The new hatchling eats its fill and falls asleep, and Eragon ponders what to do. Could he become a rider? The Empire wouldn't like it if they learned he had a dragon. He rejects killing the dragon out of hand. He must hide the dragon until he figures it all out. The next day, he sneaks the dragon out of the house and into the woods. He feels that presence in his mind again, and thinks back "stay here" (p. 42). The dragon grows quickly, and the link he shares with it strengthens. Eventually, it speaks his name.

Eragon has the chance to go into the village with this cousin, Roran, and is able to seek out Brom. He has questions. He wants to know about dragons and Dragon Riders. Brom had much to tell him, to include the fact that dragons were much more than mere animals. On the way home, Roran informs Eragon he's accepted a job with the miller in a neighboring village and he'll be leaving soon. He wants to marry and needs to have something to offer a bride.

Returning home, Eragon goes to see his dragon. He now realizes the dragon is his equal. The dragon calls his name; Eragon begins trying out names for his dragon. All are rejected. Then, it dawns on him that all the names he'd offered were male names; his dragon must be a she. He tries out more names, until he recalls the last name Brom had told him. Eragon's dragon is Saphira.

It becomes time to Roran to leave. Eragon accompanies him back into Carvahall to see him off. Eragon learns from Horst, the blacksmith, that someone has been asking about a stone like the one he'd found in The Spine. Horst tells him to get rid of it and go home until after the strangers who are asking questions leave Carvahall. Before going home, Eragon sneaks around the village; he overhears Sloan talking to the men about the stone. The strangers see him, but they walk away after Brom calls out to him. Brom, who seems to suspect something, escorts Eragon to the road back home. He races home - he sees his uncle and decides he must tell him about Saphira. He sneaks into the woods to find her. When he does, he tells her about the strangers. Her reaction? "Fire! Enemies! Death! Murderers!" (p. 70) She roars and then continues "Oaths betrayed, souls killed, eggs shattered! Blood everywhere. Murderers!" (p. 71)

In an effort to calm Saphira, he climbs onto her back. She launches into the sky and heads into The Spine, all the while Eragon insists they return to the farm to warn Garrow. Saphira ignores him and eventually returns to the ground. Eragon's legs have been rubbed raw by her scales. Even if he was fit to ride her again, he's not in much condition to do so. Eragon knows it will be too long before he can get back to the farm and his uncle: the strangers might get there first. He thinks to himself "What have I done?" (p. 74)

He awakens the next morning and convinces Saphira they both owe a debt to Garrow and must go back. They find the farm in flames. Eragon finds his uncle in the wreckage of the house, still alive. He asks Saphira to carry the two of them to the village so he can get help for Garrow. Eragon must make the last part of that journey without Saphira's help. He sees Brom approaching just before he passes out.

The next thing Eragon sees is the inside of the village healer's hut. He learns that it has been two days since he came to the village. His uncle still lives, but he is not healing. When he goes to see his uncle, the villagers ask about what happened. Eragon can't be completely honest because he can't let them know about Saphira. She is finally able to get through to him, now that he is awake. Eragon is invited to stay with the blacksmith's family, who are caring for Garrow. In the middle of the night, Eragon wakes and learns that his uncle has died.

Eragon is grief-stricken; Saphira says he should go after those responsible. Eragon wants to stay. Saphira gives all the reasons they must go: her tracks have been seen, there is nothing left for Eragon, he would have to explain what really happened and tell his cousin how and why his father had died. Eragon sneaks out of the house and gathers supplies before leaving Carvahall with Saphira. Before he can get away, Brom finds him. And, he knows about Saphira. And, he has talked to her... Eragon agrees that Brom can come with them, and Brom has already prepared a letter for Roran explaining some things.

Once they have set out, Brom presents Eragon with a sword that had belonged to another Rider. There is much about Brom Eragon does not know. How does he know so much about dragons? How did he come to possess a Rider's blade? He admits to being more than just the village storyteller, but he will not divulge his story, at least not yet...

So begins Eragon's new life as a Dragon Rider. Does he avenge his uncle's death? Does he elude the clutches of the evil King Galbatorix? Where can he find sanctuary for himself and Saphira? Read the book and find out. As in most cases, the book is much better than the movie...

The amazing thing about Christopher Paolini and Eragon is this: he began writing it at the age of fifteen. Christopher is a homeschooling success story. He's also got a website up devoted to The Inheritance Cycle, although it doesn't seem to be updated to reflect the fact there is going to now be a fourth book in the series. Don't let the "young adult" label scare you off from reading this book - I very much enjoyed it, and look forward to reading the continuing story as future books are released.

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