Friday, January 22, 2010


Title: Eragon

Series: The Inheritance Cycle #1

Author: Christopher Paolini

Genre: YA (14-18) epic fantasy

Excerpt from “Prologue: Shade of Fear” of Eragon:

Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world. A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes.

He blinked in surprise. The message had been correct: they were here. Or was it a trap? He weighed the odds, then said icily, “Spread out; hide behind trees and bushes. Stop whoever is coming . . . or die.”

Around him shuffled twelve Urgals with short swords and round iron shields painted with black symbols. They resembled men with bowed legs and thick, brutish arms made for crushing. A pair of twisted horns grew above their small ears. The monsters hurried into the brush, grunting as they hid. Soon the rustling quieted and the forest was silent again.

A farm boy discovers a dragon egg, making him a Rider without alliances in a time of warring political factions.

The Craft: Eragon is a popular book for one simple reason: It’s a whopper of a story.

The characters are varied, colorful, and larger-than-life, acting out a breathless adventure of high, yet personal, stakes. Humor and sorrow add richer hues to the story, while a complex world forms a multi-dimensional stage for its players.

So while the typically detailed descriptions and alien names will make this difficult terrain for those unfamiliar with the genre, this coming-of-age fantasy captures the imagination in living color.

The Content: An ordinary kid stuck in a humdrum life suddenly becomes something special, faced with history-changing decisions and impossible odds—Eragon touches the deep heart-needs of many people and especially of teenagers. The desire to be special. The longing for purpose. The ache to impact the world around you. This, mixed with the sacrifices and heroism commonly found in fantasy, shows the promise of good content to go with the excellent craft.

Unfortunately, it is a promised unfulfilled. Though not readily apparent on the surface, several fissures run deep through Eragon’s foundation. Some of the problems in no particular order:

--Eragon, the very human protagonist, wields supernatural abilities at whim, which is more characteristic of the demonic than the gifting of God in Scripture.

--No higher authority, unless you count “fate,” is acknowledged and therefore there is no accountability for Eragon’s use of his powers nor does any foundation of what’s right and wrong, for that matter.

--In fact, the ends are often provided as justification of the means (e.g. the stealing on page 109), and the heart, which is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), is exalted as the “only true guide.” (page 92)

--Both Eragon and his dragon are motivated by revenge, which is to be left in the hands of God, and Eragon’s mentor encourages this, calling revenge “a worthy endeavor.” (page 97)

--Even more, a Rider’s supernatural ability seems triggered by anger and frustration (e.g. page 149). Again not a characteristic associated with supernatural power from God.

--Also one of the good characters—or a dubious one, at the least (Angela)—casts bones and fortune-tells from them, activities closely tied with the occultic, yet done in a way that makes them appear to be okay to do.

And these are only the most obvious problems. So while one of these would be concerning enough, together they threaten the whole structure.

Summary: While Eragon is a powerful story that resonates with the heart, its content is very flawed, requiring the greatest caution. Therefore, I highly recommend most readers steer clear of this story, despite how well written it is.

Ratings: Craft—5, Content—1, Overall—1.7 stars out of 5

No comments: