I know I’m late to the party on this particular series. I tend to be that way on a number of popular series. I didn’t start reading the Harry Potter books until around the time the fifth installment hit shelves and I have a habit of waiting until something is complete until I dive in. That’s the case with Eragon, as the final installment hit shelves last year and at the urging of a few people in my immediate circle whose opinions I trust wholeheartedly, I decided to give it a read. Hey, it’s only been ten years since the first book came out. Considering how long it took me to get onto the Song of Ice and Fire train I would say that’s a quick turnaround for me.
I can’t say how impressed I am with the book without bringing up the fact that Paolini was a teenager when he wrote it. I don’t want to quantify the excellence of the writing by mentioning his age at all because this is better written than many similar books by writers with twice his life experience and schooling. There is a flair here that can’t really be taught. The narrative is very evocative of Paolini’s influences without directly stealing anything, no matter how hard some people want to push the “Star Wars with Dragons” comparison. There are literary tropes and schemes that far predate anything George Lucas did present here and let’s not forget he basically cobbled together a bunch of Kurosawa films with a Flash Gordon backdrop himself.
While there are some pitfalls that Paolini falls into I cannot help but be amazed at how enthralled with the book I found myself. He has a very strong sense of description and the world-building on display is phenomenal. Books like these give me more hope for the future of literature than I could ever hope for. There is a youthful love for telling a story here that comes through in every word. Paolini is truly a gifted writer in that regard and I’m sure that he has many great books in him.
It is a good sign when a book makes me shift my own perspectives on writing. I carry a bit of a resentment toward high fantasy literature. My tastes always fell closer to the Robert E. Howard/George R.R. Martin camp of the dirt and grime element of fantasy. Dragons and elves and the Tolkien camp, while admittedly masterful in their execution, didn’t engage me nearly as much as their more grounded counterparts. Paolini creates a world that makes those elements that normally take me out of the story and instead makes them pop. I think it is because of his youth that he was able to do that. When I published my first “fantasy” novel I was twenty-four. Paolini was fifteen when Eragon was published. There is a distinct difference in worldview and the fact that he was able to bring me around is no small feat.
I’ve already picked up the rest of the series. I don’t think there’s any better compliment to a writer than a show of faith and Paolini has earned mine.