Eragon, a poor village-boy of fifteen finds a polished blue stone in the forest and considers himself very lucky upon the discovery, thinking that it would buy his family meat to survive the upcoming winter. But one day, the stone brings a dragon hatchling and Eragon finds himself embroiled in the politics of the empire – ruled by the powerful and ruthless King Galbatorix, and the whole continent of Alagaësia itself. Overnight, his simple life is shattered, he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic and power. Meanwhile, in a distant part of the continent, the Varden – members of an alliance who want to dethrone Galbatorix and rid the empire of his evils, are gearing up for an attack.
Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? Where will his loyalties lie – towards the empire or the Varden? Or will he carve his own path and destiny? The fate of the empire may rest in his hands….
Eragon is the first book in the Inheritance Cycle series written by Christopher Paolini when he was still in his teens. And pretty well he has written it for his age, I must say. It is a quintessential example of the genre of High Fantasy and contains all the trappings of a fantasy tale that you can imagine – dwarves, elves, dragons, an evil king ruling a vast Empire, other surrounding kingdoms, peculiar creatures and monsters, magic, spells, riddles, historical lore…you get the idea, right?
The prologue got me interested in the book right away. It described an attack scene where a bunch of elves were ambushed by the Urgals (an ugly looking breed of merciless monsters) and an elven woman makes an important sapphire stone disappear so that it cannot come in the Urgals’ possession. No names were given and no identities were revealed, but the attack and chase at the outset got me asking questions at the very beginning – who ARE exactly these Urgals and the Elves? What is a ‘Shade’? Why are they pursuing that stone? I felt super glad to have picked up the novel. I braced myself for the wondrous adventure that was about to begin 😀
Eragon is but a simple boy living an ordinary life with his uncle and cousin Roran, hunting and farming for a living. When he chances upon the sapphire stone in the treacherous valleys of The Spine and one day the stone hatches to reveal a beautiful sapphire coloured dragon hatchling, there is no bound to Eragon’s amazement and wonder. He comes to care for the hatchling, hiding it in the nearby forest to escape notice by the villagers. Naming the she-dragon Saphira, he begins to develop a mental bond with her over time and they are able to communicate with each other through words and even sense the other’s consciousness from a distance. But one fateful day, two Ra’zac (another race of evil creatures) arrive in their village of Carvahall and destroy Eragon’s home and farm, killing his uncle and shattering his entire life. Driven by a desire to seek vengeance, Eragon decides to leave the village and pursue the Ra’zac. As he’s about to leave, he is accosted by Brom, the innocuous-looking village storyteller who eventually accompanies Eragon and as it turns out, there’s more to Brom than being a mere storyteller.
The major part of the book is about Eragon, Saphira and Brom’s journey from Carvahall, as they cross the entire empire to the Varden’s hiding place in the Beor mountains and their escapades along the way. During their journey, Brom trains Eragon in the art of magic and sword fighting, what it means to be a Rider and the value of the bond that a Rider has with his dragon. I loved the relationship between Eragon and Saphira. They understand each other and will go to any lengths to protect the other from harm’s way. Unlike other fantasy series such as A Song of Ice and Fire or Throne of Glass, where dragons (wyverns in the case of the latter) have been depicted as mere beasts – ready to follow their master’s command, it is not the case in Eragon. Their relationship is not that of a master taming the beast, but of two companions of equal stature who are mentally linked to each other so powerfully that it often feels they’re part of the same being. Saphira displays intelligence at many points, giving useful advice to Eragon and raising his spirits when he feels low.
The world building in Eragon is bang on! The whole lore revolving around the dragons and their riders, the history of the continent and the tidbits of information that the author throws about the events of the recent past were entirely fascinating to me. It was fun for me to stitch together all the pieces of information to make a coherent story out of it and the process is ongoing as I read the second part in the series – Eldest. Many races inhabit the continent of Alagaesia which have different customs and speak different languages. There’s even a short glossary provided at the end of the book which lists phrases in the ancient language, the dwarven tongue and the Urgal tongue. When Eragon reaches the Beor mountains and begins dwelling in the dwarven capital Tronjheim, I found myself flitting between the actual narrative and the glossary to check what was being said, because in many places where the dwarves spoke amongst themselves, the dialogues were written in complete dwarven, without any direct translation. This kind of annoyed me a bit but being the language nerd that I am, I eventually came around to liking the idea and learnt a few phrases myself (Not that it’ll be useful anywhere, but I have begun to use ‘Kvetha Fricai’ for hello, ‘Oei’ for yes and ‘Eta‘ for no – much to the annoyance of my poor friends haha).
Somehow I felt that the novel was too long for such a straightforward journey. Their travels through all of Alagaesia bored me at one point, and I breathed a big sigh of relief when the cohort FINALLY FINALLY reached Tronjheim – the dwarven capital which is also where the Varden hold their current base. I was sick of the party getting ambushed at every leg of their journey and either of them getting injured, which slowed the journey down all the more. But the story does pick up pace from the point where Eragon comes into contact with the Varden and gets to know the overall situation that has been brewing up in the empire since the past couple of years and what role he is supposed to play in all of it.
There are many elements in the book that sort of gave me a Norse mythology-ish feel. We have dwarves with axes, also found in Norse mytho, places with names ending in ‘heim’ (such as Tronjheim – similar to ‘Niflheim’) a mountain called ‘Utgard’ which in the norse myths is the realm inhabited by the giants. There is a character named Baldor who is also to be found in the Norse myths (it saddens me right now to think about Baldor’s fate in the myths – if you know what I am talking about) and Jormundur (a member of the Varden) who reminds me of the serpent Jormungandr. Could Paolini have taken some inspiration from Norse mythology to write his book? I can only wonder!
As I expected, the novel’s ending left many questions in my mind about the nature of certain things and the real motivation behind the actions of certain characters. Who really is Murtagh? Is he really Eragon’s friend? I am wont to suspect that the Twins are servants of the Empire and have been sent as spies to report the Varden’s activities to King Galbatorix). There are no scenes which show King Galbatorix himself and all we get to know about him is through the main characters, which mainly portrays him in evil light. Maybe he has his own side of the story to tell? Also, whatever happened to Roran and the villagers in Carvahall? What lies in store for them? There’s practically zero element of romance in the story so far, and I hope Eragon and the elf Arya will begin to develop a romantic relationship in the coming books, queer as it may sound. So gripping this tale was to me that I decided to immediately start with Eldest and ditch Anne of the Island, which I had slated for myself to read next.
Anyhoo, I am currently in the middle of the next part and can’t wait to finish it and share my review with you all. Thanks for reading. Xia ci zai jian!