Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

I would expect a bit more from “the #1 New York Times Bestseller,” but this was still a pretty good fantasy. I have read better, but I’ve also read much, much, worse. I suppose its success is due not just to good marketing, but an appeal to a wide age range. It’s really a very impressive book for a teenager to write; Christopher Paolini began writing Eragon at fifteen, and worked on it for “several years.” The writing is very good, but I can’t escape the impression that I could write something like it myself. I know, that sounds arrogant, it’s just that… it’s hard to put my finger on it, but the writing seems very young. Enough so that partway through the book, I said, I wonder how old this author is… and flipped to the back of the book to read the “About the Author.” I was slightly surprised to have my suspicions confirmed to that extent, but not overly. It is a good book, I’m happily reading its sequel at the moment. And yet, I like children’s books. That’s essentially what this book is – an extremely long children’s (or at least young adult) book, one of the few. It’s not drawn out though – the story is that long, the author tells it rather concisely, actually. Perhaps that’s what makes this book hard to describe – it’s the first children’s book I can think of that has the feel of a standard epic fantasy world behind it.

Part of what makes the writing seem young is that standard observations, like that sometimes it takes more courage to live than to die, are treated as though they are, in fact, very insightful. They seem that way when you’re fifteen, but… The main character, Eragon, isn’t always all that bright. He’ll probably grow up, but for now he is much too easily surprised. Already I’ve easily foreseen two of the things which surprised him, and it looks like there will be two more in the next books. Oh well. Good book.

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