This is the sequel to Eragon. Because it is the second book, which is often the hardest book of a trilogy to write, without the mysteries of the first or the climax of the third, it seriously suffers from Paolini’s youth. I would say it is a pity he didn’t wait until later in life to write these novels, except that I expect if he is any good he has more stories in him just as worthy of telling. Hopefully he will improve and write more.
Aside from the annoyance with the style, some of the views Paolini appears to hold bothered me, chief of which was the atheism of the elves, the most beautiful of all living creatures. Atheistic elves mean the world is awry, it is wrong and twisted in its nature. His reasons for dismissing religion (although this is a story which hasn’t concluded yet, and so my analysis of the author’s thoughts behind it is tentative for now) mostly consisted of straw man arguments. An elf accuses the dwarvish priests of harming their people by taking wealth for their temple that could be used to feed the poor. The dwarf responds that the crops would fail if the gods were not served. Since many religions do not make such a claim, it is hardly a reason to dismiss all religion (perhaps all the religions of this world do make that claim; well, I am sorry for that world in that case). The elf also claims, at another time, that a world without gods is a better world, for people are good for its own sake, rather than out of fear of punishment. The elf seems not to know that the highest motivation in true religion is love, not fear. And, of course, none of us are born naturally loving or good. We have to be changed first, which we cannot accomplish on our own.
The elf claims religion depends on faith as opposed to reason, when it actually depends on faith with reason. It can be quite reasonable to have faith. For example, it is eminently reasonable for Eragon to have faith in his dragon Saphira. To claim that the highest thinkers are atheistic, such as the elves, is just silly. There are fine Christian philosophers; read some of C.S. Lewis, or Peter Kreeft. I especially recommend Kreeft’s Making Sense Out of Suffering, as that deals quite well with the argument that a god who could allow all the suffering in the world would actually be an enemy. Lewis’ Miracles, for the elf’s claims that miracles do not exist. (Although that is easy to respond to on my own – the elf said they had not seen miracles, only things they did not know enough to explain yet. In that case, she obviously never will see a miracle, since she is not willing to accept the possibility that anything she sees is not somehow explicable by natural means. She has adopted a natuaralistic philosophy, and no supernatural event could shake it in and of itself. Stating that your philosophy is naturalistic is not an argument against my own supernatural worldview – it is only being polite and telling me your presuppositions.)
And, of course, when you think about a magical fantasy creature not believing in the supernatural, it actually becomes rather humorous. Enough with that rant. It was a decentish sort of book, but I don’t recommend it unless the third ends up being better. We’ll see.
“After a pause, he asked, ‘What do you think of Nasuada’s plans?’
‘Mmm… she’s doomed! You’re doomed! They’re all doomed!’ She cackled, doubling over, then straightened abruptly. ‘Notice I didn’t specify what kind of doom, so no matter what happens, I predicted it. How very wise of me.’” – Eragon and Angela
Sometimes she states the obvious, but I like her. She does it in an Anya sort of way. Christopher Paolini should base more of his characters on real people, if this is the result.