Bookmarks Issue: 

Inheritance, Book 2

A-EldestIn the first book of this planned trilogy, Eragon (2003), a 16-year-old boy fled from his foster family to raise a loveable but still potent dragon, Saphira. He also learned that he was one of the last Dragon Riders left in the empire. In this second volume, Saphira and Eragon (who is slowly maturing and learning the tricks of the magic trade) train in the elven kingdom of Ellesmera. Simultaneously, his cousin, Roran, the target of evil forces, attempts to lead the villagers of Carvahall, Eragon’s hometown, against the empire. As Eragon and Roran both head toward a massive battle, Eragon learns some shocking secrets.
Knopf. 681 pages. $21. ISBN: 037582670X

Chicago Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"Eldest shows his strengths in building plots, battles and even characters who can change. . . . But we do see Eragon mature, and even make a mistake, and we see Eragon and Saphira struggle with their emotions." Mary Harris Russell

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"The strengths of Eldest are its narrative arc, suspenseful plotting and the dramatic conflicts that Eragon and his cousin Roran face as they battle the army of King Galbatorix. . . . But it is a broadly told and archetypal tale, lacking the moral subtlety and mastery of Philip Pullman, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Tolkien." Denise Hamilton

Time 3 of 5 Stars
"It’s one of those tricky middle novels of a planned trilogy, a dark second act a la The Empire Strikes Back, full of reversals and repercussions and unexpected revelations. But by the end, Eragon can say, to everybody’s satisfaction, ‘I have become what I was meant to be.’" Lev Grossman

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"The plot and characters are largely derivative, not just of Tolkien but of Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others, as many readers have noted, and the prose is often hackneyed and in need of pruning. . . . Despite his story’s roughness, there are signs that Paolini is the real deal, something more than just a product of clever promotion." Elizabeth Ward

Entertainment Weekly 1 of 5 Stars
"I swear on Helzvog’s stone girdle that I have not for many a year read anything so mind-numbingly silly as Eldest. . . . Paolini dawdles, with long, self-indulgent asides about the proper components of a dwarfish bow (Feldunost horns, skin from the roof of trout’s mouths) and Eragon’s romantic yearnings for emerald-eyed Arya, an enigmatic elf who ‘set his insides churning with a mixture of odd sensations he could not identify.’" Jennifer Reese

Critical Summary

Paolini started his trilogy when he was 15. Now, at the ripe old age of 21, the home-schooled author exhibits literary maturity in the second volume of his heroic-quest fantasy. He still borrows from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern. But here, Eragon matures with his author and exhibits more emotional depth. If the pace is inconsistent or the themes formulaic, Paolini has nonetheless created a unified, vivid fantasy world that propelled most reviewers forward. (Don’t even touch it if you don’t like dragons.) Only Entertainment Weekly weighed in with hefty complaints about the novel’s glacial pace and silly plot. Maybe that critic will like the 2006 movie, starring John Malkovich and Jeremy Irons, better.