Eldest is the second in The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr) by Christopher Paolini. I suppose I should have started with Eragon, but I’d seen the movie and considered that if I was going to spend that amount of money on a book (English books cost a fortune in the stores here, which is why Amazon practically owns my soul), I wanted it to be something totally new. If I hadn’t actually been in the store, I would have ordered Eragon. As it was, I was there, they didn’t have much selection, but leaving a bookstore without a book is pretty much an anathema. If I am broke, I just don’t go in. I often just try and avoid them altogether as they really are bad for the pocket book.
Soooo, Eldest. Eldest is the continuation of Eragon’s story after the destruction of Durza and the rescue of Arya. This volume also takes up the story of the village Eragon left behind, Carvahall, and his cousin Roran, who returns to pick up the pieces of life after Eragon leaves. This might not have been so traumatic had Galbatorix, the Sauron of the series so to speak, not sent his Ra’zac to capture Roran to use as leverage against Eragon. Roran must fight the Ra’zac and lead the villagers to safety.
I won’t go into the plot any further for two reasons: primarily because I don’t want to give anything away and secondarily because it’s so complicated that it would take ages to go into properly, and then you might as well read the book. I will say that the story is very complex and involved, often with several intertwined story lines running at once. Every action causes a different reaction in each of the tales, all of which are striving to reach the same goal, that of toppling Galbatorix from power, preferably in a very permanent manner. Perhaps the complexity is why it took me so long to get into this book. It didn’t grab me like I thought it would and I spent at least a month on the first half alone. By this point I was glad I hadn’t purchased Eragon and wasn’t planning on finishing the series at all. However, the second half of the book is a whole different ball of wax. The multiple story line format weighs the story as a whole down, meaning it takes a long time for it to get moving. It’s a bit like a long, heavy cargo train; once the story drags all of the parts into motion and it gains a little momentum, it pretty much rolls its way over everything. I found myself fascinated by the second half, couldn’t put it down and in consequence it took me no time at all to finish it. It was so good, that I even made the effort to go out and buy Brisingr (in one of our twice as expensive as Amazon stores) so I could continue reading during my vacation (now you know why I wasn’t blogging) so Eldest turned out to be a very good book indeed. Good enough that I will eventually buy Eragon and read it, even if I no longer really need to.
There is a lot of criticism that it leans heavily on The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, and yes, there are a lot of parallels which would be obvious to anyone familiar with those works. This doesn’t particularly bother me much though since the setting is good and the characters are strong and individual enough to keep them from being boring. Eragon, for instance, is neither a whiney Luke Skywalker (son of the Master Whinger) nor a quiet and pacifistic Frodo. He knows and accepts both his limitations and that he must learn before he can control power enough to be trusted with it. So yes, the parallels are obvious, but not detrimental in my opinion. Besides, if we were to condemn every story which contains some of the same elements as previous books, we’d have very little new material to read since even the newest ideas build on what came before.
This one gets 4 out of 5 because of the slow start.