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Sunday, 12 January 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer #2 - Eldest, Christopher Paolini

Just before I start properly, I wanted to add a note to my 'Empty Shelf' Challenge. I found a great blog called "The Mad Reviewer" and she has issued a challenge to read and review a certain number of books in 2014, according to how much time you have:

http://carrieslager.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/the-mad-reviewer-reading-and-reviewing-challenge-2014-sign-up/

I have signed up to the status of "Crazy Reviewer" which means I will attempt to read and review 52 books this year. Thus the "Empty Shelf" and "Mad Reviewer" challenges are combined.

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Once again, I am indebted to Jennie who, it's pretty fair to say, is my first "go-to" for new books to read. She guided me to Stephen King books that would not scare the crap out of me while enabling me to appreciate why he is so freaking amazing; she introduced me to Joanne Harris, whose books I now always look for in libraries and book stores; and now, I am reading the "Eragon" series.

"Eragon" and "Eldest" remind why I really love fantasy. It's incredible to read stories set in worlds that sprang entirely from the author's imagination. Yes, it may be pretty much the plot of 'Star Wars' but that doesn't take from the fact that Paolini created an entire world that's believable, that works according to very specific rules and logic, and that's so rich and diverse, when he was only fifteen.

Here's a few things I enjoyed about "Eldest", the second in the "Inheritance Cycle":

1) It didn't bore me. Obviously, it's a fairly fundamental intention of books to not bore its readers, but when you're dealing with a book 668 pages long, that's a pretty substantial achievement. Always something was happening to keep the reader interested. Even Eragon's training with the elves, which could have been repetitive and tedious to trudge though, I found fascinating.

2) The dual stories. I can imagine it's tough as an author to keep two different plot arcs going in one novel (I haven't attempted it yet) while ensuring that they're not so separate to belong in different novels altogether. I found Roran's story even better than Eragon's at times. That was probably due to the fact that Roran was having to deal with a lot more pressing matters than Eragon was, but it was great having the insight into lives that, though affected by Eragon's actions, were having to cope without the benefit of a Rider in their midst.

3) The character arcs. Both Eragon and Roran go through irrevocable changes in the book. Again, that's a fundamental of writing - to have an interesting arc that leaves the character fundamentally changed, otherwise what's the point of investing time in them? - but still, the changes Eragon and Roran experience are pretty drastic. Eragon is changing all the time through his bond with Saphira and communion with the elves, but he expects that and is equipped for it. Roran did not expect needing to kill in order to keep his village safe, and that leaves its scars. I liked that Roran was counting those he had slain - he is wary that the more he kills the more his humanity is under threat and that he is in danger of losing himself. From the man who had simple ambitions in life - learn a trade and become a man worthy to marry the woman he loves - he has to deal with the loss of his father, the - what he thinks as - betrayal of Eragon, and the threat to his village. He becomes the leader of a frightened rabble and pulls them together into a formidable force in order to save them from the mighty Empire. I would not be surprised if, in Brisingr, he is elevated to a high position within the Varden, so great were his deeds in this book.

And something I wasn't sure about...
Sometimes, I admit, I did cringe a little at his choice of language. Choice examples include "waxed eloquent" and the dwarves' constant use of "Thou, thine, mine (instead of 'my')" etc. I'm sure that these were deliberate and considered choices by Paolini, but it sometimes struck me as a bit...pretentious? That's probably a strong word, but the times when this language was used jarred so much with the simplistic and easy flow of the rest of the book. Just my opinion, though.

Overall, though, I am loving these books. I'm going to take a break before 'Brisingr', though, to read "Bring Up The Bodies" by Hilary Mantel, the next in my Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge. (Purely because I've gotten it out of the library and it's been sitting on the coffee table for a week already...)

Until next time!

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