Monday, December 12, 2011

Completion of the Eragon Series

The previous Eragon book was released far too long ago, September of 2008, almost three years ago.  The book opens with a recap of what has happened in the previous three books, and as is Paolini’s custom, the intro was bloated and poorly written, a telling indicator of what was to come.  Some spoilers may be contained below.

Christopher Paolini self-published his first novel, Eragon, with the help of his parents, and was lucky enough to be discovered and published by a main stream publishing company.  I should probably warn up front that this review will be coupled with harsh criticism of what is a paltry example of writing in the science fiction/fantasy realm.  Paolini takes a starting point with Eragon and expands it into three additional books.  To give credit, it is no small feat to write a novel, especially at the very young age of fifteen, but what stops Paolini from ever being considered a great writer or contributor, to me and countless other reviewers is simple: poor writing.  In some cases, JRR Tolkien’s exhaustive edits allowed the Lord of the Rings series to be considered, still, one of the greatest entries in science fiction and fantasy.  JK Rowling has gone so far to have even admitted that perhaps she needed better editing in some of her novels (lest we all forgot the countless pages we followed Harry and Hermione through the forest in Deathly Hallows or Harry’s insufferable arrogance through Order of the Phoenix).

In any great novel, there is a story that must be told, even in Paolini’s far-reaching stories of dragons and riders.  However, the message is lost through poor prose and grammar, marring what would otherwise be a promising young author in a bloated genre.  Paolini spends the majority of the latter three books discussing all sorts of things that are part of, but hardly ever brought to the forefront of the story.

Eragon, a young farm boy becomes bonded with a dragon, one of the last of her kind and the two go off on a grand adventure to overthrow the man enslaving the world.  It sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Ah, if only Paolini used ideas that were his.  The basic idea of the story is stolen from Lord of the Rings, make no mistake.  The difference being there is no fellowship and Sam is replaced with a large, blue dragon, immature and foolish at times.

The original Eragon book follows the main character as he discovers his new self and the implications of being the last rider of the world Paolini has created.  On his journey, Eragon encounters all manner of races (again taking from the Tolkien novels with dwarves, elves and men, adding his own version of Orcs, Urgals, and just like Rings with lesser ones, Orcs and Urgals, vs. stronger ones Urukai and Krull.  Paolini also has the dark side riding dark beasts, as Tolkien has with his Fell Beasts, made into life beautifully by Peter Jackson’s trilogy of the same name.  The similarities don’t stop there, but this review would be bogged down if I went into it further, needless to say the places and language are also, for all intents and purposes, stolen from the good professor.

In the second and third books, Eragon is faced with his own mortality many times, is in many battles with horrible people but ultimately ends up right where he started at the end of the first book, in a stalemate with the evil ruler of the world, who’s name has far too many letters and I only got the pronunciation once I heard it in the movie, that was also terrible.

This might be the appropriate time to go off onto a tangent about Paolini being home-schooled until he was fifteen by his parents, thus having time to write a series of this size, but that would be in poor taste, right?

As the final book begins, our hero, Eragon, is forced into a tough situation and as usual, some random piece of information the reader had never heard of comes into play, again and again, to save the day.  As opposed to the aforementioned Potter and Rings series, which both tell of the solution from the beginning, but the timeless writing of both Rowling and Tolkien misdirect you until the end, leaving you guessing as to how the endings will play out.  Paolini is the veritable bull in the china shop, ploughing through any and all plot devices in his path to construct a story that has some semblance of order, but on closer inspection, hasn’t any at all. 

If you’re like me, you enjoy closure, and that is the only reason I bought this book.  After almost three years of waiting, I had hoped that Paolini would provide some redemption for what has been a terrible series.  Eragon continues to be an arrogant fool as he plods through life, making decisions that are coloured by his so-called magic and power of judgement, but he is still the farm boy he thinks he isn’t, and he has no control over his own stupidity, nor does his author.

The story could have been told in one, maybe two books, but instead Paolini insists that the story needs more, and fills the pages with pointless narrative that has no beginning or end and characters whose stories prove of little value.  While I was happy to see Eragon’s cousin, Roran, have a somewhat happy ending, ultimately, I didn’t care, and to see him through to the end of the book, as with the scene at the end of the Rings where Sam, Merry and Pippin see Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf off to the Undying Lands, Roran goes with Eragon and Arya as Eragon leaves the world they are a part of.  The narrative for these scenes are all wholly underwritten and reading it was unpleasant, to say the least.

And this comes to the main gripe I have with this book and series, circling back to what I’d originally brought up.  The books are written poorly.  Paolini seems to misuse a thesaurus as best as he can, using some words in ways that only Stephanie Meyer (of the Twilight series) knows how.   I wish I had the book in hand, but as someone who has a Master’s degree, has written a thesis (which is graded), I find myself troubled and alarmed that a publishing company would not think to edit someone as new to writing as Paolini.  The first book, maybe, but after that?  Who gives a child a carte blanche to write without an editor?  Did he provide story-boards or plot points for anyone to see?  Or did he just write until he could write no more?  Countless pages are wasted upon half-baked descriptions or unnecessary ones.  While I realise the world we are being introduced to is wholly unknown to us, I think to Tolkien and marvel out how his stories flowed, while Paolini’s are a labour that is anything but love for the reader.

More than this, the ending leaves much to be desired.  And upon closer inspection, holds little more fault than any other moment in the series.  Redemption is not going to come for Eragon.  The reader should know, going in, that there will be no pretty bow to tie the story together, and things that are never mentioned are embraced by the end of the novel.  And while I haven’t connected the two more, Paolini reminds me greatly of Stephanie Meyer.  Her writing is terrible, and her characters are unsympathetic, yet where her strength lies is in her story, which draws you in.  Eragon does quite the opposite.  Paolini is clearly envisioning himself as some storied writer, but instead of writing a novel, perhaps he should have studied a little more or read something other than Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia or His Dark Materials, all of which are heavily stolen from in his novel.  The connexion between rider and dragon is stolen from His Dark Materials, took me awhile to remember that connexion.  The idea of the main villain is stolen heartily from Narnia and Rings, both melding at Paolini’s needs.

While I’d like to leave this review with some sort of redemption, I can’t, not in good conscience.  This was a decent ending to a terrible series.  Christopher Paolini has done something few have, truly write a series that has reached a massive audience, but like Meyer, I wish the message were clearer and more indicative of some sort of moral compass.  Paolini thinks much of himself and his writing, sadly, few others will.

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