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REVIEW: Eldest by Christopher Paolini

REVIEW SUMMARY: A much weaker book than Eragon.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: An inexperienced dragon-rider must train to become the warrior who will save all the land from an Evil Emperor.


PROS: The thread involving Eragon’s cousin was entertaining. The last 10% of the book was the best part.

CONS: The other 90% was slow-moving, boring and lacked many qualities which would have otherwise immersed the reader.

BOTTOM LINE: Maybe this is a classic case of middle book syndrome?

Having really enjoyed Eragon, the first book in Chritopher Paolini’s epic fantasy Inheritance trilogy, I was very much looking forward to the sequel, Eldest. Sadly, I was very disappointed.

Eldest, which picks up immediately following the conclusion of Book 1, continues the story of young Eragon, first of a new generation of the heroic dragon riders. Eragon is still a noob though, so he and his dragon, Spahira, need to undergo some training. They head off to the distant and magical elf city to get that training, hopefully in time to help defend the land of Alagaësia from the evil forces of the still-unseen Emperor Galbatorix. Meanwhile, Eragon’s cousin Roran is wanted by Galbatorix’s cronies who threaten his small hometown unless they give him up.

A simple story, to be sure, but I kind of expected that. Eragon was that way too but I though the story was garnished with enough embellishments to make it a very fun and quick-moving read. Eragon also had a certain amount of charm. Unfortunately this was not the case with Eldest.

The story is told in two threads – the main one following Eragon and a minor storyline follows Roran. Unexpectedly, I found Roran’s tale much more entertaining. His predicament with the monstrous Ra’zac was an interesting exercise in choosing the lesser of two evils – surrender to the enemy or put his town in danger. The side story with his hidden love for Katrina added some much-appreciated drama to the book. Roran’s evolution from victim to hero was well done and believable. He’s not a very likable character, but he is an entertaining one.

Eragon’s tale, however, was way too long considering the amount that happened. Basically, there’s a brief skirmish, a journey to a faraway elf city, warrior/magic training and a big battle. Does that really take nearly 800 pages to tell? (It shouldn’t.) Is this supposed to make it feel “epic”? (It didn’t.) This story would have been much, much stronger had it been pared down to about one quarter of its size. There was also much political maneuvering done by the cast in the beginning chapters, the inclusion of which I found to be odd. This is a book aimed at younger readers who are bound to find those parts even more unbearable than I did. Also, instead of having the “hero falls for Elf” subplot, it might have helped the book to throw a few scenes in there showing the enemy (Galbatorix) who, despite being the strongest and most feared villain, remains fully offstage throughout two door-stopping books.

The last ten percent of the book (when the storylines of Eragon and Roran merge – the aforementioned “big battle”) was the best part. That’s where Eldest really started to live up to the promise of the previous book. It had action, drama, plot twists and it moved quickly. Unfortunately, the high quality of this last ten percent only drew attention to the fact that the first ninety percent of the book was sub-par.

Is this middle book syndrome? Perhaps. As it stands now, the final book in the Inheritance trilogy will have to have to work extra hard to attract my attention.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

36 Comments on REVIEW: Eldest by Christopher Paolini

  1. A friend of mine said that the first book had whole passages and sections that were lifted from other fantasy works with very little filing of the serial numbers. Did you see any of that when you read it?

  2. Can’t say I did. But then again, I have not read all that much fantasy.

  3. I pretty much agree with this review.

    Eragon was excellent.

    Eldest was too long, but I still enjoyed it.

    I think this might be a case of “I need to write a trilogy, but dang – I only have enough real material for 2 books. Let’s stretch out the training!”

    I’m hoping all the political maneuvering will pay off in some way in the end. And it probably will – with Eragon becoming King of all and uniting all the races under one banner.

  4. :O…addictive:D

  5. Eragon was excellent(H) but Eldest was wayyyyyyy better. It had more action parts. Also it is really long but that makes it more interesting. It makes u want to read more of it. Can’t wait for the third book.

  6. eldest was extremely awesome…it had action scenes, it had a ton of magic and pain. christopher paolini even brought in a new dragon with the rider of Murtagh. the funny part is that Eragon likes Arya but Arya doesn’t want to be with him (typical teenager)well overall the whole book was really good and interesting!!:D

  7. Hi chris………….. i was just saying… wil you PLEASE right a sequal 2 Elsdest! please

  8. slimshady 4 real // May 2, 2006 at 7:20 pm //

    the book was off the hookz


  9. I felt that Chri streched a few parts in both books but I can’t help but think there is a reason for it. Looking foward to #3:D

  10. Gosh, and I can’t wait for #3 to see how many more smiley icons we can use here.

  11. Am I the only one who realizes that there hasn’t been an original high fantasy novel written in, say, fifty years, or does everyone else just not care?

  12. If you’re young, you might be reading this as your first fantasy novel and as such, it appears brilliant.

    But eventually you’ll read some of the better works, and the ones that pioneered the genre and you’ll say, “hmm, what was I thinking when I read those Paolini books?”

  13. Anonymous // July 10, 2006 at 9:51 pm //

    IT was the BEST story i have ever read. It is right next to harry potter and the half blood prince. Do you guys think that eragon and arya will ever be together. because i dont. πŸ˜€

  14. Roran’s plot in book two was much more interesting, but I liked the book as a whole. I always worry about sequals but I was not disappointed. (Still worried but excited about 3)

    The series is very often accused of being too derivitive, and perhaps so, but I’ve read many of the originals, so to speak, and I still enjoy it. πŸ˜€

  15. I loved both books and can’t wait for the third .I hope it is a huge book since it is the last one though.but both books were fun and interesting and stuffed with action.

  16. I found Eragon to be so derivative that I completely ignored Eldest…sounds like it was the correct choice. As to the comment about all high-fantasy being derivative: yes, to an extent it is. It’s really more of a genre than it’s given credit for, so some similarity is to be expected. For some unique writing in that field, give Robin Hobb a look.


  17. The book was interesting as well as lacking of skill.I cant blame chris though because he is such a young writer.Eldest is often accused of being to boring and repetive because of all the long descriptions and Lust-for-arya quibbles paolini uses to show off his amazing vocabulary.But all this does not affect the book’s success, because thousands of readers will read and enjoy this “derivative”


  18. Does someone know when the third book comes?:^)

  19. well ummmm to describe it i made me yawn and i wanted to close the book and go to sleep! maybe i should have used it for fire wood cuzzzzzz it was horible 8o|

  20. πŸ˜€ i was only kidding πŸ˜€ i thought it was greattttttttttttttt

  21. well all in all the movie might be better than the book we shall just wait and see

  22. Necromancer // December 12, 2006 at 6:58 pm //

    Not at all impressed, the story was 800 pages of boring. All it did was dump loads of boring information when it was supposed to be telling a story. None of the characters or relationships were very believable, or even time spans. The action sequences were like Paolini saw the Lord of the Rings movies and thought that he should make his battles even longer and less tactical. It was like he took the plot of Star Wars, threw it in Middle Earth, explained all of its long history through the perfect mary sue main character’s point of view and wrote it all down poorly. Paolini really needs to get a better editor, and imagination.

  23. “It was like he took the plot of Star Wars, threw it in Middle Earth…”

    Wasn’t that the way Terry Brooks wrote The Sword of Sha-Na-Na?


  24. Necromancer // December 14, 2006 at 6:51 pm //

    Nah, Sword of Shanara was just a remake of LOTR, in plot and universe(not as bad as Eragon in the universe aspect) . Though other stories in the series weren’t so clichΓ©.

  25. It was a great book!(6) And i can’t wait till the third!:D

  26. Wow. For being book fans and critics, there are way too many grammer and spelling errors.


  28. Darn. I had always feared I had a poor sense of greatness. And now that fear is realized. I am lost. πŸ™

  29. Anonymous // January 17, 2007 at 6:25 am //

    Books rulez

  30. I fear for the intellectual future of our nation and the world, given the spelling ability of those who think “books rulez”!


  31. the third book is empire.

  32. i think both books were wonderful i loved them both and can’t wait till the 3rd:-P

  33. THIS IS A TRULY MAGICAL BOOK! During parts in the book I found myself holding my breath or grinning so much my jaw hurt, in parts it makes you want to laugh or even cry. I loved this book! Christopher Paolini is a phenomenal author! I don’t want to wait till September to get the third book though! I’m so excited I just finished the book a few minutes ago! Eldest will leave you eager to read the third in the Inheritance Trilogy, which isn’t out yet…grrr….We don’t even know the name of it! Supposedly it’s going to be Empire (six letters and starts with E) and there is supposed to be a turquoise green dragon on the front. I couldn’t think of a better book for young adults such as myself or for anybody else who can read! This book left me gasping for breath…literally! I couldn’t think of a better book to read….besides Eragon. I think until the third one comes out I am going to busy myself with reading them all over again. πŸ™‚

  34. your book was great i loved it but i didn’t like the fact that eragon was brothers with mortog and he was sons to morzon and his friend braum killed eragons dad (morzon) and mortog betrayed the varden and the good guys


  35. Anonymous // March 21, 2007 at 9:54 pm //

    it leaves me hangin i want the third book now:-@

  36. To make up for the overusage of smileys in other comments, this comment will be entirely devoid of smileys. :D…oops

    Eldest is the best book i’ve ever read(all 7 times). It’s still interesting no matter how many tims i read. Christopher Paolini is a brilliant writer and i hope he writes other series after he finishes the third book. I can’t wait for the third book to come out. The first 2 books are my favorite books. Every time it would switch from eragon’s story to roran’s i would be dissapointed but by the time i got to the end of the chapter and it switched back i would want to keep reading roran’s. Roran’s story was far more interasting than eragon’s up until he got transformed. My favorite part of the book was eragon’s first fight with Vanir after he was transformed. I will admit that the book was a little slow-paced, but being a novice writer i know how hard it is to write a long story. I think Paolini’s stories will get better as he writes more.

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