Darth Pedant

The Pedant formerly known as Pony.

SPOILER ALERT!

Eldest: or Star Wars Episode V: The Filler Strikes Back

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini

I could whine for whole paragraphs about how much filler clogs this story, but I have whole paragraphs of other stuff I want to whine about, so I’ll just say this book could easily be cut down to around 400 pages without losing anything of value. Now, on to the other stuff I want to whine about:

 

When I was 175 pages into this book, I joked about it not mirroring the plot of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. And it doesn’t, exactly. And yet it does. A not insignificant portion of the book is spent following characters other than “I swear his name is a play on ‘dragon’ and totally not ripped off LotR” Eragon. The adventures of these other characters don’t mirror Leia, Han, and Chewie’s adventures beyond both groups being hunted by their respective evil Empires. Eragon’s chapters, on the other hand . . .

 

While injured, Luke Aragorn Eragon is instructed by a voice in his head to go to Dagobah Ellesméra for Jedi Rider training with an ancient sage. The sage turns out to be a Jedi Master Dragon Rider who has lived in hiding since Emperor Palpatine King Galbatorix orchestrated the destruction of the Jedi Order other Dragon Riders. Luke Aragorn Eragon struggles with some aspects of Jedi elven philosophy and ultimately leaves before his training is complete after receiving a vision of his friends being attacked by the Galactic Empire Empire. He rocks up to the big battle, gets his ass thoroughly spanked by a stronger Force magic user, learns the unsettling alleged truth of his parentage, and barely gets out alive. In the final scene, Luke Aragorn Eragon vows to rescue Han his cousin’s girlfriend who was carried off to Jabba’s palace the Ra’zac’s stronghold.

 

As happened in the first book, where Paolini goes off-script is where the story really drags. The trouble starts at the very beginning when the cartoonishly evil Twins carry out the super obvious abduction and non-murder of Murtagh, book one’s Han Solo stand-in. There’s an inexplicable ambush, someone the Twins are supposed to be protecting dies, and the Twins and Murtagh are carried off and presumed dead. And despite the Twins’ stupidly obvious betrayal coming to light later, nobody puts two and two together until the painfully unshocking reveal near the end of the book.

 

Horrible contrivances aside, that beginning could have been a decent jumping-off point for an engaging side story. But noooOOOooo. Instead of the non-Eragon chapters following Murtagh during his abduction and subsequent imprisonment and torture/brainwashing/enslavement at the hands of Galbatorix (SUPER INTERESTING STUFF), they follow Eragon’s cousin, Roran, who was barely a character in the first book (and also THE OPPOSITE OF SUPER INTERESTING). A few chapters are devoted to the new leader of the Varden, but I don’t have a problem with those. Well, the pseudo-Alia Atreides character is cringe-inducing, but I’m willing to just add Dune to the list of works Paolini probably lifted from was inspired by and move on.

 

Roran’s chapters were hard to get through. Every time I put the book down for extended periods, it was at a Roran chapter. He strikes me as a Perrin “Goldeneyes” Aybara tribute character (add Wheel of Time to the “inspiration” list), only with none of the character traits that made Perrin a natural leader, and he couldn’t hold my interest if you handed it to him in an airtight container.

 

Roran blames Eragon for his dad’s death and is bummed that his girlfriend’s dad hates him and he can’t afford to get married. Then the Ra’zac show up to arrest him and he drags his whole village into the conflict. He takes up a hammer as his brand-new signature weapon (he’s not a blacksmith, apprentice or otherwise), and when things go sideways he drags the whole village all over Alagaësia to another country and straight into another, bigger, conflict. His transformation from cardboard cutout to cardboard cutout people instinctively take orders from is so badly illustrated that it seems almost farcical. Grief and rage are good motivations, but they’re not a substitute for personality, and without them Roran is as flat and flavorless as tissue paper. I found it hard to believe anyone would follow him anywhere.

 

Murtagh, on the other hand, was an interesting character in the first book. He’s cynical and world-weary. He’s got literal and figurative scars from a traumatic past. He’s running from his demons, living and dead. He’s a complex guy with a complex take on morality, and that makes him a really good foil to Eragon’s teenage country bumpkin naïveté. You know who isn’t an interesting character, like, at all?

 

Stronghammer. Roran Stronghammer.

 

 

Reading Progress Updates:

1. Page 175

2. Page 225

3. Page 367

4. Page 380

5. Page 413

6. Page 487

Reading progress update: I've read 487 out of 668 pages.

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini

“You may call me Stronghammer.” The butler’s mouth twitched as if amused by the name, then slipped behind the door and closed it.

 

And the Most Relatable Character award goes to: the butler!

 

Now that the award ceremony is over, can we talk about how that sentence is structured in such a way that the butler’s mouth is performing all the actions?

Reading progress update: I've read 413 out of 668 pages.

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini

“Barges? We don’t want no stinking barges!”

 

I literally cannot tell if Paolini does this deliberately or if his whole writing process is just unconsciously regurgitating things he’s internalized. Either way, the result is I want to watch Blazing Saddles again.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 380 out of 668 pages.

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini

“The Ra’zac remain pupae for twenty years while they mature. On the first full moon of their twentieth year, they shed their exoskeletons, spread their wings, and emerge as adults ready to hunt all creatures, not just humans.”

 

“Then the Ra’zac’s mounts, the ones they fly on, are really . . .”

 

“Aye, their parents.”

 

. . . Galbatorix’s most feared assassins are a couple of kids who have to get rides from their parents to and from work.

 

Reading progress update: I've read 367 out of 668 pages.

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini

“Yesh sir, no sir, three bagsh full, sir […]” Spoken by a very drunk dwarf whose drunken slurring is glaringly inconsistent. And I guess “Baa Baa Black Sheep” exists in this fantasy world. Because why not.

Reading progress update: I've read 225 out of 668 pages.

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini

Islanzadí stood and descended from the throne, her cloak trailing behind her. She stopped before Arya, placed trembling hands on her shoulders, and said in a rich vibrato, “Rise.”

 

Vibrato? Is . . . is she singing? Is Paolini being literal with the whole “elves have musical voices” thing?

Reading progress update: I've read 175 out of 668 pages.

Eldest  - Christopher Paolini

A while ago I joined the Real Life is Kicking My Ass and I Don't Feel Like Reading Much club. It seemed glamorous at first, but there's no clubhouse or official bowling jackets and the snacks are terrible, so I'm trying to get out of my membership. This may be the wrong book to help me do that, but I'm determined to get this series off my TBR.

 

I'm in uncharted territory now, and I'm a little thrown off by the plot not mirroring The Empire Strikes Back, but there's still plenty here to amaze and amuse. For example, here is actual text that actually appears in this actual book:

 

They called him Stronghammer. Roran Stronghammer.

 

*snerk!*

Star Wars Ep. IV: A New--er, I mean Eragon

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

I’m going to echo a bunch of other reviewers and say that Eragon is okay, but I liked it better when it was Star Wars. There are a plethora of reviews and wikis out there that painstakingly lay out the similarities between Eragon and Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and David Eddings’s The Belgariad (OMG, the silver mark on the palm. How did I not notice that the first time I read this? How?!), so I’m not going to exhaust myself by reiterating oft-repeated points (some of which I covered in my progress updates, which I’ll link below). Basically, Eragon is Star Wars in LotR cosplay at a Belgariad-themed LARP event.

 

To say this book is derivative would be putting it mildly. And you can argue that Star Wars is derivative in its own right, but it’s not lift-an-entire-scene-including-dialogue-from-another-source derivative. This isn’t a standard take on the classic Hero’s Journey. This is a clumsily constructed Frankenstein’s Monster of several existing heroes’ journeys by someone who may or may not have read any Joseph Campbell and just thought Star Wars would’ve been cooler with dragons.

 

And who can blame him? I mean, dragons are awesome.

 

There is something to be said for derivative novels. If nothing else, they’re easily accessible to a wide audience and can act as a gateway to better, more original stories. So if this book got any kids into reading fantasy, then it’s got at least one redeeming feature. But I can’t help feeling that this is a mediocre work of fiction made exceptional (and I use the term loosely) only by the age of the author.

 

It’s a pity about that movie adaptation, though. Yikes, that was awful.

 

Reading Progress Updates (contains spoilers):

 

1. Page 10

2. Page 102

3. Page 260

4. Page 278

5. Page 353

6. Page 466

7. Page 484

Reading progress update: I've read 484 out of 509 pages.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

Angela winked at Eragon mischievously, then dashed away, whirling her staff-sword like a dervish.

 

Er . . . Does Paolini know what a dervish is?

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 466 out of 509 pages.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

Paolini went off-script again after the rescue. If you ever though it was silly of the Rebel Alliance to give an untested farm boy one of their precious X-wings and chuck him straight into a zero-G dogfight on his word that he can fly speeders in atmosphere and shoot defenseless rodents, you might approve Paolini’s decision to have the Rebels Varden test Luke Aragorn Eragon before deciding what to do with him. And I might have approved it too if it hadn’t brought the pace to a screeching halt for a good 85 pages. All that momentum built up by having the Uruk-hai Urgal Kulls chase the heroes all the way to the very gates of the Rebel Varden base hit a stone wall and died from blunt force trauma. I’m 31 pages from the last page of a 497-page novel and the climax hasn’t started yet.

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 353 out of 509 pages.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

Luke Aragorn Eragon and Han Murtagh have rescued Princess Leia Arwen Arya from the Galactic Empire Empire and are racing toward the secret Rebel Varden base so Leia Arwen Arya can recover from her torture at the hands of Emperor Palpatine’s King Galbatorix’s henchmen and deliver information crucial to the survival of the Rebel Alliance Varden. The prison escape naturally involved someone’s body disappearing and leaving behind a pile of clothes, though no Alagaesian trash compactors were featured. Alas.

 

The timeline is a little hard to pin down, but I think the events of the book have so far spanned several months, and the majority of that time was spent traveling with the characters. I’m starting to wish their horses had hyperdrives. Speaking of their horses, has anyone else noticed how horses in fantasy novels are basically Energizer bunnies and only have regular horsey limitations when it suits the plot? These two horses Luke Aragorn Eragon and Han Murtagh are riding would totally be dead by now. They rode them into the ground many leagues ago and now they have ghost horses, and that’s why these noble beasts don’t need to stop and graze and sleep at reasonable intervals.

 

Actually . . . This is could be happening in all fantasy books everywhere. A ghost horse epidemic and I never suspected. Hmm. I’m going to have to research this more before moving ahead with my plans to form Pedants for the Ethical Treatment of Horses in Fantasy Novels.

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 278 out of 509 pages.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

I have a migraine and backlit screens are torture, but I had to record this for posterity.

 

Han Murtagh the self-serving rogue has entered the story. He has no love for the Galactic Empire Empire, but he wants nothing to do with the Rebel Alliance Varden either. Obi-Wan Brom just sacrificed himself to save Luke Aragorn Eragon, who in turn suddenly decided this hermit he hardly knew was like a father to him, and now he’s grieving more than he did for the man who actually raised him. And then we get this little gem:

 

A tear slid down his listless face and evaporated in the sunlight, leaving a salty crust on his skin.

 

Listless. Face. The prose is killing me. Also, I can’t tell if it’s super arid where he is or if he just sat there for ages while his single tear artfully evaporated.

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 260 out of 509 pages.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

Obi-Wan Brom and Luke Aragorn Eragon have spent many weeks on the road whilst Luke Aragorn Eragon quickly learns how to use a light saber sword and the Force magic and that he’s just the specialist special farm boy to ever have specialed. Highlights of the journey include a scene I’m pretty sure is plagiarized from one of David Eddings’s Sparhawk novels, Princess Leia’s Arwen’s Arya’s appearances to Luke Aragorn Eragon in a holorecording dream/scrying pool, and a thrilling plot to track the Stormtroopers Ra’Zac by . . . reading shipping invoices for the special oil they used to torch Uncle Owen Uncle Garrow. Following fake Sand People tracks would’ve been more exciting, IMO.

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 102 out of 509 pages.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

Stormtroopers Ra’Zac destroyed Uncle Owen’s moisture farm Uncle Garrow’s farm while searching for the stolen Death Star plans Saphira's egg and killed Uncle Owen Uncle Garrow, and now Luke Aragorn Eragon has set off with Obi-Wan Brom, who has given him his father’s light saber his father’s (I’m guessing) sword and promised to teach him the ways of the Jedi the Dragon Riders. Tune in next update for more exciting news on Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope Eragon!

Reading progress update: I've read 10 out of 509 pages.

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1) - Christopher Paolini

I know I read this somewhere around 2003-2004, but I remember very little aside from being unimpressed, thinking it was basically LOTR fanfic, and wishing my parents were also publishers so I too could foist my teenage scribbles on an unsuspecting public. But I still somehow ended up collecting the whole series and never got around to reading it. Now I’m on a mission to clear them out of my TBR bookcase to make room for other, shinier hardcovers I plan to buy. I’m off to a shaky start. I must be in a super nitpicky mood right now because I keep snorting at the slightly terrible prose:

 

A bit past noon he heard the Igualda Falls blanketing everything with the dull sound of a thousand splashes.

 

Equal Rites

Equal Rites  - Terry Pratchett

It seems every Discworld novel I read is a bit more entertaining than the last. I haven’t laughed this hard at a book since Ian Doescher penned the words [Exit, pursued by a wampa. Feminism on the Disc is really . . . well, it’s really something! I loved spending time with Granny and Esk and hardly even noticed the absence of my current favorite Discworld character, the Luggage. The wizard’s staff was quite entertaining and had a certain snarky charm, though it couldn’t hold a candle to my beloved Luggage. I adore this trend of anthropomorphizing magical objects and I hope it continues.

Currently reading

High Heels Mysteries Boxed Set (Books 1-5) by Gemma Halliday
Progress: 40%