Book: Eldest

Christopher Paolini
2005 (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)

Eldest continues the story begun in Eragon and follows the adventures of Eragon the dragon rider and Saphira the dragon, Roran (Eragon’s cousin) and the Varden (a group of rebels fighting to free the kingdom from the evil dragon rider who rules with an iron fist). These are three separate storylines for the most part. Eragon’s story takes him into the forest to train with the elves, whine about being in pain, and moon over the elf princess. Roran is faced with the destruction of his home, attack on his village and threat to his loved ones. The Varden continue their never-ending battle against the king and poverty. Eventually, of course, this all ends in a massive climactic battle where everything comes together, just like in the first book.

To say that I was not fond of this book would be the biggest understatement I could make. I can’t think of another book that has actively upset me in long time. There are so few books I have hated in my lifetime that I doubt I would need the fingers on one hand to count them, but this book is now among them. I didn’t mind Eragon. I found it vaguely disappointing in it’s writing and unoriginality, but I didn’t dislike it. I just didn’t see the point. Eldest was a whole different experience for me, though.

The majority of the book focuses on what’s happening to Eragon and Saphira. This makes sense, Eragon is supposed to be the hero. Unfortunately, the struggle the book primarilys focuses on throughout his part of the book was with pain. At the end of the first book, Eragon suffered an injury that for whatever reason couldn’t be magically healed and caused him incredible pain whenever he did anything to strain his back at all. The elves’ asked him to train hard every day in such a way that it strained his back regularly, causing him almost constant pain. Eragon and many of the elves as well saw this as a major impediment to success. The clear feeling was that if he was injured this way, he was incapable of being the hero he was supposed to be. He trained anyway, but clearly believed that he was less of a person for being so injured. And no one said otherwise. Ever. And the story never contradicted that feeling. Eventually he is magically healed by the dragons and made stronger than ever, about which he is thrilled, and this signals that he is ready to go on and be a great hero. He is now a whole and complete person.

The message from Eragon’s story is clear: pain, injury or disability make one less of a person and one cannot be a hero until they are healed. The message is further reinforced by the fact that the rider and dragon who teach Eragon are somehow also injured in a way that cannot be healed and thus are useless for anything but teaching. They’ve hidden in the forest for nearly one hundred years waiting for someone to come along and be a hero while the king happily goes along being evil and destroying everything good about the kingdom.

I can not even express how upsetting this message is as someone like me who suffers from chronic pain. I’m sorry, but I can’t see Eragon as a hero. Suffering from pain does not change who you are, does not make you less strong. It makes you more strong, if anything. And while it affects what you can do, it does not make a true hero any less a true hero. Pain is what it is. I don’t think anyone wishes for it, but suffering from it does not diminish a person either. You can still be strong in other ways. And the other disabilities in the book seem even less affecting. The elf rider has lost magical power, but is still stronger in magic than nearly every human alive. But he mopes in the forest and waits for someone to teach instead of fighting to save the country from a madman. His dragon seems to suffer from nothing worse than the loss of a leg. So he’s only got three legs. Big deal! He can fly! And breathe fire! And use magic more than even any elf! And yet… he waits in the woods for someone else to save the kingdom.

This is just the most upsetting, awful, disrespectful, ignorant attitude. I’m sorry, but I can’t get past that part of this book. Roran’s plot was vaguely interesting, but otherwise the book was more of the same. Stereotypes are reinforced to a frightening degree. Apparently having dark colored skin is extremely strange and dwarves have no hope of being as cool as elves or even humans. Not to mention that the girls kind of get left out of most of the fun completely here. I just can’t figure it out.

I will not be reading the rest of this series if I have anything to say about it. I hope never to have to have anything to do with this book, the fantasy world it describes or even anything else by this author ever again. Obviously, I do not recommend this title. I realize many, many people are going to disagree with me on this one, but I hope that why I feel the way I do makes sense. I promise, no one is going to change my mind on this one.

- Publisher’s Description
- The Official Alagaesia Website
- Vroengard Academy

- Buy it from Amazon

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