If you’re me, you’d call chapter 10 of Eragon, “Wish Fulfillment”. If you’re Christopher Paolini, though, you give this chapter an over-the-top fantasy name, like “Flight of Destiny”. Which is one of those names that sounds cool when you’re fifteen, but as I haven’t been fifteen for a long time, it just makes me roll my eyes. That’s the thing with the writing in this novel. This is an exciting chapter, with the story finally kicking off and Eragon’s first flight on Saphira’s back. The problem is that all too often, the prose falls short, and things just aren’t as exciting or tense as they should be. I should feel Saphira’s terror and anger, as well as Eragon’s own dread. Maybe the problem is that I’m re-reading this and know everything that’s going to happen.
Some twentysomething out there, read this book for the first time and tell me if it’s the prose, or if it’s me.
One other thing that I’m noticing more and more is Paolini’s use of flowery words. I can understand it; he’s writing a story set in a fantasy medieval world, and therefore people are supposed to sound like they stepped out of a Shakespeare play. It doesn’t really work, though, because a lot of the dialogue sounds like it would be heard today. There’s just fewer apostrophes.
When Paolini does try to use a more obscure word in the narration, it just sounds goofy. Saphira is described as appearing before Eragon in “a gout of smoke.” We can assume that the “gout” is like a puff of smoke, but my first thought was of gout the disease. Which, fun fact, was sometimes called the “disease of kings” because it wasn’t terribly uncommon amongst royalty. But that’s neither here nor there.
In all fairness for this chapter, I like that Eragon’s first flight isn’t some beautiful and romantic experience. It’s full of panic, and Saphira’s scales end up injuring his legs quiet badly. If you haven’t noticed by now, I really appreciate it when reality comes into the fantasy elements. Eragon puking as he rides Saphira definitely qualifies as adding that realism. It’s almost enough to make me forgive how Eragon cries a single cliche tear at the end of the chapter.
Moving on, I was a bit confused when I finished reading chapter 11, “The Doom of Innocence”. Despite yet another cringe-worthy title, I was utterly befuddled when I found that I actually liked this chapter. What’s that about? It’s not perfect, and I still have my normal gripes about the writing. There’s still a couple lazy adverbs lying about, and it completely solidified the “Eragon is Star Wars with dragons” idea. Monomyth structure be damned, it’s the exact same story.
In the previous chapter, the arrival of the “strangers” scared Saphira so much that she flew to the neSpine, with Eragon on her back. The next day, he convinces her to go back to his home, only to find the farm destroyed and Garrow badly wounded. You know, just like how Luke returns home after meeting Old Ben and finds his igloo house destroyed and aunt and uncle dead.
But there were a few things that I actually did like about this chapter. First of all, the language of the dialogue and the narration finally match. Look at this conversation Eragon has with Saphira, when he’s trying to convince her to take him home.
“Both of us carry an obligation to Garrow. He has cared for me and, through me, you. Would you ignore that debt? What will be said of us in years to come if we don’t return–that we hid like cowards while my uncle was in danger? I can hear it now, the story of the Rider and his craven dragon! If there will be a flight, let’s face it and not shy away. You are a dragon! Even a Shade would run from you! Yet you crouch in the mountains like a frightened rabbit.”
Maybe it’s still a little over-the-top for me, but I like it much better than Eragon sounding like a teenager who grew up in the modern world.
We finally get to see Saphira’s personality, too. We saw only vague glimpses of Saphira before, and she only had a few lines of dialogue. Even in during her first flight with Eragon, she was so panicked that her actions don’t reflect what she’s normally like. Since Saphira’s the reason I haven’t given this book up yet, I’m glad that we finally get to see more of her.
The last thing in this chapter I liked was the endurance and the pain these characters go through. From what I remember of the first two books in this series, Eragon becomes ridiculously powerful as the series goes on. Here, Eragon’s legs have been rubbed raw from riding Saphira bareback, and Saphira exhausts herself to get Eragon and Garrow to Carvahall, finally landing when she can’t go any further. Eragon drags his uncle into town, legs bleeding all the while, until he passes out. I think Eragon’s determination to save Garrow is admirable. The fact that every step Eragon takes is a struggle makes it even moreso.
It’s the first time I think I’ve really supported Eragon while re-reading this. Because, like I’ve said before, most of the time he’s just a big idiot ball.