Eragon 35: Helgrinding Through

And we keep plunging into the literary abyss that is Eragon. But this chapter was much better than the past few because–wait for it–something actually happens!

The chapter, “Worshipers of Helgrind” starts with Eragon going out to explore the city of Dras-Leona. The chapter title comes from the citizens of Dras-Leona, who worship Helgrind, the mountain that looms above the city.

Does anyone else think that the name “Helgrind” is just a little too on the nose?

While he’s wandering through the city, Eragon finds a slave auction. He plans to use magic to free a slave that’s being bid on, but realizes that the slave would never be able to escape. So finally, finally, Eragon has learned something. He realizes that he can’t save everyone, but if he fights against the Empire, he can help a lot of people. I’m not sure if I would call this a proper turning point for his character, as he’s never wanted to join the Empire. But at least it’s something.

Going back to the “Galby is a terrible autocrat” theory, sending the Ra’zac to capture Eragon and kill his family might be the worst possible way to get Eragon on his side. It’s a great way to ensure that a unique and soon-to-be very powerful young man hates you. Why couldn’t Galby start with something more appealing: “Join me, I’ll make you a king. You’ll have power and gold and your family will be safe.” That would be a much more interesting–and challenging–test of Eragon’s character.

Back to the matter at hand, Eragon visits a cathedral in the city.  I am actually curious about what Eragon believes in. Religion was never mentioned prior to Eragon and Brom arriving in Dras-Leona, so I’m curious as to what sort of faith they have, if any. When Eragon pays his respects in the cathedral, it’s not to any god (or Helgrind), but to the cathedral and its impressive architechture.

But remember when I promised that something happened in this chapter?

Something finally happens! When Eragon goes to leave the cathedral, the Ra’zac are standing in the entrance.

Now, since it’s been far too long since I’ve made fun of a single sentence…

A sibilant hiss came from the smaller Ra’zac.

I would like to nominate “sibilant hiss” as the most redundant phrase of the book so far.

He had chased the Ra’zac for so many weeks that the pain of their muderous deed had dulled withinin him. But his vengeance was at hand. His wrath exploded like a volcano[.]

I shit you not, I laughed outloud. There must be a way to do purple prose so it’s not so unintetionally funny. This isn’t it.

Eragon does try to fight the Ra’zac, but they’ve got the city guards backing them, and he’s outnumbered. When he finally gets in touch with Saphira (and through her, Brom), they agree that they’re outnumbered* and need to flee the city. They ride as far from the city as they can in the night and set up camp. Not long after they set up camp, Eragon falls unconscious.

He falls unconscious a lot. Let’s see…I think that’s four times so far. And, glancing ahead, it’s going to happen a few more times before the book is finished. It’s gotten to the point where it’s no longer dramatic, and Eragon is more reminiscent of a fragile anime girl or flimsy romantic heroine than a badass Dragon Rider. I’m not really a fan of the constantly fainting character anymore. I first noticed this in the Hunger Games series. Whenever Eragon (or Katniss) faints, when (s)he comes to, there’s someone ready to explain what happened while (s)he was out, instead of the character experiencing it and narrating it for themselves. The literal definition of telling rather than showing. In the cases of Eragon fainting because he used magic that took a lot of energy, it makes sense. But it just keeps happening over and over again, and no longer cares the suspense that it should.

*Outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, outplanned

Eragon 32-33: Sunk Cost Fallacy

The next two chapters are mercifully short, but not exactly exciting. They did not, however, end with me shouting about Eragon’s stupidity, so that’s a slight plus. Chapter 32, “The Mire of Dras-Leona” is only a few pages, most of which is exposition about the city. I don’t mind it so much here, because it’s not convoluted rules of the universe. Brom is more like a tour guide than mentor here, and it’s a nice change of pace. I can just relax and accept what he’s saying, instead of scratching my head and cringing at lengthy and convoluted explanations.

One thing I did like in this chapter is that Saphira and Eragon discuss exactly what he plans to do after killing the Ra’zac. They don’t dwell on it too long, but I think it’s still a good point to bring up. If revenge is your character’s driving motivation, what do they do once they’ve achieved their goal? Saying, perhaps, that there are no jobs as the Dread Pirate Roberts available.

Before I get into the next chapter, I also want to point out that the inn Eragon and Brom are staying is is called “The Golden Globe”. Yeah.

The following chapter, “Trail of Oil” is pretty short, and pretty lazy. Brom and Eragon split up to search the city and see if they can track down the oil the Ra’zac use. Eragon wanders around the city and learns next to nothing, but Brom comes back with good information, which he then relays to Eragon. Just like everything else in this book. I feel like Paolini really skimmed over this. Brom discovering helpful information and just explaining it to Eragon is a lot easier than having Eragon learn something for himself. Worldbuilding and tutoring Eragon is one thing, but I’m getting really sick of this.

I’m also beginning to think that Galby is really terrible at being a dictator. Brom learns that he’s coming to Dras-Leona to punish the city’s leader for not being as obedient as the king would like. Okay, I can buy that. But Brom also says this is the first time Galby has left his stronghold in at least a decade.

Here’s the thing: I don’t get it. Galby is a threat to Eragon and Saphira, largely because he wants them under his control. He’s a threat to the as-of-yet unseen rebels, the Varden, because they openly oppose him. But the majority of the people he rules are not dragons, Dragon Riders, or rebels. It seems like the only thing he really cares about is ruling the dragons, not actually ruling the land or its people. He seems rather lackadaisical when it comes to being an evil dictator. Right now, it seems like he’s only a threat to Eragon and the Varden. We’re told over and over again that Galby’s evil, he’ll destroy everything you know and love, but we never really see it, and I’m definitely not feeling it. If Galby wants to be a true evil dictator, worthy of actually being reviled, he really needs to broaden his horizons.

Chapter 33 marks the halfway point of the novel. And so far, I’ve been pretty disappointed. When I decided to re-read Eragon, I knew that it wouldn’t ever be as good as it was when I was fourteen. I did not expect it to be so…boring. Most of the novel so far has been Eragon asking questions and Brom giving him the answers. If I didn’t know all this beforehand, it would probably be more interesting to me, but it’s really hard to get into this book and actually enjoy it.

This also might explain why I didn’t re-read Eragon after I first finished it until now. It’s not just that I knew the bulk of the story. There are books that I’ve read and re-read dozens of times, even after I know the story. It’s because of beautiful writing, or because something in it touched me, or because I just didn’t want to leave the story’s world. These are the books that you keep thinking about long after you’ve turned the last page.

Then there’s Eragon. I’ve critiqued the writing, the plot, the characters, and I’m not even sure that I should continue this endeavor. Only my pride (and the sunk cost fallacy) has really kept me from tossing the book out right now.