Eragon 3: This is a Joke, Right?

It is truly shocking how little I care about the goings-on in Carvahall, Eragon’s village. Since I’ve read Eragon already and know what’s going to happen, there’s no tension in this chapter anymore. I wonder if this is one of the reasons I never read this book twice, despite how much I enjoyed it the first time around. So far it’s the longest chapter in the book, and it’s nothing but exposition.

Before I get into that, though, I want to pick apart the text.

“He helped himself to a piece of chicken, which he devoured hungrily.”

Does anyone else see what’s wrong with that sentence?

I’ve taken enough creative writing classes to know that you should (a) avoid adverbs and (b) use verbs for description.

I love how Stephen King put it in his memoir, On Writing:

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day…fifty the day after that…and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it’s–GASP!!–too late.”

One or two adverbs here or there are okay. Too many, though, and they become annoying and repetitive, and make your writing look lazy and weak.

And this ties into into (b) use verbs for description.

Don’t get me wrong, adjectives are great. But verbs are better.

Compare:

“I don’t like it,” she said in a soft voice.

To:

“I don’t like it,” she whispered.

They both mean the same thing, but the second sentence should feel stronger and put a more immediate picture in your mind than the first. If it didn’t, I’ve clearly done something wrong here. Like adverbs, adjectives can get ungainly when they’re overused. Don’t use two words when one will suffice.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, my problem with the above sentence is two-fold. Obviously, I don’t like “hungrily”. But it’s also redundant. If Eragon is “devouring”, he’s clearly hungry; there’s no need to say he devoured something “hungrily”.

“Eragon devoured the chicken.”
“Eragon hungrily ate the chicken.”

Either of these would have been better than what we got.

I just spent way too much time picking apart one sentence that’s probably gone unnoticed by most readers.

As for the rest of this chapter, it’s mostly just exposition. A good portion of it is just the villagers talking about how much they hate the Empire. I think it would be better if it was done using more dialogue and didn’t rely on the narration so much, but it also seems to repeat itself a lot.

The most important part of this chapter comes at the end, when Brom tells the story of the Dragon Riders. They were a group of Mary Sues humans and elves who rode dragons and kept peace throughout the land. So, you know, Jedi, but with dragons. As you might imagine, some tragedy befell them, and now the Dragon Riders are no more. Or, as Brom tells it:

“‘Some saw his abrupt rise as dangerous and warned the others, but the Riders had grown arrogant in their power and ignored caution. Alas, sorrow as conceived that day.'”

Hahaha! This is another case of flowery words backfiring. “Conceived”? Really?

“Brom, how did the Riders fall?”

“Well, Eragon, when a Dragon Rider loves arrogance very much, they conceive sorrow!”

The story is about a Rider named Galbatorix…

…yes, that’s his real name. Not a name that he took after going crazy and becoming evil. Sigh.

Galbatorix’s dragon was killed, he went crazy, and the Riders refused to give him a new one. Now, Brom talks a lot about how cunning Galbatorix is, and how skilled he was with magic and a sword. Basically, a real bad-ass. When he goes to overthrow the Riders, though, he can only do it with the help of an accomplice, Morzan.

“‘Galbatorix convinced Morzan to leave a gate unbolted in the citadel Ilirea, which is now called Urû’baen.'”

Two things here: First, all of those names are so cringe-worthy. The dragon Galbatorix steals is even named “Shruikan”. You know, “shuriken” spelled wrong.

Second, Brom spent so much time telling us how dangerous Galbatorix was on his own, I’m kind of finding it hard to believe that all he needed was a gate left open instead of melting the lock with magic, or blasting it open, or disguising himself as another Rider. Once Shruikan is all grown-up, Galbatorix and thirteen other defectors kill the other Dragon Riders. Vrael, leader of the Dragon Riders, fights Galbatorix, but…well, this is the part where I nearly threw the book down with rage.

“‘As they fought, Galbatorix kicked Vrael in the fork of his legs. With that underhanded blow he gained dominance over Vrael and removed his head with a blazing sword. [. . .] And from that day, he has ruled us.”

A crotch shot?

A CROTCH SHOT?!

THE WORLD WAS CHANGED BECAUSE OF A CROTCH SHOT?!

THE ENTIRE WORLD COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED IF VRAEL WORE A CODPIECE.

WHAT IS THIS SHIT.

Eragon 1-2: SO INTENSE.

When I began this blog, I knew right away that I wanted to re-read Eragon for it, mostly to see if the book I loved as a teenager was as bad as everyone said it was. I did have one pretty big hang-up about getting it started: the length. Almost 500 pages long, reading a book this size was no mean feat for a fourteen-year-old, and might prove to be even more of a challenge for an adult with a full-time job who spends most of her weekends either traveling or working. Sometimes both. And this book gets pretty heavy as a carry-on. Plus, the table of contents alone is 3 pages long. That’s a lot of chapters to review.

Flipping through the book, I realized that the chapters don’t have even lengths. The first chapter is about 2.5 pages long, as is the second. They’re fairly quick reads, and though I expect some big, fat chapters later on in the book, right now it doesn’t seem like such an intimidating project. But I do have a good backlog of posts, so…let’s give it a shot.

Chapter one introduces us to the titular protagonist, Eragon. We learn that he’s just a teenager (because of course he is), who’s a skilled hunter and tracker. The prose isn’t bad, but there’s just something about it that feels lacking. It seems like Paolini was reaching for flowery language, but prose that is still easy to understand.

What doesn’t feel lacking is just over-the-top. Three paragraphs in, and I’m already scoffing over Eragon’s description:

“Eragon was fifteen, less than a year from manhood. Dark eyebrows rested above his intense brown eyes.”

It’s the “intense brown eyes” that gets me. That’s the kind of phrase I would have used in fanfiction when describing a character. It’s a description that just doesn’t make sense to me. When someone has “intense” eyes, I can only picture a person whose eyes are unearthly–in that they’re glowing, or can hypnotize you with a stare. For me, it’s just too vague to actually mean anything.

However, his ridiculous eyes do lead him to a blue stone, the same one that the elf was carrying in the prologue. I think that there’s supposed to be suspense here, but anyone who read the inside flap of the book can tell you right away it’s got something to do with the blue dragon on the cover. However, it does lead us to the first sentence that made me laugh out loud in this book.

“The stone was cool and frictionless under his fingers, like hardened silk.”

It’s another case of trying to using flowery language, except it backfired hilariously. I know that he’s trying to say that the stone is really smooth, but “frictionless”?

If it were truly frictionless, Eragon wouldn’t be able to hold it. It would be sliding out of his hands, slipping through the forest, and no one would ever be able to catch it. The mental image of that–a huge blue stone, forever moving across the world–is funnier than it should be to me. Maybe because right now I’m wishing that’s what would really happen.

…maybe that’d be a better way of keeping the stone safe, rather than teleporting it somewhere where it might never get found, or worse, fall into the wrong hands?

And that about does it for the first chapter. Like I said, it was pretty short. Moving on to the next…

The first two pages of this chapter are nothing but description. It’s not bad, and it wasn’t even that boring. We’re also introduced to Sloan, the butcher. I never liked Sloan; as a kid it was because he’s a dick. Now, it’s because he’s a dick to just the main character. He hates Eragon, and the reason that’s given is because Eragon isn’t afraid to venture into the mountain range where Sloan’s wife was killed.

I read the first two books completely, and almost finished the third one in this series. Some major shit happens to Sloan, and I think it’s meant to be his comeuppance for being an asshole to Eragon. It’s a pretty disproportionate punishment for just being a jerk. Even Eragon, who’s supposed to be our hero, punishes Sloan right after saving him.

I guess I should just be focusing on this book, and this chapter, but Sloan’s treatment gets taken too far.

We also see the farm that Eragon lives on, with his uncle and cousin.

Okay, I’ll accept dragons and magic and elves. I cannot accept that a farm has only three people living and working on it. If they can’t afford farmhands, shouldn’t Uncle Garrow have, like, eight kids? A farm is freaking hard to run, especially when you only have three people working on it, and one of them seems to be hunting in the woods more often than not, if Sloan’s dialogue is any indication.

Also, this is our first description of Garrow:

“His worn clothes hung on him like rags on a stick frame. A lean, hungry face with intense eyes gazed out from under graying hair.”

SO INTENSE. What does that even mean?

Eragon Prologue: A Scent that Would Change The World

Hoo, boy.

When I started this blog, I knew right away that one of the books I wanted to read for it was Eragon. I loved this book when I was fourteen, but I’m aware of all the terrible reviews it’s gotten. The main character has been called a sociopath, the overall story is said to be Star Wars with dragons, the writing’s been called proof that Paolini has access to a thesaurus. Now, it’s time for me to go back and see if any of that is true.

But before we go any further, let’s get the Star Wars thing out of the way right now. The first Star Wars movie (A New Hope)  follows a classic monomyth structure. This is where a lot of familiar storytelling devices come from: the call to adventure, the wise old man, the first failure. The protagonist succeeds and fails, and finally wins the day and learns a lesson.

Eragon, inasmuch as I remember, follows the same monomyth structure. It’s not necessarily that it’s a rip-off of Star Wars, but that it follows the same story structure that has existed…probably for as long as stories have. Can you really blame a fifteen-year-old novelist, in his first book, for using a tried and true formula?

Well, yes, I suppose you could.

Enough of that, let’s jump right in!

“Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.”

Oh my God.

That’s the first line of this series.

That’s the first line.

If I spotted this in a bookstore today, picked it up, and read the first sentence, I would have slammed it shut so fast. I have a terrible feeling that the awful, corny sentence I just read is going to set the tone for the rest of this book.

But I loved this book as a kid. And it was really popular! There’s gotta be a reason why so many people enjoyed it! It can’t be all bad, right?

…Right?

The prologue follows a “raven-haired” (groan) woman who is clearly on a mission, but we don’t know what that mission is. The first time I read this book, I was totally confused, and had no idea what was happening. Because I was an idiot, I took that as a good thing.

My reasoning was this:

1. The Similarillion is a great book.
2. I had no goddamn clue was was going on in The Silmarillion.
3. Therefore, if I didn’t understand what was happening in the long fantasy novel, and it had a lot of made-up words, it was good.

Now I know the opposite to be true. Confusing your audience is a good way to lose them pretty quickly. Case in point: I never actually read past the first chapter of The Silmaraillion.

Paolini tells us about a “Shade” and “Urgals” chasing our dark-haired beauty, without really explaining what they are. We can figure out that Urgals are just another flavor of orc, and a Shade is some kind of magician, presumably an evil one. I guess I can see why you’d want to use different terms than the norm when writing a book like this, but a rose by any other name still smells.

Anyway, the beautiful woman gets captured, but teleports a blue stone far away from her location. Anyway, the hero will eventually save her and–

They were right. They were right all along. This is just Star Wars.

No…I have to hold out hope. I have to believe that this isn’t just a a rip-off of a better, more beloved franchise. It’s just the monomyth structure! It’s just the monomyth structure!

Maybe if I say it enough, I’ll convince myself that it’s true.

It’s just the monomyth structure, it’s just the monomyth structure, it’s just the monomyth structure…