Eragon by Christopher Paolini (2002)
Book One of Inheritance
If you like to settle down with a great thick book full of magic and adventure then this is the one for you. It is full of dragons and dragon riders, men and elves and dwarves. There are evil enemies and dark deeds, and the political situation is so complex that not even those on the side of good can always reveal their intentions and purposes.
Not that Eragon knows anything much about the wider world when we first meet him. He is an orphan living with his uncle and cousin in a poor farming community. Times are difficult and he is out hunting:
The deer had led him deep into the Spine, a range of untamed mountains that extended up and down the land of Alagaesia. Strange tales and men often came from those mountains, usually boding ill. Despite that, Eragon did not fear the Spine - he was the only hunter near Carvahall who dared track game deep into its craggy recesses.
I suppose there is a clue for us there already. Eragon is a brave and subtle hunter, but he is not prepared for what happens next late on that winter afternoon:
The doe he wanted was at the edge of the herd, her left foreleg stretched out awkwardly. Eragon slowly crept closer, keeping the bow ready. All his work of the past three days had led to this moment. He took a last steadying breath and - an explosion shattered the night.
The herd bolted. Eragon lunged forward, racing through the grass as a fiery wind surged past his cheek. He slid to a stop and loosed an arrow at the bounding doe. It missed by a finger's breadth and hissed into darkness. He cursed and spun around, instinctively nocking another arrow.
Behind him, where the deer had been smouldered a large circle of grass and trees. Many of the pines stood bare of their needles. The grass outside the charring was flattened. A wisp of smoke curled in the air, carrying a burnt smell. In the centre of the blast radius lay a polished blue stone. Mist snaked across the scorched area and swirled insubstantial tendrils over the stone.
He thinks it's a polished blue stone, but he won't think so for long. He is about to have his destiny thrust upon him, whether he's ready for it or not.
If you think that this story owes a lot to JRR Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, you are right. Christopher Paolini uses the whole construct of elves and dwarves that Tolkien created, but we're not just having a romp round Middle Earth here, we are off on a quite different adventure. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
What can I read next?
This is Book One, and we are certainly left hanging in mid-air. I developed a hunch about Eragon's parentage and now I've got to sit and wait for Book Two, so let's hope it isn't too long in the writing.
Meanwhile, if you are a mature reader and are looking for something similar to read, well, obviously, this would be the moment to explore JRR Tolkien's world. I think you'll love it:
Orslightly younger readersmight enjoy the Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne-Jones:
- Cart and Cwidder
- Drowned Ammet
- The Spellcoats
- The Crown of Dalemark
Or have a look at the Wind On Fire trilogy by William Nicholson:
Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:
- Cart and Cwidder by Diana Wynne Jones (Score: 96%)
- The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley (Score: 93%)
- The Malifex by Steve Alton (Score: 93%)
- Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (Score: 93%)
- Lyra's Oxford by Philip Pullman (Score: 89%)
Eragon features in these lists: