After I finished reading Eragon, I read a bit of criticism on the novel. My husband had already cued me in to the fact that the author was a teenager when he wrote it, so I knew not to expect mature writing. Some of the criticism though talked about how unoriginal it is and how it’s a total plagiarism of The Lord of the Rings. I wouldn’t go so far as that, but the work certainly wouldn’t exist, as many other works wouldn’t, without the influence of Tolkien on the fantasy genre.
Eragon is the story of an epic hero, true to every bit of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.
So when it reads like other stories, it’s because they all follow the cycle of the hero: Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, even Shrek. Many of the creatures come from Norse Mythology: elves, trolls, dwarves. Dragons and dragon-slayers are part of many cultures’ storytelling. As stories reuse the hero’s journey and the same mythical creatures, they can sound tired or unimaginative.
I would argue that the world and the adventured Paolini created in Eragon are imaginative. Paolini created a fantasy world that unfolds as a map as Eragon travels across the land. He put together this kingdom and its borders, considering also the land that lies beyond.
My favorite part of the book is the dragon, Saphira. She’s young and playful yet also wise and ancient. She has memories of dragons before her, but also has to learn about this world with her young companion, Eragon. They communicate using something like telepathy, which helps to create depth for both characters. She serves as Eragon’s protector and also as his guide after his original mentor dies (All good mentors die- it’s part of the journey- Obi Wan, Gandalf, Dumbledore- I hope this isn’t spoiling any stories.)
Eragon is an epic tale of a young boy whose background is mysterious and also misfortunate. Ill fate follows him, but he’s also been called on a quest, chosen by a dragon in a yet unhatched egg. It’s a tale of good versus evil. Yet unlike some other tales, where the good and bad sides are clearly formed, Eragon must choose who to ally himself with, knowing that no side is entirely good. His journey involves learning to wield magic which drains him and could eventually kill him. He also must become a skilled fighter, a quick thinker, and a dragon rider.
I would claim that Eragon is entertaining storytelling, especially for its intended audience (young adult), but I would not claim that it is good writing. The prose isn’t well styled, descriptions aren’t beautifully written, and the dialogue feels forced sometimes. It is, however, easy and quick to read, and because of this can be used to grab some reluctant readers who might be interested in the fantasy genre.
I will likely not read anymore of the Inheritance Cycle. The story didn’t personally leave me wanting for more, but I can see the appeal to some to continue on Eragon’s journey.