May your swords stay sharp for a very very very long time

Eragon was a book I always thought I’d get around to reading, and then I agreed to lead a book discussion on Eldest, so I figured I’d better read them both. I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, Eldest got so bad that I was counting down pages, announcing to everyone at work (and at home) exactly how much longer I had. And I showed them the EW review of Eldest that gave it a D+. (I know it’s my own fault, because I read the review back in August, but I thought EW was surely just being harsh. Now I know better.)

And, now for the spoilers (this is at Mike’s request – he didn’t want to accidentally see anything spoiler-ish.

To be fair, there were definitely times that Eldest drew me in, that I was concerned about the characters (this happened mostly with Roran, though I did lose patience with his anger at Eragon. And speaking of Eragon, honestly, I lost interest in his story very early on in this book), that I cared about what was happening to them. There were several times that I actually said, “Oh, no!” (again, mostly for Roran) and Mike had to ask what was wrong. I couldn’t tell him, of course, so I made up outlandish things like, “Eragon just made out with his twin sister Leia!” and, “Everyone died and Galbatorix has taken over the lands for his own evil purposes!” I actually think that parts of Eldest were better than – I won’t say most of Eragon, but at least some of it. I do think the story concept is good. But it just went on forever and ever. It seemed like the pattern of: Eragorn is training, now he is struggling, now something happens to give him hope to overcome was cycling over and over. The training just went on for too long. To be honest, the fact that he trained and trained and in the end it was the magic of the dragons that made him able to excel seemed like somewhat of a copout to me. It seemed wrong to build the story with the question of whether he’d be able to face Galbatorix and then have it all work out magically.

And he knew he couldn’t get involved with Arya. When she (and Saphira and his trainer and other elves!) told him (repeatedly) to back off, he should have backed off. I had sympathy for him when he decorated the tile with her picture, but when he approached her while he was tipsy at the festival, I just thought, “Why are we doing this again!?”

I got bored with Roran’s storyline, too, even though I liked finding out more about him. It took too long to explain what was happening. Perhaps there should have been more setup in Eragon so that there didn’t have to be quite as much of that in this book. And when the book split into three storylines, I let out an audible groan. Again, Mike asked what was wrong, and this time it was something I could tell him – a third storyline to follow was not what this book needed.

There were definitely times it reminded me of The Lord of the Rings – the really boring parts of The Two Towers where Sam and Frodo are slogging to Mordor and I’m thinking, “Can’t we get back to Merry and Pippin and Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn?” In other words, that’s not a compliment. Although I admire Tolkien’s work, it just boils down to the fact that Mr. Paolini needed an editor.

So, Galbatorix may not be Eragon’s father, but I wasn’t so far off after all. My instincts were right – it is very Star Wars-ish. If you think of Galbatorix as being the Emperor parallel and Morzan as being Darth Vader, I was pretty darn close. I think it’s a bad sign, though, that when Murtagh appeared as the rider (which was my guess – no way was he dead) and announced that the two of them were brothers, I started laughing. It wasn’t meant to be funny, but I couldn’t help it. I just thought about how many bad cliches were coming into play.

I also laughed when I realized that with the people of Surda, the Varden, the Dwarves, the Urgals, and the Empire, we had our very own battle of five armies! Just like The Hobbit! I kept trying to decide whether that was intentional or not. The dwarves and elves were definitely Tolkien-esque, but I also know that he’s not the only one who ever wrote them in those ways.

I said there were things that I liked, so I do want to point out some of those. Despite the fact that I didn’t think we needed a third storyline, I did very much like the character of Nasuada. I think some of that story (the lace, Elva) could have been summed up when Eragon rejoined the Varden, but, as I said, I liked her and her interactions. As far as Elva went, I’m not sure what the purpose of that was, to be honest. Yes, Eragon needed to learn the importance of being precise with the magic, but . . . for one thing it seemed kind of harsh, and for another it became clear very soon that he would learn how to fix the problem, so it was as if we were exploring this difficulty just for the sake of exploring difficulty. Perhaps I’m wrong, and Elva will play a large part in the next book. I liked Arya – well, actually, I felt really sorry for Arya. I liked Oromis most of the time, and I appreciated that Glaedr chose not to mate with Saphira. I guess that good, interesting decisions like that were what made some of the cliche stuff a little harder to take.

The really sick thing is that I hate not finishing a series, so I probably will read whatever the third one is, unless it’s longer than this second one. It was quite a chore for me to get through. I don’t think I’d give it a D+ . . . maybe a C-. Big disappointment.

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    May your swords stay sharp for a very very very long time – Through a Glass, Darkly

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    May your swords stay sharp for a very very very long time