Eragon: Dragrons and Dwarves and Deception, oh my!

While I was hugely impressed while reading Eragon, by Christopher Paolini, it was not really my cup of tea. In a fantasy world, the young title hero finds a large blue sphere while looking for food. He knows it’s unusual, thinks it must be valuable, but has no idea that this discovery will change his life forever. What is inside the sphere? If you didn’t figure out from the picture on the front cover … or the description on the back of the book … or the fact that Eragon is just one letter away from a Dragon. This opens up a world of the dragon riders, places his family in danger, and puts him in the middle of political turmoil he never imagined.

As I mentioned before, the book is jammed packed with every possible element of an archetypal fantasy book. You’ve got your basic Joseph Campbell hero quest, where Eragon must leave his home, interact with an animal, and in someway surpass a teacher/mentor figure, all in the name of heroic transformation. There is revenge, romance, and betrayal; a magical sword; elves, dwarves, a werecat …. I promised I’m leaving a lot out. I think for hardcore lovers of sci-fi and fantasy this makes the book exciting, but I found it more confusing and repetitive.

The biggest criticism of the book from book reviewers was that the book was too derivative of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. The book was a huge financial success, appearing on the bestseller list for over 120 weeks and being in the top five children’s books sold in both 2003 and 2005.  What makes this success even more impressive, and the similarities to fantasy classics, is Christopher Paolini’s age when began the series.

                             Original cover drawn by the author, himself.

Paolini started the book at fifteen and by sixteen was working on the final draft. His parents decided to self publish the epic, which first appeared with an original cover by the author. I have to give major props to the guy for teaching himself to write a book and then promoting the heck out of it. With his parents he went to over 135 book promotion events at local bookshops, schools, and libraries. Paolini would often attend dressed up in medieval costumes. That takes some guts!

The fourth and final book in the Inheritance Saga was published in 2011.  According to Wikepedia the series has sold 33.5 million copies around the world. So while this is definitely not the best book ever written, it might be the best book written by a teenager.

Breaking Dawn 2: The End of the Twilight Saga

Like any good Twilight fan (yes I know this is embarrassing, but I don’t care!) I spent the weekend having a marathon of all the Twilight movies with my mom before heading to see the newest and last film in the saga “Breaking Dawn Part 2” Sunday morning. Surprisingly, I remembered this part of the books the least. Plus, after the gore and disconcerting number of extreme close ups in its predecessor “Breaking Dawn Part 1” I didn’t know what to expect.

The film pleasantly at the same time met and exceeded my expectations. It has the self referential humor of the other films in the theories and goes beyond the narrative of Stephanie Meyer’s finale to add excitement and produce an ending that pays tribute to all five movies. There are some unexpected twists which I suggest you don’t try and find out through spoilers. Also, it’s pretty fun to see Kristen Stewart not have to be an awkward, hunched over girl who is consistently falling over her own feet. And, as my mother said, “who knew becoming a vampire meant having perfect eye makeup on all the time?” Although, be forewarned the movie contains a CGI baby.

Also the premier of the movie has meant photos of my favorite real life couple back together and more interviews with Robert Pattinson, who continues to be hilarious and tied for me with Lena Dunahm for most unique and charming media interviews. My two favorite interviews for this movie have been his appearances on Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel. I also love the number of memes that have popped up on the internet denoting Pattinson’s hatred of the Twilight movies. What’s particularly funny is they aren’t made up, they are pretty much all direct quotes from Rpatz himself.

You can see more at these Tumblrs:

So let me know if you are planning and going to see the film? If you’ve seen it what do you think? Is anyone else anticipating Twilight withdrawals… Who knows maybe Stephanie Meyers will decide she wants another bazillion dollars and decide to write another one.

A Discovery of Witches: A Vampire Story for Smart People

Many reviewers, recommenders, and readers have described “A Discovery of Witches,” by Deborah Harkness as a Twilight story for academics. In fact, book reviewer, Karen Valby called the book “Twilight for the tweedy set.” This description is both apt, in that the novel combines allusions to academic subjects from obscure Renaissance authors to genetics with literal fantasy illusions (i.e. magic).

In fact, the book uses fantasy as a multifaceted theme. The fantasy is clear as this is a world where modern-day witch Diana Bishop is pursued by Daemons, other witches, and oh-so-swoon-worthy vampire Matthew Clairmont. Just as these fantasy elements require a willing suspension of disbelief so does the romantic fantasy.

The romance between Diana and Matthew, while forbidden, is also inevitable. Just like in Twilight, the fact that these two characters are soul mates, meant to be, or whatever you want to call it, is a given. When they touch there is weird electricity that runs through their fingertips. They are mysteriously able to separate out each element of each other’s sent. I mean who really smells like cinnamon, cloves, and cedar? From Romeo and Juliet to Fifty Shades of Grey, if you can accept these relationship statuses you will buy into the novel, if not there is little chance the reader will enjoy the book.

If I had a criticism of the book, it would be that despite a relatively slow pace the book is trying to accomplish too many things at once. In some parts this is a strength- there are details such as the inclusion of yoga and magic explained through DNA, which add to the believability and uniqueness of this world. However, this is also the story of woman discovering secrets from her past; and a woman’s discovery her self and her magic abilities; and a forbidden love story; and a Lord of the Rings style hunt for an ancient and powerful book; and a story about different groups of people trying to exist in the same world; and probably even more plot lines than I’m thinking of right now.

That is a lot to fit into one book, even if it is almost 600 pages. At times certain parts of these story lines are left unresolved, which can be unsatisfying. However as the book moves on the dominant plots come to the forefront (hence their classification as dominant) and I will say that these multiple variations didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

If you think you fall into the category of people who are willing, or eager, to believe the love at first sight/meant for each other books then I definitely recommend this book. I loved it, and liked the subsequent sequel Shadow of the Night, even more.  Happy reading.