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.
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.