4 out of 5 Stars
We love fantasy stories and my son and I have spend a great deal of time reading these types of stories together. “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini was recommended to us by a family friend who has 2 grown sons who absolutely loved this series of books when they were around my son’s age. As we were on a break from the Harry Potter Series we thought adventures of another sort would be in order and picked up this behemoth of a novel (by children’s standards these can seem very daunting, even for voracious readers like my kiddo). Standing tall at nearly 500 pages (the second book is just short of 670!), with a small font and no pictures, this felt like a huge task and my son and I decided to tackle it together.
The story is of a boy called Eragon who is orphaned and lives with his uncle and cousin. He is an explorer and heads into the very dangerous “Spine” which are the mountains that surround the Palancar Valley where he lives. During one of his expeditions into the Spine he comes across a beautiful sapphire blue stone and he isn’t sure what to make of it, but picks it up and figures it can be valuable. Little does he know that 3 elves have been protecting the stone since the fall of the Dragonriders 70 years before and were attacked by the “Shade”. Arya, one of the elves, sends the stone to another place which is where Eragon discovers it. From here Eragon tries to figure out what to do with the stone. There is an old storyteller, Brom, who lives in the village and tells stories of the Dragonriders and their dragons and Eragon consults him as well as several others about the stone. As word gets out the Raz’ac, two “men” dressed in hoods that cover faces and you never know what they look like, come into town asking about the stone. By now it has hatched and we are introduced to Saphira the dragon, which Eragon is hiding in the forest. The Raz’ac want the stone and will do anything to get it, which leads Eragon to run, but not before Brom joins him.
The story goes on from there and we found it fun and exciting. There is lots of adventure, Eragon is trained to fight, we learn about the relationships between the Riders and their Dragons, and we meet lots of different people along the way.
There is a movie based on the book and we were warned that it was completely awful. We always like to watch the move after reading the book as a little reward for finishing and went in with very low expectations. The movie wasn’t good. There is so much they could have done to make it better.
Most remarkably, Mr. Paolini wrote the first book when he was 16. You see a lot of influence from other sources (the Hobbit, Star Wars, etc) but the overall story was very good and kept us very entertained.
All in all, we really enjoyed the book. On top of it being a really big, long book there are lots of words in other “languages” that Mr. Paolini has created. This can make it difficult for mom and dad when reading aloud. There are pronunciation and translation guides in the back, although it doesn’t always help – I am finding this especially difficult as I am reading Eldest now (the second book in the series). Some of the dwarf names are really difficult and there are just a lot of vowels all clumped together. I totally make it up and we have a good laugh and then the next time I say it differently. My son finds it fun and we can move along without him getting upset that I am not saying things correctly!
These books are going to be great for very strong and confident older readers to tackle on their own. My son is nearly 10 and I don’t think he would do very well on his own, staying motivated through such a large book. Reading it together has been great. There are deaths involved, torture and fighting. 9 and up is what I was comfortable with, but you will need to decide for your kids. Middle schoolers will have no trouble with these books on their own.