2 out of 5 Stars
Have you ever read a book and felt like you were living it in real time? And not in a good way. That is the way we felt while reading “Eldest” the second book in Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series. We felt all 668 pages. 668. The Harry Potter books were long, but this was an uphill trudge through mud with the wind at our faces. We were on the fence about the series, but liked the first book (Eragon) well enough to try and do the second book. I might be regretting having bought the third book at the same time I bought this one.
As this is part of a series there many be a few spoilers here for the first book, so proceed with caution if that is of concern to you.
This book picks up where Eragon left off. The battle at Farthen Dur has been fought and won but with great losses. Murtagh has been killed and nothing is the same. Eragon has a terrible battle wound that is restricting his abilities to fight and making his life extremely painful. Ajihad is dead and a new ruler of the Varden must be chosen. Before Eragon, Saphira, Arya, and Orik set out for Du Weldenvarden, Eragon makes some bold choices in who has his support, which Dwarf clan he now belongs to and he learns which clans will hate him forever because of it. He is also coping with his undying feelings for Arya which are not reciprocated. During their journey they make stops in a Dwarf city where they aren’t welcome and have to escape at the break of light. Along the way Eragon spends a good deal of time learning about Elf culture so he doesn’t turn all of them against him during his training that will take place in their main city (he is also learning all of the words in Elfish – good luck if you are reading aloud because the “pronunciation guide” in the back of the book is NO help at all). He spends an enormous amount of time “training” and embarrassing himself and then we rush back to Surda to fight.
Meanwhile we have the additional story line of Roran and the entire village of Carvahall playing out along side Eragon’s journeys. They are constantly being attacked by the Raz’ac and eventually decide to set out on foot (yep, the entire village, because why not?) to escape and avenge the deaths they have sustained. But they set out more importantly because Roran threw a fit about Katrina being kidnapped by Galbatorix and he wants her back. Slone gave her up because she became engaged to Roran without her father’s permission and he couldn’t handle not being able to control her every move anymore.
I was playing along until all of that happened. Seriously the whole “controlling the women” was a bit much but if Roran didn’t lose her he wouldn’t have the blood-lust that he has throughout this novel. The situation with women in these books is really bothersome to me. The women who are supposed to be leaders are always pushed aside and never realize their full potential. Arya, who is a seasoned warrior is really only there as a love interest for Eragon. We saw her battle a bit during Father Dur and Eragon is always so worried about her being safe. On behalf of other women and girls, I want to see her and the other women live up to their potential without the help or hindrance of the men-folk.
The Villagers make an incredible journey where they come across all of the same people (practically) and places that Eragon did, although Eragon seemed to have an easier time of it not going through the Spine. The Spine has been described as such a dangerous place and Paolini seems to skip right over that part. They also managed to kill plenty of people along the way taking them from being innocents to outlaws.
The book struggled with a plot that was so drug out it lost it’s momentum and the reader gets trapped in a tedium that makes sticking with the book very difficult. When we finally get to the battle at the end of the book. The 600 pages of build up leaves the reader feeling like the battle was such an anti-climax when it finally comes and it lasts 2 small chapters with a deflated outcome. The last 2 chapters of the book settle a few things that were questions in the first book, but anything more than that, this book felt like a serious filler that didn’t need to be as long or drawn out as it was.
I really struggled with every single emotion, action, thought, plan, instinct, step taken, sunset, scene, drop of water, feeling, sound, leaf, rock, and desire being described ad nauseam. This book did not need to be 668 pages long (have I mentioned that?). Eldest could have been 350-400 pages and been so much better. The next book is even longer and I am not sure I am up for or even interested in that at this point.
More than anything “Eldest” was a great lesson for my son in “sticking with it” and there was a definite sense of accomplishment in finishing this novel. We are not going to miss these people (there were so many characters in this book and he just kept adding more) and while we have the 3rd book, we’ll probably hold off on reading it for a while (if at all). I am giving “Eldest” 2 stars because we did finish it – we took plenty of breaks and read other books to get us through it, but it was a rough go.