Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Eldest by Christopher Paolini
I stayed up way too late to finish this book. I'm probably staying up way too late again to read the book after it. I have this thing about borrowing books; I want to get them back as quickly as possible before my kids somehow spill something on them. I know, I'm just weird that way.
This book continues the Inheritance cycle and follows Eragon's further adventures. After a massive battle of men and dwarves vs. Urgals and a nasty shade, Eragon is severely disabled by massive seizures as a result of a wound received by the shade's magic. The new leader of the Varden, Nasuada, decides the Varden need to move from the dwarvish city they have been hiding in to another human kingdom, Surda, which is also under threat of Galbitorix's plotting.
Eragon has multiple obligations to fulfil and must carefully maneuver among competing allegiances to the Varden, his adoptive dwarf clan, and the elves who are to train him in the skills of a Rider.
During his training, he confronts his weaknesses and tries to manage his feelings for Arya, an elf princess he helped rescue in the first book. She discourages him as much as possible because of their glaring differences. As painful as her rejection is, Eragon tries to maintain their friendship and can't help hold on to a little hope that someday she might return his affections.
His teacher, Oromis, helps him perservere in his training despite increasing seizures. Oromis, a Rider himself, hides with the elves because he himself is crippled and cannot fight. Neither can his dragon because of a maimed leg. The dragons train together while the Riders work and Eragon and Saphira must practice sharing their knowledge and their minds to become a more cohesive unit.
I find it interesting that there is a religious discrussion between Oromis and Eragon. He has seen the dwarves invoke gods in their pantheon, different human clans have their superstitions or local gods, and he asks Oromis what the elves believe. Oromis explains that through the use of magic, the elves observe what happens in the world around them. They don't see evidence of "miracles" and don't believe in the existence of gods or any higher power that might have made the world. Oromis claims that if some god were to appear and interact with him, then he would have to revise his assumptions about the world he knows. Oromis tells Eragon that he can't prove there isn't a god, but without proof that there is, he will not believe in such things. Eragon is a little disturbed by this discussion.
I find it amusing that a character that uses magic can't believe in something he can't see. I hoped that the debate between belief and the elves' "atheism" would be further explored in the book but I was disappointed. I think parents should discuss issues such as these with their children, not only to explain their own beliefs but to ask the children how they feel as well. Sometimes conversation about a book can help open up communication between parents and children in ways that other avenues can't.
I am looking forward to learning how everything works out for the characters. The growth Eragon acquires is slow, but encouraging, and the whole "teen angst" part is not so oppressive as to make me want to stop reading.