Dec 18 2007

Eragon Review

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Eragon is one of the worst novels I’ve ever read.  But let’s look at the positive: how can Eragon improve your writing? It can help you identify and fix problems in character development, story structure and plotting. For example, let’s look at its characters.

1) Eragon

Eragon is the prototypical Chosen One. Unfortunately, he never really grows into something more than someone destined for great things.  Why does his dragon come to him?  Because he was destined to have a dragon.  Why does he decide to stop Emperor Palpatine, err, Galbatorix? Because he was destined to.  Why will he eventually get the girl and save the world… well, I could go on.

A strong character has traits that drive the plot. In His Majesty’s Dragon, Temeraire the dragon is a radical abolitionist and supporter of dragon rights, which leads him to (spoiler– hold your cursor here). That doesn’t feel contrived at all, because Temeraire’s morality clearly dictates that he should perform that action. This works because his character traits cause the plot. Temeraire is rebellious, so he should act rebelliously.

Eragon’s characters do not drive the plot. They act as the plot needs them to.  Eragon is a wuss, until he learns that he’s really a hero.  What causes that change?  His great destiny, apparently.  Being driven by destiny makes him passive. Let me show why that’s a problem.

Saphira (the dragon) comes to Eragon for no particular reason. Eragon doesn’t do anything to get his dragon. That wastes an opportunity to show us what he’s capable of, and why he deserves to have a dragon. His Majesty’s Dragon used the experience much more effectively. Captain Laurence’s ship captures Temeraire’s egg.  Instead of the dragon being an honor and privilege, the dragon is something the characters want to avoid. The unlucky handler will have to live away from civilization and work in a dangerous, filthy profession. The crew draws straws and a 14-year-old sailor draws the dragon. When Laurence sees that the kid is struggling with the dragon, he decides to sacrifice himself by taking the dragon instead.

This shows us several things about the characters. Lawrence is a compassionate and loyal leader.  He’s brave.  He was not passively destined or chosen to have a dragon– he chose to take Temeraire.  He has realistic concerns, like worrying about not ever being able to see a play again.  In short, Laurence is both heroic and relatable.  We even learn something about Temeraire: he has standards and cares who his partner is.  Unlike Saphira, we can relate to him as something more than just an animal.  My problem with Eragon is that there isn’t any reason Saphira comes to Eragon.  Worse, I can’t think of any reason that I would advise Saphira to pick Eragon.  He has no traits that suggest he would be a valuable partner.

2) Saphira

Temeraire from His Majesty’s Dragon is a fantastic example of how a side character can drive a plot and develop the main character. But Saphira is a case-study in cardboard.  Saphira makes most Pokemon look three-dimensional.

Consider the following: Pokemon (successfully???) characterizes Ash’s Charizard as lazy and disrespectful, which is fairly impressive given that he doesn’t say anything intelligible.  Saphira has every advantage but she is actually worse-characterized.

Strong characterization depends on readers being able to associate characters with key attributes. Han Solo is selfish but loveable. Charizard is lazy. Temeraire is idealistic and rebellious. Saphira is nothing but a flying pack animal.  

Wasting Saphira in this book was particularly egregious. She’s on the front cover, and the only selling point of Eragon is that the book has a dragon in it. If all the superheroes in Superhero Nation were as boring as she is, we’d have a real problem.

3) Brom/Murtagh

These characters came right out of Central Casting. Brom is the Friendly Storyteller and Murtagh is the Mysterious (But Friendly) Stranger. Both serve essentially the same role, to provide wisdom and insight to the brash and clueless Eragon. Conveniently enough, one enters as the other dies.

4) Galbatorix

I’ll preface this by acknowledging that I’m fond of many supervillains.  I write stories about them, too. So you might argue that it’s hypocritical for me to criticize Galbatorix for being one-dimensional. On the other hand, you could also argue that “wow, if even a superhero novelist thinks Eragon’s villains were superficial, they must have been truly awful.”  Indeed.

Galbatorix is the villain and he doesn’t have any motivation other than being EVIL. He’s like Green Goblin, but without the nifty armor. As far as cartoonish villains go, Galb is a particularly bad one. And not bad like Darth Vader was bad, but bad-like-Gigli bad.

There are two main ways to make a villain interesting.

  1. Ideological power—when the audience vaguely sympathizes with the villain’s objective (separate from his means).  This worked particularly well in The Rock, for example.
  2. Badassery—a combination of swagger, flavor and/or whupass.

Galb had neither of these, but the best villains usually have both.  For example, Darth Vader and Doctor Octopus are obviously badass, but Darth Vader is also ideologically powerful because his villainy stemmed from a noble desire to create order. Doctor Octopus (in the movie) wanted to vindicate what his wife died for.  And he had 6 arms.

Cliché fantasy races

The author of Eragon stole his elves and dwarves so blatantly from Lord of the Rings that Tolkien should have been credited as a co-author. Many fantasy novels draw on Tolkien’s conventions, but usually they try to make up for that by adding their own spin to the source material.  For example, if you were writing a book set at a magical university like Hogwarts, you could make it feel fresh by using a new perspective.  Instead of focusing on a precocious young wizard, maybe you’d look at the teachers or the administrators or campus security or the admissions office instead.  Eragon doesn’t do anything like that.  It ends up feeling like LOTR fanfiction.  With Pokemon.

I could say more, but you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to Eragon.  This book and its sequel* are best enjoyed as an expensive alternative to firewood.

*It has two sequels, but I’ve only been unfortunate enough to read the first.

80 responses so far

80 Responses to “Eragon Review”

  1. Linda Kon 22 Aug 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Oh. My. God.

    THANK YOU!!!

    I hated this novel, but could never quite put into words ‘why’. Any time I criticized it at all (for being derivative of both Tolkein and Lucas, who himself borrowed from at least half-a-dozen fairytales), I was firmly verbally slapped down by people who felt otherwise. They almost all concluded any argument about its worth by stating, “And the author was only 16 when he wrote it!”

    Yes. I can tell.

    Thank you for cogently explaining the problems with this ‘classic’.

  2. B. Macon 19 Sep 2008 at 2:48 am

    I think the best reasons to rush a book are that you either need the money now, or you need to publish the book prematurely to bolster an application for college or graduate school. But he didn’t want to apply to college immediately, so it seems a bit questionable to me that he didn’t wait.

  3. Bretton 26 Sep 2008 at 8:38 am

    I personally thought Eragon had potential…until Paolini squandered it. The book was mediocre and the movie was worse. Even CG couldn’t redeem it.

  4. Bretton 26 Sep 2008 at 1:51 pm

    Actually, before Eragon, I’d never seen dragon rider stories. (Or at least if I had, I didn’t recognize them). When these books are clearly better than Eragon, why did Eragon become a movie and not these others?

  5. B. Macon 26 Sep 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Eragon’s generic-fantasy setting is more familiar to movie-goers than His Majesty’s Dragon, which is set in the Napoleonic era. Movies are more of a mass-market medium than novels: a book that sells 100,000 copies is a bestseller, but a major release that sold even a million tickets at $8 each would be an absolute disaster. One estimate put Eragon’s budget at $140 million, so you need to sell tens of millions of tickets and DVDs just to recoup that investment and the advertising budget. Also keep in mind that studios typically only get half of the cost of a movie ticket.

    Putting together a large audience for Eragon would probably be pretty easy… “LOTR with dragons” is a much easier sell than a story with antiquated English. Additionally– although I’m not qualified to say this with any degree of certainty– I’d speculate that Eragon’s fans are slightly younger and more likely to watch a summer action movie.

  6. Bretton 02 Oct 2008 at 8:21 am

    If Eragon is so badly written, then why do people like it so much? Or, for that matter, why do I like it so much? I willingly and emphatically concede that Eragon is deplorable and badly written, but whenever I read it, it never fails to engross me. Or is this perhaps due more to my own imagination than to Paolini’s writing?

    Also, I now more clearly see the “chosen one” pattern you were getting at. Especially in Eldest, good things keep happening to Eragon for no good reason. (His scar is healed, he turns into an elf or at least blessed with their abilities, etc.) After this I came to the conclusion that his cousin Roran (who is much more dynamic) would have made a more satisfying main protagonist. His actions drive the plot better than Eragon’s and my only complaint about him is only that he seems to mature a bit too quickly. In fact, I often find myself wishing that he, rather than Eragon, was gifted with a dragon (perhaps he will be later, I haven’t read the third one. But there will be another rider and I’m banking on either Roran or Arya). But rather than using this more useful protagonist, Paolini confines him to a lesser story that appears mundane when compared to Eragon’s. Your comments?

  7. B. Macon 02 Oct 2008 at 10:05 am

    I think it’s because Eragon avoids the single most destructive problem for fiction writers: confused writing. Eragon’s readers always understand what is going on, which is a major accomplishment in fantasy. With a fresher plot and better characterization, Eragon could easily have been a really good novel.

    I’m carefully trying to avoid saying that Eragon’s problem was that it wasn’t “complex” enough. Generally, I find that works that are described as “complex” range from confusing (A Game of Thrones) to seizure-inducing (Syriana). Complexity is not (by itself) a virtue of good writing. Anyone can complicate a work by adding layers of deceit, backstabbing, aliases and byzantine conspiracies, but those elements are more likely to make the story convoluted than interesting.

    The problem was that Eragon’s plot was absolutely rote. “Boy gets dragon. Boy becomes fantasy superhero. Fights against Empire. Gets girl.” Nor did it execute this mundane plot particularly well. The girl was so forgettable that I thought the romantic angle fared poorly against most comic-books and George Lucas movies. The dragon was such an intolerable waste of space that I can’t really think of it as a character so much as a flying pack-animal. This book could have been His Majesty’s Dragon in a fantasy setting. Instead it was a LOTR ripoff.

  8. Bretton 02 Oct 2008 at 3:13 pm

    And Roran?

  9. B. Macon 02 Oct 2008 at 5:36 pm

    Erm. I haven’t actually read the sequel, and Jacob got real surly the last time I asked him to review it. I think what he said was “wasn’t once enough?” Give me a few months, heh.

  10. Bretton 02 Oct 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Ha ha! Surly, eh Agent Orange?

  11. B. Macon 03 Oct 2008 at 12:33 am

    Surly is definitely one of my favorite words.

  12. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 11 Oct 2008 at 5:27 am

    I never read the book, but thanks for the heads up! I wasn’t overly fond of the film.

  13. B. Macon 21 Nov 2008 at 12:31 am

    I was pretty disappointed by the Sci-Fi network’s TV adaptation of The Dresden Files. It had some charm but the pilot suffered from gratuitous flash-backing.

  14. Angelicaon 22 Nov 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I actually liked the movie so much that I bought the book, just to discover that even though I have nothing against clichés in movies they are dreadfully lame in books. I read the other “just because” and got even more disappointed. My biggest problem was (is) that Eragon never really did anything, things just happened around him.

  15. B. Macon 23 Nov 2008 at 1:48 am

    I agree completely. Eragon is the perfect example of a Chosen One. Why does the dragon come to him? Why does he get the mentor? Why is he the Rider? Why does he have magic? He apparently received all of these things by virtue of his birth/destiny. He does not earn anything he has.

  16. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 23 Dec 2008 at 3:17 am

    What IS special about Eragon? A Chosen One should be chosen for a reason.

    “Look, there’s a very skilled boxer, about to win his third trophy! But what’s this? A whiny farmboy who can barely use a pitchfork? I’ll take him!”

  17. Kynnastonon 26 Mar 2009 at 9:29 am

    How does this keep happening?

    Why do the worst pieces of work keep floating to the top of the pile??

    Seriously. It makes me wonder if trying to make a wonderful work is worth it. I should just write a piece of crap and it will be guaranteed to be a best seller…

  18. Wingson 26 Mar 2009 at 9:35 am

    I always thought there was a reason that I didn’t like Eragon….

    NOW I get it!

    Stupid boy Mary Sue/Chosen One!

    I freaking hate both, but two at the same time is just unbearable.

    – Wings the PISSED OFF

  19. RikuTomoshibion 27 Mar 2009 at 6:49 pm

    …Alright. I’ll admit, there are a lot of similarities between Eragon and other forms of media. But give the guy a break, he was FIFTEEN!!!! He wasn’t even a legal adult when he wrote one of the biggest selling novels this country has seen in ten years! I’d say that, though the story can be…bland at best, he deserves a little credit. Besides, you can’t say that it logically sucks, as statements like that are an opinion.
    Oh, and J. Mellow? If you think you can do better, I’d like to see you try.

  20. B. Macon 27 Mar 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Actually, publishers can say a manuscript sucks. Unless you can get a publisher that agrees with you, you are probably screwed. Self-publishing is an option, but it takes at least hundreds of dollars and usually leads to disaster.

  21. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Mar 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Chris Paolini does deserve some credit, but Eragon could have been better if he had made a few minor changes. I’m among the youngest people here, and I’ll never be J.K. Rowling, but with this post (among others) I’m a much better writer than I was before finding SN.

  22. Marissaon 27 Mar 2009 at 7:18 pm

    I’m betting on J. =/

  23. Jacob Mallowon 27 Mar 2009 at 7:42 pm

    “J. Mellow? If you think you can do better, I’d like to see you try.”

    1. Mallow. My name is Mallow. There are only six letters. This isn’t rocket science.

    2. Speaking of rocket science, Eragon is sort of like the Challenger of novels. You don’t need to be a novelist to see that something is terribly wrong with it. Similarly, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that something has gone wrong if the shuttle explodes.

    3. I have better things to do with my time. I’ve sort of got a supervillain thing going on right now.

  24. B. Macon 27 Mar 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Did you seriously just compare Eragon to the Challenger disaster? Sigh.

  25. Sabrinaon 19 Apr 2009 at 10:46 am

    Thanks so much for this article. I also needed a solid reason to despise these books.

    I usually focus on the plot of stories vs the quality of the writing, but I still give some props to the author for having the guts to publish a book when he was so young.

    I can understand why some people really liked the series. There is something about suckish writing and overused plot lines that draw so many people. I think stories like these are comfort food. You know what is going to happen and you know the characters. (As writers, you probably beef up the characters in your head.) You don’t have to worry about your favorite character dying because you know whether they will or not.

    I understand people liking books like that– I have a few that I still read. But to take a bad book and make it into a movie was just plain wrong. I saw it. It was terrible. Really, it was a series of battle sequences. And the lightning?! Eragon and baby Safira are playing in a field when she flies up really high and gets zapped and comes down huge. And Eragon is still in the same clothes.

    If he was in a different outfit, I would totally be fine with using the lightning as a time transition, but no.

    Unfortunately, the plot (as common and predictable as it was) was completely erased in the movie.

  26. Wingson 27 Apr 2009 at 9:06 am

    Note to self: show this to my Eragon-obsessed acquaintance. I mean, everyone keeps acting like “no one has ever done something like this before”! But they have! This may be the most well-known Dragon Rider book series, but I sincerely doubt it’s the best.

    As for writing the book when he was 15, I wrote a book when I was 10. A novel, and I completed it. Big whoop. (Okay, it was more like a 40 page summary. Deal. I started when I was freaking 7.) And wow! right freaking now I’m writing a book, and I am 13. Yeah. Heck, almost every freaking one of us on this website is – surprise! – writing a book at a young age. Just because he was published first doesn’t mean we aren’t as good – or, in my opinion, better.

    So yeah.

    – Wings

  27. Lunajamniaon 27 Apr 2009 at 10:07 am

    Wings–you’re pretty cool. I wish I knew more 13 year olds like you. ^_^ The world would be a better place. (I know, that was random. But hey, you got a compliment. 🙂

    Sabrina–I kind of thought that it wasn’t a time transition but Saphira was actually transformed; because they didn’t want to waste time showing all the growing up and bonding. So instead of that, she just flew up into a lightning storm and it made her full-sized. But hey, maybe it was a time transition thing, I dunno.

    Anyhow, Wings, you’re right. It’s just like with the Twilight thing–a lot of people think other authors with the same type of plot or whatever ripped Meyer off and so they freak out, when in fact the other authors were published before she was. Eragon, as you said, may be very popular and everything and Paolini may have written it at a young age and etc., but it’s not like there isn’t anyone else who has done the same and quite possibly better.

    Hey–my post is coherent! Yay!

  28. Wingson 27 Apr 2009 at 10:18 am

    Hey, thanks, Luna!

    My above comment on Eragon could be also applied to Twilight. Just substitute “Vampire-Human Romance” for Dragon Rider.

    If you also hate Twilight, you’d like a friend of mine. She enjoys naming dissection subjects after Edward and then cutting them up in front of Twilight-obsessed fans.

    One Possible Cure for Twilight-Fanism: Have them watch the end of Harry Potter 4, where Robert Pattinson dies. Then, rewind and repeat. And repeat again. And again. Oh yes. *laughs like a maniac*

    But we shall rise, take over the literary world, and give Superhero Nation the glory it so rightly deserves. And get everyone Agent Orange t-shirts. The end.

    – Wings

  29. Lunajamniaon 27 Apr 2009 at 10:22 am

    *claps* what a great story, Wings! 😀
    And now I must bid all my superheronation friends adieu, for I have a final I must get to. :/

  30. Tomon 27 Apr 2009 at 10:25 am

    “I mean, everyone keeps acting like “no one has ever done something like this before”!”

    LOLWHAT? How can anyone possibly say that? This is the exact conversation I had with a friend of mine:

    Friend: I’ve read the first two, but I haven’t read the last one.
    Me: Have you seen ‘Return of the Jedi’?
    Friend: Yes
    Me: Then you’ve pretty much read the third book.

    I could do an entire essay pointing out similarities between Eragon and Star Wars.

  31. Wingson 27 Apr 2009 at 10:27 am

    Hey, good luck. Most of my tests I just end up (no pun intended) winging it. And yet, I have three out of four A’s. And one C. But algebra is not necessary to the literary world (at the very least, I hope it is not).

    – Wings

  32. Wingson 27 Apr 2009 at 10:31 am

    @Tom – Oh, it happens.

    ME: *Looking through teen books.*

    *sees Twilight*


    *looks near Twilight*


    ME: Holy crap, how freaking many of these books exist?

    *pokes them*

    *books collapse on top of me*

    ME: *buried* Help meee….


    All right, I exaggerated about being buried alive. But they COULD have buried me alive, there were so many.

    – Wings

  33. B. Macon 27 Apr 2009 at 11:08 am

    No, I don’t think that algebra matters too much to writing a manuscript.

    However, most writers do not write full-time, particularly right out of college. And a lot of the career-paths in writing and publishing careers are affected by considerations of “who understands our business the most clearly?” Numbers tie into that, even in a nonmathematical field.

  34. Wingson 21 Aug 2009 at 10:29 am

    I discovered how Eragon was published:

    Although his series has since moved to another company, the book was originally published by – get this – a company belonging to his parents . Nepotism anyone?

    – Wings

  35. B. Macon 21 Aug 2009 at 11:07 am

    Yeah… it’s very hard to get self-published at a young age without parents that can provide major financial support. When I was in high-school, I met a college student whose parents had underwritten a print-run of 1000 copies so that the student could go out and sell them. I bought a copy to be polite and never read past the first chapter. (Even then, I was mortified that someone could spend thousands of hours on a manuscript and still miss the typos on page one).

    My best guess is that the parents took a hit of somewhere between $5000-7500 printing copies of a book that was too bad to sell.

  36. Lighting Manon 21 Aug 2009 at 11:21 am

    I think that’s the wrong word, Wings…I think the word “sadistic” would fit better.

    They should get his parents and the people that chose to print Twilight, put them in a very small room filled with typewriters then if you had 996 more of them, and you waited long enough, you’d get a bad episode of ABC Family’s version of 10 Things I Hate About You.

    See, it’s funny because there’s that saying about the thousand monkeys and typewriters writing Shakespeare if you gave them long enough, and 10 Things I Hate About You is a version of Taming Of The Shrew…

    You get the picture.

  37. HUsheron 21 Aug 2009 at 12:42 pm

    I wouldn’t say that Saphira has no personality- I personally always thought that she had one, but like the stock elf being in tune with nature, arrogant and generally better than humans, Saphira was just a cliche. She was the proud, noble dragon, and very little beyond that.

  38. Anonymous 98765on 02 Sep 2009 at 5:14 pm

    First of all, Eragon did not have everything good happening to him by fate. Granted that he did come across Saphira’s egg without really doing anything, however, obtaining elf like powers did not happen for no reason. He had rescued the elf Arya, killed a shade and saved the dwarves, granted he did had help, and had to traverse most of Alagaesia to get the the most remote place in that world. One can hardly say fate just granted him that gift through destiny. Also, where the hell in the series did it say anything about him getting the girl? In fact, there was a painful rejection from Arya to Eragon although that happened later. If you only watched the movie, which I have to admit was absolutely horrible, at least read the book before judging it. A lot of movies were nothing compared to the books.

    Secondly, how does Saphira only resemble a flying pack animal? She’s protective, fierce, caring, logical, and willing to do what it takes no matter how she feels about the whole subject. Even though her role in the first book was small, her roles later on increases dramtically. It’s not surprising the characters did not recieve much development in the first book since it is one of four, but that does not mean there are no development at all. You just have to read a bit farther.

    Thirdly, Brom and Murtagh are completely different people and play different roles. Brom indeed is the storyteller and the mentor. Murtagh on the other hand is his companion. He has nothing much of value to teach Eragon nor has any advice to give. In fact, Murtagh is almost an alternate version of Eragon if he was raised in Galbatorix’s castle instead of being abandoned in a small village.

    Fourth, Galbatorix does have a motivation other than being evil. He wants to shape Alagaesia back to what it was before it was destroyed, only this time, with riders that are completely under his control. Yes, the book rarely mentions him besides from the snippets of what his crimes were and how he neglects his kingdom, but that does not mean he has no motivation at all. In fact, if one were to review all his actions, they would most likely conclude he is more demented than evil. Also, a lot of audiences vaguely agree with Galbatorix’s ideas. You just need to know where to look. As for badass, I can’t say much until all the books are published. But from what was writtern so far, he has enough power to completely obliterate a mountain with a wave of his hands. Isn’t that pretty badass itself?

    As for ideas coming from LOTR, I have to agree. But not so much as a LOTR ripoff as a Star Wars one?

  39. Lighting Manon 02 Sep 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Wouldn’t rebuilding Enrique Iglesias Land in his image, completely under his control be…taking over the world? So, in effect, his motivation is to be evil, so he can successfully…be evil on a bigger scale?

    Pikachu, from Pokemon can completely destroy the universe if he sneezes at precisely the right angle on a Wednesday, he can have this ability if the individuals responsible for writing him give him that ability. Random abilities doesn’t make a better character without all of his other traits supporting it and making it worth something, Doctor Octopus isn’t notable because he has six arms, he’s notable because he’s Doctor Octopus and he has six arms. Coulrophobiatrix could have tried to take over the world to prevent the systematic breeding of clowns by the elves and he’d have made a better villain then Random Assortment Of Noises.

  40. Anonymous 98765on 05 Sep 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Well taking over the world isn’t necessarily evil. It has other intentions as well. The evil part comes with how you plan to achieve that as well as what your plans are for the world you want to control. It can be the total opposite of evil and prove to be good for mankind.

    Giving random abilities to characters obviously doesn’t make them better. However, if the character has certain abilities that others have to, and some are a lot more poweful than his, then how that character uses them and motives are could really make him an interesting and fun to read character. Those are much more thoroughly emphasized during later books.

  41. Moondragon007on 27 Sep 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I was in an RPG forum thread where His Majesty’s Dragon was updated to WWII, and it was pretty fun. My character was a tom-boy American woman riding a small scout dragon. Small as in Regina (the dragon) could a) carry only one person, and b) could follow her rider -into the riders’ quarters-. Unfortunately, the thread tanked due to lack of posts (the typical fate of threads in that forum).

  42. Benon 03 Jan 2010 at 4:06 am

    Hey all you great critics,
    Theres still one book left, so dont make assumptions yet. And that one book still has room to explain Eragon’s reason for all that “random” stuff that happened to him.
    And if you may remember, the Harry Potter series didn’t reveal Harry Potter’s reason for “special” stuff happening until later down the road, you guys are trashing Eragon after one book. Read em all, look at the direction the authors trying to take it, and get a real fucking imagination

  43. NicKennyon 17 Jul 2010 at 11:41 am

    I know i’m bringing a storm of shit upon me but I have to say I rather enjoyed the Eragon books. Sure it was a bit of a Tolkien ripoff but (shrugs) I enjoyed Tolkiens books. So sue me.

    I did however think the movie was the worst I had ever seen, except for possibly Clash of the Titans.

  44. B. Macon 17 Jul 2010 at 12:06 pm

    “There’s still one book left, so dont make assumptions yet. And that one book still has room to explain Eragon’s reason for all that “random” stuff that happened to him.” If readers find the first work atrocious and/or nonsensical, it’s unlikely that they’ll come back for the sequel, let alone two sequels. In contrast, I think Harry Potter and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe set up series with novels that can be enjoyed and understood on their own.

    Now, it may be the case that writing more novels will bring out so-far-unseen skills from Christopher Paolini and maybe he will write Eragon books that are actually good at some point. But, if that happened, it would only make the first two look worse, not better. (“If you had this kind of talent, why the hell did you inflict those two on us?”)

    If you’re ever in a position to write anything, I would HIGHLY recommend against justifying anything to your editor with “it’ll make sense in the sequel!”

    “I know i’m bringing a storm of shit upon me but I have to say I rather enjoyed the Eragon books. Sure it was a bit of a Tolkien ripoff but (shrugs) I enjoyed Tolkiens books. So sue me.”

    No worries. I’ve liked a lot of crazy things over the years. For example, it took me a few years to realize just how atrocious Batman & Robin was, but I liked it when it came out. (I was in middle school at that point). I also found the early 1990s cartoons about Spiderman, X-Men and the TMNT better than Batman: The Animated Series, even though it’s clear in retrospect that BTAS is dramatic dynamite and a cartoon masterpiece. (Two Emmys is, ahem, quite impressive for an animated action series–the only other action series to win a Primetime Emmy for an Outstanding Animated Program was Samurai Jack).

  45. Wingson 17 Jul 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Hey, I was trashing Eragon after two books and several excerpts from the third! 😉

    I’m in full agreement with B. Mac on this one, Ben. There were some details of Harry Potter taht were explained by later books (Chamber of Secrets was considered weak my a good chunk of the fandom, then the sixth book came out and justified everything about it. Fans then rejoiced.), but overall the series would make sense to a reader no matter what book they started on*.

    And NicKenny? I used to like (Alright, “like” is a strong word, but I thought it was okay) Twilight. You are not alone. XD

    – Wings

    * I don’t recommend starting just anywhere, though. I feel it detracts from the experience.

  46. Leighon 27 Aug 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I loved reading this review. The only thing you forgot to bash was how powerful the “elves” were (actually I have to disagree with you on the Elves being the LOTR rip-off. LOTR elves were more human and likeable/relatable whereas Paolini makes them practically all powerful. A Mary-Sue species). As for the dwarves, they must have been bad since my mind seems to have blocked out any mention of dwarves. Yet I know they were there.

    I love the people whose defense for this book is one of these: He was only fifteen when he wrote it (it reads like something I’d write at age twelve after a Star Wars marathon), he must’ve done something right the books are so popular (fail. So is Twilight, no accounting for taste.), or my personal favorite: you try and do better (as if the critic needs to be an accomplished writer to criticize another’s work, just being well read or having a functional brain isn’t enough.)

    By the way I like this site. The comments are as worthwhile to read as the articles.

  47. Rachel Mon 13 Oct 2010 at 11:02 am

    Thank you so much! I totally agree about Eragon, the kid with the bow would have been a better hero.

    Also, I’ve been trying to explain to a friend why I have this utter contempt for DC’s Superman. I hate that he doesn’t earn his abilities, and I can’t stand that he never really uses them effectively! I lost count of how many fights he could have ended quicker by using his heat vision, super breath, ect.

  48. B. Macon 13 Oct 2010 at 3:53 pm

    One thing I like about characters like Wonder Woman and Batman more than heroes like Superman is that they come by their powers in a way that establish something about their personality. For example, WW is an Amazonian princess that sneaks into the competition to become Wonder Woman because she cares more about doing good than being a dutiful princess. In contrast, Superman doesn’t do anything to get his superpowers, and he’s merely a passive recipient of incredible luck (like Les Miles with a cape).

    Alternately, if the character’s powers are purely the result of luck, at least use the origin story to establish the character’s values and choices in other ways. For example, it was purely luck that Peter Parker got bitten by the spider, but at least he shortly thereafter decided not to stop the robber that went on to kill his uncle. So we learn something about his personality and the very human motivations that drive him even though he didn’t do anything special to earn his powers.

    PS: If I had heat vision, superbreath, superspeed, incredible strength and nigh-total invulnerability, you’d better believe Toyman would not have a chance. Hey, Superman, there are ways to fight that involve not hurling yourself at the enemy. LEARN THEM.

  49. Rachel Mon 14 Oct 2010 at 5:43 am

    Thank you, that was very nicely put!


  50. Chihuahua0on 30 Dec 2010 at 6:00 pm

    For some reason I never thought this series had any major flaws until I travesed the Internet. Eragon was a very entertaining book. Must be a Twilight thing too.

  51. Johnon 28 Jan 2011 at 4:06 pm

    Just to annoy everyone on here, I read Eragon and really enjoyed the book. In fact Paolini inspired me to start writing.

  52. B. Macon 28 Jan 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I’m not annoyed.

    To be honest, if I had been born 10 years later, I probably would have been an Eragon fan at some point. I can chalk it up to youthful innocence, like the way I enjoyed Batman & Robin as a kid. 😉

    On the other hand, I’d be a bit concerned if you were a 40-something prospective fantasy writer whose favorite work was Eragon, especially if you were writing for an adult audience.

  53. Johnon 28 Jan 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Hmm…I enjoyed Batman and Robin as well. Im not 40…Im in my 20’s. Maybe thats why I like his writing.

  54. B. Macon 28 Jan 2011 at 8:06 pm

    Yeah, I would’ve been around around 10 or 11 when I saw B&R. It came out in 1997.

  55. kceon 08 Nov 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I am presently stuck in a hideous conundrum….. I have to read Eragon to my 8 yr. old son. It’s painful. So, so painful. But we’ve done all the little kid stuff; Wayside School, Captain Underpants, Diary of a Wimpy kid, Harriet the Spy and other kid stuff, (all much more skillfully written than Eragon); we’ve done all of C.S. Lewis; all of Roald Dahl, many times; we’ve done Lord of the Rings (with simultaneous editing), the whole Pellinor trilogy, several times; Harry Potter (when he was 5, 6, and 7, 7 times), Watership Down, Dracula, Frankenstein…. And now I’m stumped. Suggestions? I was just about to suggest going back to the Pellinor books again when he spotten Eragon on the old bookshelf in the garage. I have to read it with an editor’s pencil in hand to bear it. Curious, Eragon looked at him. Stunned, he fell to the ground. Happy, he smiled. Scared, he ran. Curiously, he looked at him. And so on. And so on. And the ENDLESS DIALOGUE!! Why must most of the “plot” be driven by the idiotically stilted speech of Eragon, Brom, Saphira and Whatshisname? Where’s the narration? IT IS DRIVING ME MAD!! But my kid likes it. He wants it. I can’t say no. I should say no, but I can’t. But this is it. We’ll read it once, and never again. I might as well just shoot myself.

  56. B. McKenzieon 08 Nov 2011 at 11:45 pm

    My condolences, KCE. It sounds like your son’s into fantasy, so I’d recommend looking into the Bartimaeus Trilogy, maybe The Once and Future King, maybe Percy Jackson (a less clever version of Harry Potter but decidedly sharper than Eragon), Bring Me the Head of Prince Charming (even though it’s never as good as its title) and anything by Patricia Wrede. And, of course, The Taxman Must Die whenever it comes out, but that goes without saying. 🙂

  57. Wingson 09 Nov 2011 at 11:42 pm

    KCE, I’m gonna have to second B. Mac’s Percy Jackson recommendation. I’d also add David Lubar’s Hidden Talents/True Talents duology, and possibly the Pendragon series (10 doorstopper books, it should take a while to burn through that). Add to those The Phantom Tollbooth, maybe The City of Ember, The Thief Lord, a little Redwall…My tastes run a little more sci-fi than fantasy, but a balance of the two never hurt anyone. Besides, even the worst of this stuff could beat Eragon into the next century.

    Raise your son to enjoy good literature, KCE, and not this modern tripe which passes for storytelling. Lousy stuff.

    – Wings

  58. Ashleyon 01 Feb 2012 at 7:54 am

    Just to get your facts straight, Saphira chose Eragon because of his PURE HEART. There was a reason. He wasn’t chosen just to be chosen. Besides, we don’t know that he gets the girl; so far, she hasn’t liked him that much.

    And as far as Saphira having no personality, I’d say she’d be furious if she heard you say that she’s nothing but a pack animal. She’s too proud for that (as are all dragons). So yeah, maybe her personality is a bit underdeveloped at this point. But to call her a pack animal is almost criminal.

    I agree with you about Galbatorix. Although, considering what you said about Murtagh being a purveyor of wisdom to Eragon, I can’t imagine what you mean, especially since he turns against Eragon and becomes a fierce rival.

    But now that you mention Eragon never moving ahead of his ‘destiny’, I can see you have a point in that as well.

  59. N Kraston 22 Mar 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I usually get hooked on fantasy series pretty addictively. After making it all the way through the “Big Red Brick” that is book 2, I had no inkling of a curiosity whatsoever to even consider the third book. In fact the only main character who comes close to in my disdain is Vann from FFXII.
    I think it has something to do with the fact that I lack an eyebrow-fetish. Or it could be that the “Evul Empire” seems apathetic or not so bad whereas the “Guud Rebels” seem to have no strong motivation to rebel other than that their rebels. Then the Rebels single handedly cause extreme damage to the world economy, resort to biological warfare, employ child-soldiers…And its the Empire that is evil?

    Then there is the little things. Eragon’s sword is ‘rather heavy’ at twelve pounds?! They ride for thousands of miles then turn around because Eragon has a dream about a girl, ride all the way back, do their derring do, and turn around again (while being chased by imitation orcs)…all in a month’s time and their horses don’t die.

  60. Maxon 16 Jul 2012 at 5:30 pm

    I was a big fan of Eragon until i read this article. I still like it, but I realize it has some major flaws. From the sounds of this, you wrote this after you read the first 3/4 of the first book. Just saying. Also, a huge flaw is the secret origins in books 3 & 4.Really? YOu can’t be more creative?

  61. LanternGreenon 16 Jul 2012 at 6:22 pm

    🙁 I thought eragon was a great series. I wonder why all the books that seem not to be good according to SN (for various and acceptable reasons) are bestsellers. Like Eragon, The warrior heir series, the gray wolf series, quantum prophecy, and percy jackson.

  62. B. McKenzieon 16 Jul 2012 at 7:41 pm

    “I wonder why all the books that seem not to be good according to SN (for various and acceptable reasons) are bestsellers.” 1) Most of the works that I have reviewed are bestsellers and 2) I would guess that most of the works that you are familiar with are bestsellers.

    I don’t have any animus against fairly recent bestsellers, if that’s what you’re wondering. For example, I thought the Harry Potter books ranged from good to incredible. Some of my other favorite works include Ender’s Game, The Amulet of Samarkand and perhaps its sequels, the Hunger Games series, Flowers for Algernon, A Canticle for Liebowitz, very much of the work of Terry Pratchett, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Snow Crash, Day of the Jackal, Silence of the Lambs, Infinite Jest, Point of Impact, Andromeda Strain, etc. Except for possibly CoL, all of of those are bestsellers.

  63. Janon 21 Aug 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Eragon was bad, but ‘We Spy’ by Hannah Ingram is worse. It’s self-published and she was about twelve when she wrote it; the age I was until Friday, and I was appalled at her grammar (apparantly ‘obliviously’ and ‘obviously’ mean the same thing) her phrases, one of which is “The kids sprang from their seats like Izzy had attached a rope to them they were hungry kids wanting candy” or something equally weird…her names were sad. ‘The Office’, I believe, was the children’s spy organisation. ‘The Raid’ is the antagonistic orginisation with no apparant goals other then to kill the Pike children.

    Children authors are making bad names for themselves…But the worst part is that no one else seems to think it’s terrible. I believe all the reveiwers on Amazon are in love with it; they couldn’t put it down. Gosh-darnit, I put it down after I finished it and I -still- didn’t know what the plot was! 🙁

  64. B. McKenzieon 22 Aug 2012 at 1:50 am

    “Children authors are making bad names for themselves…” Your discerning eye notwithstanding, I think the target audience (young readers) is generally a bit easier on younger authors (and perhaps authors in general–when I was around your age, I enjoyed Batman and Robin). On the plus side, this is probably an opportunity for you. If you can write something even vaguely decent, it will look truly impressive by stint of your background and experience.

    PS: If I could make a wild inference, it sounds like perfectionism may be (or could be) an obstacle for you. If writing is your goal, I would recommend that you keep writing rather than worrying about whether you’ll like what you write 10+ years from now. The perfect novel never gets written and results in no practice/improvement.

  65. aharrison 22 Aug 2012 at 6:30 pm

    @LanternGreen You can still like something very much while also acknowledging that it isn’t all that great. A lot of people really, really like McDonald’s, but in all honesty, the food isn’t good for you (I’ve never liked McD’s though, but I know I’m a minority). Enjoy Eragon; there’s nothing wrong with that so long as you know where the flaws are when sit down to do your own writing.

  66. XosMelon 10 Jun 2013 at 11:43 am

    I own all four books (there’s a fourth now) and have read each like 3 times. Only until two years ago did I start to realize that the stuff was crap. I’m glad someone else agrees with me.

  67. Anonymouson 10 Jun 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Almost everything in this review is spot on, with the, well…if you could call them exceptions.

    One – Saphira, throughout the series, has a personality. It is very bland and overused, especially for dragons, but she has one. Other than the “proud warrior race” thing she has going, she has the unfortunate necessity to save our protagonist in a deus ex machina fashion, should he need it, as their lives are linked in a bad form of marriage…

    Two – Galbitorix, though not badass on any large level ( except when he comits suicide by pretty much making himself a magical nuke), does have an idealigical advantage. He believed that if he could be king, then the world would be a better place, and there would be little to no war. And he actually managed to keep the kingdom in a fairly well kept peace until our strapping protag. came along and started causing massive issues with his lack of interesting traits and over abundance of cliches.

  68. XosMelon 11 Jun 2013 at 2:11 pm

    except he didn’t stop urgals from ransacking villages.

  69. Anonymouson 11 Jun 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Yup, very true. I’m not defending it in any way. I personally think that Paolini just added this part in during the last book to try to give Galby a personality. Would have been much less..erm…oxymoron ish…if he’d had the character thought out before creating the series.

  70. Kid Writeron 06 Aug 2013 at 10:52 am

    Haha, very true, all of this. Galbi was a terrible villain, but I didn’t waste my time trying to figure out why. Thank you for doing it for me. 😀

    I’ve read the entire series now, and Eragon remained the same passive character he was in the first, letting the plot he was supposed to have no idea about enact itself over him.

    And even though he was only 15 when he wrote it, it was a sucky novel.

    And I shouldn’t even say ‘only fifteen’, because I’m ‘only’ 12, and I don’t rip Tolkien and Lucas off on every aspect of my novels.

  71. Qwertyon 12 Aug 2013 at 11:10 pm

    The thing that bothered me most about Eragon was the lack of a story goal. I kept waiting for a ‘main goal of the story’ to be introduced…but there never was one. The ‘pursuing the Orcs…I mean Urgals” goal was obviously temporary, and I knew some other goal would come up eventually. But after that temporary goal fizzled, nothing ever really came to replace it. Eragon and co. bounced from minor goal to minor goal until the story petered out to an end. I guess the main throughline of the story was the Shade, who introduced the story and ended the story (the story finished once the Shade died). But if that was supposed to be the goal of the story – to kill the evil Shade – then it should have been stated, SOMEWHERE, that that was the goal.

    (By the way, all of this applies to just the first book in the series. I didn’t read the sequels.)

    So, the application of all this is…give the story you’re writing a CLEAR GOAL. Something the reader will see and have in the back of his head all while reading the story; something to make the reader want to stick with the story to the end, and maybe even want to read the sequel.

  72. AlucardZainon 23 Jan 2014 at 2:03 pm

    So, i just read this article and all the comments, and it’s quite amusing. Now, I did like the 1st book a little bit. but that’s as far as I got (unless you count reading a couple of chapters of book 2). I don’t even know why I stopped reading the series in the first place, but now I know. But I don’t know if it’s worth picking them back up and reading them again. The movie was terrible. It was ok at best though, but it was terrible. The only character I liked was killed in the 1st book, not even halfway through the 1st book, Brom! So, should I start reading them again? It’s been what, 5+ years since I read the books, and I’m 22 right now.

    As for Harry Potter, I have all 7 books, plus the little book that explained the 3 Deathly Hallows (The Beetle and the Bard). And I’ve seen all the movies except Deathly Hallows part 2, and this is a damn good series. Hell, I went to go see the movies when they first came out with my grandparents usually when they took me to the theatres to go see them because they know I loved the series, plus they are the ones that got me all 7 books. I prefer the Harry Potter series over Twilight and Eragon both. I think that’s the reason why i wanted to start writing stories, becuase the Harry Potter series influenced me.

    “One Possible Cure for Twilight-Fanism: Have them watch the end of Harry Potter 4, where Robert Pattinson dies. Then, rewind and repeat. And repeat again. And again. Oh yes. *laughs like a maniac*” @Wings, you are my hero. And I forgot the name of the character he played as. I think it was Cedric Diggory…

  73. Inmodicaon 29 Apr 2014 at 7:52 pm

    I happen to LOVE the Inheritance Cycle (and seriously, guys, what’s NOT to like about LOTR fan-fiction with pokemon?) but I agree with most everything in this article. Some very good points here, and I’ve found them very helpful. So, thanks. I also agree that the movie was an abomination of cinema. But for a FIFTEEN YEAR OLD (hey, even for an adult) this series it pretty amazing. One thing you didn’t mention in the article: Nasuada. She was an excellent character. And if you didn’t take away anything else from the books, at least you expanded your vocabulary. My word. Paolini is a walking thesaurus.

  74. Mindieon 07 Dec 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Hey I loved these books and they were great books but the movie…

  75. Andrewon 22 Feb 2016 at 4:35 am

    I think that if you’re gonna have a chosen one character, you have to make him/her earn it, not hand it to them on a silver plate. My main protagonist, he had to earn his superhero mantle with 10 years of intense, bone-breaking training and then some. And he doesn’t take it because it he was destined to, he does so because with the kind of bad guys he’s up against, it’s a ‘someone’s gotta stand up’ thing. Am I on the right track?

  76. Yuuki991on 27 May 2016 at 5:02 pm

    Excellent analysis. Given it has been a while since I’ve read the series, I’ve actually been rereading it. This book series is a horrible guilty pleasure, as I know objectively, it is not good. But I also like to read stuff that isn’t regarded as good as a means to understand why.

    I digress. Eragon’s biggest problem, especially in regards to the First book, is that is so derivative and barely takes any chances. It’s very clear this book took a lot of inspiration from Star Wars. And as much as I’m a fan of Star Wars, that’s not good. It’s one thing to take similar ideas and concepts. But another thing to not either execute them well or try to add something different/fresh. The most problematic element is the Chosen One element.

    To illustrate my point, Avatar the Last Airbender is a perfect example of how you execute a chosen one concept. Narrative wise, it is nearly identical to Star Wars. Seriously, the First Season is A new Hope and the second and third are Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

    But what makes it good are the characters.From Aang’s goofy, outgoing atitude to Toph’s tomboyish, bratty persona, every major character has a series of well-defined traits.

    In the case of Aang the main character, what I appreciate is how they handle him being the Avatar. For starters(SPOILER ALERT) Gyatso actually regrets telling Aang about this due to the monks waiting until someone is much older to handle it. And we see the repercussions as Aang actually runs away from his responsibilities due to feeling overwhelmed and wanting to maintain a semblance of his normal life.

    That to me is brilliant characterization. Aang is a chosen one, but he’s NOT defined by it. He makes a major mistake and in many ways partakes his journey as a means to not only fulfill his journey, but also atone for the sin he committed.

    This fresh approach wasn’t the case with Eragon. Eragon was a bland archetypical copy of Luke Skywalker. But unlike Luke Skywalker who by Episode Five actually started to grow and develop as a character, Eragon’s changes were necessities of the plot and not a natural progression of character or traits. For example, you could argue by Return of the Jedi Luke’s greater wisdom and maturity are a result not only the events of Empire Strikes Back, but also him wanting to redeem his father, Vader.

    I could go on about the worldbuilding being stock and how the plot barely took any risks, but overall as much as I enjoy the book on a guilty pleasure list(being a Star Wars fan) it is not good.

    In fact, I’m glad I’m reading it so as to avoid this series’ mistakes.

  77. catgirlon 03 Sep 2016 at 11:20 am

    Can you do a review of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasach, B. Mac? It is also not the best book, but has helped me with my writing a lot.

  78. B. McKenzieon 03 Sep 2016 at 3:50 pm

    An observation on the promotional blurb for the book: “A striking fantasy tale of dark magic, dangerous politics, and discovering your true self—perfect for fans of Game of Thrones… Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors…” Whoever wrote this marketing material is trying to latch onto Game of Thrones without actually understanding what makes it much more effective than the average fantasy (e.g. plot complexity, unpredictability, everybody being killable, and character development). Among other things, the entire “Kingdom of Winter” sounds like they’ve been reduced to bystanders/victims watching as one group of heroes get to do stuff, which will probably play out like a victory march. That sounds like the opposite of GOT (which has 10+ major groups, most with some degree of internal conflict, and virtually every group loses major characters and suffers major failures).

    Also, positions in GOT are relatively fluid (e.g. several characters were born into very powerful positions but lose it due to their own choices and failures, and several non-nobles like Baelish, Varys, and the slew of bastards have risen much further than the circumstances of their birth). Next to that more individualized approach, “these last eight survivors are the only hope…” feels really non-promising.

  79. AjofEarthon 04 Sep 2016 at 3:46 pm

    “–perfect for fans of Game of Thrones…”

    This could just be me, but I’ve never considered it strategic promotional marketing to include the name of some other work (or film, or product, etc.) in a description about what you are trying to interest folks in. I see this all the time and I always say the same thing: If you’re trying to sell apples, don’t talk about pears. Likewise, if you’re trying to interest folks in your project, don’t talk about someone else’s (already wildly popular) project, let alone set that comparison in print… I feel this approach only invites your target to consider your work as the Lite version of some other, better thing.

    I mean, know your influences, certainly–know your genre and know comparable works if asked to list some, but don’t jump out of the gate attempting to generate interest by using the name and popularity of someone else’s work. Just, bad form.

    Again though, that’s just me…

  80. B. McKenzieon 06 Sep 2016 at 1:16 am

    “This could just be me, but I’ve never considered it strategic promotional marketing to include the name of some other work (or film, or product, etc.) in a description about what you are trying to interest folks in.”

    GOT is an exceptional series by an exceptional author. If you have the borderline-extraordinary skills necessary to make an actually epic series work, your marketers probably don’t need to use somebody else’s writing successes to validate or categorize what you’re attempting. In this case, I’m guessing the marketers didn’t have the best feel for the work.

    I think referring to major series is probably most warranted when the concept and/or genres and/or tone are really unusual. E.g. if I were trying to explain a supernatural comedy or doomsday comedy to someone, making a comparison to Ghostbusters or Dr. Strangelove might be helpful to buy time. However, in this case, it sounds like a pretty standard fantasy story. (My main takeaway is that the blurb doesn’t make the novel sound like it set its sights very high).

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