Thursday, 28 July 2011

Christopher Paolini - Eldest and Brisingr

I’ve been inspired to do my first double review as I read Eldest some time ago and, at the time, found nothing worth noting. I since acquired Brisingr from a friend and it allowed me to find lots of positive things to say about Eldest.
Eldest is a well constructed tale of a journey from A to B with various obstacles to overcome and characters to befriend or make enemies with. It is cleanly written and not elaborately overdone. Compared to Brisingr with its super-enhanced lexical jargon and character’s who were capable of normal speech in the last book, now say things like, ‘pray, tell’ and ‘mayhap’ like Alageasia had suddenly jumped back in time over 400 years, or Paolini spent much of his time playing Two Worlds on the Xbox360 instead of writing. In the opening chapter, Paolini is keen to show us how many new words he’s learned (from Xbox or otherwise) and continues to do so throughout the book.
However the new star spangled vocabulary is the least of my issues with Brisingr, but first let’s look at an ongoing problem that started in the midst of Eldest. When Eragon is with the elves he decides he is going to become a vegetarian or something. He only does it because the elves do it and, worse than that, makes a few sideways comments toward his dragon buddy about eating meat, to the point where he might as well be saying, ‘I can’t believe you’re eating that. Don’t you care about its feelings?’ TO A DRAGON. YOUR DRAGON. Would you rather your dragon stopped eating meat and died you little shit?? Don’t think so! I was almost relieved when Eragon eats a lizard and a rodent in Brisingr but Paolini’s narrative is quick to remind us how disgusted he is with himself for it.
This sort of behaviour continues and is made worse by his sucking up the elves by doing their cultural gestures of politeness. It’s fine if he just does it, but he narrative shoots him in the ass by stating how smug he is for remembering, even though what he did was the elvish equivalent of saying ‘how are you?’ after ‘hello.’ I’ve written a note in my book that sums up the first hundred or so pages with, ‘Eragon is a bit of a dick.’ Apparently I got fed up with writing the amount of times he is smug about tying his own shoe laces.
Paolini’s understanding of human nature comes into question on page 99. There is an argument between Nasuada and Fadawar about giving some tribes more power within the Varden to the point where they cut each other for leadership. I’m down with that, in fact, it was a pretty cool scene. However, before that Fadawar says that Nasuada should give him what he wants because of ‘blood’ as they are from the same tribe. He then goes on to say that she is an outsider who has never lived among her people. This makes her feel bad. It’s all very stupid, trying to get something from someone based on their roots and then undermining the roots that you’ve used as leverage in the first place. Even if Fadawar was intended to be that stupid, Nasuada definitely shouldn’t be but she doesn’t acknowledge his hypocrisy because of loyalty. It’s all very backwards.
There are two more small issues with Brisingr and one massive one. Eragon further extends his bizarre behaviour with a blatant piece of name dropping. The note reads, ‘Eragon is a kiss-ass.’ There is no need for him to mention Angela, nor the fact she is a herbalist at this point of the book, yet he does anyway. It’s pointless an ineffective dialogue. Towards the end of the book, when talking about his new sword, he says, ‘It bursts into,’ - then some narrative about why he didn’t say fire – ‘flames.’ When does anyone ever say bursts into fire?? I never heard it before but then again, I don’t know as many words as Christopher Paolini, the novelist.
This bring me nicely along to the colossal (an underused word) error on page 576 where it states, ‘Nasuada lifted the hem of her green dress and sat on the small chest of belongings Katrina had brought with her from Carvahall.’ Out of everyone who lived in Carvahall, only two people didn’t leave with the rest of the villagers and one of them was Katrina. She was taken by the Ra’zac and, it wasn’t mentioned in Eldest but I don’t think they afforded her the luxury of packing a small chest of belongings to take with her. Paolini and also Michelle Frey, who got a special mention in the acknowledgements for ‘tightening the manuscript,’ should feel ashamed of themselves. Katrina not going to the Varden with the rest of Carvahall was a big plot point in the second novel so for the author to have forgotten it and for it not to be picked up by the editor is totally careless, especially in a day and age where new novelists are struggling to get published and are writing with a lot more care and attention than established novelists.
Eldest by Christopher Paolini was published by Doubleday in 2006. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini was published by Doubleday in 2008. RRP £16.99 (Hardback)

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