Swankivy's Reviews > Eragon

Eragon by Christopher Paolini
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Aug 20, 2008

did not like it

A short (and somewhat sarcastic) summary: Main character = Eragon, mysteeeeerious boy-child left with his aunt and uncle by wandering mother, father unknown. Boy finds mysteeeeerious stone. Turns out to be dragon egg. Boy raises dragon and bonds with it strongly. Bad guys come and destroy boy's house and kill his uncle. Boy swears revenge. Boy's secret dragon is discovered by mysteeeerious storyteller who turns out to be master swordsman and random magic user. The hunt for the bad guys begins, and boy searches for his destiny as a legendary Dragon Rider (of course, that must be capitalized). Eragon goes through traditional bouts of training and learning about himself under the stern tutelage of old wise traveling companion. Along the way he gains and loses friends, and rescues a mysteeeerious woman from a horrible dungeon while never straying from his quest to put right all that is wrong in a world oppressively ruled by an evil king.

This book has gotten lots of attention since it first came out, partly because the author is so young. He was fifteen when he started the book, and was nineteen when it was published. Age isn't always correlated with mastery, of course, but when I read this book, I could TELL that the writer was either young or an immature writer. Though it seems people think it "got published" somehow because of its great merit, this book was actually self-published by the author's parents (company was Paolini International), and then it was paraded around on a self-funded signing tour the way most self-published people do. An established author happened to run into the family doing a signing while he was on vacation, thought a kid writing a book was interesting, bought a copy and made his stepson read it, and decided to try to get the book a deal when the kid liked it. The people at Knopf re-edited and repackaged and re-released it under that label. I believe that if this book had meandered its way to publishing houses the usual way, it would have been rejected as unpublishable, for reasons I will discuss in depth here.

Christopher Paolini himself, in his own words, describes his story thus: "Eragon is an archetypal hero story, filled with exciting action, dangerous villains, and fantastic locations. There are dragons and elves, sword fights and unexpected revelations, and of course, a beautiful maiden who's more than capable of taking care of herself."

I would argue that this book is not an "archetypal hero story" so much as an overused and overly traditional Tolkienien "epic," with "epic" in quotes because it lacks exactly that epic nature that made the world of Lord of the Rings so rich. There was absolutely nothing new or "unexpected" in this book (though the author claims there are "revelations"), and if a reader is excited by this book, they are probably reacting to the concepts themselves (e.g., fantasy worlds, dragons, fierce battles) rather than the book's own merit, or perhaps they have never been exposed to the dozens of fantasy and science fiction epics from which this author pulled his influences. My feeling was that this book was nothing special because, if I may be so blunt, "it's been done," and it's been done better.

Overall, I just think that this book was written as though it had a template or blueprint for "traditional fantasy novel" and the details and names were simply filled in. I couldn't help feeling the entire time I was reading it that I had read this story before, nothing was much of a surprise, and things that didn't make sense or got in the way of a conflicting original vision were smoothed over with excuses or deliberate muddling of motives. I think that in order to write something so traditional, a writer needs something special, a unique twist or slant, and this just hasn't got it. (In other words, I'm not saying that writing an "archetypal fantasy epic" is BAD; I'm saying that it needs to not be a rehashing of overused themes that have been done to death by classic writers.) The boy and his powerful companion having an intimate relationship? Done, in everything from Anne McCaffrey to freaking Digimon. The hero quest to punish the baddies and bring the good guys back into power? Done, in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Lush descriptions of landscapes and surroundings? Done by Tolkien of course, but more as a background to action rather than in stagnant heaps of detail. Mysterious companions to whom there is more than meets the eye? I don't even want to think about all the books and movies that have done that. I can't pick out a single thing that this book has that has never been done before, the characters didn't interest or capture me, the storytelling was riddled with too many attempts to be grand that I was just entirely turned off by it.

Some specifics about the bad writing style:

Every imaginable permutation of the word "said" is used. If the reader cannot tell how someone is saying something by what they are saying, it is likely that the dialogue has been written sloppily. "'You're not thinking,' admonished Brom." Yes, that is an admonishment without you telling us so. Leave it out. "'Get on with the story,' he said impatiently." Well, if one person is urging another to get on with it, it stands to reason that it's being said impatiently. Running into "'Sorry,' apologized Brom" made me cringe. The fact that Brom said "Sorry" means that he apologized, so use "said." You can deviate from "said" if for some reason HOW the sentence is said is not obvious, such as volume ("he whispered") or intent ("he said sarcastically," if it isn't obvious that that's a sarcastic comment anyway). Leave out the decorations because they're tacky. The speech tags are not the part of the writing that is supposed to be interesting, so don't distract us; believe me when I say that if you do it, nearly any editor will consider it an early warning sign that you are an amateur.

Unnecessary description is inserted with maddening frequency. I am not usually a reader of traditional fantasy, and traditional fantasy does tend to be more flowery than the hard stuff, but either way random descriptions should not just be thrown into the mix. Eragon is waking up and stretching. Suddenly we get a description of the items on his night table, including the random information that he likes to look at one of the objects on it frequently. In the meantime, while we are getting this rush of information, Eragon is putting on his shoes. He then does not proceed to touch, pick up, or look at anything on the night table, and none of it is ever mentioned again. Also, people and places just get sudden paragraphs of description. We're fighting an Urgal and all of a sudden . . . drop some description on us. While he's rushing at Eragon with drooling fangs, no less. By all means, describe the fangs, slipping the adjectives in gracefully. But don't give us a run-down of a typical Urgal when we're a lot more interested in whether those fangs are going into Eragon's head.

And lastly, too many words, phrases, and concepts seem to be entirely lifted from other well-known works. Word choice seemed as though it was the author's attempt to use all his SAT words; it was verbose and flowery as if on purpose, trying to impress with vocabulary that would have been better used sparingly. The similarity of some people's and places' names to those of Tolkien have not gone unnoticed by seasoned fantasy readers; I have heard several people call this book "Aragorn" without even noticing that they weren't saying it right, not to mention things like Ardwen (compared with Arwen), Isenstar (compared with Isengard), and Isidar (compared with Isildur)--and there are a LOT more. A ridiculous number of phrases seem to be something I've heard before, though I'm not sure where; for example, near the beginning someone is touching a wrapped package repeatedly, "as if to reassure herself that it was still there." I mentioned this to a friend and said, "That's FROM something." He replied, "It's FROM everything!" Far too often, ridiculously overused or clichéd similes and metaphors are used, such as tears being described as "liquid diamonds." It is less like this book was written and more like it was sewn together from the torn apart products of others, like some old quilt on which the stitches are showing. (How's that for an original simile?)

There's definitely not enough space in this little box (which has a character limit) for me to go into as much detail as I'd like talking about how bad this book is, so if you really want to read my ranting in all its entirety, you might want to check out my essay about it on my website.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 8, 2003 – Finished Reading
August 20, 2008 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-50 of 65) (65 new)

message 1: by Jacob (new)

Jacob You know, I first read this two or three years ago, and it's still the best review of Eragon I've ever read. I'm glad you took the time to write it--it saved me the trouble of even trying to write something that wouldn't be nearly as good :)

Swankivy To Jacob: Yes, I'm glad I wrote it too. I'd really like to review Brisingr as I did Eragon and Eldest before it, but the folks on the anti-shurtugal LiveJournal group are posting so many quotes that keep bringing back to me the horror of Paolini's godawful prose, and I am reluctant to subject myself to it again even for the lulz. . . .

message 3: by Jacob (new)

Jacob Swankivy--Yeah, same here. Although, awful prose aside, it sounds like Paolini might've improved. Of course, like I said on the LJ group, somewhat-bearable pacing, a decent plot that isn't entirely ripped off from Return of the Jedi, okay characterization with not-entirely-flat secondary characters...that's all supposed to be taken for granted in a book, not pointed out as improvement. But this is Paolini, so we'll take what we can get. I'm just waiting a week or so for the book to show up at a used bookstore for cheap. Can you believe Wal-Mart had it for almost $20?

Spider the Doof Warrior Your review is quite true. This kid is a terrible writer in love with his own prose and ripping off better writers in the process.


message 5: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie Parrado Omg, I' ve never read the book and i really wanted to read it but you guys make it sound like its the worst book in history, or that the idea is good? but that Paolini's style of writing is horrible?

Spider the Doof Warrior Well, other folks might like it, but I hate it. I just can't get through the second book in the series. The first was somewhat tolerable but it still made me yell out bad sentences and just... annoying words. Man, he can't write. Folks should have made him rewrite these books for a few more years before publishing.
I have all kinds of books I'm working on that I play around with because they were inspired by other people's work, but I keep working on them until they become original.

Swankivy Stephanie: It's hard to say whether you'd like it or not; all I can say is why I didn't like it (and I think I did that at some length, in my review). It really is probably one of the worst books I've ever read--I don't give many one-star reviews, and I'm not overly critical, and I do like books for young people even though I'm not the target audience exactly (meaning I'm not a teenager). But I believe the ideas that are good are things he lifted from other, more gifted writers, and I believe that the writing he handled these ideas with was abysmal. I would never recommend that anyone read this book. But you will probably have to find out for yourself. If you end up liking it, you're probably a person who has pretty low standards for literature or maybe not much experience in reading fantasy (in which case you might find those tired old ideas that he stole from others to be quite innovative).

Usually, in my experience, what happens is people like this book when they're fairly young or inexperienced readers, and when they get older they might re-read the book and go "wait, what? I liked this?" I've seen people do that dozens of times over at the Anti-Shur'tugal LiveJournal group (a place that discusses Paolini's writing, among other things). SOOOO many people say they liked it when they first read it but can't stand it now that they have matured a little.

So, short answer: You might like it depending on your maturity and experience, but it definitely isn't a good book.

message 8: by Jane (new) - rated it 1 star

Jane "stagnant heaps of detail"

I loved your review. I finished this hot mess today. I am almost tempted to pick up the next book just to boost my self-esteem (I'm WAY better at my day job than Paolini is).

Swankivy Glad you liked it, Janeen. "Hot mess" is a good word for that book. Sadly enough, Paolini sucking at writing may boost your self-esteem, but it doesn't give new hope to young authors . . . he got into the industry through a back door, in a non-standard way. His crap is teaching young authors that they actually don't have to be all that good as long as they're a Genius Child Prodigy™ (and have parents who are willing to pay for the book's publishing and sponsor a parent-funded tour). Seems this book's success is a lesson in the effectiveness of nepotism. . . .

I don't really recommend reading the next book unless you are reading it for the entertainment value of Supreme Badness. Eldest was, overall, written with a little more skill, but some of the atrocities to which Paolini subjects the reader in that book cancel out any redeeming quality the slightly less amateurish writing would have lent it. Have you seen my review of it?

I am still working on reading the third volume, Brisingr, and am producing a review; the anti-Inheritance communities online have demanded that I entertain them, heh. With any luck I'll eventually finish the stupid thing and review it here. . . .

message 10: by Jane (new) - rated it 1 star

Jane Swankivy wrote: "Glad you liked it, Janeen. "Hot mess" is a good word for that book. Sadly enough, Paolini sucking at writing may boost your self-esteem, but it doesn't give new hope to young authors . . . he got..."

Yes- I read your Eldest Review and visited your webpage- I had no idea that so many people felt the same way I did about this book!

message 11: by Liz (last edited Sep 28, 2009 01:08AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz If you end up liking it, you're probably a person who has pretty low standards for literature or maybe not much experience in reading fantasy (in which case you might find those tired old ideas that he stole from others to be quite innovative).

Wow. I was feeling so *bad* for liking Eragon, and for finding the ideas interesting. I would say that my saving grace is that I don't dabble much in high fantasy, but I just suck at determining what books are good anyway. I was hooked on Twilight for a while. That should tell you a lot.

Sheesh, if ever I finally write something, I shudder to think of how it will turn out.

Anyway, loved the review.

message 12: by Jane (new) - rated it 1 star

Jane Liz wrote: "Wow. I was feeling so *bad* for liking Eragon, and for finding the ideas interesting. I would say that my saving grace is that I don't dabble much in high fantasy, but I just suck at determining what books are good anyway. I was hooked on Twilight for a while. That should tell you a lot. "

Hi Liz- we all have things we aren't proud of, right? I am a closet Twilight fan myself. (Don't tell my husband)

message 13: by Liz (new) - rated it 2 stars

Liz Lol, I'm over Twilight now. I was just using that as an example.

And don't worry. Your secret's safe with me. And the rest of the interwebz...

Swankivy I'd like to note that I do not know of any "group just for hating" the Inheritance Cycle. But I do know that there is a group which focuses on discussing its shortcomings, almost always in the spirit of literary critique and learning what NOT to do by example. "A group just for hating" insinuates that any organization that dislikes the book is therefore a bunch of mindless jerks, which isn't true any more than "A group just for liking" a book or series would be endless posts of "I like this!" "Me too!" "Me three!" Literary critique is legitimate both as a pastime and a career, and if those discussing the negative attributes of the books are getting something out of it, I don't see the point in standing outside of it and shaking your head, assuming it's all just in the spirit of spreading negativity.

Kelly Flanagan Ora wrote: "You'll have to read it. Personally, I love Eragon, and the entire series.
And truely, I am slightly disgusted by the Inheiritance Cycle "Haters." Fine, you don't like a book, I can respect that, but a group for hating? Really?

I must jump in and defend Swankivy. To learn by example would save a lot of us from reading some very, AHEM, 'uninteresting' stories. if the group was for hating, discussing merit or lack thereof wouldn't be part of their site. They wouldn't care about the why and what when it came to the authors failings. Kudos to you all, by the way, for not being afraid to state your minds and for the wit to learn.

Swankivy I must jump in and defend Swankivy.

I appreciate that.

Yes, there is indeed a very big difference between productive discussion and plain old "hating." I think fans sometimes show their walleyed natures blatantly when their knee-jerk reaction is to dub a non-fan a "hater." If your automatic diagnosis of criticism is "hatred," it's clear that you don't know what critical thinking IS.

As a fan of any literature, you still have to be able to examine it critically. I have seen my very favorite author in the world make writing mistakes I found facepalm-worthy, and I acknowledge that this is the case without "hating" her or turning on her or, indeed, letting it destroy my enjoyment of her material. I would hope that pointing out a book's flaws would be understood as just that--pointing them out. No agenda. No "hating." Just critical thinking--which, when shared in a group, makes us all able to springboard off each other to talk about what we love.

Ibrahim Ismail This is a very interesting review. I have definitely seen my fair share of Eragon reviews but this one simply takes the cake - hands down. We're each entitled to our own opinions and I believe the world would be a boring place if everyone agreed on all topics, but sometimes people call something critical thinking when it simply isn't.

I've heard people call Paolini a unoriginal idea stealing dirt'bag and worse - but what I have never seen in any of these reviews is someone criticize those original works he obviously borrowed from.

LOTR, Star Wars, Digimon(lol), Pokemon, blah - blah - blah. Every single one of these works borrowed from other works, whether Greek Mythology or any idea any of you have ever had. The creators themselves read "A Hero with a Thousand Faces," which is basically a book that reveals a cookie cutter method to creating your own EPIC story. Everyone borrows brilliance and nothing is original, absolutely nothing.

For anyone to say he is a thief has to be the most myopic opinion I've heard in a long time. I noticed many of the negative reviews toward him are from aspiring authors as well. I can understand their frustration... This kid can get this far, do this well with such an atrocious, cookie cutter story... LOTR, Star Wars, and any great story is cookie cutter in nature. Thats why they did so well... That is what people want to read, maybe not the rim of aspiring writers lol.

Seriously. I am not going to even say he is being hated on, but he is. I would love to read anything by anyone who is criticizing him as harshly as they are. No I'm serious.

Eragon isn't perfect, it sure as hell isn't a Masterpiece but it definitely doesn't reek of crap the way this review states.

All in all - you can't call some reviews productive critical thinking when the thinking itself solely relies on pointing out negative aspects in one sole book without addressing those same negative aspects of the reviewer's comparison books.

Meaning don't say Eragon is a rip when everything ever published is a rip. Some people can rip and improve better than others of course... But for a 15 year old going to 19... He's a beast of a writer.

Swankivy Ibrahim:

Wow, speaking of unoriginal: I swear, do you folks who criticize my reviews have a script or something? You say the same things, with the same complete lack of support, sometimes in the same order. Though I guess if you're saying that Paolini's maiden voyage into literature is a masterpiece, a tendency to cough up contrived b.s. criticism isn't really unexpected.

First off, you don't seem to have actually read or processed what I said in my review. You bang on for several paragraphs about how I have a responsibility to criticize every piece of literature that exists for being unoriginal because of this weak litany of "derrrr there's nothing new under the sun so shut up!" Which basically translates to "Since the same themes tend to be underlying in almost all of literature dating back to the dawn of human civilization, Paolini should have carte blanche to rehash things in the same ways with the same elements and bring nothing innovative into the mix!" I'm not saying that reusing grand old themes, reinventing classic storylines, or deliberately incorporating derivative story ideas is inexcusable. I'm saying that Middle-Earth is not a public domain playground that writers are allowed to take and rename Alagaesia if they want.

My problem with the lack of originality is that it truly does not invent any new reason to tell this story. Sure many of the same elements and ideas are the same in literature--if you boil it down to its basics and examine its skeleton. But you might as well say that just because all books have a beginning, middle, and end, it's therefore okay to have the same beginning, middle and end. If you truly believe that "there's nothing new under the sun" and think saying so justifies the level of unoriginality in this particular book, you are oversimplifying the concept and demonstrating how little you understand it.

I wrote a book that's based, essentially, on the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty. The elements of the original story are incorporated into the series of events in my new story, but my focus was on a character other than the princess, and I told the fairy tale from her point of view (including other points of her life that have nothing to do with the princess or the tale). And though the story was admittedly, purposely derivative, my audience has repeatedly said it was one of the most original things they'd ever read. I put things together in a way no one had seen before. Offered a perspective that wasn't expected. Had actual "revelations." You can boil it down to its original fairy tale--or a different story theme that may be intertwined--but these elements existing in the story don't make it unoriginal.

Second point: Blah blah blah you're just jealous lol! Weak as hell. People often try to say that the only reason some of us criticize Paolini is that we want what he has due to being writers. Sorry, but I don't hate the work of other successful writers or other young writers because they have what I'd like to have someday. I hate Paolini's work based on its merit (or lack thereof), and I don't need to go into detail about why since I did that in my review. It's extremely poor deductive reasoning to conclude that if a person deconstructs aspects of a story she dislikes, supports said critique with evidence and examples, and explains why these aspects of the story annoy her, your answer is to just say "ehhh you're jealous of him lol." Come on. Can't you do better than that and actually attempt to counter my actual criticism, instead of resorting to ad hominem attacks which seek to undermine my right to critique? Sad that this angle actually gets used so much, because it's seriously nothing more than a common derailing technique used by people who can't actually argue the issues.

And then of course the whinge about "AWW BUT HE'S ONLY NINETEEN!" Is the publishing world a developing artists' gallery? No, it is not. First off, no, I don't think his work was particularly good for nineteen years old--perhaps average, actually--and I wouldn't have a problem with a nineteen-year-old writing the way he does EXCEPT THAT IT WAS PUBLISHED AS A PROFESSIONALLY MASTERED NOVEL. In my opinion it was not ready to be presented as a book people had to pay for. I have a right to expect that if a book is publishable, it is up to the standard that other published books have achieved. This was not. It does not excuse him to just say "but he was nineteeeeeen! Stop picking on this poor kid, he did GREAT for his age!" Sorry, but he needs to be great PERIOD. If I want great for someone's age, I'll go back to teaching writing to fourth graders and giving them stickers on their papers.

Furthermore, on this point, as Paolini has gotten older and more experienced, he no longer has the "but he's a teenager!" excuse and yet he continues to churn out hackneyed stories dressed up in thesaurus barf, thinking he's spinning eloquent, "epic" tomes that rival the masters' works. (And yes, he's compared himself to Tolkien--"Tolkien at his best," if I may quote--in interviews.) I have not yet made it through the third book, Brisingr (though my fan club is impatiently awaiting my review--I'm sorry, guys), but I assure you that my criticism is actually mostly along the same lines as my problems with Eragon, and he's in his late twenties writing this stuff. This is not good for a twenty-something. This is not good at all.

Couple other points. I didn't say the review "reeked of crap." I gave supported criticism. With examples. Your attempt to dismiss my opinion is really lame here.

And . . . what kind of sense does it make to say "I'm not going to say he's being hated on, but he is." Wait, you're not going to say what you just said? I don't think I can understand what you meant here because you contradicted yourself, so would you mind ironing out your thoughts a little more clearly so I can see what your argument is? (Assuming you have one under that convoluted statement?)

Bottom line is I'm not going to criticize "works he pulled from" or make fun of Hero with a Thousand Faces, etc., because it's NOT the ideas themselves that deserve mockery. And I understand that part of the reason that books which stick closely to celebrated storylines are popular is that they are appreciated by the consciousness of mankind. But there is a reason why the public are often called sheep and why many movies/books/TV shows that are popular are also frowned upon by people who actually study the art of the story. Which famous writer was it who said "There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher," eh? And while those of us who are learned in literature tend to get "hated on" for explaining the hollowness and crappiness of low-quality published works, we're still right about them. Unless you'd actually like to argue that popularity and money-earning potential automatically guarantees quality. Just lookit Twilight. . . .

Spider the Doof Warrior I kind of find Twilight entertaining, myself. But you make good points. It's not enough to just rip off ideas.
You got to make them your own.
Twilight's not perfect, but at least she takes the Vampire myth and makes it her own. All Paolini did was just rip off better writers and add very little to the pot.
It annoys me deeply. Especially when I work hard on stories to MAKE THEM ORIGINAL, even if the ideas were inspired by other writers.
It's called working hard to improve your craft and not just raking in the cash being... well, annoyingly mediocre. Paolini needs an editor. Maybe someone with a stick or a trained raven to peck him each time he writes something... so... ARG!

Swankivy Yes, originality is very important . . . and I've always thought it was incredibly weak whenever people try to defend rip-off artists by claiming there's nothing new under the sun and "everything has been done." That's only true in a very general way. Somehow there appear to be a lot of books out there that never get called rip-offs, and yet this one gets it all the time. It's only people who completely don't understand the extreme generality of "there are no new ideas" who bother to say it. Being able to say, in a general sense, "yes a lot of stories have this same arc and same basic structure" does not always mean "this has been done before." But when there's a story like Inheritance--with its Star Wars plot and Middle-Earth setting--it's so familiar as to be boring.

I really wish something would peck Paolini and say NO STOP THAT each time he thinks of writing anything. That or he'd do some serious studying/practicing and actually write something worthwhile.

message 21: by Cows (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cows I'll admit, I was one of those people who read "Eragon" back in the day and enjoyed it. I picked it up again a year later and I saw what was wrong (though I did not notice half the things that you have found). I found your review shortly after joining this site, and enjoyed it immensely. I liked it enough that I checked "Eldest", and I think that one tops your "Eragon" review. I'm also looking forward to the one for "Brisingr" when it comes.
Also, may I ask how you feel (if you remember) about the chapters about Roran? I'm sorry if you already talked about it, but I'm curious.
Anyway, I'm a fan of your Inheritance reviews. I appreciate the points that you take note of and the fact that you have a real motive for disliking it.

Swankivy I don't think I discussed it in the Goodreads version of my Eldest essay (those have a pretty small character limit, by my standards), but in my long version on my website, I do say the following regarding Roran in my very brief "good stuff" category:

"The introduction of Roran as one of the main characters provided a little bit of variation in the plodding journey that is a blueprint-written novel. Watching Eragon go through all the steps in his role as the epic hero gets old real fast, but since Roran is NOT the epic hero, he is not held to quite as strict of a plan, and therefore there is a little wiggle room for his adventures to be more interesting. He still has his Han-Solo-esque role to play, but since he only has to show up for his parts and is free to do whatever for the rest of the book, he actually does sometimes do whatever. (In a really limited way, unfortunately. But some of his lifestyle choices and whatnot are not quite as cookie-cutter as Eragon's.)"

I've been reading Brisingr for quite a while and just don't seem to be able to make myself pick it up again, but I guess we'll see what happens when I finally resign myself to the torture.

message 23: by Milo (new)

Milo Who cares if someone has done something before. The point is to do it well, which I think Paolini struggles with.

message 24: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt you dont know a good book if it was thrown at you with a posit note saying "good book"

Swankivy Great argument, dude. "You don't agree with me so you don't know what good is." Come on. I did a very good job explaining why I thought the book was crap. At the very least address my arguments if you think I'm wrong instead of just basically saying "Nuh-uh!"

Spider the Doof Warrior Don't throw this book at people. It is a cinder block and it could be sooooooooo much better.

Swankivy True, Synesthesia. Nobody should be throwing this book. It is quite a weapon. Maybe Matt here is suggesting that's how we should be presenting our ideas, though? Scrawling them without justification on Post-It Notes (excuse me, "posit" notes) and flinging them violently at people to make our points?

I think I'll stick to language when I'm trying to frame my opinion. And I'll continue to do so without forgetting punctuation, capitalization, and proper spelling, which is more than I can say for some of my critics who dare to say I'm the one who doesn't know anything about this craft.

message 28: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt ssssssssoooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyyy

Swankivy Apology accepted!

message 30: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt okay, but you have to admit that when something exiting was happening Paolini did pretty good on keeping you read it and i'll admit that he did spend to much time on describing things in the book that were meaningless and saying the same thing over and over again

Swankivy I don't "have to admit" that. I disagree with you--I don't find his action scenes exciting. I think they're overly calculated and soulless. If you enjoy them, then that's totally fine, but the way he writes makes me groan. I've been trying to finish the third book for over two years and I just can't get into it. I think that's pretty good evidence for his inability to keep everyone entertained, though I'm sure it's some people's cup of tea. Certainly not mine.

message 32: by Jane (new) - rated it 1 star

Jane I am always troubled by the ignorance of the "It is the Hero's Journey- everything has this structure!" argument. The movie Taxi Driver follows the Hero's Journey, for-crying-out-loud, and no one ever accused that of being like Star Wars.

Swankivy The difference is one of choosing between "The Hero's Journey" being the basic story type and "The Hero's Journey" being practically a blueprint for everything that happens. When you reinvent something that's been done forty thousand times, you've got to have a reason to tell it again. This book isn't terrible because it used "The Hero's Journey" blueprint. It's terrible because it didn't do much of anything else. Its scope is underwhelming. Its character interaction is yawn-inspiring. Its plot elements are ganked from other places and its fantasy aspects are all cribbed from better authors. It's all tied together in a frustratingly awkward, inorganic mess, and THAT'S what's wrong with Eragon. Redoing "The Hero's Journey" without bringing anything new to the mix is just one of its many, many problems.

message 34: by Lily (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily I respectfully disagree with your point of view, and feel that you are nitpicking. HOWEVER. I wanted to thank you for this well written critique with actual examples to back up your points, and I totally respect what you had to say. I have been trying to understand why so many people hate these books (I love them) and this is the closest I've gotten so far to a real answer that doesn't just bitch about Paolini being a copycat. Thank you!

Swankivy I'm not really sure how I can be specific about what I didn't like without being accused of "nitpicking" by people who don't agree with me. Either I make a sweeping generalization and people can't understand what I'm complaining about, or I give specific examples and explain them and I get told I'm overthinking. I'd rather the latter. I'd never want to be accused of not supporting my opinion.

I hated all four of the books, and on the last two I wrote some pretty gigantic essays about their faults. I've gotten several hundred letters over the years from writers and readers who appreciated that I put into words what missed the mark on these books, and there were some helpful tips for beginning writers in what I criticized about Paolini's work. (That was kind of an unintended side effect, but I guess analyzing why a book is bad does teach amateurs how not to do it themselves.)

I'm really glad you're *respectfully* disagreeing with me, because that's what this is all about--you can read what I say and understand it and accept that it's true without therefore having to change your opinion, and you're welcome to do that. I on the other hand can't see what makes people LIKE these books since I feel like the characters are so empty and the writing is so over-decorated and the sentence structure is so forced and the storylines are either bland or convoluted. But concept-wise it seems to be appealing to enough people to keep them selling.

message 36: by Lily (last edited Dec 07, 2011 12:15PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lily Swankivy wrote: "I on the other hand can't see what makes people LIKE these books since I feel like the characters are so empty and the writing is so over-decorated and the sentence structure is so forced and the storylines are either bland or convoluted."

For me, that's an easy answer. I really enjoy the story and the picture that it paints in my mind when I read it. I am only just starting to read the second book but so far these books are light reading, guilty pleasure books which I enjoy once in a while. It's kind of like the McDonald's food of books. Real food is always going to be better and healthier, but sometimes you just crave tasty chemicals in the shape of burger and fries, lol.

That said, I take back my "nitpicking" comment, you're right, it would be hard to get detailed about what you don't like without looking that way, but it is always better to be detailed about it.

And truth be told you are right about a LOT of what you said, I think where I disagree with you is mostly that those things make it a bad book - I have read some books where the effect they had on me was enjoyable enough that I can overlook all the shortcomings and still consider it a "good" book just based on it's effect on me. And these books fall into that category, much the same way I would call a meal from McDonald's "good" - nothing about McDonald's food is actually good, but I call it good because I enjoyed it.

Anyway, that is my feeble attempt at explaining why *I* like these books, hope that helps some, Heh.

I would like to read what you wrote on the other books as well! Are they here on goodreads?

Swankivy You know, I hear a lot of people talk about Paolini's books as a "guilty pleasure" or like empty calories, and I completely don't understand it. I absolutely hated reading them (especially Eldest and Brisingr; Eragon was a surprise to me, as I didn't realize I was going to hate it when I picked it up and the righteous indignation was kinda fun, and Inheritance was truthfully a better book). I can't relate at all to the feeling of enjoying them even though they're bad, like fast food or junk food. We eat fast food because it tastes good even though we know food's primarily supposed to nourish us. I don't even think these books taste good.

I don't enjoy the story, and I'm too distracted by how Paolini *tries so hard* to "paint pictures" that all I end up doing is smelling the paint and feeling lightheaded. It's like he took a shirt that was badly made, then started covering it with plastic rhinestone things, and acted like the ugly stones and the pattern he chose actually made it a better shirt. I'm very, very put off by unnecessary similes and purple prose. And I didn't relate to the characters at all. I think some people are drawn in by the concepts, and bring their own emotions to the table so to speak, but I was so frequently jolted out of even the possibility of seeing a real scenario/real people that I couldn't get attached or invested at all. I demand the opportunity to become immersed in a world if I'm going to enjoy it, and I can't do that if Paolini works so hard at making us listen to his VOICE that he fails to notice the purpose of writing is to make us forget we're experiencing this story through words. I never felt like I wasn't reading. Never.

I also don't relate to "overlooking" the shortcomings in order to enjoy the meaty center. I've occasionally seen a book like you're talking about, which has some vital flaws but a good heart. This series isn't like that for me at all. The distracting rhinestones on the shirt make it scratchy and tacky, sure, but if people tell me it's still a good shirt under all that, I don't know what to say. Last time I checked shirts are supposed to fit, and have even seams, and be made of quality material. The criticism I have on the "decorations" here is kinda beside the point, because even though it jumps out at you and is kinda the most egregious example of amateur silliness, we still don't have a good shirt under the shinies either. I still haven't figured out if people who like it anyway just actually do like shirts that don't do what shirts are for, or whether they just have lower standards for shirts . . . ?

Congratulations, you've led me to using an extended metaphor I've not used on these suckers before.

Yes, I have reviewed all four of the Paolini books here on Goodreads, but because of the character limit I had to truncate my reviews (in some cases severely). My website has an essays section, and I have an essay on each of the books here:


Feel free to look at it there or just look at the Goodreads versions if you'd like.

Spider the Doof Warrior So true... Trying to read Eragon and Eldest was like trying to eat some sort of fancy meal that has all of these doilies right in the food.
Or, it's a bowl of Kraft Mac and Cheese and he tries to put some kind of French sauce on it and he tries to decorate it with cake decoration and all you can think is, dude, it's Macaroni and Cheese. Get over yourself!

Ktoompas I really agree with your review, it was exactly how I felt, except that I am not quite so eloquent. It was the first fantasy I ever read and so I did enjoy it more than I had a right to, But the writing was so "immature" in places I had to cringe or literally cry out "arghhh!!!" it was quiet an attractive idea to me to read a book written by someone do young.

Swankivy Interesting, Ktoompas. I was older and had read plenty of fantasies in my life by the time I read this one, so it held no special place for me (obviously). Yes, the writing was very immature, and not in a charming way either--more of a "I'm figuring out how to write" way (which of course has its place . . . in ninth grade English class, not on the bestseller shelf). I've also noticed a lot of people saying "but he was ONLY 15 when he wrote this!" . . . which, even if that were true, it wouldn't make the book better, but he was 18 when he published the full book through self-publishing, and 19 when it was re-edited and released through Knopf. 19 is still young to be a published writer, sure, but the writing is not particularly good for a 19-year-old and the way he got published was really backwards (since the book was recommended by a professional established writer who literally hadn't read it himself and who made the recommendation because he was amazed by Paolini's age . . . surprise).

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, if he hadn't had variety in the 'said' thing, you would have complained that it was boring with just writing said all the time

message 42: by Swankivy (last edited Jul 06, 2012 03:00PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Swankivy Really? I "would have" called it boring for not having variety in speech tags? Oh, no. No, I actually meant what I said. And I have never said otherwise anywhere. Trying to "jazz up" THAT PART of your writing is completely amateur. Stop pretending that my criticism is inconsistent or unwarranted. It isn't.

message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

Yeah, but it is kinda boring with just 'said'. I've got low scores on English tests just for having small variety.

message 44: by Swankivy (last edited Jul 09, 2012 12:34PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Swankivy There's no way you're getting low scores on English tests because you overused "said." If you have an English teacher who has been telling you to use alternate permutations of "said" in order to make your writing more varied and lively and interesting, your English teacher is one of those who teaches bunk (and believe me, as a person with a teaching degree myself, I went to school with people who literally did not know basic English rules, much less recommendations on what actually works in traditionally published work, considering very few teachers teaching in high schools have ever published any fiction themselves).

If you're getting poor marks on English tests for not writing with variety, believe me, it's your overall word choice that's stagnant, not your failure to jazz it up with "expectorated" or "screamed" or "growled." If people cannot tell HOW your characters are saying something by WHAT they're saying, chances are your dialogue is poorly chosen. Your speech tags and narration need to get out of the way and bolster the content, not decorate themselves with lights. This is not something that is at all debatable in the professional writing world.

If you do not believe it coming from me--and I'm a published author and professional editor, by the way--feel free to look at these links explaining the problem in more detail so you can understand why overusing alternate permutations of "said" is terribly amateurish, tacky, pointless, and ultimately a poor choice for your writing if you want to communicate effectively.

The Use and Abuse of Dialogue Tags on writing-world.com:

Debunking Writing Myths on kayedacus.com:

How to Use Dialogue Correctly on WriteryLife.com:

Keep in mind that teachers are not writing professionals and are rarely in the actual field. They're probably repeating to you what they think is 101-level positive advice. But listening to people who aren't professional writers themselves and dubbing them to be the authorities just because they're standing in front of a class betrays an extremely oversimplified trust in authority. Do your research if you want to know who to believe. "But my high school teacher said X" is terrible justification and it holds no water.

message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Great review as always Swankivy. While I didn't hate Eragon quite so much as you did, I think your points are valid, well thought out, and well supported with sufficient evidence from the book--and entertaining besides!

message 46: by Cleanova (new) - added it

Cleanova  Førever Synesthesia , He is not a bad writer , He can write even better than you can! That's why his books have been published. I want to see your book(s) being published and being 1# In New York. Twilight is just shit. Wow you have a bad sense of reading now go fuck yourself , Bitch.

Spider the Doof Warrior You are a jerk.

And I shall prove you wrong. I'm writing a book now. How do you know he can write better than me? Just you wait.

David - proud Gleeman in Branwen's adventuring party AnønymøusReAder wrote: "Synesthesia , He is not a bad writer , He can write even better than you can! That's why his books have been published. I want to see your book(s) being published and being 1# In New York. Twilight..."

Anonymous Reader, shouldn't you be trying to lure three billy goats under a bridge right about now?!?

message 49: by Cleanova (new) - added it

Cleanova  Førever I'm just proving my point Synesthesia. Shut up David. Synesthesia I know this because your book hasn't been published yet , Has it? Well we will see. Bitches are going down.

Spider the Doof Warrior I have to write it first. And then you come back with another name?

I will ignore you. Have fun with the billy goats.

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