Published by Alfred A. Knopf on August 23rd 2005
Darkness falls... Swords clash... Evil reigns.
Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesméra, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider. It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn't sure whom he can trust.
Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall – one that puts Eragon in even graver danger.
Will the king's dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life...
Where does one begin? Like this book, right where we left off. Book two, Eldest, starts with the clean up after the Battle of Farthen Dur. If you haven’t read book one, I would stop right now and not finish this review. This is one of those series that is very difficult to talk about without giving away at least a few minor spoilers for previous books. Now, as a direct continuation some HUGE plot twists happen right at the beginning, probably taking the majority of readers by surprise because of its suddenness.
And then we mill about and the plot drags for a hundred or so pages.
Unfortunately this book has several downfalls that Eragon did not. For one, the travel is much less interesting in Eldest than it is in Eragon. There’s less exploration and more direct from A to B. It leaves little time for the beautiful world building that made book one so good. That is, until they enter Du Weldenvarden. Then the plot picks up and I was practically drooling for more.
Eragon gets to learn more about what he is as a rider, why things work as they do, and train to become better despite his setback. And this is done beautifully. His teacher is one of the best characters in this installment and gives us so much more backstory. And of course he’s another wise old man archetype. I do seem to like those, don’t I.
Eragon has a lot to overcome during this novel. It’s more about self discovery than world building, but the character development they pack into this part is astonishing. You see him grow from a boy with powers he only somewhat understands into a rider with the strength and knowledge to save the world. Or at least some of it. While he hasn’t entirely grown into his full potential, by the end of this book you can really see how he might actually be able to do it.
Eragon also shares his story with his cousin Roran during Eldest. Roran gets his own POV sections and his own story. For the first half of his story it’s great! It’s interesting, he has excellent development and he seems to also be coming into his own just as Eragon is. And then they leave Carvahall and oh my god does this part of the story draaaaaag on and on. I could do with about 2/3 of the Roran story we get in Eldest. The other third just feels like filler to give Roran more page time. Can we not? Most of the time I just want to see what Eragon is doing. I’m impatient, I know, but that’s who I’m here to see.
When I was a kid the bits that dragged REALLY irritated me. For the most part I kinda didn’t like this book, or I’d just skip to the training bits and battles when I’d do a reread, completely ignoring Roran because I didn’t care. Now I can appreciate much more of the Roran story, though I still think sections of it are unnecessary. When it came to the ending I was totally in love with the mindfuck we got. It went in a complete opposite direction from what I was expecting and I LOVED it. Yes, Paolini! More of that.
I love this book, even if Eragon still kicks its ass in my heart. I could reread the training parts over and over and find new things to love every time. As an adult, I appreciate more than I did when I was an impatient preteen and the love story between Katrina and Roran no longer makes me roll my eyes. It goes to show how tastes may change as you grow up and how some books might be worth giving a reread or two.
What did you think of Eldest? Share your own experience in the comments.