Before I begin, I do want to clarify one thing. I am writing reviews from my perspective as a reader, not a writer. This isn't a professional critique; this is a reader saying what she did or did not enjoy while reading a particular story. With that being said, I am a writer and that simple fact often influences the way that I read and enjoy stories. So there are going to be complaints and praises that arise from my writer half being a critic, but for the most part the point of these reviews is to share what I thought as a reader.
So let's get started!
First of all, what is Eldest even about?
Darkness falls...despair abounds...evil reigns...
Eragona nd 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 Ellesmera, land of the elves, for further training in the skills of the Dragon Rider: magic and swordsmanship. Soon he is on the journey of a lifetime, his eyes open to awe-inspiring new places and people, his days filled with fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and nothing is what it seems. Before long, Eragon doesn't know whom he can trust.
Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle--one that might put Eragon in even graver danger.
Will the King's dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life...
I approached reading this book with some hesitation. I wasn't the biggest fan of Eragon, so I didn't have high expectations for this novel. That was lucky for me, because once again, I couldn't read it.
I was bored. Consequently, I stopped reading.
Eldest sat on my shelf, daring me to read it, for several months. I'd only read about a fourth of the way through it and I had no inclination to pick it back up. Were there a few things that I had enjoyed? Yes. I didn't hate the story. I had actually started to at least be amused by, if not enjoy, the characters. Yet it still held zero appeal for me.
Eventually I did pick it back up because, being me, I simply had to finish it. I can't leave things undone.
The first half of the book bored me to tears. There were pieces of it that I did enjoy. I wasn't miserable reading it by any means. Yet when I didn't read it, I wasn't miserable then either. I wasn't in love. I didn't hate it. I was apathetic. Completely and totally apathetic. This book inspired no emotion in me at all, other than boredom.
At least for the first half of the book that was true. The second half did actually pique my interest. I started to enjoy reading it. The characters still felt two-dimensional, the dialogue was still stiff, the plot was as contrived as it comes, Paolini's prose was cringy at best, but it was growing on me. I genuinely enjoyed the second half of the book.
I have come to the realization that I don't like Paolini's style. That doesn't necessarily mean it is bad, that simply means I don't like it. His long-winded flowery prose isn't something for the ages like Shakespeare, it simply frustrates me in its ridiculousness.
Another thing Paolini seemed to do a lot throughout the book was state the characters' emotions or the expected response of the reader. I kept feeling like he was saying, "you're supposed to be happy now" or "you're supposed to cry now" rather than letting the story speak for itself and evoke those emotions from his readers. Part of this might stem from the fact that his descriptions of emotions and his writing of emotional scenes seems hurried. It is like he doesn't know how to convey the emotion he wants or to cause the reader to feel it, so he rushes past those scenes and gets back to a good old fight scene. To be fair, I do enjoy his fight scenes. Yet I felt very put-off by his rushing through scenes that could have potentially been what drew me into the story if he hadn't been in a rush to get back to his battles and dragons and what-not. He may not have been intentionally skimming over emotional scenes at all, but that is certainly how it felt while reading it.
My final thoughts on the book: the first half was "meh," for lack of a better description, and the second half was "this is an okay book."
Still, was it worth reading to get to the end and simply realize the book had been "okay"?
I will say that the book was okay-enough at the end that I was interested in the story and that Paolini left it on a big enough cliff-hanger that I wasn't totally against reading the next book. So there's that.
Would I read it again? Probably not. Would I recommend this book to others? Probably not. As with Eragon, unless they are avid fantasy readers, I wouldn't suggest this book to my friends.
Not to worry, my lovely readers! The third book in this cycle is Brisingr, and I can say without hesitation that I thoroughly enjoyed that one.