In this long awaited sequel to Eragon, young Eragon Shadeslayer, having lost his mentor Brom but rescued the lovely elven princess Arya, watches helplessly as his friend Murtagh is carred off by Urgals and then leaves his new found allies of the Varden to go to Ellesmera so that he might study with master Oromis and develop his abilities in using Gramarye (magic) with the hope that he can help defeat the evil emperor Galbatorix.
Even noting some problems with it, I liked Eragon. I was not as thrilled with Eldest. First, Eragon was about 500 pages; Eldest is 668. The plot is not as tightly woven and tends to sag at times. There is some bad language, including a vulgar British slang term for the backside. Not enough cursing is used to say that the book is filled with it, but some is present nonetheless. There are a lot, and I mean a lot, of references to drinking alcohol–on one occasion, Saphira even becomes inebriated, and although he is only sixteen Eragon imbibes quite a bit too. Eragon learns that elves do not marry but just take mates for a day or a century. Eragon’s cousin Roran spends the night with his fiancee before they are married (and she is kidnapped). Some of the descriptions of the fighting are quite graphic, including scenes such as where one teenage boy continues to stab savagely at an already fallen soldier.
Furthermore, Eldest seems much more Pantheistic and “New Age-y.” There is a great deal of emphasis on the magic–learning it and using it. In his discussions with Oromis, Eragon raises such questions as if there is a God, then why is there evil in the world; should we live by reason or faith; and how can there be justice in divine punishment? These are certainly good questions, but no answers are really forthcoming. There is also some utilitarian relativism. “He found her deed repugnant but did not pretend to know whether it was good or evil. It was necessary.” J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis wrote their fantasy from a distinctly Biblical worldview. I have not yet been able to identify young Paolini’s worldview. Someone might reply that it is just a work of fiction. I know that, but I also know that it is possible for a writer to use fantasy and fiction to make a non-Biblical worldview more acceptable. Of course, in order to be acceptable a book does not have to emphasize a Biblical worldview, but it should not present an anti-Biblical worldview. Having said all that, I still believe that Eldest is not too bad. We shall just have to see how these things play out in “Book Three.”