Good fantasy books are hard to come by these days, what with mediocre works popping up and leaving no stone unturned in the fantasy market. The challenge for the fantasy writer is to think of something that hasn't been thought of before – a difficult task in such a congested genre.
Christopher Paolini meets this challenge without much success. His first book Eragon, the first in the Inheritance trilogy, is a tale about a poor boy whose destiny is turned completely around when he finds a dragon hatchling in the middle of a forest clearing. The premise alone is too familiar for comfort – how many poor children have been saved from a miserable life by a mythical creature?
Even sadder is the fact that its publishers seem to play up the fact that Paolini wrote Eragon at the age of 17. It's working against them – it only brings to the fore how the book reeks of naïvete. Eragon takes such concepts as reason versus morality, life and death, and rich and poor, and infuses black-and-white views of them into his characters. Paolini also boxes in his characters with age-old stereotypes – Sloan, the greedy merchant, Brom, the all-knowing but reclusive storyteller, and of course, Eragon – the poor farm boy with the great destiny. The result is a highly ambitious fantasy that was clearly written by a 17-year old. And when you're spending hard-earned money on books, you really don't care if the author is five or eighty-five. You just want a good read.
Of course, the book is not without its high points. Paolini has a flair for words and poetry, as seen in the passages his characters sang in Eragon. The occasional verses add to the small-town feel of the story and make it more tangible. The imaginary world, Alagaesia, is well-imagined and thought out, and brought to life by Paolini's enchanting descriptions. At his age, Paolini has a lot of room – and time – for improvement. He has a way with words, and that's a start.