Eldest

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August 24, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

I swear on Helzvog’s stone girdle that I have not for many a year read anything so mind-numbingly silly as Eldest, the endless, overheated sequel to Christopher Paolini’s best-selling 2003 Lord of the Rings knockoff, Eragon.

Published when Paolini was 18, Eragon introduced its eponymous hero, a humble, orphaned farm boy from the hamlet of Carvahall whose life changes when he finds a mysterious blue dragon’s egg. Paolini’s imaginary world, Alagaësia, is in the throes of an epic battle between good and evil, pitting the rebel Varden people against the oppressive king Galbatorix and his henchmen, among them the barbaric, horned Urgals. The 528-page behemoth ended with the promise — if such it was — of two more volumes.

As the even heftier new installment begins, Eragon and his telepathic dragon, Saphira, cross paths with some stray Urgals, then help install a new Varden leader. (The sleazy political power struggle calls to mind another one of Paolini’s debts: Star Wars.) Back in Carvahall, his doughty cousin Roran battles the malodorous, ”insectile” Ra’zac (who hiss when they talk, as in ”You ssshall die!”), while Eragon and Saphira begin a pilgrimage to Ellesméra, the domain of the elf queen Islanzadí, who is ”as beautiful as an autumn sunset.” Here, Eragon lives on honey cakes and thimbleberry jelly, and takes a crash course in magic and swordsmanship from the wise old elf Oromis.

Malarkey like this might be forgiven if it were hitched to a fast-moving narrative. But Paolini dawdles, with long, self-indulgent asides about the proper components of a dwarfish bow (Feldûnost horns, skin from the roof of trout’s mouths) and Eragon’s romantic yearnings for emerald-eyed Arya, an enigmatic elf who ”set his insides churning with a mixture of odd sensations he could not identify.”

Ugh. Or, as the dwarfs say, ”Werg.”

Eldest

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Christopher Paolini
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Eldest

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