Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I have just finished reading the second book in the Inheritance Series, Eldest by Christopher Paolini. I had read the first book, Eragon, over the summer. I did actually enjoy it, though I found it a bit hard to get into at first for some reason.

The book is definitely worth reading, but it still has some rough edges. This is understandable since Christopher Paolini is only 22 years old, and started writing the trilogy when he was 15. He has definitely accomplished an amazing feat considering his age and the fact that this trilogy was his first major undertaking. I am actually quite jealous, since I am also a huge fantasy fan and have considered writing my own epic. Alas, due to laziness, or maybe because I've just been too busy with other things, I have only ever written about 3 chapters of my novel.

In any case, although I enjoyed Eldest, I could definitely tell that the writer was a little inexperienced. The story didn't flow as well as it should sometimes. Also, I think he tends to overexplain himself a little bit, like going into exhaustive detail about how the magic works. He needs to understand that, unless a technical point is important to the story, most readers will simply accept the magic. Unless there are glaring inconsistancies, it won't matter to them, because it's the story that matters. In addition, the way he goes about explaining technical details slows the story down a bit. He tends to have characters explain, rather than having the characters do something which will make the explanation obvious to the reader. I don't know how much sense I'm making here, but you're supposed to show them, not tell them, right?

This also brings me to the point that, in writing, less is more (usually). Basically, you need to create an atmosphere, and do some character development, but unless a point becomes critical to the plot later on, there's no sense including it just for the sake of including it. I think J.K. Rowling is a master at this. She tends to have incidents happen, or characters do things which appear incidental and unimportant in one book, and then become huge deals in another book. For example, in the first book, Harry talks to a snake at the zoo and lets it out of its cage. Just an example of his natural abilities as a wizard coming through you think. Then in the second book, it becomes a HUGE deal that he can talk to snakes. In fact the whole plot hinges on it. Another example: It is suddenly discovered that Ron's stupid rat Scabbers, who has been around since book one, is actually the wizard responsible for Harry's parents' deaths. Like, I really wonder how much J.K. Rowling had things all planned in advance, because it seems that nothing that happens in the earlier books is insignificant, no character is introduced simply for the sake of it. It seems to me that the best plots are like this: they do not meander (although they may appear to meander, these are the sneakiest plots) but every step, every action, every comment, is planned out to perfection. Now I know this definition of a good plot practically eliminates all 19th century literature, but I guess it depends on what kind of story you want to read. Fantasy, for the most part, relies upon magic, exciting adventure, discoveries, etc. and I think it needs to have fast-paced plot.

But, back to my review. Really, beyond my few criticisms, I was impressed. Yes, it's a traditional fantasy epic, fairly formulaic as we all know, and yet the book managed to surprise me a few times. So keep writing Mr. Paolini, and I'll look forward to the third book. 3.5 purple horsies out of five.

In other news, and speaking of J.K. Rowling, I will finally get to see the movie this weekend. To prepare for this momentous occasion, EJ and I have planned a little Harry Potter movie marathon. We're going to watch all three earlier movies before we see number four. That way we can compare directors, etc. and see if Daniel Radcliffe has learned to act yet. Although, I actually rewatched part of the first one, and he wasn't as bad as I remembered. Maybe it was only the second one... In any case, I am making some traditional British recipes in honour of the occasion: Treacle Tart and Toad in the Hole. I considered Spotted Dick, but it sounded icky. (What in God's name is shredded suet??)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Violette, British food is really gross, what are you thinking? And if you don't know how to cook it....not to be critical but I'm foreseeing bad bad things. Why don't you get on your book and be a shrinking violette no longer? In the realm of fantastical writing, you can be anyone at all. Just promise you'll make me something...something cool like a fierce dragon with additional magical properpties like healing young heroes. Maybe the hero can kiss me and I'll turn into a princess! Yeah, I like that....and maybe name the hero something like Sean Biggerstaff or something, I don't know. I, too am going to see HP this weekend; I can't wait!