Great Illustrated Books

Eragon (Inheritance Cycle series)

By Christopher Paolini

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2003
Pages : 544
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up
ISBN: 9780375826689

The story behind the story is one that really grabs kids: a fifteen-year-old boy from Montana, born in 1983 and home-schooled all his life, loves to read books about magic and dragons, spurred by reading Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville. He starts to write his own book about a fifteen-year-old boy named Eragon who hatches a dragon egg, and even turns down his freshman year at Reed College so he can stay home and edit his manuscript. Christopher and his younger sister Angela develop three languages for the novel—one based on Old Norse, and the other two original. His family decides to self-publish the book in 2001. Christopher draws the picture of the dragon eye (that you can find inside the cover) and the detailed map of the fictional land of Alagaësia. He and his family begin to promote the 500-page book at schools and bookstores in the Northwest, and it sells a very respectable 10,000 copies. In the summer of 2002, famed mystery writer, Carl Hiaasen, vacations with his family in Montana. Hiaasen’s stepson reads the book and loves it. Hiaasen contacts his publisher, Knopf, to see if they’d like to take a look at it. Hiaasen has just published his own first children’s book, a novel called Hoot, to great acclaim (and it goes on to win a Newbery Honor six months later). Knopf publishes Eragon in 2003, and the book (the first in the Inheritance Cycle, as the series is called) takes off and becomes a major hit, spawning two sequels, Eldest and Brisingr (coming Fall, 2008, with a first printing of a mere 2.5 million copies), and a movie in 2006. And readers gulp in awe and envy, wondering if they could ever do something that fantastic, and maybe they will be inspired to try.

In a 2003 interview, which you can find “I have visions of lizards. Not little rock lizards, and not even lizards the size of alligators. No, I see gigantic, majestic flying dragons. I have visions of them all the time, whether I’m in the shower, sitting on the couch, or riding in the car. The problem with dragons is that they tend to take over your mind. That is why I was compelled to write my novel Eragon.”

What’s all the fuss about? An intricately woven narrative and a prodigious cast of characters are an obvious lure for fantasy-lovers. In the Prologue, a tall Shade, a merciless human-like sorcerer with crimson hair and maroon eyes, and 12 horned monsters called Urgals, lays in wait in the forest for a beautiful elven lady carrying a large sapphire stone. Before she can be captured and kidnapped, she manages to make the stone disappear, much to the fury of the Shade. Cut to Eragon, a teenage boy hoping to fell a deer in the untamed mountains called the Spine. Instead, he comes across a mysterious polished blue stone, oval and about a foot long. Soon it hatches, and Eragon finds himself in charge of training the baby dragon he names Saphira, with whom he can communicate telepathically. Two evil riders called the Ra'zac are sent by King Galbatorix, a Dragon Rider gone bad and now the feared and hated ruler of all Alagaësia, to find Eragon and the dragon egg. When they murder Eragon’s uncle, Garrow, and set his farm afire, Eragon and Saphira flee, vowing vengeance. Accompanying them on their quest and journey across Alagaësia is the elderly village storyteller, Brom, who, en route, trains Eragon in the sword fighting and magic he will need to take on Galbatorix and his many fearsome minions.

On the official website for the series,www.alagaesia.comthere are written and recorded excerpts of each book. To train online as a Rider, join one of two teams at And is a major fan website for all things Paolini.

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Alexander, Lloyd. The Book of Three. Henry Holt, 1964. (And others in the Chronicles of Prydain series.)

Coville, Bruce. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. Harcourt, 1991.

Hiaasen, Carl. Hoot. Knopf, 2002.

McCaffrey, Anne. Dragonsong. Simon Pulse, 2003, c1976.

Nix, Garth. Sabriel. HarperCollins, 1995.

Patterson, James. Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment. Little, Brown, 2005. (And others in the Maximum Ride series.)

Pierce, Tamora. Alanna: The First Adventure. Atheneum, 1983.

Pullman, Philip. The Golden Compass. Knopf, 1996. (And others in the His Dark Materials series.)

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Scholastic, 1998.

Stroud, Jonathan. The Amulet of Samarkand. Hyperion, 2003.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again. Houghton Mifflin, 1966

Critics have said

This unusual, powerful tale, begun when Paolini was 15 (he's now 19) and self-published in 2002 before being picked up by Knopf, is the first book in the planned Inheritance trilogy. It's obvious that Paolini knows the genre well--his lush tale is full of recognizable fantasy elements and conventions. But the telling remains constantly fresh and fluid, and he has done a fine job of creating an appealing and convincing relationship between the youth and the dragon.

The empathetic characters and interesting plot twists will appeal to the legions of readers who have been captivated by the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and are looking for more books like it.
School Library Journal