Mix together equal parts "Star Wars" and J.R.R. Tolkien, then add a generous helping of Anne McCaffrey's dragon-riders and a few random shreds of Garth Nix for good measure.
Obviously originality is not Christopher Paolini's strong suit, and it shows in his fantasy debut "Eragon," which was penned in his tender teenage years. It swims in fantasy cliches and stilted dialogue, but there's a certain awkward charm in Paolini's fantasy world. The biggest problem is, simply put, Paolini's cardboard cutout of a self-insert hero, Eragon.
The titular character is lucky enough to stumble across a strange blue stone while hunting on the Spine. After failing to sell it, Eragon finds that it's actually a dragon egg, and the baby blue dragon inside selects him to hatch for and remain with forever. All the Dragon Riders were killed off by Evil King Galbatorix long ago, except for the weird old recluse Brom, who becomes Eragon's mentor.
And Luke, I am your father... wait, wrong story.
When Galbatorix's men destroy Eragon's home and family, Brom and Eragon flee to find the mysterious rebels known as the Varden. But Eragon's dreams are being haunted by the beautiful elf Arya, and the little band sets out to save her. Eragon and his dragon Saphira learn many things -- and make new allies -- the journey to the Varden brings them a terrible (and totally predictable) loss, and leads them to Eragon's first battle.
Lofty elves, humble farm boys, ghastly goblinesque creatures, mystical women, special swords, evil tyrants who are evil because they just are, evil minions, wise mentors, and telepathic dragons in a variety of colors. Christopher Paolini never met a fantasy cliche that he didn't like. And as a result, "Eragon" is dripping with Tolkien and Lucas-style trappings, right down to the hero's suspiciously Tolkienian name.
Paolini paints these typical sword-and-sorcery stories with rather stilted but promising prose. "Eragon" has some raw rookie potential, and you can detect Paolini's enthusiasm as he explores his invented fantasy land, much the way many other teenagers have done after reading high fantasy and yearning to explore their own made-up worlds. There's just not much that is new or unique about this story, although Paolini throws in some attempted humorous quirks like a weird fortune-teller.
The biggest problem with Paolini's writing is that Eragon is portrayed as a noble, brave, compassionate soul with a brilliant destiny ahead of him. Well, frankly he shows no nobility, bravery or compassion, and the many characters who gasp in admiration of him does not make him any more impressive. He's a glaring self-insert, with all the dimension of a cardboard standee, and about as sendearing.
The supporting characters are not much better -- Brom is too brief a character to make much of an impact, and he seems to exist mainly to get Our Hero up to snuff in information and ability. And the love interest Arya is glorified only for her otherworldly beauty... which is all she has. Eragon's adoration of her seems unfounded, because er personality is chilly at best, snotty and autocratic at worst.
Christopher Paolini's "Eragon" is pretty much what you'd expect of a teenage boy's fantasy novel -- plenty of Lucas and Tolkien echoes, and a style that hasn't yet gained a sense of humor about itself.