A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, as is typical in high fantasy, there is plenty of fighting and bloodshed, though not as much as in the first book. Fighting and war, though sometimes bemoaned, are pretty much accepted as the way to solve problems.
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What's the story?
Eldest picks up where Eragon left off, at the end of the battle between the Varden, aided by Eragon, Saphira, and their friends, and the evil emperor Galbatorix's forces in Farthen Dûr. With barely time to mourn his fallen friends Eragon is first caught up in political intrigue among the humans, and between the humans, elves, and dwarves, and then sent across the empire to complete his training as a Rider with the elves in the vast forest of Du Weldenvarden.
At the same time, Eragon's cousin Roran is sought by Galbatorix, who sends soldiers and two of the vicious Ra'zac to Carvahall, Eragon's home. Roran leads the villagers in holding them off, but Roran's fiancé is captured and the villagers are force to flee across the mountains, pursued all the way, to try to make their way by land and sea to Surda, the stronghold of the rebels.
As the story flips back and forth between Eragon and Roran we get to see both of them grow in maturity and power, Eragon as a result of his training with the last survivor of the old Riders, and Roran in a trial by fire as the de facto leader of his villagers fighting their way across the empire. These parallel streams, of course, converge in a climactic battle which once again ends the book.
Includes map and language guide.
Is it any good?
ELDEST is considerably longer and more dense than its predecessor, Eragon, but it's exciting, dark, suspenseful, and imaginative. This is a considerable step forward in Christopher Paolini's development as a writer. Eragon and Roran are compelling characters, and the relationship between Eragon and Saphira can be touching.
It may take some of the younger fans quite a bit of plowing through to finish it, but Paolini's writing is, like his main character, growing more fluid and sure here, with almost none of the embarrassing clunkers that marred the first book. His dialogue, though still the stilted, formal speech beloved by authors of high fantasy, is less hackneyed and clichéd. This is the work of a growing young writer who is learning as he goes and gradually but surely getting a firmer grip on his considerable talent, like an inexperienced charioteer with a frisky team.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Eragon's training and its parallels in Roran's trials. Does Eragon deserve Roran's blaming him for the village's troubles? Was Oromis right to withhold forms of magic that Galbatorix possesses? What are the parallels with the Star Wars saga? It can be fun to play Find the Matching Characters -- if Oromis is Yoda, who is Obi-Wan? Darth Vader? Princess Leia?
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