Chapter 16: Therinsford
Eragon, Brom and Saphira finally set off in pursuit of the bird things that burned down Garrow’s farm. On the way Brom delivers a bunch of exposition about dragons that isn’t interesting, aside from the fact that infant dragons instinctively choose their Riders and won’t hatch until their egg comes into contact with someone whose jib they like the cut of. Which means Eragon is surely special for some reason we haven’t found out about yet.
“Before I can truly answer your question, you need a basic education on the subject of dragons. It’s hopelessly confusing to start in the middle of such a complex topic without understanding the foundation on which it stands. I’ll begin with the life cycle of dragons, and if that doesn’t wear you out, we can continue to another topic.”
Most of these bad fantasy novels not only include boatloads of dull conversations, but they also deliver them in the most boring, roundabout way possible, with characters (usually the quirky twinkly-eyed wizard mentor) taking for-fucking-ever to say whatever they’re going to say. Here Brom takes up two paragraphs getting around to “I don’t know everything about dragons because they’re mysterious, here’s what I do know, let’s begin with the basics.”
And the way the conversation starts feels really wooden, with Eragon just randomly asking “so what can dragons do?”. Couldn’t he express curiosity about a particular dragon-related topic? Like where Saphira’s egg came from in the first place, which he still hasn’t gotten an answer to?
“Who was the Rider that owned Zar’roc?”
“A mighty warrior,” said Brom, “who was much feared in his time and held great power.”
“What was his name?”
“I’ll not say.” Eragon protested, but Brom was firm. “I don’t want to keep you ignorant, far from it, but certain knowledge would only prove dangerous and distracting for you right now. There isn’t any reason for me to trouble you with such things until you have the time and the power to deal with them. I only wish to protect you from those who would use you for evil.”
It would have been a lot easier to just say you don’t know. But then the audience wouldn’t have an Exciting Mystery to keep them turning the page.
“You know what? I think you just enjoy speaking in riddles. I’ve half a mind to leave you so I don’t have to be bothered with them. If you’re going to say something, then say it instead of dancing around with vague phrases!”
“Peace. All will be told in time,” Brom said gently. Eragon grunted, unconvinced.
I actually agree with Eragon here, but he’s still such a whiny little asshole.
While they’re camped for the night Brom decides to teach Eragon sword-fighting; he does this by suddenly tossing him a stick and then charging into full-contact sparring. I’ve ranted about this before, and it’s just as nonsensical here. At one point Brom hits him on the head hard enough to leave him dazed, which could easily kill him, especially if he’s planning on making it a regular feature of their training.
The next day Eragon and co reach Therinsford, at which point they’re confronted by a random encounter with a level 5 bandit.
As they approached it, a greasy man stepped from behind a bush and barred their way. His shirt was too short, and his dirty stomach spilled over a rope belt. Behind his cracked lips, his teeth looked like crumbling tombstones. “You c’n stop right there. This’s my bridge. Gotta pay t’ get over.”
This guy’s hanging out shaking people down for money, and the people in the town just put up with it?
uses the Jedi mind trick gives the man what he wants and then cuts his purse as they’re going past, to show how much of an awesome badass he us. In town they go to buy some horses, and Brom receives a steed named Snowfire because of course he does. During the purchase Eragon discovers that he can also do horse telepathy, although it’s not as strong as dragon telepathy.
He had only ridden horses bareback and never for any distance.
In that case there’s no way he’s undertaking this particular epic journey on horse back. Fantasy authors, for the love of god: you can’t just jump on the back of a horse and gallop off into the sunset. It’s a skill, and like any skill it needs to be learned.
And why doesn’t Eragon have any more riding experience? He lives in a world where the horse is the primary method of transportation and he roams long distances hunting, you’d think he’d want to do so on horseback.
It struck him then just how old the Riders were. A legacy of tradition and heroism that stretched back to antiquity had fallen upon him.
This kid has the emotional range of a toaster.
They come out of the valley and are confronted with a vast plain whose existence Eragon apparently didn’t know about, even though it’s like three day’s ride from his house. Brom suggests they camp yet again– all that horse buying was too much excitement I guess– and another chapter ends with our heroes sitting around a fire doing nothing in particular.
I think this is the most un-exciting beginning to a fantasy journey I’ve ever seen. Even the most dour novel will have its protagonists set off on the road with a certain sense of adventure– even The Eye of The World, which spent ages totally blowing our minds by telling us how much adventures suck, kicked off proper with a desperate flight from danger– but here’s it’s just this dull, plodding slog.