Let’s Read Eragon ch. 17

eragon_book_cover

Note: Updates will be sporadic between now and the end of August while I finish my thesis

Chapter 17: Revelation at Yazuac

Brom and Eragon follow the Ra’zac to the town of Yazuac (passing through the Plains of Flippitywibbert and across the Ghferlwfjlw3rcjnwrejvfpjwe River), where they discover that everything is suspiciously quiet. Fearing a trap, they head into the town using the sneaky-sneaks.

The houses were dark and foreboding, with shattered windows. Many of the doors swung on broken hinges.

That’s probably a good sign.

A mountain of bodies rose above them, the corpses stiff and grimacing.

Oh.

Slaughtered men lay over the women they had tried to protect, mothers still clasped their children, and lovers who had tried to shield each other rested in death’s cold embrace.

It’s a good thing everyone got into gender-appropriate cliched positions before they were killed.

But worst of all was the barbed spear that rose out of the peak of the pile, impaling the white body of a baby.

544

He stared at their open eyes and wondered how life could have left them so easily. What does our existence mean when it can end like this? A wave of hopelessness overwhelmed him.

All of Eragon’s emotional reactions are incredibly stilted and awkward. Which I can sympathize with, since I struggle with that myself. I’ve found that it’s usually better to go with less rather than more. In this case, Eragon blinking back tears immediately proceeding the part I quoted above probably would have been enough.

“Those who love the pain and suffering of others. They wear many faces and go by many disguises, but there is only one name for them: evil. There is no understanding it.

Oh good, I was hoping the villains would be one-dimensional cliches.

A bunch of Urgals appear out of nowhere and start attacking our heroes, and Eragon is forced to flee.

The Urgal rapidly gained ground despite Eragon’s efforts; large fangs separated in a soundless bellow.

A… soundless bellow? What?

A completely bullshit action scene follows whee Eragon is filled with righteous fury or whatever, then fires his bow while shouting “Brisingr” for no reason (“A word suddenly leapt unbidden to his lips”), which makes his arrow all glowy and magical.

Was there really no better way for him to discover that his has magic powers? It would have made a lot more sense if Brom had told him that Brisingr was a magic spell, and then Eragon could try it out of desperation. But no, instead he just somehow knows how to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Let’s Read Eragon ch. 17

  1. Mr Elbows

    if fantasy authors could only be assed to make their main characters a.) not someone who must kill and b.) able to show real human emotions, we could get a scene about how the main character is forced to kill and actually has to deal with the long term consequences that follow. but that’d mean our main character would need a way to interact with their antagonist(s) that isn’t violence.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      The problem with most fantasy is that it stems in part from RPG games, and, lets be honest, some game masters are fantastic and imaginative but most will toss you a bunch of minions to fight and will be done with it. Most players just want that. I’ve tried getting my way around talking to a minion to avoid fighting only to have the rest of the group jump at its throat. Sometimes the master will force the fight by having the minion attack without giving you the chance to try an alternative.

      That and, forgive me, I’m sure there are fantastic male authors out there, but most of them seem to be a bunch of testosterone driven monkeys whose characters have to be the alpha males. Fantasy, as its own name implies, has ENDLESS posibilities to weave a story, and yet most male authors go for the war/fight approach.

      Reply
  2. Lissa

    “Those who love the pain and suffering of others. They wear many faces and go by many disguises, but there is only one name for them: evil. There is no understanding it.”
    This line is a dead giveaway that the author is naive and very young. Anyone who’s studied much history or pays attention to world events will eventually realize that there isn’t much of a dividing line between good and evil, because people who are good (or at least neutral) 99.999% of the time can do evil acts under the right circumstances.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      You’re so right. Actually, is we analyze the political movements of the twentieth century all of them thought they were doing the right thing by doing what they were doing. My country suffered a war not so long ago. The war broke out due to a failed coup d’etat and three long years of civil unrest followed. Eventually the fascist movement managed to settle the things and thus came 40 years of dictatorship. I’m not going to defend the guy, he killed a lot of people, he pushed the country towards a war, he destroyed our economy and forced us to go through nearly 20 years of poverty and misery.

      Yet he thought he was doing the right thing (the alternative were not much better, mind you), he thought he was saving the country from those who would break it, its values and culture (he was a traditionalist). He actually worked out trying to improve the economy, and he made it, he managed to open to the world for trading, he is the creator of our social system and our retirement system and built dams and water sources so people could have plenty of it in their homes. He built a net of roads connecting every major city with the capital. He seemed like a pretty decent guy, right?

      And yet he incarcerated and executed everyone who opposed him, forced homosexuals into brutal therapy and persecuted them and enslaved women, forcing us into being breeding machines. Women did not have rights. A woman could not run away from an abusive husband because the police would run after you and force you to return, as this was considered abandoning the home. Divorce was prohibited and so were family planning measures like condoms and contraceptive pills. A woman was subjected to a man since birth, be it her father, her brother, her husband or her son (in case one of them was missing). A woman couldn’t work, study or even have a bank account without her husband’s (father, son…) permission. Even then this man thought he was doing the right thing, he was protecting the decency of the families and the society by forcing all of us (specially women because… of course it’s always women, are we THAT stupid to withstand all this shit without complaining?) to submit to his idea of the perfect society.

      Reply
  3. Signatus

    I’m not going to quote that first part because I deem it unnecesary but, I always found the level of gore described was completely unnecessary. Specially the part with the baby. I mean, you can describe brutality without getting into detail. Actually, the imagery of plates still full of food, toys dumped on the floor, scratches on doors and so on would have been way stronger than describing the massacre in such detail.

    “large fangs separated in a soundless bellow.”

    That’s a very, very bad sentence. Really, terrible.

    ” while shouting “Brisingr” for no reason”

    That’s what you get for using a stupid magic system. I don’t mind the cliché of heroes being in peril and discovering a hidden power. I feel that, as long as it makes sense in the story and it is not a deus ex machina, but actually a resource to be used in the book, I’m ok with it. I don’t have the need to write super original stuff all the time and actually I’m a sucker for this kind of scenes when done properly (something Paolini doesn’t do).

    However the way it is done here it feels awkward and forced. Like Paolini wanted to have Eragon discover his magic powers (because you can’t have powerful, inmortal dragon riders without making them powerful mages as well) and had pushed himself into a corner by linking the magic system to a mysterious language. The only way magic would work would be by using the true name of the spell you want to work out (fire in this case). Eragon can’t possibly know the true name of fire as he knows shit about magic, so Paolini wrote himself out by having Eragon hear by chance the word being muttered by Brom in a previous scene. The problem is while bursting into fur and claws as in the case of werewolves makes sense, shouting a random word you don’t even know what it means makes no friggin sense, thus the scene looks awkward and ridiculous.

    Also, a secondary thought about this book. In classic fantasy you have your team of adventurers, the knight, the rogue, the mage, the barbarian, the healer, you name it. What made this books fun was the interactions between the characters, most of them incredibly diverse (albeit cliché too), and how they had to use their abilities in conjunction to overcome greater perils and, in many cases, their wits. Paolini made such a huge Gary Stu (like Rothfuss) that Eragon unifies the knight, mage, healer and rogue figure all in one person. The outcome is a boring ass of a character that has about as much charisma as a bowl of porridge.

    Yeah, I know there are a lot of problems with those books, and I know one of the reasons we have the team of adventurers is Role Playing itself, but I still find the diverse characters way more interesting than this all powerful ubermensch of a character who is so badly written he’s not even interesting. I mean, Qvothe was not very interesting, I always pictured him like some sort of red headed lepreachaun because that’s what I feel from reading the book, but even then there was something about the character that made him a bit more emotional than this childish depiction of a T-800.

    Reply
    1. Lissa

      “Actually, the imagery of plates still full of food, toys dumped on the floor, scratches on doors and so on would have been way stronger than describing the massacre in such detail.”

      When I saw Schindler’s List, I burst into tears at the scene where the Nazis are sorting the possessions of captured Jews… so yeah, I agree that non-violent images can be just as powerful and affecting as scenes of violence and gore. In fact, excessive violence can desensitize or even bore people.

      Reply
    2. Ben

      “In classic fantasy you have your team of adventurers, the knight, the rogue, the mage, the barbarian, the healer, you name it. What made this books fun was the interactions between the characters, most of them incredibly diverse (albeit cliché too), and how they had to use their abilities in conjunction to overcome greater perils and, in many cases, their wits.”

      I wonder if, in the case of authors like Rothfuss and Paolini, we’re seeing a generation of would-be players who grew up surrounded by the paraphernalia of RPGs but either lacked the right group of friends necessary to make the game a social regularity or were more interested in building a fantasy world than watching their players “ruin” it. That might explain how we get books about these renaissance men who can do it all, because the power was in them all along, yet are strangely passive in their adventures, just being ferried from place to place and being fed information about whatever.

      I know that’s a bit too much psychoanalysis of people I’ve never met, but there has to be something to explain how the reactive-prodigy-as-wish-fulfillment archetype has taken such deep root in twenty-first century fantasy…

      Reply
      1. Ben

        There’s also the much simpler explanation that novels inspired by video games inspired by tabletop games inspired by novels have lost too much in the several translations, especially the limitations of video game interfaces with regards to expressive interaction between characters and the preference of video game design for single-character perspectives.

        Reply
        1. Lissa

          “There’s also the much simpler explanation that novels inspired by video games inspired by tabletop games inspired by novels have lost too much in the several translations”
          I think you hit the nail on the head. Different forms of media have different storytelling techniques, and these techniques often don’t translate well from one form of media to another. I’ve read a lot of fantasy (especially YA) that seems to be inspired by movies, anime, and video games, and trying to tell a text-based story using techniques (“framing” scenes as if you’re holding a camera, describing elaborate fight and battle scenes move-by-move, etc.) from a visual format just doesn’t work.

          Reply
          1. Lissa

            (Sorry, didn’t finish my comment.) For an example of this, read the book Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton – she writes the action scenes like a video game, complete with ragdoll physics, outlandishly sized weapons, and characters who can recover nearly instantly from any wound short of decapitation. All of these things combined suck all the tension out of the story and make it hard to take the conflicts seriously

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