Let’s Read Eragon ch. 19

eragon_book_cover

Note: the blog will return to a regular update volume after the 2nd of September

Chapter 19: Through a Dragon’s Eye

WHEN THE MOON HITS YOUR DRAGON’S EYE LIKE A BIG PIZZA PIE

THAT’S AMORE

After a brief YA-flavoured break, it’s time to return once again to the sopporific snooze-fest that is Eragon. As bad as Red Queen was, I was starting to appreciate a book where the story moves forward at a decent pace.

I can’t actually remember where Eragon and Brom are going, or why. Everything about this long travelling section, even down to the landscape they’re passing through, feels like it was inserted into the story just because Paolini thought that Epic Fantasy Novels are required to have a bit where the characters spend ages wandering through empty wilderness and getting into random encounter NPC battles.

Anyway, Eragon prepares to have his first proper flight on Saphira.

“Now remember, grip with your knees, guide her with your thoughts, and stay as flat as you can on her back. Nothing will go wrong if you don’t panic.”

If Saphira is sentient, why does Eragon have to “guide her” at all? Couldn’t they just agree on a direction, and she’d fly there of her own accord?

Clouds floated around them.

The descriptions here make it sound like Eragon and Saphira are 747-at-cruising-altitude high, which makes me wonder how Eragon is still alive. We get a glancing mention of the air being “chilly”, but that’s a gigantic understatement: at that altitude the average temperature is between -55 C and -75 C, more than enough to kill someone not wearing protective clothes. Assuming the low air pressure doesn’t take him out first, of course. Think about how much trouble mountain climbers at the top of Everest have breathing due to the thin air, and then multiple that by more than three.

I know a lot of people’s reaction to complaints like this tends to be “but dragons are also impossible bluh bluh” and yes, they are impossible. But at the same time, I’m naturally assuming that the story’s setting conforms to the same natural laws that apply to us on Earth, and that Eragon, regardless of what magic powers he might have, still has the same physical capabilities and weaknesses as a normal human.

His words were lost as Saphira tilted and rolled completely around. The ground spun in a dizzying circle, and vertigo clutched Eragon.

Saphira continues Brom’s potentially lethal surprise-training technique by doing a barrel roll without warning Eragon first. Seriously, what if he didn’t manage to hold on and just fell off?

There’s a kind of cool bit where Saphira does some sort of mind-meld with Eragon so that he sees through her eyes and perceives them to be the same entity. This is the first and so far only time I’ve actually felt like there was any sort of special bond between the two; I kind of wish we had gotten a bit of this right at the start, when Saphira first hatched.

A bit later Brom continues to be the worst fantasy mentor ever by attempting to communicate with Eragon telepathically, which he can do now I guess. Earlier he warned Eragon to be wary for any attempt by others to invade his mind, and so Eragon– not knowing that Brom could talk to him this way and remembering the warning– naturally tries his best to resist, which Brom berates him for the moment he returns.

I’m really not sure whether the book is deliberately trying to make Brom seem incompetent, or whether it’s just badly written and nonsensical.

“Don’t ever block me out like that again. It’s hard enough for me to reach you without
having to fight to make myself heard.”

Eragon can’t seem to tell who’s trying to reach him telepathically; therefore, guarding against mental attacks by nefarious sorts and also allowing Brom to reach him at all times are mutually exclusive instructions.

Brom finds some tracks indicating that the Ra’zac flew off on some sort of non-dragon flying creature, which poses a conundrum since they can’t track them through the air. But rather than focus on that, how about we settle down for another break?

“There’s no easy solution to this riddle,” said Brom. “Let’s have lunch while we think on it. Perhaps inspiration will strike us while we eat.”

Do we really have to

Eragon finds a flask full of magical super-acid that the Ra’zac left behind, and hatches a convoluted plan to visit cities on the eastern coast and inspect shipping records to track the Ra’zac. Maybe after that we can have a few senate hearings to really liven things up.

“We’ll have to go southwest until we reach a high pass in the Spine. Once on the other side, we can head up the coast to Teirm,” said Brom. A gentle wind pulled at his hair.

I have no idea why that “a gentle wind” sentence is there.

One thing I haven’t pointed out before is how a lot of the chapters end on really odd, abrupt sentences. For example, here’s the ending of this chapter:

Eragon and Brom had their nightly fight, but it lacked energy, as both were preoccupied with the day’s events. By the time they finished, Eragon’s arms burned from Zar’roc’s unaccustomed weight.

And here’s the end of the one before:

They both had large welts when they stopped, Eragon more so than Brom. He marveled that Zar’roc had not been scratched or dented by the vigorous pounding it had received.

These feel like chapter breaks that were inserted for the sole purpose of having chapter breaks, and they give the end of each chapter an unsatisfying, jarring feel.

Speaking of which,

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Read Eragon ch. 19

  1. Satu

    ” Clouds floated around them.

    The descriptions here make it sound like Eragon and Saphira are 747-at-cruising-altitude high, which makes me wonder how Eragon is still alive. We get a glancing mention of the air being “chilly”, but that’s a gigantic understatement: at that altitude the average temperature is between -55 C and -75 C, more than enough to kill someone not wearing protective clothes. Assuming the low air pressure doesn’t take him out first, of course. Think about how much trouble mountain climbers at the top of Everest have breathing due to the thin air, and then multiple that by more than three.”

    As a skydiver, I have to comment Ronans supposition that you have to be at 10 kilometers before being able to see clouds around you. I routinely freefall and parachute among/between/through clouds during my skydives, and our jump altitude is 1-4 kilometers. You can have cloud cover as low as 600 meters, and those beautiful white fluffy clouds at a few kilometers. And Andrea, they do look like dry fluffy stuff until you´re actually touching them. Then ofc, they are just wet fog which completely obscures your vision (we usually try to avoid entering a cloud for that reason). It is just amazing to parachute just next to a cloud bank, skimming the edges 🙂

    And since you can totally cruise between clouds at low-ish altitudes, you wouldn´t freeze to death, either, or have trouble breathing. As a rule of thumb, the temperature droppes for about 7 degrees Celsius every kilometer, so if it´s a summer and the temperature is, say 23 degrees on the ground, then at 3 kilometers it would be roughly 2 degrees. It does get cold if you spend more than 5-10 minutes there, I grant you, so Eragon flying around for more than a half hour is not believable. But up tp that it´s okay.

    Reply
  2. zephyrean

    > I know a lot of people’s reaction to complaints like this tends to be “but dragons are also impossible bluh bluh” and yes, they are impossible. But at the same time, I’m naturally assuming that the story’s setting conforms to the same natural laws that apply to us on Earth

    This reminds me: how fast did she grow to 747-size and where did she find the food? Isn’t everyone in the crap-covered dystopia starving or something?

    > and hatches a convoluted plan to visit cities on the eastern coast and inspect shipping records to track the Ra’zac

    What? Who’s going to allow a country bumpkin to inspect their records to help him track an imperial agent? And for that matter, how does something like this even occur to a country bumpkin? How does he know how business is conducted?

    Reply
  3. Signatus

    “Paolini thought that Epic Fantasy Novels are required to have a bit where the characters spend ages wandering through empty wilderness and getting into random encounter NPC battles.”

    Which is the reason when I started writing fantasy I moved to working on a single city and not bothering with the rest of the world. I’m sure some people can pull it off. I can’t. It’s boring, tedious and annoying, and after describing the green of leaves for the hundred time just to portray they’re still wondering through a forest I thought; F*** this shit. Scraped the whole thing and moved on to something else.

    Camping is fun in RPG games. The camping scenes were the best thing in DA;O. Maybe it’s me and the other 99% of fantasy writers (I’m no fantasy writer) but every book I’ve read with characters wondering through wildland is boring.

    “A bit later Brom continues to be the worst fantasy mentor ever by attempting to communicate with Eragon telepathically”

    I can’t remember. Does Eragon question this? I mean, if I was travelling with someone I’d known for ages and suddenly I discovered he or she had magic powers, I’d be all over this person with questions.

    “a lot of the chapters end on really odd, abrupt sentences.”

    I know this is kind of difficult, finding the perfect ending for a chapter, but sometimes I got the feeling Paolini wasn’t even trying. Most of the chapters ended up with Eragon fainting, going to sleep or something of the sort. The examples you pointed out are pretty much the exception from what I remember, and they’re not much better, TBH.

    Reply
  4. Andrea Harris

    Hey, up here in the mountains when “clouds float” around us, they’re known as “rain” and “fog.” Did the author think clouds are made of dry fluffy stuff or something? (And he grew up near Yellowstone in Montana, you’d think he’d know something about high elevations but he sounds like most kids his age, who learned about the world from Disney movies.)

    Also that bit about the mind-reading: a competent editor would have noticed that and had him take out the bit about “don’t let anyone read your mind” or else had it adjusted to make sense. But that would have taken time, and there’s blockbuster cash to be made (or there was when this was published) and who cares it’s just kid’s stuff, right? (sarcasm)

    Reply

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