Let’s Read Eragon ch. 22

eragon_book_cover

Chapter 22: An Old Friend

We’re still nowhere near the end of our journey through the wilds of Eragon, but my stamina remains high and my resolve is firm. Join me while I fend off clunky adjectives and bland protagonists.

The herbalist’s shop had a cheery sign and was easy to find. A short, curly-haired woman sat by the door. She was holding a frog in one hand and writing with the other. Eragon assumed that she was Angela, the herbalist.

Whoo boy. I know where this is going.

Brom and Angela proceed to have a whimsically quirky conversation in which it becomes apparent that she’s a free-spirited whimsical quirkster, and I find myself wanting to gag.

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” she bantered. “Jeod is on the right. And as for the frog, he’s actually a toad. I’m trying to prove that toads don’t exist—that there are only frogs.”

Apparently this character is based off of Paolini’s sister. To what extent, I’m not sure– I’ve never met anyone this insufferable in real life and have trouble believing that Angela Paolini acted anything like this at the time of the book’s writing– but regardless of what inspiration sparked her creation, I severely wish Paolini had edited her out in the second draft.

“Tell him that a friend from Gil’ead is waiting outside.”

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Unfortunately Brom is referring to himself here, and not Edris Elba as Roland Deschain from the upcoming feature film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower.

Jeod turns out to be an old friend (hence of the chapter title) of Brom’s who thought Brom was dead after some unspecified incident in the past, and who isn’t entirely pleased to learn that he’s been alive all this time.

Enough of this! Get on with the story. That’s always what you were good at,” said Jeod impatiently.

You obviously don’t know Brom as well as you’re claiming, dude.

Brom and Jeod have a needlessly obstuse conversation where Brom explains how he found some sort of Thing and brought it to Their Friends but then the Thing was stolen and he vowed to look after whoever found the Thing and Eragon just sits there silently even though a sentient plank of wood could figure out what Brom is talking about.

Brom explains that they need to take a gander at some trade records for some reason I’ve forgotten about because I don’t care, and Jeod tells him that it will be difficult because they’re held in a castle and no one is allowed to see them for some reason. Please tell me Eragon isn’t going to infiltrate a castle just to get some fucking receipts

They’re trying to hide something from me. The moment I leave they’re going to talk about it. Eragon shoved himself out of the chair and left the room, slamming the door shut. Snowfire had not moved; the knot that held him was fine. Scratching the horses’ necks, Eragon leaned sullenly against the castle wall.

It’s not fair, he complained to himself. If only I could hear what they are saying.

Hey Eragon, why don’t you fucking ask them. They’re clearly keeping important information related to your dangerous quest from you. There’s no reason why you need to to just sit there and accept that. At least try to find out through simple conversation before you start resorting to hijinks.

But no, instead he uses a spell (which he just sort of seems to know for no particular reason) that lets him overhear their conversation, which is very long and rambling and not terribly interesting.

Can you imagine how the dwarves will react? Everyone will be trying to influence him, especially Islanzadi. He and Saphira won’t be safe in Tronjheim until I at least get them through tuatha du orothrim.”

The conlong in this book is weird to a point that’s genuinely baffling. As far as I can tell Paolini just took random words from real languages, mashed them together with some made up ones, and then– and this is the confusing part– changed their meaning; so for example “tuatha” is old Irish and is usually translated as people or nation, “du” is one of the French words for some quantity of something, and I have no idea what orothrim is because I can’t find references to it that don’t relate to the Eragon series. All of this together apparently means “tempering the fool’s wisdom”, which is some sort of grade in Dragon Rider training.

Yeah, I don’t know either.

Also dwarves I guess.

“What’s going on?” he muttered to himself. Jeod and other traders are in trouble for helping people the Empire doesn’t favor. Brom found something in Gil’ead and went to Carvahall to hide. What could be so important that he would let his own friend think he was dead for nearly twenty years? He mentioned a queen—when there aren’t any queens in the known kingdoms—and dwarves, who, as he himself told me, disappeared underground long ago.

I love how Eragon asks “what’s going on” out loud (you know, as you do) and then proceeds to mentally summarise the rambling, needlessly vague conversation he just overheard.

In case you couldn’t tell, there’s some sort of rebellion against the Empire and Obi Wan Kenobi Brom used to be part of it. I’m not sure why we couldn’t have been told this earlier, such that when Eragon overhears this he could have just been like “oh Brom’s part of the rebellion”. A lot of the plot in this book seems to be mysterious for the sole purpose of having a mystery.

“Would you mind if we went somewhere else to eat? It might be awkward if you came in right now.”

“Whatever makes you feel comfortable,” said Brom.

“The author needed an excuse to not have a scene in my house yet, so I’m just going to insist that we don’t go there for no particular reason.”

There’s a kind of amusing scene where Eragon tries to climb a tree that Saphira is perched in but gets stuck halfway up (the only good bits in this book are when Eragon and Saphira act snarky to each other), then Eragon and Brom start making preparations for their exciting shipping record-relate mission. However!

“I don’t think I’ll be able to help,” Eragon said, shifting uneasily.
“Why not?” asked Brom. “There will be plenty of work for you.”
Eragon lowered his head. “I can’t read.”

That’s an unusually grounded detail to have in a book like this. I approve.

The rest of the chapter is a whole boatload of blathering about books and why Eragon and Brom can’t use scrying to see the shipping records– that last point is expounded on in excruciating detail– but I won’t go into it since it’s incredibly dull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Let’s Read Eragon ch. 22

  1. Ben

    “Pidgin of misspelled terms from various cultures” is not the worst form of conlang (that’d be “X and Z are so exotic, especially when spiced up with apostrophes”) but it’s aggravating as fuck for how distracting it is to anyone with even a moderately thorough education. Every time that the stupid mark of the dragon rider, the “Gedwëy Ignasia,” comes up, I read it as the “Gateway [of] Ignatius,” which is laughable for how much it’s what I expect from a conlang by a fifteen-year-old trying to sound arcane and inscrutable. Like Signatus suggests above, it does feel like the Dunning-Kruger effect is at work here, in particular, insofar as Paolini is aware of other cultures’ histories and mythologies, which he finds evocative, yet it doesn’t occur to him that cribbing the words themselves for his fancy new language will confuse or annoy his intended audience, rather than make his language evocative too.

    Also, in English orthography, E-diaeresis is used to indicate that the E does not form a diphthong with the preceding vowel and should be pronounced separately, so I guess “Gedwëy” would be spoken as “ged-way-ee.” I’m not even going to guess where the stress is, there’s nowhere it sounds like it belongs. Tip to fantasy authors: I don’t mind conlangs as much as some, but do me a solid and make the words sound like sounds people could and would make. If you’re not sure what a letter, especially one with diacritics, sounds like, either look it up or, better yet, don’t use it at all! Thank you in advance.

    Reply
  2. Signatus

    “Apparently this character is based off of Paolini’s sister.”

    There is nothing wrong in using inspiration from people you know to work on a character. I recently used someone I go to a club with to work on dialogues from a certain character I was struggling with. The character only has certain similarities in the way they talk, but that’s about it. The thing is, the character EXISTED already, she was important to the plot (her actions are moving the plot, even when she doesn’t appear much), I just didn’t know yet how she sounded like. The problem is when you stuff a character in a book that’s not supposed to be there only because you want to give your best friend, sister, brother, whatever, some protagonism, and this is what ultimately Angela is. She feels forced into the book, plays minor roles and is quiet an annoying character, to be honest.

    “(hence of the chapter title)”

    Who would have guessed.

    I’ve started using chapter titles as guidance for ME, to know what’s going on whenever I need to go back to check some fact or something I might have forgotten (I usually keep a sketch but some minor stuff might not be there for whatever reason). I realized it didn’t make sense to struggle with a title where it had to be short, concise, explanatory enough but not revealing. When most of my time I spend it trying to figure out the chapter title, it’s not worth the effort. Many books don’t have chapter titles, and that doesn’t say anything about the quality of a story.

    “he vowed to look after whoever found the Thing”

    Really? Then why the fuck were you sitting in a God forsaken town at the end of the world for YEARS? BTW, this version changes by the third book I believe which shows Paolini is uncapable of maintaining a consistent story. Sorry, dude, but once you write a trilogy, you’re TIED to what you wrote on the first book. You can’t scratch it because you’ve thought of something that looks better.

    “(which he just sort of seems to know for no particular reason)”

    Get used to this. Eragon stops having magic tutelage at certain point in the following books and his magic skills keep growing out of thin air. In mere months he’s an expert at the old language, which I call bullshit. I’ve worked as a teacher, I have barely managed to somewhat master english, and there are still things I don’t know. It takes months to get the grasp of a language if you happen to be of very young age and live in a situation where the language is everywhere around you, and you’re forced to use it very, very frequently. Neither of those is the case of Eragon. He’s a 15-16 year old boy, well over the optimal age to learn a second language, and he uses it in certain circumnstances, not every day, hours and hours at a time, like would be the case of say going to an english speaking school with english speaking friends.

    “tempering the fool’s wisdom”

    I’m going for Dunning-Krugger effect, but I doubt Paolini actually knew about this. I don’t know, some concepts in this book seem more advance than what I’d expect in a 15 year old, while others seem exactly the sort of foolish, deep philosophy you’d expect in a 15 year old who thinks he’s so deep, and thoughtful and philosophical about the world.

    “Brom found something in Gil’ead and went to Carvahall to hide.”

    Ok, this is a plothole so big the Babylon 5 could fit in it. We all know what Brom stole, but still, (SPOILERS AHEAD). Brom NEVER went to Carvahall to hide anything. The egg was being walked around the country looking for someone who could make it hatch. Brom might have stolen the egg, but he NEVER hid it in Carvahall. His motives for being in Carvahall are way more melodramatic than hiding the egg. AND he had NO WAY of knowing the egg was going to hatch to Eragon so, again, he had no reason (related to the egg) to hide in Carvahall.

    Paolini, RE-READ, damn it. This things usually pop up upon a second re-read. And keep your ideas straight from page one. You have to have every single motive clear. Usually, when I re-write upon a second draft I don’t change the motives of my characters. I change dialogues, certain paragraphs that don’t look very good, but the general idea stays.

    “A lot of the plot in this book seems to be mysterious for the sole purpose of having a mystery.”

    Some writers believe keeping the story shrouded in mystery is going to keep your reader intrigued. This CAN work when your characters know nothing about what’s going on and they’re forced to discover it through their own means (which is the approach I like best, but I write urban fantasy with a focus on police which is what I like best, so it’s fairly easy). However, the moment you have a character knowing all this stuff, you better have a good explanation about why he’s keeping all this information to himself (I don’t trust you’re a spy for the empire could have worked), otherwise it looks forced and stupid. Obviously, Eragon is not a spy for the empire, and Brom is his mentor so, as I’ve said before, concealing all this information is stupid and dangerous. Lets not forget Eragon nearly killed himself using magic he ignored he could do and he walked around Carvahall with a stolen dragon egg. The same egg moments ago Brom said he had been protecting or something.

    “That’s an unusually grounded detail to have in a book like this. I approve.”

    I do too. Those are the rare bits that made me think Paolini had some talent there. Then he screwed up in the rest of the book but that’s actually a well thought out piece of information that makes the character look more real.

    Reply
    1. Ben

      I’m currently reading Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet and, although it has its ups and downs, the thing that I like the most about it is that there’s no attempt whatsoever to use the disparity between reader knowledge and character knowledge to force drama. In virtually all cases, readers learn information that influences the direction of the plot at the same time as the characters do (or, at least, readers are informed as soon as it’s narratively feasible for the author to take the aside) and the drama comes from the characters deciding what to do and the readers having the information to appreciate the enormity of the stakes there.

      It’s good enough that I’ve lost all patience for the forced mystery of your average fantasy epic. In many cases, keeping your reader in the dark is just the implicit fear that your plot wouldn’t be able to keep the reader engaged if they knew where it was going.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        That’s pretty much the approach I take. The reader is discovering what’s going on at the same time the characters do, and I let the reader speculate about the different options the same way the characters do. It doesn’t make sense to do it differently. But again, the focus in the type of books I write is precisely that, solving the case throughout it, discovering what’s going on, so I leave just enough hints for the readers to try to break the mystery by themselves even before the conclusion, instead of forcefully keeping them in the dark for no apparent reason.

        Everything about Brom is stupid. There IS a reason why he’s keeping his identity secret. It DOESN’T make sense to keep it secret from Eragon.

        I did play with this idea in one of my previous works. A character was concealing part of his identity (he revealed he was working for some secret organization, he said he was an academic for such organization but he kept part of his identity secret for purely personal reasons). I left enough hints so the readers knew what was going on and the moment of the big revelation was played with a huge shrug; “meh, I already knew it. You’re THAT obvious.” from the other character. I’m not saying I was right in my approach but, really, it made no sense to artificially conceal his identity when it WAS obvious from page one, and I wanted it to be obvious, only for drama’s sake or for the “BIG REVELATION!”.

        If mystery was supposed to be part of THIS book, then maybe the approach of concealing certain parts of the plot would have made sense. It isn’t. It looks, as you said, forced because the writer fears that their plot will not be interesting enough to keep the reader hooked until the end. One of the last books I read was Overwinter, by David Wellington. It’s not the best book I’ve read and I wrote a lengthy complain about the writer’s lack of research on wolves, which is the main focus of the book, but I’m using it as an example. Ever since you read the sypnosis you know what the book’s about. The main character is loosing her humanity and they have to race against the clock to find a cure. That’s the WHOLE plot. Throughout the book they discover stuff, they talk to people, speculate, trick spirits into revealing information, etc. There is no artificial mystery, you know exactly what the book’s about, and where it’s going. The journey is what’s keeping you reading on, the hope that they’ll win the fight, not knowing whether this will be a happy ending, bittersweet or a sad ending.

        Why can’t some fantasy authors realize it’s as simple as that? Get a good plot going, your readers will want to read till the end.

        Reply
        1. Nerem

          Also, I like how Reconguista In G did it. All the info is imparted through characters learning about it, avoiding info dumps of characters telling each other about what they already know without good cause, and the mysteries tend to be mysteries to everyone.

          Reply
    2. Nerem

      Signatus, do you have a blog or something? I keep wanting to chat with you about your book stuff or something without derailing too bad.

      Reply
      1. Signatus

        Nope, but maybe we can do something. I’ve got Facebook and I’ve got an account at some simple sprite collecting game forum, so whichever you find best.

        Reply
          1. Signatus

            Thank you. I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for a while, but to be honest I don’t know if I’m objective enough. After all, these are subjective opinions on what I consider makes a good book.

            But I’ll ponder about it some more. 🙂

          2. A. Noyd

            @Signatus
            What makes a good story is mostly subjective. Ronan here certainly isn’t objective about it. Sometimes I disagree with what he says on that topic, but it’s the pleasant sort of disagreement where one can still get something out of thinking about why the blogger feels that way.

            What’s more important and what attracts me to this blog is the social justice mindset and the elements of critique based on that. That’s where objectivity matters: deciding whether or not representation in fiction makes a difference to marginalized populations, whether a world of 99.99% straight characters is an accurate reflection of reality, whether white men have inherently superior intellects, etc.

            I don’t know how much social commentary you’d want to get into on your own blog, but as long as you’re as objective as possible for for things with definite answers, you should be fine.

          3. Signatus

            A. Noyd.

            Agreed, what I consider a good story is mostly subjective. Actually, this blog analyzed Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings as an example of bad literature, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The same is true for Dresden Files, of which it is known I’m a fan albeit the many problems I see in the books (mostly concerning sexism).

            I would get into social commentary where it is due, of which Twilight might be a fantastic example in terms of gender violence. If I were to analyze that book, I would sure heavily mention gender violence as I had the misfortune to suffer it myself, even when I was lucky to get out of it without a purple eye or dead (being driven in a Clio at 190 km/h is as much violence as it can get, and that’s just one of the many things he did to me).

            I think those are the things people ignore or don’t find them to be very important. I think they’re very important. Ignoring the sexualization of women in literature (heavy descriptions about their beauty and their breasts as sexually desirable atributes), the stereotypes of racial minorities, the appropiation of cultural aspects like the native american culture (of which there is HEAVY stealing throughout a lot of media), or cultural stereotypes (all asians are super smart, all spaniards are animal abusers and sevillana dancers, etc) is something I believe must be addressed with the hope this portrayals will vanish over time.

          1. Signatus

            The problem I see is I don’t want to leave personal data out in the open and I guess neither do you, so, how can we share our profiles without writing them here? 😛

  3. Andrea Harris

    You know, reading used to be a specialized skill like computer programming, everyone wasn’t expected to know how to do it to make a living or even be successful. I suppose it’s necessary to learn to read so you could be a real flash dragon wizard or whatever, but there’s no reason for Eragon to be ashamed of not knowing how to read otherwise.

    Reply
    1. Ben

      To look at historical counterparts, some medieval noblemen tried (and failed) to learn how to read and showed a great deal of shame about it. Charlemagne, for instance, struggled his entire adult life to read Latin, with the greatest minds of Latin Christendom teaching him, and, even at the end of his life, he could only work his way through the Vulgate with extreme difficulty and was resorting to superstitious tricks like sleeping with books under his pillow to help. It’s a touching detail about someone who was, briefly, the most powerful man in the world.

      On the other hand, inquisitional records from several centuries later show that many peasants and burghers relied on priests, notaries, and lawyers to read for them and seemed to have no problem with that arrangement, so diff’rent strokes. It’d be nice to know why Eragon feels ashamed that he can’t read, in the context of the novel, but I’m positive it’s just that he’s written by someone from the twenty-first century who takes for granted that literacy is the prerequisite for any amount of intelligence at all. Eragon is ashamed because Paolini imagines that he’d be ashamed.

      Reply
      1. Andrea Harris

        Maybe if there was a scene in the book before that where they meet up with some students or some people from a class in that society that reads & Eragon realized he was looked down on, or at least felt that way, it would work. Of course, I’m assuming this is just a standard pseudomedieval-plus-magic a-la-Tolkien fantasy setting, because that’s what it sounds like so far.

        Reply

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