Review of Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini -- Eragon, Eldest and Brisingr
Inheritance Cycle Review
Brisingr, Paolini's latest installment in the Inheritance Cycle [ Alfred A. Knopf, 2008] fits well into any fantasy unit. This book is more suited for strong readers in the upper levels of middle school or high school students who can still enjoy a novel with flying dragons. All of the books are rather long, with Brisingr clocking in with over 700 pages, Eragon has 544 pages and Eldest has a whopping 1056 pages. However, the main character Eragon has that farm-boy-average-kid-turned-hero appeal in which many students will be able to identify.
Fantasy Plot and Characters
These books have a fictional world called Alagaesia, flying dragons, tough dwarves, magical warrior elves, and even an imaginary language. A student's creative mind will be put in overdrive as they imagine these far-away places. The plot is somewhat complex with warring tribes and the wicked Galbatorix, who wants to rule all of the Empire. The good versus evil theme is key to the plot. Students may struggle with the places that Paolini creates; however, he does give a map.
Among the strong good male characters number Roran, who is his brother/cousin who he grew up with on the farm. Roran has lost his love Katrina to evil Galbatorix, who has stolen her. Brom is the story teller turned mentor/trainer, with a twist that the reader learns later. And, of course, there is Eragon, who is Saphira's rider. The Dragon Ridger grows up before our eyes and becomes a sword wielding hero. He has many important decisions to make that affect the whole empire.
As for the good girls, Eragon is enamored with Arya, who is a tough elf and is quite a bit older than him, over 100-years-old. She tries to rebuff him, but there may be something more to their relationship in the last book. Angela can predict the future and shows up in all three books with her interesting cat. The best female character is Saphira, the dragon. She is tough yet mothers Eragon.
These books may not be ones that a teacher would assign as a whole class read. The Inheritance Cycle or the first book Eragon would be great for a literature circle. Students could help each other with the vocabulary, places, multiple characters and the intense politics. Students could map out the whole Empire, make a flow chart of all the characters, or even become experts of the different groups: Dwarves, Elves, Urgals, Shades, Ra'zac, Varden, etc.
In addition, the Eragon movie is now on DVD. Students could watch it and compare the book to the movie. There are many differences between the book and movie. A comparison paper could also be written about the book and the Star Wars trilogy or The Ring trilogy. It is not as good as those, but there are definitely some comparisons to be made.
For those teachers who participate in Accelerated Reader, the book levels range from Eragon 5.6, Eldest 7.1 Brisingr 7.3 and will be out of range for many middle school students. However, those who can read at that level will plow through it for the massive Accelerated Reader points and the adventure.
Use of Series
Hooking students on a book that has additional books in a series is a great way to create strong readers. Once they are invested in a character, they want to learn more about him or her. Keeping students reading can sometimes be difficult, but when they find a character or basic plot that they like, they will spend every extra moment reading. That in turn does improve vocabulary and help test scores.
So, put Eragon in a student's hands and see if he or she enjoys the fantasy. There is still one more book in the series to be written. So, if a fan of Paolini and Eragon is created, the student will have to wait for the final chapter.