Chapters A Twin Disaster, the Council of Elders
"The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living. So thought Eragon as he stepped over a twisted and hacked Urgal, listening to the keening of women who removed loved ones from the blood-muddied ground of Farthen Dur." (Eldest 1)
This is the first lines of Eldest, our introduction to the second book of the Inheritance Trilogy and our trip into the land of Eragon. Let us look at these two lines. First of all the songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living. When I first read this sentence I thought that the dead were singing, lamenting for the living. Which would indicate that the dead were not so dead. And thus the extremely wounded crying out for a healer. Either that or Eragon is hearing voices, if he's hearing the dead. But really, why would the dead sing? And while we're at it, this is an awfully purple prose thought to have. Who really thinks such things when they're walking through a field ridden with corpses? I would think they would comment on the smell, the sight of carnage, the countless dead, but not lamentations of the dead. Which moves us to the second sentence "So thought Eragon" who writes like this? It's pretentious and stilted. It's trying to move the story into a higher ground of language that isn't supported by the text. Paolini continues to try this by inserting the word "Keening" instead of "crying". Keening may be the correct word to use, but it feels out of place.
And that's a paragraph for the first two sentences. We're moving along quite well, aren't we?
Eragon ponders the dead. There are a lot of them. But they don't smell. (This reminds me of Miss Formulaic's Gaint Womb of Doom, that also didn't smell. Both were amateurish writing... coincidence.. I think not.) And he has back problems. Apparently the scar he has (twin to Murtagh's as the Eragon summary points out so it must be important) every so often causes him great pain and causes him to go into spasms. Now, what other person has a scar that twinges mysteriously? Why Harry Potter. Though Harry's scar hurts for particular reasons, ie when Voldemort is feeling strong emotions. Eragon's scar hurts just because. Why, because it is something neat and supposed to be something interesting for Eragon to have. Three times he tried to assist in the recovery effort but every time he starts spasming. So it seems like this wound kicks in when ever he tries to do some heavy labor. At least this is my guess from what the text tells me. Either that or Eragon is saying that he's having spasms to get out of work.
We learn that Eragon's uncle was killed several months before and that one death apparently prepared him for the ravages of a battle field. Now, I admit to having absolutely no experience with these things, but I would think that one body, which wasn't horribly physically injured does not at all inure you to a battle field of cut up body parts. But Eragon isn't too terribly bothered by all the dead people. Instead he's thinking about himself.
He thinks about how he's hurt, how he only survived by luck and that he seriously needs more training. He then picks up a molar he finds on the battle field and starts to play with it.
And I quote, "He bent and plucked a tooth, a molar from the dirt. Bouncing it on his palm..." (page 2) Earlier he was commenting on the need to respect the dead, but here he's playing with one of their body parts. He's absently mindedly playing with tooth, proving that he doesn't really care about the people around him. This is something that a sociopath villain would do.
We're two pages into Eldest, and we've already proven that Eragon, our hero, is completely detached from reality and a budding sociopath. Somehow I don't think this is what Paolini was trying to go for.
The tooth vanishes. It obviously wasn't important, except for maybe to show what sort of person Eragon is. Meanwhile Eragon is summoned because Ajihad is returning with Murtagh and the twins. Arya is there. There's a lovely bit of description of her, "The white bandage around her upper arm gleamed in the darkness, reflecting a faint highlight onto the bottom of her hair." This is a piece of utterly useless description that doesn't really describe anything. Eragon is very excited to see her though, getting a "small thrill".
We learn about the Star Sapphire, and Eragon is filled with sorrow like the dwarves. The dwarves however aren't shown to be sorrowful and neither is Eragon. We're just told that he is. They wait for Ajihad, Murtagh and the twins. Where do they wait for him? A couple of miles away from the tunnel. Why don't they wait for Ajihad at the entrance? Because then we can't have this following dramatic scene:
The group see Ajihad and his friends leave the tunnel, and then see Ajihad get attacked by Urgals. Something magical happens as Eragon and Saphira rush to his rescue but they're too late. Ajihad dies giving Eragon his final command. It's very dramatic. Sort of. Completely avoidable though, if they had been at the entrance of the tunnel in the first place. This is something that is a sign of some of Paolini's sloppy writing. He wants to kill of Ajihad (for some reason) and get rid of Murtagh and the twins. And he needs Eragon to get his last command. If Eragon had been there he could have stopped this all from happening. But since he needs it to happen, he contrives for something illogical to happen. After all, who waits for someone a couple miles away from the entrance, when they could wait at the entrance.
Murtagh and the twins are apparently missing though. The Urgals took them. But they don't take prisoners. So they must be dead. Because the Urgals don't take prisoners. Arya goes after the Urgals into a maze of tunnels with no way of knowing which way they went. Jormundur (Ajihad's second) says something long and inspiring about Ajihad and we get our first mention of the gods.
Saphira, we learn, is a budding pyromaniac constantly setting things on fire. We're told this, instead of shown it. We could have had a cute scene of Saphria setting something on fire and being scolded, thus delving into her personality some, but instead we just get two sentences about it.
Arya finds some of Murtagh's and one of the Twin's clothes. She can't scry on them. So Eragon gets to cry for Murtagh's death. He cries dramatically. "Darkness enveloped the liquid turning it into a small dot of night on his silver palm. Movement flickered through it, like the swish of a bird across a clouded moon... and then nothing. Another tear joined the first" (page 10). It's a very lovely sentence... but I have no idea what it's supposed to be describing. It's just useless bit of description that could have been easily cut.
Eragon then has a pain spasm. There isn't any particular story reason for this to happen. It just happens. Though Eragon gets to be dramatic and say things like, "We have to. We're obliged as dragon and Rider to make a public choice regarding the next head of the Varden, and perhaps even influence the selection." (page 11)
They eat discussing who the next leader of the Varden could be. It goes on for a bit, and they're afraid that the next leader will be a puppet. But a puppet for whom, it doesn't say. They meet a small boy who takes them to the village Elders...sorry the Varden Elders. I don't know why I wrote Village. One would think that in a resistance movement like the Varden there would be a strict hierarchy of leadership, since it should be more militaristic than democratic. In Eragon it's said the people in the dwarf city are the fighters and not the civilian population who were elsewhere. Therefor it would be assumed that the Varden at the dwarf city are military. So it should be obvious who the next person in the succession is. And there shouldn't be a council of elders either, since this is a military operation. The second in command, whoever that is, should be next in command. There shouldn't be any sort of discussion.
In any case Eragon talks to the council of Elders and they talk about who they want to be in power. They obviously want the power for themselves, but they want it through a puppet. The puppet being Ajihad's daughter Nasuada. Personally, what I would have done, is have the council take over the Varden and rule over Varden that way. A council is perfectly capable of leading the Varden as a single person. But there's something less dramatic about a council instead of a single person leading the Varden into battle. So, they need a single person to be their leader.
The council makes Eragon promise to swear fealty to the new leader, Nasuada.
The chapter ends with Nasuada accepting the offer of leadership.
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