Christopher Paolini, Author . Knopf $18.95 (544p) ISBN 978-0-375-82668-9

In the first volume in Paolini's planned Inheritance trilogy, 15-year-old Eragon discovers an odd blue gemstone while exploring an infamous stretch of forest. It is a dragon egg, fated to hatch in his care. Eragon quickly develops a psychic connection with the female dragon that emerges, whom he names Saphira ("His emotions were completely open to her mind, and she understood him better than anyone else"). Eragon narrowly escapes doom with Saphira's help, but the uncle who raised him is killed, setting up a robust revenge/adventure tale. The scope quickly expands: Eragon turns out to be the first of a new generation of Riders, a lodge of legendary dragon-riding warriors killed by the evil King Galbatorix. As a result, he becomes the focal point in a war between Galbatorix's forces and the resistance efforts of the Varden. Paolini, who was 15 years old himself when he began this book, takes the near-archetypes of fantasy fiction and makes them fresh and enjoyable, chiefly through a crisp narrative and a likable hero. He carries a substantial Tolkien influence—fanciful spellings of geographical names, the use of landscape as character, as well as the scale and structure of the story itself. But his use of language dispenses with the floral, pastoral touch in favor of more direct prose. The likeness does not end there: the volume opens with a detailed map of Paolini's world, and ends with a glossary and pronunciation guide for his invented language. An auspicious beginning to both career and series. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/21/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
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