Christopher Paolini, Author . Knopf $21 (681p) ISBN 978-0-375-82670-2

This phone-book size second helping in Paolini's planned Inheritance Trilogy picks up with the battle-scarred but conquering hero, first introduced in Eragon, and his dragon, Saphira. As the novel opens, the two are neck-deep in political intrigue over choosing a successor to replace Ajihad, the Varden's slain leader. The scope of the story expands when Eragon and Arya, the elfin ambassador he not-so-secretly lusts after, head to Ellesméra so he can complete his training as a Rider. Eragon's cousin, Roran, makes a more perilous journey, leading the townspeople of Carvahall in pursuit of the villain Galbatorix and his cronies, who have kidnapped Roran's fiancée—hoping to bait Eragon and Saphira. The narrative shifts occasionally to follow the troubles plaguing Nasuada, Ajihad's daughter, who now leads the Varden. Fans of the first volume will find even more of the same here: a wealth of descriptive detail, mythic archetypes and prolonged battle sequences. Here, the inspiration sometimes seems less Tolkien than Star Wars (Eragon says "Yes, Master" frequently). The most affecting element remains the tender relationship between dragon and Rider, and teens will empathize as the object of Eragon's affection (repeatedly) spurns him, his teacher humbles him and he struggles with questions about God and vegetarianism. Readers who persevere are rewarded with walloping revelations in the final pages, including the meaning of the title and the identity of the red dragon on the cover. The story leaves off with a promise—To Be Continued. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 07/25/2005
Release date: 08/01/2005
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