Author: Christopher Paolini
Genre: YA fantasy
Publisher: Knopf Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook edition from the public library
Audiobook reader: Gerard Doyle
First line: The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living.
I’ve been listening to Eldest on audiobook for a while now. I’ve found that with longer audiobooks, it helps to alternate discs, so I’ve been listening to one disc of Breath of Snow and Ashes, then one disc of Eldest since before Christmas. They are both wonderful, with terrific narrators – but long. (BOSAA is 48 discs; Eldest is 20.)
Eldest picks up right where Eragon left off, storywise, but with a huge jump in the writing ability of the author. Christopher Paolini had an amazing story to tell in the first book in the Inheritance series, and for his age, the writing was pretty darn good. But, it was a bit rough in parts – which I noticed when reading it aloud to my kids; it didn’t flow very smoothly. Eldest, however, does not suffer from this problem.
Eragon has just survived the battle of Farthen Dur, though he has been wounded severely by the shade, Durza. When Ajihad is killed, his daughter Nasuada takes over as leader of the Varden and sends Eragon to the Elves to complete his training as a rider. Not only does Eragon learn how to control his magic and what it means to be a rider, but he learns about the burden of responsibility he has taken on in his role as champion of the Varden. He knows that a battle with Galbatorix is in his future, and his teacher Oromis, does his best to prepare him.
Alternately, Eragon’s cousin, Roran, has been left behind to deal with the after-effects of his father’s murder by the Razac. The Razac have returned, determined to capture Roran and use him as bait to draw Eragon out. Roran must step up as the leader of Carvahall, and his new role as leader will force him to do things he never imagined – and will cost him much.
This is a much more internal book than Eragon. It’s not slow in any way, and there is still plenty of action, but there is a lot of internal struggling and growth in both Eragon and Roran, and I enjoyed watching them both grow in maturity. In some ways, Eragon still acts like a teenage boy – which he is – and my heart ached for some of the mistakes he makes in the name of love. I also really enjoyed where Paolini took the character of Roran, and the way he steps up as the leader of the townspeople of Carvahall.
Gerard Doyle reads the audio version of Eldest and does a remarkable job with different accents and inflections. There is a large cast of characters, including elves, dwarves, and dragons, and I never had trouble knowing which character was speaking at any given time. I am planning to listen to book three, Brisingr, on audio as well.