Remember how I’m taking over my library’s bookgroup?  And how they decided to read Eragon?  And how I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it?  The group meets tomorrow afternoon, and I’ve still got 300 pages to go, but at least it’s making me laugh.

Gosh, where to start?  There was that awesome first sentence: “Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.”  That left me speechless.  Okay, not really – did the scent really change the world?  Or the person/thing that gave off the scent (and honestly, I’m not really sure what the scent is supposed to be – the elves?  This is one rare example of Paolini not overdescribing something.)

Then there was that awful description of a massacred town that had me snorting with laughter.  It takes real skill to make a massacre – and a dead baby – the funniest scene in a book.

Then there’s the fact that Eragon doesn’t have much of a personality.  I suppose if you’re reading for plot and fantasy elements, the hero’s personality isn’t too much of an issue.  He gets snappy over things, like you would expect from a teen boy, resenting advice adults.  He likes to wander in the forest by himself, hunting.  He lives at subsistance level on a farm in the mountains, but it’s not until he sets off on his adventures that he gets muscles (seriously?)  “The long days and strenuous work stripped Eragon’s body of excess fat.  His arms became corded, and his tanned skin rippled with lean muscles.  Everything about me is turning hard, he thought dryly” (170-171).

I have many predictions about where the plot will go, who Eragon’s father will turn out to be, etc. etc.  But who knows, maybe I’ll be surprised.  I’m curious to see if the characters develop much, because right now I feel ambivalent about them.  I’d be curious to see how the Knopf edition differs from the original, self-published version.  It is a remarkable effort from a teenager, and kids do respond well to it.  Witness the bookgroup member whose mother, when I called with a reminder about the meeting, told me that he’d put off starting it, but once he picked it up was totally hooked.

Paolini obviously grew up on a diet of Tolkien, which is making me think about the ways Tolkien manages to make things work, while Paolini doesn’t always succeed.  I think there was more humor in Tolkien, and a better sense of tragedy, too.  And characters that felt living and breathing.  They do have those blasted elven poems in common, though.  Skim, skim, skim.