Eragon 27-28: Of Reading and Plots

Pardon the unexpected hiatus…I just moved to a new state! Hopefully this blog will be back on track now that I’m a bit more settled in.

Chapter 27, “Of Reading and Plots” is…wait, is that seriously the chapter title?

Well, it’s boring, but I guess it’s better than “The Doom of Innocence”.

This is another disproportionately short chapter, and it mainly outlines Eragon’s time in Terim. There’s a severe lack of Saphira in this chapter, but it’s noted that she’s lonely hiding outside the city, with Eragon only being able to visit her in the evenings.

One thing that I wondered about most during this chapter is Eragon’s reading progress. He spends his morning with Brom learning how to read. After a week, he can read, albeit slowly, a page without Brom’s help. As far as cognitive development goes, most children are ready to read by ages 5 or 6. How long would it take to teach a fifteen-year-old to read? On one hand, it might take less time than a young child, because in theory, he’s already developed the cognition to be able to read, but just hasn’t put it into practice. On the other hand, even though he’s still young, his brain is already less plastic than a young child’s, and it would take longer for him to learn something new. This is why learning a new language is easier for children than adults.

Eragon also has a dream where he sees a beautiful chained woman and wakes up sobbing uncontrollably. I know it’s supposed to make me sad as well, but really…I don’t feel anything.

He saw a young woman, bent over by sorrow, chained in a cold, hard cell. A beam of moonlight shone through a barred window set high in the wall and fell on her face. A single tear rolled down her cheek, like a liquid diamond.

…except for maybe chuckling at the phrase “liquid diamond”. Nice one, Paolini.

Moving on to the next chapter, Brom, Eragon, and Jeod prepare to make their way into the castle where records are kept, so they can try to track down the oil the Ra’zac used.

From his waist swung an elegant rapier and a leather pouch. Brom eyed the rapier and observed, ‘That toad sticker is too thin for any real fighting. What will you do if someone comes after you with a broadsword or flamberge?’

‘Be realistic,’ said Joed. ‘None of the guards has a flamberge. Besides, this toad sticker is faster than a broadsword.’

For an embarrassingly long time, that paragraph was the only thing I knew about different types of swords. When I was writing my generic fantasy novels in high school, almost all the characters used rapiers because of Eragon, or katanas because I was a weeaboo nerd.

What’s really notable about this chapter is all the missed chances for excitement. They bribe their way into the records room and read as many scrolls as they can trying to find the route the oil took. Because that’s what I love about fantasy novels, watching the protagonists read about taxes and shipments.

Actually, I do like that they’re being practical about tracing the oil, with no over-the-top theatrics or magical aid. When they’re caught in the records room, though, there’s no chase scene, no fight…just Brom and Eragon hiding while Jeod deflects the guards, and they all sneak out safely.

Once they return to Jeod’s house, they pull out a map and look at all the cities the oil’s been shipped to, hoping they can find the right one that will lead them to the Ra’zac. This is when I’m really glad the book has a map of [Algaseia] on the front and back covers, so it’s easier to follow what the characters are talking about. Without it, a lot of what they’re saying would be nonsense, like when you listen to someone talk about places you’ve never heard of.

[T]he oil wasn’t sent to all of them. The parchment only lists Kuasta, Dras-Leona, and Belatona. Kuasta wouldn’t work for the Ra’zac; it’s on the coast and surrounded by mountains. Aroughs is isolated like Ceunon, though it is a center of trade. That leaves Belatona and Dras-Leona, which are rather close together. Of the two, I think Dras-Leona is likelier. It’s larger and better situated. 

That really bugs me. Eragon’s supposed to be this simple farm boy. He’s likely to have never left Palancar Valley before this story begins, and only just learned to read. But suddenly he knows all about geography and of places he’s never seen before, just by looking at a map?

This is the same issue I had with the dialogue before. Make it flowery or plain, give me an educated young man or a simple farm boy–I just want consistency. Is that so much to ask?

Although, Joed brings up something I hadn’t thought of.

If someone were to die from Seither oil in Galbatorix’s court, it would be all to easy for an earl or some other lord to discover that the Empire has been buying large amounts of it.

I always pictured Galby in some desolate stronghold, mad and alone. The idea that he has a “court”, like lords and ladies, nobility…it doesn’t fit in my mind. I’m having a hard time getting the two ideas to mesh.

But also, why would anyone care if their autocrat has the dangerous oil? What would people do? Protest? Riot? Why would they? That’s one good thing about being an amoral, evil dictator. You don’t have to worry about public opinion, because you can just execute the public whose opinions you don’t like.


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