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Book Review

Eldest by Christopher Paolini has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the "Inheritance Cycle" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In the previous book, Dragon Rider Eragon killed the evil spirit Durza. Now he is treated with respect among the Varden, a group of freedom fighters who oppose Galbatorix, the cruel king of Alagaesia. After the battle at Farthen Dur, the leader of the Varden is killed, and Eragon's close friend Murtagh is kidnapped by Urgals. Eragon mourns for his losses but knows that he and his dragon, Saphira, must stay strong and continue their battle training.

Meanwhile, Eragon's older cousin, Roran, is still in the village of Carvahall, mourning his dead father. Roran is angry with Eragon for leaving Carvahall, but he does not know that Eragon left because he found a dragon egg. Soldiers and monsters called the Ra'zac appear in Carvahall looking for Roran.

Nasuada, the new leader of the Varden, decides to move the Varden from Tronjheim to the country of Surda. Nasuada says the Varden will prepare to attack King Galbatorix. In response to Eragon's bravery in battle, King Hrothgar of the dwarves makes Eragon an honorary member of his royal family. Arya, an elf, and Eragon prepare to go to Ellesmera in the forest of Du Weldenvarden to see the elf Queen Islanzadi and continue Eragon's training as a Rider.

Roran helps the citizens of Carvahall fight against the cruel soldiers that occupy their town. The rebellion is unsuccessful, and the Ra'zac demand that the citizens of Carvahall surrender Roran for questioning. If they do not, the Ra'zac plan to eat everyone in the village. Roran and his girlfriend, Katrina, pledge to marry. Roran leads the women and children of Carvahall to hide in a wilderness area called the Spine to protect them from the Ra'zac. The Ra'zac follow them and kidnap Katrina.

When Eragon, Arya and Saphira arrive in Ellesmera, Queen Islanzadi welcomes Eragon and Saphira and embraces Arya. Arya is Islanzadi's daughter, a princess of the elves. Islanzadi and Arya are reconciled after their 70-year separation, and the elves celebrate Eragon's arrival. Islanzadi reveals that Eragon is not the only Dragon Rider still living. An elf named Oromis and his gold dragon, Glaedr, agree to mentor Eragon and Saphira. Glaedr is missing a forelimb, and Oromis has been supernaturally crippled. He cannot use magic, so he and Glaedr are not capable of fighting and beating Galbatorix. However, they are both dedicated to helping Eragon and Saphira.

Roran resolves to rescue everyone in Carvahall by abandoning the village and traveling to find the Varden. Roran persuades many of the villagers to come with him.

In Surda, Nasuada is worried that the Varden are becoming unruly. Nasuada goes to see Elva, a tiny child that Eragon accidentally cursed. Elva has aged several years in just a few weeks and can sense other people's pain. Elva is cursed to help cure people's pain, either physical or emotional, and she suffers if she avoids helping them.

Oromis teaches Eragon physical exercises, history and ancient languages in order to make him a better Rider. Oromis teaches Eragon how to sense all life around him, from animals to insects to plants. Eragon's feelings for Arya grow, but Arya does not return his interest. Saphira flirts with the golden dragon Glaedr, but Eragon tells her not to distract Glaedr.

Roran and the villagers of Carvahall arrive in the port city of Narda and find passage on barges travelling to Teirm.

Saphira attempts to mate with Glaedr, but he rejects her. At the Agaeti Blodhren festival of the elves, Eragon tells Arya that he likes her romantically. Arya rejects Eragon's request for a relationship. During the festival, a magic ritual heals Eragon's wound from Durza the Shade and gives him the strength and speed of an elf warrior.

Roran and the villagers arrive in Teirm and go see a man named Jeod. Jeod tells Roran that his cousin, Eragon, found a dragon egg and is now living with the Varden. Roran, the villagers and Jeod make plans to steal a ship and sail to Surda to join the Varden.

Young Elva saves Nasuada from an assassination attempt. Nasuada learns that Galbatorix is marching 100, 000 troops toward Surda to wipe out the Varden.

Roran and the villagers sail across the Boar's Eye whirlpool, fleeing from the Empire's ships.

Eragon and Saphira fly to Surda. Eragon meets Elva again. Elva forgives Eragon for cursing her. Eragon promises to reverse the spell after the battle is over. In preparation for the battle, Eragon takes leadership of the magicians of Du Vrangr Gata, and Nasuada makes an alliance with some Urgals. Eragon does not trust the Urgals at first, but they prove to be worthy allies.

In the battle with Galbatorix's army, Eragon kills many soldiers with his magic. Roran arrives in Surda and joins the battle. King Hrothgar and a large troop of dwarves also arrive and help the Varden. An unknown Rider on a red dragon appears and kills Hrothgar. Eragon and Saphira fight the enemy Rider, who finally reveals himself as Murtagh. Murtagh says he was captured by Galbatorix and forced to join him. Murtagh says that he and Eragon are brothers, sons of Morzan the Forsworn Rider. Eragon refuses to join Murtagh in fighting for Galbatorix. Murtagh leaves, and the Varden win the battle.

Roran and Eragon apologize to each other for the harsh feelings between them. Through magic, Eragon sees that Roran's fiancée Katrina is still alive. Roran and Eragon resolve to go to Dras-Leona to fight the Ra'zac and free Katrina.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Eragon has a telepathic link with Saphira. Eragon wonders at one point if the two of them have merged so much that he is no longer fully human. Glaedr the dragon explains that when a dragon and a Rider bond, their souls are linked. Glaedr also teaches that human and dragon souls do not continue to exist after death.

Du Vrangr Gata are magic users allied with the Varden. Trianna is a young sorceress of Du Vrangr Gata who offers to teach Eragon how to summon spirits. Trianna wears a snake-shaped bracelet called Lorga and says that Lorga is her familiar.

A minor character named Angela is a witch and herbalist. Solembum, a werecat who can turn from a cat into a boy, accompanies her.

The dwarves have a temple where they worship their gods. The priests pray to a warrior-god called Guntera. They burn offerings to Guntera before important events such as battles and funerals. Guntera supposedly formed the dwarves' country out of the skeleton of a giant. Eragon sees statues of the dwarf gods in the temple. Arya argues that while Eragon may benefit from understanding the dwarves' beliefs, he does not have to accept them as truth.

Elves do not believe in prayer to any god. Elves only believe in what they can prove, and Oromis is not sure whether a divine being created the world of Alagaesia.

The forest of Du Weldenvarden is full of enchantments. At one point, Eragon hears elves singing in the forest for Dagshelgr, a saturnalia festival. During Dagshelgr, the elves sing in the ancient language to make the plants and animals of the forest more fertile.

Queen Islanzadi has an intelligent pet crow named Blagden, who speaks in riddles and predicts the future. Eragon meets an aging werecat named Maud in Ellesmera.

The Menoa tree in Ellesmera is sentient. Arya says that an old elf named Linnea magically sang herself into unity with the tree after she murdered her unfaithful mate.

Four-year-old Elva has the intelligence of an adult and can see a few hours into the future. She is cursed with the need to alleviate others' pain, even to her own detriment.

After receiving a blessing from the spirits of the ancient dragons, Eragon is stronger, faster and better able to concentrate. As he listens to nature with his heightened senses, he wonders what it feels like to be a god. Eragon decides to value all forms of life equally and mourns when he kills mice and ants during a magic spell.

Authority Roles

Ajihad is respected as the leader of the Varden. He loves his daughter, Nasuada. In the previous book, Ajihad wanted to keep her from fighting. At Ajihad's funeral, all his comrades honor him. Nasuada grieves for her father and respects his goals and ideals.

Eragon swears fealty to Nasuada, and she reminds him that although he has promised to serve her, she also owes him her loyalty and protection.

Roran wants to marry Katrina, but he does not feel right about marrying her without her a blessing from her father, Sloan. In time, Katrina and Roran do defy Sloan's wishes by becoming engaged despite his objections. Sloan responds by disowning Katrina and refusing to give her a dowry.

Roran can speak persuasively, and many of the people in Carvahall listen to his counsel. Roran's older friend Horst warns Roran that he must follow through on his promises. Horst says that Roran is responsible for the people he influences. Roran attends to the physical and emotional well-being of the people he commands.

Arya is Queen Islanzadi's daughter, disowned because the queen thought Arya should not become a lowly messenger elf. Islanzadi apologizes for ignoring Arya for 70 years, and Arya accepts her apology. However, the damage has still been done, and Arya resents being separated from her mother for so long. Islanzadi is shown to be emotionally fragile. Oromis says that he did not provide Islanzadi with some key pieces of information about Brom because the knowledge would have made her withdraw even further into the safety of Ellesmera. Islanzadi loves her own people and is willing to aid the Varden, but she has intentionally ignored the plight of Alagaesia's oppressed humans.

Oromis says that power without morality is dangerous. Oromis is a wise mentor who cautions Eragon to control his emotions, especially his unruly feelings for Arya and his anger toward the young elves who taunt him.

Eragon decides to endure the pain of his training with Oromis so that he can defend the people of Alagaesia. Eragon learns that he has mangled the ancient language of magic and that (in the previous book) he accidentally cursed a child he intended to bless. Oromis says that Eragon is responsible for the girl because he created her and changed her destiny.

When some of the Varden in Surda accidentally shoot at him, Eragon gives orders to make sure they are not punished for their impulsiveness. Eragon heals many of the wounded Varden.


Many times the book notes that a character is swearing without printing the actual profanity. Arse, b--tards, and d--ned are used. The British obscenity b-ggering is also used, and it indicates that one person has caused irreparable harm to another person.

The Ra'zac are cannibals. When the Empire's soldiers kill a man in Carvahall, the Ra'zac return his skeleton to his family after they have eaten the body. The man's 13-year-old son is later seen repeatedly stabbing a soldier's corpse in revenge for his father.

Roran initially keeps count of the men he has killed and relives their violent deaths. He remembers eight men, but soon loses count of the killings. He kills deceitful twins by smashing their heads with a hammer.

Throughout the novel, men are killed with swords, spears, axes, knives and arrows. Arya makes brief references to the torture she endured while imprisoned. Eragon kills men with the power of his mind, and Saphira burns men alive with her fire-breath.


Eragon wants a romantic relationship with Arya. He does not kiss her, but he does offend her by repeatedly telling her about his feelings. Arya feels that because she is 100 years old and Eragon is 16, they would not be a suitable match. Saphira and Oromis both warn Eragon that his affection for Arya is misplaced. Eragon does not listen to them and keeps pursuing Arya until she makes a point of avoiding him. They become friends again at the end of the book.

Roran and Katrina kiss. They want to marry, but Roran lacks the money to support her. Roran's friend Baldor suggests that Roran could still have sex with Katrina even if she married someone else, but Roran does not approve of this idea. An older married woman named Elain tells Roran that if he has wooed Katrina away from her father's house simply because of lust, he is wrong. Elain says that Katrina must have a man who will protect her and provide for her, not a man who will have fun with her and then leave. Roran says his intentions toward Katrina have always been honorable. The night before she is kidnapped, Katrina comes to sleep beside Roran. It is not clear if they have sex.

Trianna the sorceress hints that she'd like a romantic relationship with Eragon, but Saphira objects to her. Saphira calls Trianna a slattern and reminds Eragon that he must choose his sweetheart wisely. If Eragon falls in love with anyone, Saphira says she will also love that person because of her mental link with Eragon.

Saphira is sad that she has no mate because there are no male dragons left. She is very impressed with Glaedr, Oromis' golden dragon. In her enthusiasm to mate, Saphira apparently attacks Glaedr. He fights her off, which leaves both of them wounded. Glaedr insists that Saphira's intended mate is one of Galbatorix's unhatched male eggs.

Oromis and Eragon bathe together in a stream. Eragon is curious about Oromis' body and makes a point of studying him. Eragon notices that Oromis has no body hair, not even around his groin.

Oromis says that the child Eragon accidentally cursed is a shame to him, just as if she were a child born out of wedlock.

Elves do not practice marriage. They become mates for as long as they want to be mated and part ways when they are no longer interested.

During a festival in Ellesmera, there is a scene where twin elf sisters disrobe. The twins display a giant dragon tattoo that stretches across both their bodies. They hold on to each other and perform a dance that summons a dragon spirit.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Carvahall has a tavern. Characters drink wine and ale. At a party, Saphira gets drunk on four barrels of mead, and she has a hangover the next day. Orik the dwarf gets drunk on faelnirv, an elvish alcoholic beverage.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Christopher Paolini






Record Label



Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Books.


On Video

Year Published



Quill Award, 2006


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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