What with all of the hype surrounding Christopher Paolini's INHERITANCE CYCLE, it's no surprise that a companion book like this has come along. With a range of contributors who vary from the almost recognizable to the moderately obscure, the title's promise that these are "your favorite authors" might be slightly inaccurate. However, they prove you don't have to be well-known to have something to say.
I found the majority of the essays entertaining, and a smaller segment of them were actually thought-provoking. The topics covered by the essays include explorations of Paolini's own background and how it has affected the way that his stories are received, with many essays touching upon the topic of Paolini's relative youth and either defending him or making excuses.
However, by far my favorite of the essays were those that ignored Paolini's age and simply talked about the world he'd created, placing it within a cultural and historical context and trying to show the ways in which he was and is innovative in children's fantasy, as well as the ways in which he does draw heavily upon those who came before him.
When I received this book, I was worried that the tenor of the essays would be entirely congratulatory. I have read ERAGON and ELDEST, but let's just say I'll be looking for BRISINGR at the library rather than the bookstore. One of the things I disliked the most about his work is its excessive borrowing from its fantasy predecessors, to the point where the books read like a patchwork quilt of Tolkein, McCaffrey, and Campbell.
The essays in this book did not shy away from admitting this, and from acknowledging some of Paolini's other weaknesses. But they also countered weaknesses with strengths wherever possible. Jeremy Owen's essay "It's in His Character" discusses Owen's own attachment to Roran during Eldest, and how Roran's strength of character comes in part from a perception of Eragon's weakness at that time. When Roran is fighting battles and making decisions, Eragon spends page after page training with the elves. Many readers have complained that ELDEST is a slower read than ERAGON, and Owen agrees with this, but his essay points out that within a narrative where ground gained is measured in inches, Roran's daring stands out even further, making him into a fantastic character.
There are many more essays in this book worth reading, and even a few worth loving. I would recommend it to all fans of children's fantasy, since many of the essays discuss or allude to the giants who have come before Paolini, explaining the context for this saga.
Reviewed by: Candace Cunard