Eldest picks up about a day after the end of the previous book, and apparently between Eragon has turned into an even more pretentious douche literally overnight. Okay, over THREE nights, but my point sticks.

The songs of the dead are the lamentations of the living.

This is apparently Eragon's Fortune Cookie thought of the day. Like most of Eragon's thoughts, it doesn't make a lot of sense - presumably the dead aren't singing, and even if they were, their songs wouldn't be sung by the living… or they'd be the songs of the living.

Ah, fuckit. I'm not going to stress over trying to figure that out.

Anyway, Eragon is wandering over a battlefield of dead bodies and listening to people screaming in grief. This doesn't seem to upset him much... which is an ongoing thing with this character, especially in this book and the next one.

listening to the keening of women who removed loved ones from the blood-muddied ground of Farthen Dûr.

Very weird phrases here. "Keening" is odd enough as a word, but it does sort of work…. but "removing" people from the ground makes it sound like there are dead bodies in mailboxes. "Carried" would have worked better.

It was three days since the Varden and dwarves had fought the Urgals for possession of Tronjheim, the mile-high, conical city nestled in the center of Farthen Dûr,

Is anyone else thinking of Tronjheim as being like a giant dunce cap? Why would you have a conical city INSIDE A HOLLOW MOUNTAIN? Why not have the city spread out across the hollow mountain instead of cramming everybody into one tiny space in a very bizarre shape?

Now the place is still filled with dead bodies, which they're apparently having trouble dealing with. That might have something to do with being INSIDE A GIANT HOLLOW MOUNTAIN, which is presumably made of rock. Maybe if they went OUTSIDE the mountain and found a nice field, they could bury people.

The exception, of course, is the Urgals who, being the Evil Orc Ripoffs, don't get burials. They just get burned in a bonfire. Weirdly, there is no mention of any smells coming from those fires. Actually, there don't seem to be funky corpse smells… anywhere. Don't dead bodies usually smell really bad? Especially since I imagine there would also be crap, and vomit, and dried blood… I'm going to stop, because I'm about to eat lunch.

And apparently because dragging around dead bodies and digging holes is unbefitting a Designated Hero, Eragon has a Heroic Injury. Specifically, he has a back injury that starts hurting whenever he's called on to do work. Not when he does stuff like bend over or ride Saphira or run…. just when he works.

The healers gave him various potions to drink. Arya and Angela said that he was perfectly sound. Nevertheless, he hurt.

… sounds to me like the little wuss is trying to get out of working. Lazy bastard. "Ohhh ohhhh my aching back! Oh, it hurts so! Only when I'm working!"

And so we can know what's going on, Eragon starts thinking about all the stuff that went on in the end of the last book.

Three days since he had killed Durza; three days since people began calling him Shadeslayer

Cuz a Designated Hero needs a cool nickname. Of course, anything with "slayer" in it automatically sounds kind of goofy - "Shadesbane" would have been a cooler name.

three days since the remnants of the sorcerer’s consciousness had ravaged his mind and he had been saved by the mysterious Togira Ikonoka, the Cripple Who Is Whole.

Aka less cool Yoda. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Just wait and see.

Fighting Durza and the dark spirits that controlled him had transformed Eragon; although for better or for worse he was still unsure.

Note how he doesn't mention exactly what this "transformation" involves, presumably because Eragon - being a Stu - isn't actually going to change except by becoming More Speshul Than Ever. Usually in a Stu/Sue, it involves becoming a concentrated form of themselves. In fact the only change we see is that he's even more of a sociopathic douchebag than ever before, using "I'm a Rider" as an excuse.

The only mention of an actual change is that Eragon feels fragile, but feeling fragile doesn't count as a "transformation," especially after a major physical and mental shock. Now if he was fantasizing about slaughtering the Varden, THAT would be a mental transformation.

For some reason, he goes wandering over to the battlefield…. just to gawp at all the dead bodies. He doesn't help, he doesn't express any emotion - he just stares at all the dead bodies.

Upon arriving, he found nothing but the uncomfortable presence of death and decay, not the glory that heroic songs had led him to expect.

This would make more sense if he hadn't PARTICIPATED in the battle, thus getting to see all that death. It would make sense if he expected glory from a battle he hadn't participated in… so it makes it seem like Eragon went through a gory gruesome battle, then came ambling back afterwards expecting a big parade.

Before his uncle, Garrow, was slain by the Ra’zac months earlier, the brutality that Eragon had witnessed between the humans, dwarves, and Urgals would have destroyed him.

… so having ONE relative die in a rather mundane manner prepares you to see hundreds of sentient beings slaughtering each other? Eragon is sounding suspiciously like the secret offspring of Anita Blake, whose sainted mommy died when she was young and who has therefore become a raping murdering psychopath as a result.

Beyond that, he no longer believed that life possessed inherent meaning—not after seeing men torn apart by the Kull, a race of giant Urgals, and the ground a bed of thrashing limbs and the dirt so wet with blood it soaked through the soles of his boots.

This is the sort of pretentious twaddle that would get Eragon's ass kicked by actual warriors and soldiers - and the sort that is usually spouted by people who've never actually fought even a schoolyard battle, but think that life is meaningless and God is dead because sometimes Bad Things Happen.

If any honor existed in war, he concluded, it was in fighting to protect others from harm.

And now it's time for the cliches. Hey, you little idiot. If life has no inherent meaning, why work to save it? Their lives are futile and meaningless, so protecting them from harm accomplishes nothing.

While contemplating his utterly mundane and cliche thoughts, Eragon does something really creepy and kind of gross: he picks up a tooth and… plays with it. Ew squared. This is the sort of thing you'd expect an Evilly Evil Villain to do while they contemplate killing the grubby masses, not the Designated Hero - not only is it yicky, but it also shows blatant disrespect for the dead.

Anyway, Ajihad's second-in-command shows up and immediately kowtows to The Holy Stu, who's basically been lazing around since the battle and is now playing with body parts.

When he came near, Jörmundur bowed, a gesture Eragon knew he would never have made just days before.

I don't know why he's making it now.

Apparently Ajihad has been somewhere else (the where is not important), and now he's coming back and wants Eragon waiting there for him. We're not told WHY he wants Eragon there, except to be present during the Big Dramatic Fight.

So while Eragon and Saphira have a leisurely walk to the gate (what's the point of having a dragon that WALKS?), we find out that Ajihad has been off hunting the Urgals in the dwarves' tunnels.This is extremely stupid, because he's the LEADER and he's off doing low-level work that is also extremely dangerous.

Murtagh is also out there, which makes more sense - apparently the poor guy is determined to show that he's a good guy.

It surprised Eragon how much people’s attitudes toward Murtagh had changed, considering that Murtagh’s father was the Dragon Rider Morzan, who had betrayed the Riders to Galbatorix.

Enchanting little twerp, isn't he? He finds it SURPRISING that people could get over prejudice towards a person based on his FATHER's evilness. Yeah, it makes sense that they'd be cautious at first, but it's not surprising that given a chance he would prove himself.

And then Eragon encounters Orik, who has stout legs, and Arya who is a HOT HOT ELF BABE, and has a small unimportant injury that in no way keeps her from looking hot.

The white bandage around her upper arm gleamed in the darkness, reflecting a faint highlight onto the bottom of her hair.

… so…. what does that mean? She's wearing a shiny bandage that glows in the dark?

Eragon felt a strange thrill, as he always did when he saw the elf. She looked at him and Saphira, green eyes flashing, then continued watching for Ajihad.

  1. Eragon appears to be channeling Bella Swan.
  2. I can totally imagine him watching Arya sleep.
  3. And possibly stealing her underwear.
  4. She's totally blowing him off. Take a hint, twerp.
  5. You can tell when an author probably hasn't had a real relationship yet, because they think being in love with someone involves finding every single thing they do hot.

Anyway the dwarves are understandably upset because Arya destroyed a SIXTY-FOOT-WIDE rose-shaped jewel. I can understand why, because you can't just saunter to the jewelry store and buy another one.

Eragon had walked through the splintered wreckage and shared the dwarves’ sorrow for all the lost beauty.

Translation: He's about as upset about this as he is about all the individuals whose body parts he's juggling.

Eragon waited patiently with the others, answering comments directed at him but preferring to speak with Saphira in the peace of his mind.

Would it have been too much to ask for Paolini to INCLUDE the questions and answers, which might give SOME idea of what the characters are thinking and feeling? Or even what Eragon and Saphira have to talk about besides "You're super-awesome, Eragon!" "I know!"

And though Jormundane insisted that it was REALLY URGENT that Eragon hustle his butt over to meet Ajihad, he ends up spending the next half hour just sitting there being antisocial.

A group of ten men climbed out onto the ground, then turned and helped up as many dwarves.

These are dwarf tunnels. Those are dwarves getting out of the dwarf tunnels. What sense does it make that their tunnels would require the dwarves to have help from humans who didn't build the tunnels and don't live there? It would make more sense if the men had to stoop down!

At a signal, the formation marched proudly toward Tronjheim.

So Eragon was called over to watch them walk out of a tunnel and toward the city. Whoopee. I'm sure he would have been upset to miss that.

But apparently Ajihad has the most inept security ever, because he and his men failed to notice that OH BY THE WAY there are a bunch of Urgals literally right behind them in the tunnels. I presume this is the REAL reason that Ajihad wanted Eragon waiting for him - so the Stu could be present at the Dramatic Death Scene.

And of course, Eragon forgot his sword and everybody's standing too far away from the tunnels to actually help. I'm not sure why, if they were waiting for Ajihad, they weren't standing closer to the tunnels so they could wave and say hi. Instead they're about a mile away and a galloping dragon can't provide any help.

His wound twinged as Saphira lifted her azure wings,

That's actually kind of a nice touch.


Don't get used to praise.

Eragon was forced to watch helplessly as the Urgals fell on the rear of Ajihad’s warriors; he could not work magic over such a distance.

Why does the distance matter? It's freaking MAGIC - is the range determined by the vocalizations?

See, this is one of Paolini's big problems: he has no consistent magic system. Eragon actually had a pretty plausible depiction of magic that made sense... which is later thrown out because the hero can't do nifty-cool Stu stuff if he's limited in his magical abilities. So we go from Brom saying not to do stuff because it wastes your valuable reserves and could kill you... to ERAGON ALTERING REALITY THROUGH FORCE OF WILL. And he doesn't acquire this kind of power through training or anything.

So it doesn't seem realistic whenever the characters suddenly have limits to what they can do. When you change reality, Matrix-style, it feels really fake when you insist "oh no, I'm sixty feet away so my magic don't work!"

Apparently the men and dwarves are as bad tactically as any other good guys in this series - they all surround Ajihad and start fighting right there, rather than any real tactics.

then a swirl of motion disturbed the air, like a faint band of mist wrapping itself around the combatants.

… so it was a big clot of…. movement? As in, "a movement disturbed the air, from nobody in particular?" Is Paolini trying to describe a wind or something? Telekinesis? WHAT? Did the Flash just join the fray?

When it cleared, only four warriors were standing: Ajihad, the Twins, and Murtagh.

Well, that's because the only other people are nameless extras. Clearly they haven't got as much skill as the named characters.

And then the action gets kind of unclear - the Urgals apparently attack them, then immediately leave. They also apparently are unconcerned by the fact that Saphira is flying at them, possibly because they know she's flying in slow motion. And apparently all the people they leave behind are dead or dying… but Paolini neglects to mention just WHO has been killed.

Fighting back his dread with every step, he began to search for survivors.

They're literally right in front of him, and there were only about twenty Good Guys. It doesn't take much searching.

The site was eerily similar to the battlefield he had inspected earlier, except that here the blood was fresh.

Who would have thought one hack'n'slash bloody battle would resemble another one?

In the center of the massacre lay Ajihad, his breastplate rent with numerous gashes, surrounded by five Urgals he had slain.

  1. Good. I was sick of this pompous dude.
  2. His breastplate is rented? Now he'll never get the deposit back. (And yes, I know what "rent" means - I just love snarking)
  3. Why doesn't Paolini just say that he's been stabbed repeatedly in the chest? He makes it sound like his breastplate is the only thing broken.
  4. How the hell did he kill FIVE URGALS when he was surrounded by twenty of his own men?

Eragon knelt by him and lowered his face so his tears would not land on the leader’s ruined chest. No one could heal such wounds.

He hasn't even taken off the damn armor, and yet Eragon knows that he's as good as dead? Ajihad better have a helmet stuck through his chest, because otherwise it just seems like Eragon is trying to avoid doing first aid.

And I know Eragon hasn't yet started casually curing cancer, but... shouldn't he at least TRY to heal him? With his majiks?

Arya paused and stopped, her face transformed with sorrow when she saw that Ajihad could not be saved.

So she and Eragon don't even try. Our Heroes. Couldn't they at least try to make the man comfortable?

Since Eragon is a Stu, Ajihad decides to give his dying message to the twerpy farmboy and not to, say, the elf who's been working with them forever. Or Orik. Nah, it's gotta be for Eragon.

“Listen to me, Eragon. . . . I have one last command for you.”

"Go... fuck... yourself... for... not... trying... to... save... me..."

“You must promise me something: promise that you . . . won’t let the Varden fall into chaos. They are the only hope for resisting the Empire. . . . They must be kept strong. You must promise me.”

  1. Cheeeeeezyyyyyy.
  2. And how the hell is Eragon supposed to keep the Varden from falling into chaos? He's basically a noob member with no clout except "He's a dragon rider!" and no knowledge of diplomacy, politics, or running any big rebel organization.
  3. He's the LAST person Ajihad should be talking to.
  4. And since Ajihad has been so horribly wounded that Eragon can tell he's dead meat without removing his armor... how can he talk so much and so clearly?

But of course, Eragon promises. Admittedly, what else can you do when a dude you haven't tried to help is about to croak? Say "I'll need some more details"?

With his last breath, Ajihad closed his eyes, setting his noble face in repose, and died.

It's very nice that he made the point of making his face look nice before expiring. Heaven forbid that a Noble Rebel Leader expires in a less than poetic manner, like with an agonized or terrified expression. Eragon gets all choked up despite the fact that he's known Ajihad for, like, a week.

Saphira nosed one of the Urgals and said, This should not have happened. It is an evil doing, and all the worse for coming when we should be safe and victorious.

I'll give Saphira a pass on that naivete, since this IS her first battle.

Anyways, she notices that the Twins and Murtagh aren't there, and for some reason nobody noticed them departing with the Urgals. So Eragon goes running over to the tunnels and runs into puddles of descriptive prose:

There pools of thickening blood filled the hollows in the worn marble steps like a series of black mirrors, glossy and oval,

  1. Thickening blood usually isn't very reflective or glossy.
  2. Is this a tunnel if it has STEPS? Wouldn't it be more of a hallway?
  3. Er, that's a lot of blood. Presumably the blood is supposed to be from the Twins and Murtagh, but if they're bleeding that much I'd seriously doubt that they were still alive.

Eragon immediately dials the wangst up to eleven and starts wanking about how the Urgals don't take prisoners or hostages… except evidently they DO, or they wouldn't have taken live people. Then he starts moaning about he can't possibly go after Murtagh and the twins because BOOHOO he'd get lost and he can't possibly track them without Saphira as his backup.

In other words, he's whiny and useless. Even Saphira is basically telling him to get off his ass and do SOMETHING - and if he's gonna sit there and moan, ask Arya to go check the tunnels. I'm not quite sure why HE would get lost and SHE wouldn't.

Eragon hesitated, torn between his desire for action and his loathing to put her in danger.

I can see why. She's almost as inept as he is. See the Eragon Prologue.

Arya’s slanted eyebrows met in a frown. “It makes no sense.”

No no no, people with slanted eyebrows are supposed to say "illogical," not "it makes no sense."

“Will you pursue them?”
She stared at him for a heavy moment. “Wiol ono.” For you.

Ewwww, forced shippy moment. Ten minutes ago she was treating him like an ugly lamp your aunt gave you and that you can't throw away, and now she's saying that she'll only go hunting murderous Urgals that kidnapped their comrades… because Stu asked her to. God forbid she do it because it's the right thing to do, or because the baddies kidnapped and murdered some of their own.

Then she bounded forward, sword flashing in her hand as she dove into the earth’s belly.

… and immediately got a concussion, because the earth is hard.

So designated Hero plops on his butt next to the corpse and does…. nothing. Again.

Murtagh. Son of one of the Forsworn—the thirteen Riders who had helped Galbatorix destroy their order and anoint himself king of Alagaësia—and Eragon’s friend.

Interesting that while the Varden have learned to ignore Murtagh's unfortunate relations, but that seems to be the only aspect of his entire personality that Eragon ever thinks about, even though Murtagh befriended him BEFORE he knew about Murtagh's daddy. Lovely friend, huh?

At times Eragon had wished Murtagh gone,

…. mainly because Murtagh is about fifty times smarter, cooler and more human than Eragon. That explains why he's absent through about 98% of this book. But apparently Eragon only misses him when he's dragged away by murderous monsters. WHAT A FRIEND!

So then Orik appears and starts stamping and swearing and hacking at dead Urgal bodies. Then for some reason he starts rubbing dirt between his hands. This is never explained.

"Were you in time to hear his last words?”
Eragon glanced at Saphira. “They must wait for the right person before I’ll repeat them.”

Once again, we go for What Sounds Cool instead of What Makes Sense. I mean, why keep it a secret? Ajihad didn't swear him to silence, and his last request was… well, not terribly explosive in nature. He basically just told Eragon to keep the Varden from collapsing.

Jörmundur soon arrived with twelve ranks of six warriors each.

Why not say that he brought six ranks of twelve warriors? Or just say that he brought seventy-two men along? I doubt Eragon knows the difference.

Jormundumundur then bends over and starts talking to the dead body, making excuses for the fact that their leader just got slaughtered while he was off doing nothing.

“How can fate be this cruel, my old friend? I would have been here sooner if not for the size of this cursed mountain, and then you might have been saved. Instead, we are wounded at the height of our triumph.”

This would sound more dramatic if Jormunderdinglebummersnack hadn't been dicking around getting nothing done in all this time. First he went scrambling off to find Eragon and Saphira, who managed to WALK over to the tunnels in no time. Then they sat there for half an hour. And now Eragon's been sitting here for even MORE time.

So what the hell was Jormundamenmunderbing DOING during all that time, polishing his pretty armor? Does he generally wait until a crisis to start calling on security to be on the alert? This guy is a moron of Eragonic proportions. Of course, it would have helped if Ajihad hadn't been surrounded by blithering morons who failed to notice, "Hey! The enemy is walking right behind us!"

Anyway, Jormumammummer continues trying to cover his ass by insisting that it'll be an hour before the dwarf guides can show up so they can wander into the super-dangerous tunnels again. You'd think they'd just wait for Arya to show up, then seal up the tunnels and wait out the Urgals.

Orik offers to lead the expedition, so Jormammary compounds his stupidity by insisting that he can't.

"I’m sorry, Eragon, but everyone important must stay here until Ajihad’s successor is chosen."

  1. Exactly why is never explained. Do they suddenly become safe and secure if they have a Noble Rebel Leader? Wait, that didn't work last time.
  2. Or maybe Jormundanity is planning to nominate Eragon because HE'S THAT AWESOME.
  3. And no, they don't choose a new leader right away. So staying here... accomplishes nothing.
  4. Even though he was practically wetting himself with anxiety over Arya a minute ago, Eragon seems just fine with letting Arya run through Urgal-infested tunnels by herself. With no backup. Clearly this is a love for the ages.

Jörmundur swept his gaze around before saying so all could hear, “Ajihad has died a warrior’s death! Look, he slew five Urgals where a lesser man might have been overwhelmed by one. We will give him every honor and hope his spirit pleases the gods. Bear him and our companions back to Tronjheim on your shields . . . and do not be ashamed to let your tears be seen, for this is a day of sorrow that all will remember. May we soon have the privilege of sheathing our blades in the monsters who have slain our leader!”

  1. Ajihad must have been a pretty pathetic warrior if someone lesser than he was couldn't defeat ONE Urgal, since they're basically knockoff orcs that smell funky and have giant horns (which would probably limit their movement).
  2. And I still can't understand how he killed so many when he was SURROUNDED by his own men.
  3. He seriously needs to stop trying to cover his ass because his security sucked.
  4. Perhaps I'm being insensitive, but if it takes an HOUR to get back to the city, those dudes are going to be pretty sore. And the dead bodies will probably be kind of…. gross to have on your shields. Which you'll then have to clean. Ew.
  5. I might be able to understand why they'd lug their Noble Rebel Leader back to the city, but why the other guys?
  6. Not to be insensitive, but they're surrounded by the dead bodies of OTHER Noble Rebels who died just as nastily and heroically as these guys. So why aren't all the dead dwarves and Varden getting this treatment?
  7. "Sheathing our blades in the monsters" sounds a little weird, like you'd be sticking your sword in an Urgal and just leaving it there.

As one, the warriors knelt, baring their heads in homage to Ajihad. Then they stood and reverently lifted him on their shields so he lay between their shoulders.

Er, aren't shields usually put in FRONT of a person, not on their heads or shoulders? They're... not built for that. They should be too big.

Already many of the Varden wept, tears flowing into beards, yet they did not disgrace their duty and allow Ajihad to fall.

"Crap, my back hurts! Not only do we have to fight a war, but now we have to cart dead bodies around!"
"We cannot allow Ajihad to fall because that would disgrace our duty!"
"Screw our duty! I'm crying from the smell! This guy was overrated anyway!"

Also, didn't Jormugger say that they should carry their companions in general back to Tronjheim? So… how come they're only carrying Ajihad and just leaving the rest to just lie there until somebody drives out a cart?