Surpassing its popular prequel Eragon, this second volume in the Inheritance trilogy shows growing maturity and skill on the part of its very young author, who was only seventeen when the first volume was published in 2003. The story is solidly in the tradition (some might say derivative) of the classic heroic quest fantasy, with the predictable cast of dwarves, elves, and dragons--but also including some imaginatively creepy creatures of evil.
The land of Alagaesia is suffering under the Empire of the wicked Galbatorix, and Eragon and his dragon Saphira, last of the Riders, are the only hope. But Eragon is young and has much to learn, and so he is sent off to the elven forest city of Ellesmera, where he and Saphira are tutored in magic, battle skills, and the ancient language by the wise former Rider Oromis and his elderly dragon Glaedr. Meanwhile, back at Carvahall, Eragon's home, his cousin Roran is the target of a siege by the hideous Ra'zac, and he must lead the villagers on a desperate escape over the mountains. The two narratives move toward a massive battle with the forces of Galbatorix, where Eragon learns a shocking secret about his parentage and commits himself to saving his people.
The sheer size of the novel, as well as its many characters, places with difficult names, and its use of imaginary languages make this a challenging read, even for experienced fantasy readers. It is essential to have the plot threads of the first volume well in mind before beginning--the publisher has provided not only a map, but a helpful synopsis of the first book and a much-needed Language Guide. But no obstacles will deter the many fans of Eragon from diving headfirst into this highly-awaited fantasy. (Ages 12 and up) --Patty Campbell