Eldest is the second book in the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini, following a young man as he embraces his destiny as a dragon rider. Not only must he shoulder the responsibilities that come with that position, but he has to do so in the knowledge that it will ultimately be him who must dispose the land of its tyrant king, simply because no one else is strong enough to do so.
The book picks up exactly where Eragon left off. Eragon and Saphira have helped the Varden defeat the Urgal attack, but danger waits for no one. With time running short, Eragon must leave and travel to Ellesmera, the land of the Elves, in order to continue his training if he is to stand any chance of helping fight against the Empire. However, despite how much he learns, the task seems somewhat futile as Eragon is plagued by agonising seizures from the wound Durza dealt him at the end of their battle. Unable to fight, barely able to get through a day, Eragon’s physical pain is matched only by his unrequited love for Arya.
However, as a dragon rider, Eragon knows his responsibilities and will not let pain be enough to stop him fighting for his course. After a gift is bestowed on him, hope is once again renewed for the rider.
It is not just Eragon who must struggle to come to terms with where his path in life is leading him. Left only with hints and vague clues about why his father was killed, Roran faces his own battle when the Empire return to take him into custody. When his bride-to-be is kidnapped, Roran knows he has to choose between his village and his love. Unless, of course, there is another option open to him… Defying impossible odds, Roran and the entire population of Carvahall flee to the safety of Surda, pursued by all manners of enemies.
Surda is no safe place, however, as the armies of the Varden and the Empire clash in open conflict. Despite Eragon arriving in time to help, an unexpected new foe rears its head in the middle of the battle and their struggle for freedom just gets harder.
This second book truly displays Paolini’s imagination. The vast majority of the book is set in the land of the Elves. Not only is their way of life brought across to the reader, but their customs, personalities and character traits are all subtly revealed to both Eragon and the reader as he continues his study. All the small details seem to be covered.
This book is on a larger scale than the first, with multiple plotlines being followed as fate navigates our heroes into one place for the final battle. Despite being reunited with his cousin, Eragon must face a truth that he was not ready for while the Varden rest all of their hopes for freedom on his young shoulders.
The determination of the characters shown at the end of the book truly inspires the reader to simply pick up the next book and keep going.