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SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Eldest by Christopher Paolini.
Eldest is a young adult fantasy novel by Christopher Paolini. The second book in The Inheritance Cycle saga, it follows the main character as he learns how to ride dragons and protect his lands from the wicked king of a corrupt empire. It was first published in 2005 when Paolini was just a teenager, and it won numerous awards, including the 2007 Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award. The series has since been optioned for feature film, although the movie adaptation of the first book, Eragon, didn’t do as well as expected. Paolini’s hometown of Paradise Valley, Montana, inspired much of the scenery in the saga.
The protagonist is a boy called Eragon Shadeslayer. He’s fifteen years old and lives in the fictional village of Carvahall on the continent of Alagaësia. He once found a stone in the mountains that turned out to be a dragon’s egg. When the dragon hatches, Eragon calls her Saphira. They bond voluntarily for life. Eragon is now known as a Dragon Rider.
At the end of Eragon, Eragon has joined a rebel resistance group called the Varden. They stand against the evil king, King Galbatorix, with some success, but they’re not yet strong enough to defeat him. Some of Eragon’s friends go missing, and he’s desperate to find them again. Eldest begins just as this first battle against King Galbatorixends.
Although Eragon does well in the battle, he knows he’s untrained and weak. There’s little he can do against the king on his own, and he hasn’t been training with dragons for very long. When the king of the Varden, Ajihad, is ambushed and executed, Eragon knows he can only help the resistance if he develops his special skills.
Eragon travels to a special mountain range, Du Weldenvarden, to complete his Dragon Rider training. Although these mountains are inhabited by dwarves, it’s elves who will complete Eragon’s tuition. The dwarves welcome Eragon into their home because they know he’s trying to defeat King Galbatorix.
Although some people question what’s so special about Eragon and why they need him for the war effort, most know that Eragon is the only person who can match King Galbatorix’s skills with dragons. King Galbatorix used to be the best Dragon Rider, but his power corrupted him. As a result, any resistance effort without Eragon is futile. The elves promise to push Eragon to his limits and make him the best Dragon Rider he can be.
While Eragon stays in Du Weldenvarden, the elves teach him everything they can about combat and magical theory. They let Saphira fly with trained dragons so that she can learn all about air-to-air combat and work on her navigation skills. Although Eragon and Saphira usually train separately, they still spend a lot of time together to strengthen their bond.
Meanwhile, Nasuada, Ajihad’s daughter and the new leader of the Varden, declares she’s moving their forces across the continent to prepare a strike against the Empire. First, however, she must secure money and resources. Now that the Varden are making their final preparations, Eragon knows he must complete his training as soon as possible. The problem is that Eragon is only human, and old wounds from the earlier battles are making his training difficult.
To help Eragon with his journey, the elves endow him with some of their own characteristics. He inherits their strength and some of their magical abilities through a blood oath celebration. Although Eragon is still mortal and mostly human, he’ll be able to withstand tougher opponents and he’ll last longer in the sky. The injuries he’s plagued with disappear, and his confidence in his own abilities is renewed.
In the meantime, Saphira finds a dragon she wants to mate with. This dragon, however, isn’t interested in her, and Saphira’s distracted by her feelings. And, now that Eragon’s feeling better, he develops a crush on a local elven girl, Arya. She’s elf royalty, and he knows he shouldn’t love her, but he can’t help obsessing over her.
When word reaches Eragon that he must leave the elves sooner than expected, he takes his chance and tells Arya that he loves her. Arya is cruel and dismisses him. Broken-hearted and unable to complete his training, Eragon leaves the elves feeling more despondent than ever before. Only Saphira can bolster his spirits, but she too is broken-hearted.
Eragon and Saphira spend much of the book traveling to reach the Varden forces. When they finally track down the camp, they realize that it’s under attack by the king. Together, Eragon and Saphira assist the Varden, but many of their friends perish in the fighting. Meanwhile, the king’s best Dragon Rider rises, and he plans on killing Eragon.
Eragon must bolster his courage and challenge the king’s Dragon Rider. The rider turns out to be Murtagh, Eragon’s old friend, who the king forced into his service after capturing him. Murtagh can’t kill Eragon, and the king’s army retreats for now. Now that Eragon knows Murtagh is his primary enemy, he doesn’t know how to move forward. The decisions he makes and the path he chooses form the basis of books three and four.