Heroes Do Not Always Have To Be Perfect [A Review]

Brisingr, Inheritance Cycle Book 3 by Christopher Paolini

christopher paolini - brisingr

   [Image courtesy of bookdepository.com]


Nope, I didn’t get my answer about the third egg in this third installment. In fact, the egg wasn’t even mentioned at all, because everybody was busy fighting.

And again, I enjoyed the Roran parts more. I think it has to do with the fact that Roran was human. Without any magical skills to help him, he had to use his wit, heart and brawn to fight for his life, and this is something that most of us common earthlings can relate to.

I like the part about how Eragon dealt with Sloan though, because it reminded me of Peter Parker in Spiderman and the famous line from his Uncle Ben – with great power, comes great responsibility. Eragon had the power to decide Sloan’s fate, but he did not abuse it. Maybe it sounds corny to some, but to me, it’s pretty cool.

I must say that the amount of travelling Eragon had to do to get things done kind of frustrated me, especially the part where he had to go back to Ellesmera to “finish” his training and find out how he could kill Galbatorix. I mean, he could have gotten all his training in Book 2 right? But no, he couldn’t, because he wasn’t “ready”. Anyway, I’m just glad that his second training trip to Ellesmera revealed everything else that he needed to know (I hope), and I’m looking forward to the final installment of the story.

Oh, by the way, I would have preferred that Paolini had kept the parentage of Eragon as it was in Book 2, because life is never so perfect in real life. For all you know, that might have added some nice twist to Eragon’s character development. But no, Paolini decided he had to have a cleaner inheritance, perhaps to satisfy readers who like their heroes to be perfect. I won’t reveal more about what I mean, in case some of you have not read the series, except that I think it would have been better to leave that chip in the shoulder where it was.

VERDICT: There are more fighting scenes in this book, and folks who like more excitement might like this installment better than the second one. I shall hold my verdict of the series till after I’m done with the fourth and last book.

For those who want to know a little about the story line, here’s an overview from bookdepository.com:

Oaths sworn …Loyalties tested …Forces collide. Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives after the colossal battle against the Empire’s warriors on the Burning Plains. Now Eragon finds himself bound by promises he may not be able to keep. He must help rescue his cousin Roran’s beloved from King Galbatorix’s clutches. But he also owes his loyalty to the Varden, the elves and the dwarves, who are in desperate need of his talents and strength. Eragon in the greatest hope to rid the land of tyranny. Can this once simple farm boy unite the rebel forces and defeat the king?


Am I Reading a KungFu Novel? [A Review]

Eldest, Inheritance Cycle Book 2 by Christopher Paolini

christopher paolini - eldest

   [Image courtesy of bookdepository.com]

This second installment of the series explains more of the history and magical system that Eragon was thrown into.

As I read about Eragon’s training in Ellesmera, I’m reminded of the old Hong Kong kungfu movies in which the disciple ventures into the mountains to learn the philosophy and skills from the kungfu master, that would eventually help him to defeat his enemy and avenge whoever or whatever that his enemy had destroyed. This part of Eragon’s adventure, while insightful, can get a little boring, and I actually liked the parts on Roran’s struggles more.

I’m not sure if Roran’s part was included in this installment to make the entire read more interesting, but I’m placing my bets that he’s going to be the third Rider who will hatch the third and final dragon egg.

I’m on to the third book and let’s see if I’m right. (If you’ve already read the series, please don’t tell me yet!)

VERDICT: There are no surprises in this book, although I think the part about Murtagh and Eragon’s heritage was meant to be a surprise twist. It didn’t surprise me though, so if you’re an old hand at reading epic fantasy series, I don’t think it will surprise you either.

For those who want to know a little about the story line, here’s an overview from bookdepository.com:

Darkness falls…Despair abounds…Evil reigns…Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesmera, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider. It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn’t sure whom he can trust. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall – one that puts Eragon in even graver danger. Will the king’s dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life…

What Happened to Reading for Fun?

The Singapore National Library Board (NLB) recently launched a National Reading Movement to encourage local folks to “read more, read widely and read together”. Yes, the tagline sounds unimaginative, but it’s a 5-year campaign and promises loads of “exciting” programmes to engage adults to read. This follows a dip in NLB’s borrowing records for last year, and the National Literary Reading and Writing survey in March that revealed that more than half of the respondents had not read a literary book in the last one year.

In case you’re thinking that I’m trying to be cynical here, I’m declaring that I’ve been a long-time supporter of NLB’s efforts. In fact, I think NLB manages one of the best national libraries in the region, if not the world. One can find a public or community library in almost every residential town, complete with the latest collections and welcoming reading spaces for both young and old. Check-outs are done at automatic machines; ebooks are available 24/7 online for borrowing and downloading; Singaporeans get to loan up to 8 books for free each time; book themes are curated on a regular basis; outreach activities are organized frequently for the public. The list goes on. 

Yet, Singapore is still not a reading nation.

There are so many reasons we are not. Some blame it on the internet – everyone’s either spending their free time watching YouTube or updating their social media posts. Others blame it on our obsession with academic results, because there are parents who believe reading fiction and spending a morning at the library are a waste of time; their kids are better off attending an enrichment class (which, by the way, enriches neither the mind nor the life of the kid). 

I’m not sure if NLB will be successful with the campaign, because it is already an uphill task to interest kids in reading, and engaging adults will be even tougher, amid the competition for their time from work, family and other forms of entertainment. 

As I look back at my own reading journey, I’m glad I grew up with little pocket money to spare, and even fewer entertainment options, because that left me with the public library where I could enjoy air-conditioning and hours of imaginative entertainment – all for free. The same is not true for kids today.

Take my daughter for example. She’s barely more than two and a half years old, and she has already discovered that the TV and smartphone offer more entertaining options than her shelf of baby board books, despite my attempt to keep electronic devices from her for as long as I can. These days, she asks for her favourite videos in the morning, instead of her favourite books. Her grandparents and father usually relent, because it’s a welcoming alternative to having to give an active child their full attention when they have so much to do – the videos keep her occupied. I try not to, but when the whining gets bad, I usually do, because I want my child to see reading as something enjoyable, not something she wants to get done quickly so that she can move on to something she likes better. However, when she does choose to sit down with a book, I try my best to make the reading session as enjoyable as I can. What has happened is that my little one will still opt to read a book over the TV sometimes, provided I’m the one reading it with her.

Getting adults to read will be much more complicated. I see commuters hunched over their phones and tablets all the time (no, they’re not reading ebooks on their devices), few over a book, and even fewer over a fiction book. NLB has started to create QR codes that train commuters can scan and download recommended reads while travelling. Some have recommended putting free books at popular cafes like Starbucks where people are more relaxed and more likely to pick up a book.

I don’t have a solution for NLB, because I can’t even get my husband or close friends to love reading like I do. 

But I sure hope NLB will succeed.