Eragon by Christopher Paolini, one of my favourite books, is both adventurous and suspenseful. The book takes place in the mystical land of Alagaёsia (pronounced al-uh-GAY-zee-uh), a land with dwarves, humans and elves living together in peace since the beginning of time. When humans arrived in the land, they went to war with the elves, and the Dragon Riders were created to keep the peace. These human magic-wielders had fulfilled their task for countless years, until one turned against the others, ending the reign of the Riders.
All of the dragons were slayed, and all of the Riders vanished from existence. However, there were three dragon eggs that survived, in the presence of the evil human king, Galbatorix. If the king gets one of the eggs to hatch, he will be able to control all of Alagaёsia. As it turns out, one of the eggs has been stolen, and hatches in the presence of a farm boy, in the north of the land, isolated from the rest of the country. The name of the farm boy is Eragon.
Eragon travels the land of Alagaёsia with an old storyteller named Brom who trains him in the uses of magic, swordplay, and dragon lore. They want revenge on the Ra’zac, evil beings who work for the king and killed Eragon’s stepfather in search of the farm boy. The Ra’zac want to bring Eragon to the king in order to make him work for their master, but Eragon has managed to evade them. After tracking them to a small town, he is captured and thrown into prison. Eragon is questioned by a Shade, the darkest spirits that walk the earth. He manages to escape, along with a fellow traveller named Murtaugh. Eragon, through his magic, learns that an elf is captive in the prison, and manages to save her. The three cross the great Hadarac Desert, hoping to reach the Varden, a group that rebels against the king’s reign. Whichever side controls eragon, the first Dragon Rider in hundreds of years, will have a major advantage in the war.
The story is very adventurous, as there are many chases, battles, and traps. Both sides use different means to try to sway Eragon to join their side. It is also very suspenseful. Most of the time, characters refuse to explain their full history to anybody, as any information could fall into the hands of the enemy. Eragon has many adventures and in just the first book of this series, meets with the dwarves in their magical city, talks with an elf, and rides a dragon: feats that few, if any, of the people in Alagaёsia can boast of.
Because of the high-action adventure, the suspense, and the amazing blend of magic, war, sword fights, dragons and more, I give this book 5/5 stars. There are three other books in the series.
I recently finished reading Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat. Published in 1956, this story is both adventurous and exciting. Set in the north of Canada, it tells the tale of two young boys stranded in the wilderness.
Editor’s note: To accurately describe the content of Lost in the Barrens, this review references terms for Aboriginal Peoples used in the book that were in common use at the time of the book’s publication.
Awasin, an Indian Chipewyan, has lived in the north all his life. Jamie, on the other hand, grew up in Toronto and attended an expensive, private boarding school. He was sent to the school after the death of his parents when he was nine years old. But Jamie’s uncle and only living relative, Angus McNair, does not have enough money to continue sending his nephew to the school, so he arranges to have Jamie brought to the north to live with him. When Jamie arrives at Angus McNair’s dwelling in the woods, he and Awasin become good friends.
Jamie is enjoying his life in the north. But winter is coming, and an Indian camp even farther north is running out of food. This camp, led by a man named Denikazi, normally has plenty of caribou meat to last the winter. But this year, the caribou are late in coming, and the camp is starving. In a desperate effort, Denikazi and a group of hunters go searching for the animals, hoping to find enough meat to feed their camp for the rest of the year. When Denikazi and his hunters arrive at the Chipewyan beach in their canoes, looking for supplies and help, Jamie and Awasin eagerly volunteer.
Everything was going well on the hunting trip, until Denikazi and a small group of hunters decided to leave the boys behind, heading northward at a faster pace in order to hunt. But the boys get bored and want some adventure. Leaving the camp by canoe, they paddle miles downstream. After a day’s excursion, Jamie and Awasin find a rapid that they can’t traverse. It wrecks the canoe, and the boys are left stranded on the endless tundra.
This book is very exciting, and there are many times when it is suspenseful. It is also interesting to see how resourceful the boys are in their quest for survival. They build an igloo of stones, spend days making clothes of deer skin, and collect lots of fuel for fires. When winter arrives, they can be seen as courageous and inventive. After finding a small hidden valley, they construct another cabin, this time out of logs. Jamie and Awasin show incredible skill while they prove that surviving in the frozen north is not hopeless.
One of my favourite things about this book is that Jamie and Awasin’s beliefs are challenged. The Indians were traditionally terrified of the Eskimos (now called the Inuit), thinking that they were cannibals and inhospitable. The two boys were in constant fear of these men of the north. During the long, cold winter months, a short change in the weather convinces Jamie and Awasin that it is time to attempt a break for the south where they will be safe, but they travel less than forty miles when a storm rolls in. The two boys, just minutes away from death, are lucky to find an Eskimo’s igloo. After days spent recuperating, they become friends with a young Eskimo. Jamie and Awasin realize that the Eskimos are, contrary to their previous beliefs, warm and welcoming people.
One thing that I dislike about the story is that time passes so quickly. There are multiple instances when, in just one paragraph, many days pass. This makes parts of the story seem like you are just reading about the passage of time.
Farley Mowat has managed to create an extreme survival story in unbearable conditions – the endless Canadian north. Lost in the Barrens also has an amazing blend of diverse cultures and near death experiences. Overall, the book has a very strong sense of danger. At every turn, the boys are trying to solve the problem of what could kill them next – the cold, the wild animals, food shortages, or living conditions. The book is suspenseful and exciting; in every chapter, Jamie and Awasin are put to the test to survive in the barren north.
In conclusion, the read deserves 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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