Kids are fantasy literature's natural audience. After all, children are exposed to magic from the moment their little eyes are able to focus on a page and find a cow jumping over a moon or a velveteen rabbit that becomes real.

In a story that almost seems like a fairy tale itself, a young author named Christopher Paolini, only 19, has emerged with a fantasy novel of amazing depth and scope geared specifically to his own demographic. Eragon is both the title and the protagonist of Paolini's promised Inheritance trilogy. The story of a teenage boy who by happenstance—or perhaps design—becomes the partner of a dragon, the book is set in a place much like medieval Europe.

When Eragon's discovery and subsequent adoption of the young dragon Saphira results in danger and tragedy for his family and his town, he goes on a quest for vengeance with the help of a local storyteller named Brom. His is a world in which magic, while real, is feared, a fear based in large part on the ascendance to power of the evil lord of the land, Galbatorix, the last of the Dragonriders.

Fantasy writing is a tricky business; some authors slap on a thin coat of backdrop for their characters to parade against, and others lay on detail after excruciating detail. Paolini strikes a happy medium, showing wisdom beyond his years. He gives his world and his characters depth and reality. The dragon Saphira is a sentient creature equipped with both intellect and instinct. She and Eragon bond mentally, and their relationship deepens as the novel progresses. The old man Brom is an enigma; he serves as Eragon's guide and teacher, and there's more to him than meets the eye.

Paolini started this novel when he was only 15. He self-published it, and when the son of author Carl Hiaasen happened upon a copy, the book soon found its way to Random House. Four years later, Paolini is at the starting line for what may be a long writing career. Eragon is an exciting beginning.

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