Christopher Paolini is back - and yes, his stories are as powerful as ever
"Fantasy draws on old traditions. That's what gives it its resilience and lasting power," says Christopher Paolini
Published in the Sunday Times (14/104/2019)
The Fork, the Witch and The Worm ****
It was a late-night tweet that sparked Christopher Paolini's newest collection of tales from Alagaësia - the fantasy world of dragon riders first introduced in his novel Eragon in 2001.
Almost a decade later a fan wanted to know a random fact about Murtagh, one of the players from the series. Paolini responded in his signature playful style: "At one point, Murtagh enchanted a fork to be as deadly as any sword. He called it Mr Stabby. Thorn was not amused." The idea remained, and The Fork, The Witch, and The Worm was born.
The book is a collection of three new stories, all set in the same world as The Inheritance Cycle. The first book of that series, Eragon, was self-published when he was just 16 and republished in 2003. The book became a publishing phenomenon and was followed by three more books in The Inheritance Cycle series and a movie adaptation starring John Malkovich.
Paolini may have grown up since then (he is now 35), but he has never really left Alagaësia. He counts this collection as book five set in the world of his Dragon Riders, and already has plans for another.
Times have changed, but Paolini's stories remain just as powerful, even to this new generation of digital-savvy readers. Paolini believes this is because his books draw on universal themes that continue to resonate.
"Transformation is a theme I return to again and again and adolescence is the great transformation we all go through. We all feel that powerlessness and fear of what's to come in adulthood. Fantasy can make those fears and feelings a physical reality. It externalises what is otherwise internal. And it's that challenge that resonates with readers."
The Fork, The Witch and The Worm is in some ways a tying up of loose ends, and a beginning of a new chapter. Beloved characters like dragon rider Eragon return, as well as a few new faces. Paolini's sister Angela also contributes writing for The Witch.
For Paolini, writing has always been a family affair. His parents helped him publish his first novel as a teenager and his sister is collaborator and soundboard for his ideas. But he has also experienced the isolation that many writers face.
That changed when he joined Twitter. "Social media has changed the way I interact with fans. It's fun. If you behave yourself online, people react positively. It's nice to know there is an audience and that people care about your work."
The author believes the rise of eBooks and social media has produced an influx of new readers, a trend he encourages by regularly releasing exclusive web content and deleted scenes, for which he receives encouragement in return. "It's motivating," he says.
So has the new digital culture affected his writing? "Fantasy draws on old traditions. That's what gives it its resilience and lasting power." @Sapartridge
We are giving away three copies of The Fork, the Witch and The Worm by Christopher Paolini. To enter, name the first book in The Inheritance Cycle series. E-mail your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org with DRAGON as the subject. Remember to include your name and contact number. Only one entry per person. Competition closes on Friday April 19. Ts & Cs apply.