The Book That Made Me: Christopher Paolini

Published on: 20 February 2019 Author: Christopher Paolini

What's the childhood book that made you who you are today?

The Ruby Knight by David Eddings introduced Christopher Paolini to fantasy novels. The bestselling author explains how that discovery led to him writing for a living. 

I was eight or nine when my grandfather, Maurizio, took me into a B Dalton bookstore, back when those were still a thing. And there in the display of newly released books, I spotted The Ruby Knight by David Eddings. It had a cover unlike any I’d seen before: a knight in full-plate armour – sans helmet – holding a spear as he faced off with a giant, scaly monster that stood on two legs. It was a painting by the sadly departed Keith Parkinson, who illustrated the covers of so many fantasy novels.

At the time, I had no idea what the book was about. In fact, I didn’t even know what fantasy was. The closest I’d come was reading collections of old folk tales. All that young me knew was that this was by far the coolest book cover I’d ever seen and that I absolutely, positively had to have it.

Magic and possibility

Fortunately, my grandfather bought me the book, and I read it straight away. It was a revelation. In retrospect, the story wasn’t particularly appropriate for my age, but I loved the setting, the magic, the sense of possibility.

However, what I’d failed to notice at first was that The Ruby Knight was the second book of a trilogy. As I neared the end, I gradually began to get worried. How was the author going to wrap up the story in the seemingly insufficient amount of pages remaining?

When I realised the answer was “He isn’t”, I hurried off to my local library and steamed through the rest of Eddings' work.

Detail from the front cover of The Fork, The Witch and the Worm by Christopher Paolini

More reading adventures

Afterward, somewhat deflated, I had no idea where to turn next. The internet wasn’t much of a thing back then so, I stood staring at Eddings’ books in the library, wondering what other stories could be like his.

I started to scan the shelves. Two down, I found a big black book with a green dragon on the cover: Magician by Raymond Feist. That set me off on another reading adventure.

Farther along the shelves, I found the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. Then Anne McCaffery on the other side of the bookcase, and Andre Norton beyond her, and so forth and so on.

Because of The Ruby Knight, I discovered the genre of modern fantasy, and because of that, I ultimately ended up writing my own novel, Eragon.

How to write a fascinating fantasy story by Catherine Fisher

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Christopher Paolini

The Fork, the Witch and the Worm by Christopher Paolini is published by Penguin, priced £12.99

See other features in The Book That Made Me series

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