I just finished a two-week long project, Eragon, by Christopher Paolini.
The title character of Eragon is a young farm boy who finds a strange stone in the woods while hunting. He tries, unsuccessfully, to sell or trade it. Then, it hatches into a dragon (which he names Saphira). Eragon and his fellow townsmen live under the rule of a totalitarian leader, Galbatorix, and his henchmen come in search of him, and torch his house, killing his uncle and forcing Eragon and Saphira to depart on an epic journey, along with the town storyteller, Brom, who soon reveals himself to be more than what Eragon had guessed. Eragon learns that he is the first of a new generation of Riders, and will be a key player in the struggle between the Empire of Galbatorix and the free people who oppose him, the Varden.
At 450 pages long, this book is rather slow-moving. It took me a very long time to get into it. I'd seen the movie first. When my boyfriend and I returned from seeing it, a friend of his who had read all three books said that he thought the movie sucked and that they'd cut so much from it, he didn't see how they could make a second movie. Naturally, they'd have to make some cuts, but they did leave out some key scenes.
The book is populated with wonderful characters: Brom, the storyteller; Angela the herbalist and her werecat Solembum; Murtagh, with a dark heritage; Ajihad, leader of the Varden; and of course Saphira herself, who is no dumb animal, but a highly intelligent creature with as much of a consciousness as person. Yet, Eragon himself is not among the wonderful characters. Eragon is bland, defined only by external events. Perhaps Paolini did this deliberately, to allow young readers to project whatever they wanted onto Eragon. If so, it was unneccesary -- Harry Potter is a pretty defined character and that series hasn't suffered in popularity because of that.
The book was also rather geeky. If you've ever drawn a map of Middle Earth or attempted to hold a conversation in Elvish, you'd love that aspect of these books. In fact, many of the ideas are borrowed from Tolkien: the dwarves in this book are mostly miners and metalworkers, the elves are respected for their intelligence and knowledge of magic, there's an ancient language, there's a race of fighters which much resembles Orcs Paolini calls them "Urgals").
But it wasn't terrible. The book picks up towards the end, and often the first book in a trilogy is the weakest because of all the exposition. I will probably give the rest of the series a chance.