The story opens with a Shade, a not quite human monster, and several Urgals, creatures similar to trolls, attacking three elves. The two male elves are quickly killed but the woman starts to run. The Shade pursues her, but before he can catch her, she pulls a blue stone out of her bag and casts a spell on it that makes it disappear. The Shade then kidnaps the elf and burns the forest. Later, Eragon is hunting in the woods when an explosion rips through the forest. The stone appears in the center of the explosion and Eragon cautiously takes it, planning on selling it. Eragon attempts to trade it for meat, but the butcher Sloan refuses. The blacksmith, Horst, buys food for Eragon and protects him.
Eragon is asked to pass on a message of love from Katrina, Sloan’s daughter, to Roran, Eragon’s cousin. Eragon waits with the stone at his uncle’s farm until the traders arrive. The trader won’t buy it, but concludes that the stone is hollow. Later, when he enters a tavern, Eragon hears a tale from Brom the storyteller. Brom tells of the Dragon Riders, a group of heroes who all rode dragons. One of their dragons was killed, and the owner Galbatorix, who is now the king of Eragon’s land, goes insane. He starts a group called the Forsworn, and with the help of his lieutenant Morzan, killed all the other riders and made himself king.
Eragon returns home and tests the durability of the stone, which eventually makes a squeaking sound. Eragon picks it up, intending to bury it, but it slips and cracks on the ground. A dragon emerges from the stone. Eragon touches the dragon and a pulse of energy passes through him, leaving a silver oval on his hand. Eragon discovers that he can share emotions with the dragon, and decides to keep it in secret.
After a few weeks, Eragon goes to Brom to learn more about dragons. They talk about the origination of the Dragon Riders, and physiology of dragons. They end with a discussion of names. Roran reveals to Eragon that he is planning to propose to Katrina and leave their town to work at a mill. That night, Eragon tries different names on the dragon before deciding on Saphira. A few days, after Roran leaves, Eragon goes into town and encounters two strangers with hissing voices who are inquiring about the blue stone. He is saved by Brom, who sees the oval on Eragon’s palm. Eragon runs to Saphira, who becomes agitated and flies away with Eragon on her back. They fly to the deep forest, and Eragon can’t move, as his legs have had their skin stripped away by Saphira’s back.
When they return home, the farm has been burned down, and Garrow, Eragon’s uncle lies in the wreckage, ill and burned. Eragon sees Brom and passes out. Eragon wakes up in town, being healed, and decides that he will have to leave with Saphira. The next day, Garrow dies. Eragon leaves to pursue his uncle’s killers, but is stopped by Brom, who reveals that he knows about Saphira. Brom insists on coming with Eragon, and gives him a sword, Za’roc. Brom then gives the creatures that killed Garrow a name, the Ra’zac. Brom and Eragon track the Ra’zac through the snow, and Brom begins to teach Eragon how to swordfight. A storm arises, and Saphira learns she can’t fly well in high winds.
Eragon and Brom arrive at the town of Yazuac and discover that Urgals had massacred all the residents. They explore the town and find more Urgals still there. They fight them, and Eragon manages to accidentally imbue an arrow with magic, which destroys the Urgals. Eragon rescues Brom and they escape with Saphira. Later, they talk about magic. Brom reveals that he knows some magic, and promises to teach Eragon how to utilize it. Brom teaches Eragon the ways of the Dragon Riders.
At the next village they encounter, Brom realizes he has to teach Eragon to shield his mind from other magicians. Eragon begins to ride Saphira more, and they find a canister of oil the Ra’zac left behind. The oil burns any skin it touches and is very rare. The two begin to travel to a coastal town, Teirm.
On their way, Eragon becomes more adept at magic. Brom reveals that he has a friend in Teirm, named Jeod. The pair arrive at Teirm. and start to search for Jeod, who is a shipper. Eragon encounters a strange herbalist named Angela and her werecat Solembum. They tell his future, which includes death, romance, and a family betrayal. Brom, Eragon, and Jeod conduct a dangerous mission to find where the Ra’zac’s oil was shipped, and they determine their destination to be Dras Leona. Brom later reveals that he was an agent of the Varden, an underground organization with the objective of overthrowing the king. He also killed Morzan, Galbatorix’s lieutenant. Eragon dreams of a young woman in a jail cell. The two arrive at Dras Leona and take time to scope out the city.
Eragon is spotted by the Ra’zac and a chase ensues. Eventually, Eragon and Brom are captured. When at the Ra’zac’s camp, they are about to be killed when arrows attack the Ra’zac, however Brom is severely injured. The savior is revealed to be a man named Murtagh, who has also been following the Ra’zac. Brom’s condition worsens. In the middle of the night, he reveals to Eragon that he was once a Dragon Rider himself, with a dragon named Saphira who was killed by Galbatorix. Brom then dies. Murtagh reveals that the sword Brom gave Eragon was once Morzan’s. Eragon and Murtagh travel to Gilead, where they believe the girl in Eragon’s dream is being held.
Then, Eragon is captured by Urgals. Eragon is questioned and drugged by a Shade, the same one from the beginning of the story. Murtagh and Saphira stage a daring rescue, which hurts the Shade, and rescues Eragon and the girl from his dream. Eragon can not heal the girl, and they continue trying to find the Varden. The group crosses a humongous desert, with the girl still unconscious and her condition worsening. Eragon reaches into the girl's thoughts, and it is revealed that her name is Arya and that she is an elf. She was poisoned and will die unless they get to the Varden.
The group encounters some slavers, who try to take them, but Murtagh kills them, which makes Eragon angry. They see a group of Urgals in the distance pursuing them. The Urgals are soon catching up. Eragon doesn’t understand why Murtagh doesn’t want to reach the Varden until Murtagh reveals that he is the son of Morzan and will be viewed as an enemy. The two are nearly killed by the Urgals until they are rescued by the Varden. Arya is taken to be healed and the two boys have their minds probed by magicians. Eragon goes through the Varden complex and meets Ajihad, the ruler of the Varden. They discuss Eragon’s journey, including Brom, as well as what plans for Eragon consist of. Eragon walks through the city and gives a child a magical blessing.
Later, he encounters the herbalist Angela, who gives him information on Shades. Eragon is taken to the dwarves, and told by their king Hrothgar that Eragon must prove himself by helping fight the empire. Later, Eragon’s physical and magical abilities are tested. It is revealed that an army of Urgals is marching towards the Varden, and war preparations begin. Saphira is given armor by the dwarves. A huge battle begins, with many losses on both sides. Eragon then has a duel with the Shade. They are relitavely evenly matched, and it looks like Eragon might lose the battle. Then, Saphira soars in, breathing fire. This distracts the Shade, allowing Eragon to kill him. Eragon passes out.
When he awakes, he discovers that after the Shade was killed, the Varden easily won the battle. However, Eragon now has a large, painful scar crossing his back. He decides that he needs to visit the elves to learn more magic. He will be prepared to fight for his kingdom.