Christopher Paolini was raised in the Paradise Valley, Montana area. His family members include his parents, Kenneth Paolini and Talita Hodgkinson, and his sister, Angela Paolini. Home schooled for the duration of his education, Paolini graduated from high school at the age of 15 through a set of accredited correspondence courses from American School of Correspondence in Lansing, Illinois. Following graduation, he started his work on what would become the novel Eragon and its sequel Eldest, both set in the kingdom of Alagaësia.
In 2002, Eragon was published by Paolini International LLC, Paolini's parents' company. To promote the book, Paolini toured over 135 schools and libraries, discussing reading and writing, all the while dressed in "a medieval costume of red shirt, billowy black pants, lace-up boots, and a jaunty black cap." Paolini created the cover art for the first edition of Eragon, which featured Saphira's eye. He also drew the maps on the inside covers of his books.
In Summer 2002, the stepson of author Carl Hiaasen found Eragon in a bookstore and loved it, and Hiaasen brought it to the attention of his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. Knopf subsequently made an offer to publish Eragon and the rest of the Inheritance cycle. The second edition of Eragon was published by Knopf in August 2003. At the age of nineteen, Paolini became a New York Times bestselling author. Eragon has since been adapted into a film of the same name.
Paolini's essay "It All Began with Books" was included in the April 2005 anthology Guys Write for Guys Read.
Eldest, the sequel to Eragon, was released August 23, 2005. The third book in the cycle, Brisingr, was released on September 20, 2008. Although the Inheritance cycle was planned as a trilogy, the details for the Brisingr had to be expanded to include a fourth book.