Sunday, November 4, 2012

Review: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders. Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances. The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to AlagaĆ«sia? And if so, at what cost?

Christopher Paolini and I go way back: Eragon was one of the books that in a way led me to starting this blog. When I finished it I wanted to talk about it, share my thoughts in a place that was mine and where my comments wouldn't get lost in the shuffle of thousands. So I posted my thoughts on my then-personal blog. Several months later I realized that what I really wanted to talk about was books, so after testing several platforms Bibliophile's Corner as we know it was born. Now, over two years later, I read the last installment in the story of Eragon and Saphira and their fight against the evil Galbratorix and I'm very impressed with Paolini who at such a young age created such an elaborate and sprawling story with excellent adventure, insightful commentary on the human condition, and characters who grew and evolved in the most satisfying way.
If there is a book or a series the Inheritance Cycle reminds me of it is Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It is a bit simpler and scaled down but it has the same concept of a quest, an unlikely hero, lots of races and languages (can you even imagine creating a whole new language, let alone five?), armies marching through lands and a seemingly omnipotent villain. I'm not much of a fan of bloody battles and longish conversations about affairs of the state so there Paolini lost me just as successfully as Tolkien did. Fortunately there was enough to keep my interest in between and I particularly enjoyed the sections where Roran was the protagonist because it gave a different perspective of events as well as a view from a position of no magical powers and the struggle to keep up and hold one's own through sheer will, courage, determination, creativity and intellect.
Throughout the book Paolini revealed secrets and brought plot lines to conclusion, many of which began as early as the first volume, and I couldn't help but admire his plotting prowess. With Inheritance it becomes that much more obvious how much planning went into this series, and anybody who can do this as well as Paolini did is undeniably talented. Not all mysteries were revealed but there are plenty of hints to allow the reader to connect the dots and draw their own conclusions. I do wish however that we learned the true names of Eragon, Saphira and Arya - in the course of the book they discover and reveal them to each other but not to the reader. Then again, maybe it was intentional to avoid possibly disappointing the readers, it happens so often that the hype surrounding the affair is greater and more exciting than the affair itself.
When I think about what is my favorite part of this book I inevitably come back to the battle with Galbratorix. That chapter was so full of bare humanity despite all the magic, of intentions true and misguided, and alliances that seemed unlikely but nonetheless made perfect sense that it made for an excellent culmination of the struggle that's lasted through most of the series. It was very satisfying to see how things turned out despite the fact that it wasn't exactly a 'happily ever after' for everyone, and, fittingly, it was the strongest chapter of the book.
Now that the last book in the series is finished I have been thinking about the kind of person Paolini must be to have written a book and a series such as this. He is very young, not even 30 years old, and yet his books are full of the kind of thoughtful perceptiveness I would expect from an older person. His examinations of right and wrong and how one gets there as well as his insights into human nature are often startling in their simplicity and truthfulness, and I still have one of the quotes I copied from Eragon or Eldest hanging on my cork board. I'm glad to have given Eragon a chance way back when and I look forward to what Paolini will reveal next, and judging by the hints he's dropped in an interview for the Pacific Northwest Writers Association there's much more to come.


  1. Hi I just stumbled across your blog and I see that we have similar reading tastes, so I am now your newest follower. I would love for you to stop by my blog and check it out. I really hope to see you there and happy reading!


  2. You know, I have a beautiful hardback set of the first three books of the cycle (there are four now, aren't there?), I got them really cheap in a book sale but have never picked them up. You've inspired me to give them a go soon :)

  3. My job here is done! You are correct, there are four now, Inheritance is the fourth and last book in the series. I hope you enjoy Eragon's adventures!