Review: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance cover art, artist unknown


Apologies for the delay. Feedback and constructive criticism welcomed.

This is not a book designed for anyone without knowledge of the preceding series, so unfortunately this review may end up the same.

This book is written in the particular style of third person where the narration follows a character, and the reader becomes much like a ghost occasionally allowed glimpses into the characters’ thoughts. Set in a faultless fantasy world, the story is that of the underdog overthrowing the status quo: the old being ousted by the new.

The point of view switches between the protagonist, Eragon; his cousin Roran; and Nasuada, the leader of the Varden. Although theoretically an effective method of building tension (among other things), the changing point of view was utilised so regularly that the story never flowed smoothly for more than a few chapters. As Eragon, Roran and Nasuada all fight on the same side of the war, an opportunity to confront the reader with a harshly contrasting set of opinions was missed, and it was not until Nasuada was captured and placed in a situation entirely different to Eragon and Roran’s that this technique became effective.

The author clearly put a prodigious amount of work into creating this reality. Imagery was abundant, as if the world were constantly being painted into existence with words. For the most part these images faded as they were replaced, but some remain with me after the end. Unfortunately, the price of the sumptuous world was often the storyline.

The plot was stretched thin during the first two thirds of the book, weighed with descriptions and side stories. In part the length worked to convey the fact that waging war takes time and that people become inured to it, but the plot truly suffered from all the detractions.

Even the action-packed battle scenes lagged, lacking the grit required to make written warfare convincing. The introduction of the Werecats as allies to the Varden (the rebel force) during this section provided a gateway for much-needed humour, alongside the occasional insights into the Urgal lifestyle that were in turns surprising and funny.

The final third of this book was very well written, conceived and executed. The entire pace of the story sped up, and the inconsequential frippery of the previous two thirds was cleaved away. Several unexpected reveals created a great deal of genuine excitement as the plot developed around them and became less predictable. There was a feeling of consistent reality in the last section that was erratic throughout the majority of the book.

The unveiling of Galbatorix (the evil king) at an unanticipated moment was especially superb, and he wholeheartedly surpassed his reputation as a dangerously charismatic and cruel madman. The reader was handed tantalising details of his life that left him shrouded in just the right amount of mystery.

Interesting parallels were drawn between the rebels and the old rule of Galbatorix; at times the methods of the Varden were dangerously close to those that Galbatorix used. However, these similarities were barely explored and we are left with an irritatingly unclear statement. The same is true of the strong themes that ran through the book; good versus evil and whether this conflict truly exists; freedom versus the greater good (the policing of magic users is a much debated subject in this book); loyalty, perseverance and love. All are left barely explored despite the book’s length.

Many characters of varying species inhabit this world, and often the most vivid were those with the least words dedicated to them; Lord Barst dominated the end of the book like a giant. Grimrr Halfpaw made an equally strong impression as the inscrutable leader of the Werecats. Angela was (as always) wonderfully eccentric, funny and unexplained.

Eragon’s half-brother Murtagh supplied a darkness and fury that balanced well against Eragon’s sometimes childish notions of nobleness and right versus wrong; both Murtagh and Thorn were eloquently described. Also gripping was King Orrin, a longstanding ally of the Varden’s with a realistically flawed personality. Nasuada became increasingly compelling the more she was written about, and Roran kept his feet firmly on the ground at all times.

Some of the most important characters remained frustratingly hard to empathise with. Saphira was rarely given enough dialogue to truly develop, but the moments when she was were exquisite. Arya seemed to have aleatory bursts of emotion interspersed with long periods of being utterly unfathomable. This is understandable in someone with her amount of life-experience but difficult for the reader.

Eragon himself was far harder to relate to than in previous books; his thoughts often wandered into disjointed observations and musings under which it was difficult to find his personality, and his less endearing traits came over stronger than others. It often occurred that, when considering one of the stronger female characters, Eragon expressed surprise at her ability to fight/lead/cope despite her sex. There were comments along similar lines made by other characters, and by the end I was quite irritated by this unnecessary repetition. There have been enough strong women in Eragon’s life that to express surprise at this point is to illustrate an inability to learn.

Overall a decent read for anyone familiar with the series, especially aficionados with an interest in detailed fantasy worlds. It suffered from an inconsistent quality of writing, and both plot and characters deserved more attention from the author. The actual ending was very satisfying, but I missed the roughly charming, straightforward protagonist and the humorous Saphira of the first book.


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