Thursday, November 17

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

After many long years, Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle finally closes. I was in eighth grade when I read Eragon and loved it. I’ve loved fantasy stories since grade school, when my parents read me Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. Though it many have criticized the series for following nearly every fantasy cliché in the book, I still enjoyed it and when Eldest came out shortly afterward I jumped right back in. By time Brisingr released I had started college, and though I still enjoyed Eragon and Eldest, I was sorely disappointed at the lack of story progression and the overwhelming amount of filler material.

How does Inheritance stack up? In short: Better than Brisingr, but it lacked many elements needed to make it a solid ending to the series.

Going into the story, I was worried that Inheritance would prove to be overly predictable and formulaic. While there are definite moments of predictability, there were several surprises. The best thing about the surprises was that, for the most part, they didn’t feel forced into the story. Part way through, a character is abducted, allowing for sequences I would’ve never have predicted. This allowed for plot events to happen differently and for character growth in surprising way.

One of my favorite elements was the werecats. After making appearances throughout, they enter the story in a more direct, and in a stronger, way. We get a better sense for what sort of race they are, and we also get learn more about the prophecy given to Eragon. The climactic battle turned out okay too. Though not amazing or outstandingly original, it is entertaining with a couple of surprises.

Still, Inheritance suffers some of the same problems as the previous three entries. One of the worst offenders is over-descriptiveness. Many scenes start too early, or end too late, resulting in excess pages that don’t add to the plot, characters, or the world. There were entire scenes which could’ve been cut – such as Roran riding to lead help the Varden conquer a city.

Of course, there are also times which are not descripted, or explained, enough. At one point Roran is leading an attack against a heavily fortified city, though he appears to be greatly outnumbered. He devises a clever way of attack, but while many of his soldiers are gone an enemy patrol passes. Roran has the remaining soldiers hide, and a magician makes the air around him shimmer. Shimmer? Why? Roran doesn’t explain why, he just tells the magician what to do. It works, but since I couldn’t tell what was supposed to be happening I felt quite disconnected from the scene. If you think you understood it, please let me know, but so far I haven’t been able to figure it out. The subsequent battle is also poorly described. Though I think I figured out how the attack worked, it felt extremely jumbled and I had to work to piece together a scene which I didn’t feel like I should have to piece together – it’s a battle scene, not a whodunit.

Some of the characters also suffer from being poorly presented. One of the worst characters in the book is King Orrin. Though he felt semi-relevant to the story in Brisingr, he’s nothing more than a whiney king. He’s either complaining, drunk, angry, or a mixture of the three throughout. He tries to kill at least one character and generally comes across as being quite idiotic. How he became a king, I cannot tell.

Other characters are poorly resolved. One of the most interesting characters throughout the series has been Angela. In Inheritance she seems to appear more often, and we begin to learn a tiny bit more about her. However, whenever I thought Paolini was on the verge on something major the scene would shift or something would interrupt the story. I understand there are mysterious characters in books, and not all of them can be fully examined. However, with how much Angela contributed to the narrative, I expected some sort of closure to her character and there was none, not even a hint. In the afterward of the book Paolini explains he did this intentionally, and I do not need 100% closure, but it is extremely frustrating to be constantly teased without getting a nibble.

The ending itself presents another problem. Though, as I stated above, that I enjoyed the climax, there are over one hundred pages before the book actually ends. Most of the one hundred pages are used to wrap up threads which I didn’t even think needed to be wrapped up, and the threads I was most interested in (such as Angela’s character) were not.

Also, fairly early in the story, a character loses something of importance to them.  Though they continually look for it, by the end of the story it still had not been found.  Given the amount of time spent looking for it, I expected some sort of resolution.  As it was, the whole thread felt unnecessary and easily could've been reduced/cut.

Finishing a series such as this can be no easy task. There were some things I though Paolini did well, and some things he did not. I hope that his editors can show him how to write strong scenes and descriptions without going overboard. I also hope he takes a break from this world. Though there are things readers will want to know more about, the major conflict of the series has been resolved. Without that conflict driving the story forward, any subsequent stories (long or short)will lose a great deal of urgency and importance.


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