Four Things I Liked About Inheritance:
1. Lord of the Rings-esque war campaign
2. The ancient language/magic
4. Angela the herbalist
And The One Thing I Didn’t:
1. The end
This first part of the review is spoiler free, but for those of you who are planning to read or may conceivably, some time in the future, read Inheritance, I suggest you stop reading after the spoiler alert warning below.
Inheritance is - finally - the final installment of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle series, which began with Eragon. The series has been rather slow to come to its conclusion. Originally, it was intended to be a trilogy, but in the process of writing the third book, Brisingr, Paolini realized he would not be able to fit everything into just one more installment. Now that the fourth book is out (after a lengthy delay; I had only vague recollections of the previous three books, something that occasionally detracted from my enjoyment of the fourth, and would have liked to re-read the others first but didn’t have time to read three books all in excess of 500 pages on top of my course load), it’s hard to comprehend how he ever thought he could - Inheritance clocks in at 848 pages. Fans of the series are hardly deterred by the book’s girth, however; they probably wish it could have been longer. And while I think that it was best to stop now and avoid drawing it out unnecessarily and risk tarnishing the quality and cohesion of the series as a whole, I do sympathize - Alagaesia is a richly architected and detailed, alluring fantasy setting, and it’s impressive to consider that it was initially imagined by a 15-year-old. Finishing a series that has captured your imagination for the better part of a decade is always bittersweet, and Inheritance was no exception to that rule for me, though it pales in comparison to my reactions to the final Harry Potter release.
For those not familiar, The Inheritance Cycle follows a young man, Eragon, as he stumbles into and then pursues his destiny as a Dragon Rider - one who witnesses the hatching of a dragon, forming a bond between dragon and human (or elf, as the case may be) that grants the rider extraordinary strength and talent, both physical and magical, whom were once responsible for governing the land - the first Alagaesia has seen in almost a century, since the takeover of power-mad former Dragon Rider, Galbatorix. Galbatorix has, over the course of the intervening century, amassed exorbitant personal power and rules as a withdrawn tyrant, enforcing his will with fear and dark, dangerous servants. Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, give the rebel s in Alagaesia the last hope they need to orchestrate an organized force to oppose him, allying all the races of Alagaesia into a single rebel force, known as the Varden: the humans, elves, Urgals, dwarves, dragons, and werecats. Inheritance chronicles the Varden’s final campaign against Galbatorix’s tyrannical reign, culminating in the inevitable face-off between Galbatorix and Eragon, Harry and Voldemort style.
Inheritance reminded me strongly at times of the Lord of the Rings movies. Different races - humans, elves, dwarves, Urgals (like LOTR’s Orks) - from across a fantasy world (Paolini’s Alagaesia, LOTR’s Middle Earth) united to launch an uprising against a single tyrannical power (Galbatorix and Sauron [sp?])… the series do have striking similarities. But I don’t think you can blame modern fantasy writers for being influenced by Tolkien! And Paolini’s Alagaesia is certainly a very distinct, creative, and carefully realized world in its own right. I think it was the focus on the military campaign in Inheritance and the visual of these various magical and non-magical races marching in droves to lay siege on enemy-controlled cities that just struck me as very Lord of the Rings, and that kind of déjà vu made me start noting other similarities. But if anything, I think that just speaks to how vivid Paolini’s narrative really was, that it would conjure up scenes in such clarity that I could associate them with silver screen counterparts.
The conclusion to The Inheritance Cycle was fittingly fraught with danger, excitement, victory and defeat, thrill, surprises and anticipated resolutions. It did not disappoint, except on one account, and that very much a personal sentiment.
I didn’t like the ending, starting with the way Eragon defeated Galbatorix and including his departure from Alagaesia. The whole make-him-understand-the-import-of-everything-he’s-done spell thing just felt way too heavy-handedly noble to me. I wanted there to be some new twist, or for Eragon to tap into some new facet of his power, or even for him not to be primarily responsible - for a while, I wondered whether Elva might not discern Galbatorix’s true name. Instead, in a flurry of chaos and confusion caused by Eragon’s contrived oh-so-noble magically-induced culpability, the inconceivable hulking MASS that is Galbatorix's dragon Shruikan is felled with a single stab administered by Arya without even rising to defend himself, and Galbatorix himself is overpowered. After all the time spent building up how incredibly all-powerful powerful Galbatorix is and how helpless Eragon fares against him even after all he and Saphira’s training, it just seemed much too easy. And then afterwards, when Alagaesia is now ostensibly free for the first time in a century, it’s suddenly much too unsafe for Eragon to settle anywhere within the confines of the land, and incontrovertibly necessary for him to disembark to lands unknown? Why, Paolini, why? I do have to concede, though, that part of my discontent with this particular plot point is my preoccupation with relationships in books. I’ve been rooting for Arya and Eragon since the very beginning, and I hated to see the series end with them being permanently separated just as Arya was finally coming around and softening enough to admit her feelings for Eragon. But it’s not just the romantic relationships - I likewise hated seeing Eragon abandon a happy future surrounded by the friends and family he’d found among the many races across Alagaesia throughout his journey. It was highly dissatisfying to have followed along as these relationships were carefully cultivated throughout the series only for Paolini to have Eragon withdraw, alone, to go settle abroad in the end without the company of any of the people who care about him.
But those are just my personal scruples, forming an easily overlooked blemish on what was otherwise a fitting finale to a wonderful series. And when it comes to disliking the ending, let’s not discount the fact that I was always predisposed to be disgruntled with it, simply for being what it was - the end.
Conversation Starter: If you’ve read any of The Inheritance Cycle, did you follow through to its conclusion? If so, what did you think of the ending?
Books Read This Year: 93
Top 100 Progress: 48/100