Valyruh’s #CBR4 Review #53: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Because it’s been years since I read the earlier Eragon books, picking up Inheritance in order to catch up on the story and see how it ends took a fair bit of effort on my part. That said, I must confess that it was worth it! I found Inheritance a blast–I’m a sucker for huge battle scenes and dragons—despite the occasionally less than stellar writing, the sometimes unnecessary divergences into never-never land (i.e. the flight through the storm), and the sometimes excessive (perhaps extraneous?) plot points. First of all, I enjoyed the fact that author Paolini didn’t feel the need to dot every “i” and cross every “t” to bring his epic series to an end. So what if some of the mysteries remain unsolved? What fan of the Harry Potter series wouldn’t love at least one more book to explain this or that reference, detail or character’s history or whatever? Clearly Paolini is leaving open the possibility of continuing the series, and I say that if he really is ready to eke out another 900-page extravaganza, more power to him!
But I would say that the greatest strength of the Eragon tetralogy is that the main characters—Eragon, Arya, Roran, Nasuada, Murtagh, among others—go through a rather fascinating maturation process, providing satisfying depth to what is otherwise a highly-imaginative Lord of the Rings-style battle between good and evil. And after plowing through nearly four serial novels of extraordinary length and detail, I was impressed in the end by the fact that finally coming face-to-face with uber-villain King Galbatorix revealed not the cardboard bad guy I was expecting, but rather a complex character whose arguments in defense of the empire he sought to establish were, in context, surprisingly compelling and thought-provoking. And [SPOILER ALERT!], Galbatorix’ explosive demise is melodramatic, to be sure, but also original in that concentrated exposure to the pain of his many victims is what finally undoes him.
I was also impressed that Paolini took quintessential “bad guys” like the Urgals, and not only gave them a real history, language, culture, and social order, but the chance of redemption as well. Through his lovingly detailed treatment of the different races in his story, it is clear that Paolini is consciously trying to impart an important lesson to his readership, both young and old, about how not to judge others but rather, to acknowledge and build on the common “humanity” in all of us. In fact, in this series, Paolini ambitiously takes on a number of profound issues about what constitutes morality, the violence in our culture, justice vs. vengeance, religion, and much more.
Finally, unlike the cloyingly cliche romance of Avatar, I liked the fact that Paolini makes Eragon’s slow-boiling romance with the elven princess/warrior Arya susceptible to the reality of the world he has created and in which they must coexist, and not the other way around. Our world doesn’t need happy endings as much as it needs problem-solvers, and Paolini conveys this message powerfully, I thought.. The ending of Inheritance, and of the series as a whole, pissed many readers off and, indeed, after the non-stop action of the final battles against Galbatorix, another 50 pages or so of “wrap-up” could seem anti-climactic to some. But I found it just right.