Idgiepug’s CBR#4 Review #21: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
My husband and I spent six MONTHS reading the final novel of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance cycle. My response upon finally finishing the thing: Well, thank goodness THAT’S over. I wanted to like this series. I tried very very hard to like this series. I read every darn one of the FOUR (we were promised three) books aloud with Mr. Pug, and I just couldn’t. I’m sorry to die-hard fans out there; this series just wasn’t for me.
The story, albeit derivative, is okay. The series opened well enough with Eragon, the story of a poor boy living a simple existence in a small town in the imaginary world (continent? land mass?) Alagaesia. While hunting for food alone in the wilderness, Eragon finds what he thinks is a pretty stone but is actually a dragon egg. The egg hatches for Eragon into the beautiful dragon Saphira, thereby making Eragon the last of the dragon-riders (Jedi knights), a group of humans and elves who bonded with dragons and used magic to maintain peace in Alagaesia. The dragon riders and their dragons were killed by one of their own who turned evil after the death of his own dragon. After killing off all the dragons and riders except a few other traitors, Galbatorix seized power over nearly all of Alagaesia. A small section called Surda remained a free nation, and the elves and dwarves (and other Tolkien-like creatures) maintained their own enclaves. The evil king (Emperor Palpatine) sends some creepy henchmen after Eragon, but he escapes with the help of Brom (Obi-Wan), who, of course, was a dragon rider before he became the slightly strange but otherwise unassuming old man of the village. From there, the story gets a bit complicated. Eragon has to train to be both a dragon-rider and a magician, meet the various races that populate Alagaesia, such as elves and dwarves (alas, no orcs or hobbits), and help the Varden (rebels) try to defeat Galbatorix. Oh, and it turns out that Eragon is related to one of Galbatorix’s key henchmen (Darth Vader, but with a twist).
At any rate, the last novel focuses on the lead-up to the final confrontation between Galbatorix and a united army of men, dwarves, elves, and urgals (rugged, half-wild, war-like sheep-men) and the aftermath of said confrontation. Along the way to the final battle, the rebel forces have to defeat and subdue various empire-controlled cities and try to form some plan for the big showdown. There are various sub-plots as well, such as the rising status of Eragon’s cousin Roran in the rebel army and a side-trip Eragon and Saphira take to former island home of the dragons and their riders.
Again, the story is all right, which is what kept us reading it, but Paolini’s style bugged me. First and foremost, the kid needed some SERIOUS editing. The whole mess could have fit into a trilogy (as he originally planned), and Inheritance could have been cut by at least half without changing the story. For example, there are PAGES AND PAGES dedicated to the giant snails that live on the former dragon riders’ island. The snails are kind of intriguing, but they serve no real purpose and are never mentioned again, so they could be completely cut out. Paolini also likes to use big words, and I recognized a whole lot of his big words from the truly wretched vocabulary book series I’m forced to use with my own students, so that really bugged me. I’m all for varied vocabulary, but it’s not really all that varied when you’re pulling it directly from the Sadlier-Oxford workbooks.
I was left at the end of this book wishing that Paolini had, like other literary-minded kids, written this story in his journal first, mulled it around a bit, taken some real creative writing classes, and then written the novels when he was older and more experienced. There was some real potential here, but it just didn’t have the polish (and editing!) that it needed to be a truly good series.