Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Review: Inheritance Cycle

Hardcover and Paperback

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started on the Inheritance trilogy (for back then it still was planned as such) shortly after the first volume, Eragon, was published, so it must have been around 2003. I enjoyed it, which is why the first three volumes are hardcovers in my personal library (normally, I wait for the paperbacks, because they're more comfortable to read, and cheaper). I guess the long wait for the fourth part made me forget about the whole series, since I was very surprised to receive it as paperback as a gift last Christmas. It was only this Summer's vacation that gave me the chance to read them all again.

Before I really bother you with my opinion of the series, let me give you a short long overview of the story (no, it is not entirely free of judgement or unnecessary comments).
It all starts with a boy called Eragon, who grew up at his aunt's and uncle's, because his mother left him shortly after his birth. Of course, this - and the mystery about his father's identity - is of great importance later. Eragon is off hunting in the mountains (which nobody but he dares enter) when a blue stone appears before him. It is accompanied by a huge explosion, which drives Eragon's prey away. He returns home with the stone, hoping to buy some meat with it instead, but nobody wants the thing.
It turns out pretty soon that it is not a stone at all, but a dragon egg - easy to recognise when a dragon suddenly hatches out of it. In Eragon's world - Alagaësia - only one dragon still exists: Shruikan, the king's dragon; suddenly discovering one outside the king's reach can only mean trouble. Still, Eragon touches the dragon hatchling and is bonded with her. He cannot bring himself to abandon or kill her, so he secretly brings her up in the woods behind his family's farm.
Of course, it cannot last. Two servants of the king - the Ra'zac -  appear in his village, asking questions, and he is forced to flee with the dragon, whom he named Saphira. His uncle is killed by the Ra'zac in the process, but luckily his cousin, Roran, is not home when it happens.
Eragon wants to kill the Ra'zac as revenge for his uncle's death, so he leaves with the old "storyteller" Brom, who helps him make a saddle for Saphira, and starts teaching him in fighting and magic while travelling. In the end, the Ra'zac kill Brom, who is replaced by Murtagh as Eragon's companion on the road.
Since he is unable to defeat the Ra'zac in his current state, he travels on to join the Varden, a group of rebels hiding from the evil king. Once there, it turns out Murtagh is the son of one of the king's followers (long dead), and later we also learn that he is Eragon's half-brother (his father was Brom, though).
What follows after all this are lots of fights, alliances with elves, dwarves and Urgals (huge, war-loving creatures), and more battles.

After the first book, the storyline is split to follow not only Eragon, but also Roran, who turns out to be a great warrior, and Nasuada, the leader of the Varden. Just to sum up a few key points:
Eragon and Roran manage to kill the Ra'zac, Nasuada manages to lead the Varden to battle against the Empire (and is all the while attractive enough to ensure Murtagh's assistance), and Roran saves his whole village and later many of the Varden besides.
In the end, Eragon - still a teenager - is the most powerful man in Alagaësia, which prompts him to leave the country with Saphira and a bunch of dragon eggs discovered between the battles. End of story.

As I already said, I enjoyed Eragon. Eldest was also nice. It's with Brisingr that things started to go downhill. First, because it was a huge disappointment that the trilogy didn't end after three volumes, as promised. And second, because I felt that leaving out some of the joy-of-fighting bits and descriptions of people sticking sharp objects in other people would have helped keeping the series a trilogy.
Please note that I am not (and surely not because of my gender) strictly opposed to fighting scenes in books. Not at all. They're great when well written, showing (not telling) and filled with tension. The Inheritance battles are dry and lifeless. There was no way I would feel with a wounded soldier, not even if it was a major character. They felt like a waste of time and paper.

There are two more things that, after I finished with the series, struck me as either cruel or unnecessary.
One are Eragon's dreams. In the first book, he dreams of Arya, captured in Gil'ead, which helps him save her. These dreams are caused by the Eldunarí for that exact reason. Fine. Later, he also has dreams - described as similar to those about Arya - about the battle of the Burning Plains and about him leaving Alagaësia forever. Both come true. Both are not caused by the Eldunarí, and seem to have been simple premonitions.
But, really, two kinds of dreams? Was that necessary? The premonition about the Burning Plains didn't have any effect, any influence on the happenings. The one about Eragon leaving might have helped him a bit accepting his fate, but Angela's prophecy could have done that on its own. I think we could have lived without the premonitions.

The second thing that bothered me was Eragon's deal with the Menoa Tree. He needs the Tree's help, and offers anything she might want in return. He gets the help, and a twinge in the belly.
Did the Tree take something from him? An organ maybe, or his belly button? We don't know.
All the while I was hoping there would come an explanation. What came, at the end of the fourth book, was another visit to the Menoa Tree, for Eragon thought he still had to give her something. She doesn't want anything, so he leaves, unsatisfied.
I still don't know for sure if and what she took. It was cruel of the author to bring the issue up again and yet not resolve it. Does he even know himself? Or did he simply want to annoy the reader?

Despite the aforementioned flaws, I don't regret that I read the series. We all know the author's still young, and he put a lot of work in that world of his (no matter how much is similar to some more famous fantasy stuff). I would probably have been comfortable just getting the books from a library though, instead of buying them, or having others buy them for me.

I can't tell you whether or not you should read the Inheritance Cycle. I guess most who considered it already have, anyway. Maybe you'd like some other opinions? Find some below, and let me know yours!

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