The Inheritance Cycle – Christopher Paolini

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is an epic fantasy series about dragons. First things first, I did not just discover this series! I recently reread it and then realised I hadn’t reviewed it yet on this blog, which is a slight I had to rectify! I’ve also just  noticed that I’ve been reviewing a lot of books by authors that became successful at a very young age lately. The same goes for Christopher Paolini: he started writing the series when he graduated high school, at fifteen! Four years later he published Eragon through his parents’ publishing company. So at 19 years of age, this American went around schools and libraries dressed like a medieval noble to promote his book. I can only imagine what that looked like!

Anyway, a year later he made a deal with Knopf publishing for the second edition of the first book and the rights to the rest of the series. Critics weren’t raving about the book, but Paolini became a best-seller nonetheless, in 2011 he was even named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest author of a best-selling book series. This four book series is a classic coming-of-age story, taking place in something like medieval times, with dragons and magic thrown in. Absolutely lovely! Paolini takes his time with telling the story and has a good eye for detail. Only in the final (fourth) book do we learn everything about the story, but I liked the insecurities and unknown. Since the story is written from Eragon’s perspective, we really get to experience everything with him as he does.

In the first book, Eragon finds a weird stone in the forest, which turns out to be a dragon egg when it hatches a few months later. He names her Saphira and raises her in secret. He is found out by the Ra’zac, servants of the evil king, who kill his family so he decides to go after them to get revenge. Brom, a storyteller from the village, accompanies him to teach Eragon everything about the dragon riders and magic. When Brom dies after another confrontation with the Ra’zac, Eragon travels on with a new friend named Murtagh. He gets captured by the Ra’zac but Murtagh and Saphira save him, and in the meantime they also save an elf named Arya. They then travel to the Varden rebels who are trying to overthrow the evil king to offer their help. At the end, he and Saphira are tested when the king’s army attacks the rebels but Eragon triumphes.

Eldest is the second book in the series and picks up right after the battle. Eragon and the elf Arya decide to travel to the elves to receive further training. They meet another Dragon and his Rider who proceed to teach them everything they know. Eragon goes through a lot: he learns everything about the history of the Dragon Riders and is taught everything he needs to know to be able to defeat the evil king (who is also a Dragon Rider). He falls in love with Arya, but she rejects him, and later he undergoes a ceremony that turns him into a human-elf hybrid.

In the meantime, Eragon’s cousin (his only remaining family) runs into trouble when his town is overrun by the Ra’zac who kidnap his fiance. He wants to rescue her so he takes the entire village with him to join the Varden rebels.

As for the Varden rebels, they are planning an all-out war on the king. When Eragon learns this, he arrives just in time for another battle with the king’s army. In that battle, Eragon encounters another Dragon Rider who is loyal to the king, who turns out to be his old friend Murtagh (who then turns out to be Eragon’s brother). It’s the arrival of the dwarves that force the king’s army to retreat. Eragon’s cousin also takes part in the battle and after the battle both of them decide to go after the fiance.

The third book was supposed to be the last in the series, but Paolini needed a fourth to get to the ending. Anyway, in Brisingr Eragon and his cousin are on their way to the Ra’zac who have kidnapped the fiance. When she’s rescued, his cousin and the fiance return while Eragon stays behind to punish and kill all the Ra’zac. On the way back, he meets up with the elf Arya again. When they are back with the Varden, a small group together with Murtagh and his dragon attack – unsuccessfully. Later, Eragon goes to the dwarves to attend the election of the new dwarf king while his dragon stays behind with the Varden. Saphira arrives during the coronation, and afterwards they travel back to the elves for further training. Eragon also gets a special Dragon Rider sword during his stay and then they his Dragon Rider mentor goes to confront the evil king.

In the meantime, his cousin has married and is now part of the Varden military. He’s very good at his job and goes off to battle. Eragon arrives during this battle to rescue the elf Arya (again) and they go to find the leader of the city together. They manage to kill the evil spirit that was summoned. However, at the same time, his mentor is fighting with Murtagh and losing. Murtagh manages to kill him and his dragon. At the end, the Varden rebels explain their plans for invading the empire.

This epic fantasy series ends in the fourth book, entitled Inheritance. This book starts with an attack by the Varden rebels on the empire. Eragon’s dragon is badly hurt in the battle, but they win the city. His cousin manages to capture another city and both of them meet up with the Varden at another city. Taking that city is more difficult since Murtagh and his dragon are guarding it. Eragon, the elf Arya and some other decide to sneak into the city through the sewer in the hopes of opening up the doors to let the Varden army in. The group gets separated and Eragon and Arya are caught by priests that worship the Ra’zac. Eventually they are saved, they manage to take control over the city but their camp is later attacked by Murtagh who abducts the Varden’s leader. Eragon is appointed the Varden’s new leader and they march on to the empire’s capital.

In an early prophecy, Eragon was told to find a special kind of magic to help him defeat the evil king. He goes to the island with his dragon and manages to get into the vault. There they find the remaining souls of deceased Dragons and Riders (similar to those used by the evil king to stay in power) and a bunch of new dragon eggs which were hidden so the evil king couldn’t get to them. He makes it to the capital where he joins the Varden, the elves, the dwarves and everybody else in the attack. A small group including Eragon, Arya and some other make it to the throne room where the evil king subdues them. Eragon is forced to fight Murtagh with swords only and Eragon manages to defeat him. Murtagh then turns on the evil king and takes his magical protection away. Eragon and the evil king engage in a battle in their minds, while Saphira and Murtagh’s dragon fight with the king’s dragon. Eragon casts a spell on the king that makes him experience all the pain and suffering he has caused, while Arya manages to kill his dragon. The evil king cannot bear the pain of the spell and losing his dragon, so he kills himself.

After the battle is over, Murtagh leaves with his dragon. The Varden elect a queen that the dwarf king swears loyalty to. Arya returns home to the elves where she is elected queen of the elves. She takes one of the dragon eggs she rescued with her, it hatches and she becomes a Dragon Rider as well. Eragon makes a new magical pact between the Riders and dragons so that every race can now become a dragon rider. He doesn’t think their country is safe for the dragon eggs, so he leaves together with all the eggs they rescued in the vault and his own dragon. He gives one egg to every race and then leaves promising them new riders can come to him for training. He will never return and he leaves with his dragon.

The final installment of The Inheritance Cycle starts out just as magnificent and promising as the other three books. The book reveals the last answers, explains the final secrets, and ties up all loose ends so that the story can end. I however, was not really happy with the ending of the saga. I felt like Paolini did not take his time to really think it all out (like he did in the previous books; there he definitely took his time but the result was also worth the wait) and he admits this himself. Being pressured to publish the final book, I feel like he went about it too quickly and messed up. I do not like the ending at all; it is not definite and still leaves a lot open and most of all: the love story entertwining through all 4 books is not resolved. I was not happy upon finishing the book.

No, the story was not a romance novel, but there was definitely a “will they, won’t they” quality to Eragon and Arya. Not resolving this relationship really upset me and for that (and other reasons, like the whole dragon-eggs-thing) I did not like the end. I liked the book just fine, it was a little less good than the other three, but still worth the read, but I do not like the ending one bit!

Wow, what an explanation, right? And believe me, I left so much out! In general, I loved the books. I don’t care about critics who say that it was derivative and not very original. I think Paolini really constructed his world beautifully and I was captivated from the start. Yes, they are big books and you shouldn’t start them until you are prepared to be reading a lot. And you need to read them in quick succession in order to keep on understanding everything. But that is what I love about it! It’s complicated, but no too much so and it had me hooked from the start. I didn’t like the ending very much, but that’s because I wanted a happy ending for Arya and Eragon (who loved each other but were always torn apart by circumstances). Though it was probably smart for him to leave and take the power of the dragons away from people who could be corrupted.

Before I sign off, just a few words on the movie adaptation. Eragon was released in 2006 but didn’t have a lot of success which is why they never started on the other books. It was an awful movie and you should not watch it, because the book is so much better!

Have you read this series yet? I’d love to know what you thought in the comments!

Happy reading,

Loes M.

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