The last book of the series recently came out this month—and about time too, as we’ve only been waiting three years for the damn thing—and I have been planning to do a review of the series for a while now. So now that it’s out, I might as well get started.
Spoilers and a trigger warning for rape after the jump.
No series has ever left me so ambivalent. I love this series, I really do. I would go so far as to say that it’s one of my favorite series ever. And this just makes me so confused, because every time I read anything in the books it pisses me right the hell off. Like, you could find essays and various blog posts all over the internet on why The Inheritance Cycle is trite, and despite the fact that I agree with just about every possible reason people have to hate the books, I still love them. I don’t know why. I loathe Eragon, Arya, and Saphira; I think they’re pretentious assholes. I think Orik is bland. Nasuada is shoved up on a pedestal she doesn’t deserve to be on, because she sucks as a leader. I feel the same way about her as I do most politicians: pretty speech giver, but completely full of shit. The elves, for being the supposed perfect race, are riddled with flaws that aren’t meant to be there, I have no idea what Paolini wants me to take as the religion of the world, the dwarves exist for the sake of existing, and the overall message seems to be something along the lines of “evil is evil and good is good, just because Paolini says so.”
Then again, maybe the only reason I like this series is because I’m a whore for anything Star Wars. That’s probably it, now that I think about it. And that’s probably why my favorite character would be Morzan, the Darth Vader of the series. Morzan’s dead by the time the books start, but hey, after those shitty prequels George Lucas gave us, I’ll take Darth Vader wherever I can get him.
Now, there are some things I like about the series, or more accurately, things I convinced myself it’s okay to like, because, on occasion, Paolini messes up his own story, and we get the occasional character development. And I know it’s a mess up, because after spending four books with Eragon and seeing what Paolini considers good writing and characterization, the only time he ever seems to excel is when he’s not focusing on Eragon and giving little tidbits here and there to help expand the world or just be straight-up filler, failing to realize that he managed to be interesting for once.
Like, when Jörmundur jokes that his uncle is an elf in Brisingr, Nasuada replies, “Isn’t he?” and Jörmundur remains silent. Like, we have this whole love relation thing between Eragon and Arya, so is there a possibility of a half-elf-half-human? Paolini said there is in an interview, but he doesn’t do anything with it in the story.
Paolini’s ability to tell and not show is only rivaled by SMeyer’s. The audience is told things, but something else completely different happens, such as Eragon being presented as a hero, even though his actions are that of an antihero’s, which wasn’t intended, so in the end, Eragon comes across as a sociopath we’re supposed to agree with and support. And that’s probably why he’s a Gary Stu. Antiheroes are fun, but we’re not supposed to agree with their methods, because the ends don’t justify the means for most people, but that’s not the mindset of Eragon and the rest of the supposed good guys.
My rage for Inheritance Cycle starts the same place my rage for Twilight starts. With a little more time and planning, just a little more thought here and there, it could be a good series. Maybe not great, but good. Instead, it’s just a cheap knockoff of Star Wars and everything else Paolini stole from.
I personally don’t say Paolini plagiarized, per se. So many stories have been told, so many movies made, so many books written, that it’s going to be impossible to do something completely original. Someone else would have thought of it already. But most authors take the time to make their story unique. They have to, or else they get accused of plagiarizing. For me, plagiarizing means taking something word for word, which Paolini didn’t do. He did, however, steal the entire plot of Star Wars, among other things, and just put it into a medieval setting without bothering to put a different or interesting spin into it. Like, I understand—Paolini practically said in an interview that Star Wars influenced him—wanting to pay homage to a preexisting story he likes, but come on! If you’re going to take the skeletal structure of Star Wars, the rest of the world needs to be fleshed out differently. If it hadn’t so blatantly been, “Use the Force—I mean, use Saphira—Eragon” I most certainly wouldn’t care as much, and I’d definitely hate myself less for falling in love with such a terrible story.
I admit that I don’t know much about the other works Paolini took from, besides Lord of the Rings, so I’m going to quickly mention some important plot points for you guys, and I want you to guess which story they’re from: Star Wars or Inheritance Cycle.
- A princess gets captured by the right-hand man of an evil ruler, and the right hand man intercepted her because she has something of value to the ruler.
- The princess manages to send the something of value away before minion man can grab it.
- She tries to send it to an old man that used to belong to an order of special people that got betrayed by their own and wiped out years ago.
- She fucks up, and instead the important something ends up in the hands of a poor farm boy.
- Evil minions come to collect, burn the farm down, and kill (a) close relative(s) of the farm boy.
- Poor farm boy goes on a mission to save everyone from the evil ruler with the help of the old man.
- Old man is murdered by evil minion(s).
- Farm boy and friend save the princess and join the rebels.
- They win a battle, but not the war.
- Farm boy goes and trains under another, yet more powerful special person in hiding who survived the destruction of the order.
- Awful family reveal! Oh No!
Can you tell which one yet? Can you? No, you can’t? Well then, here’s something else that happens that’ll maybe help you figure out which story I’m talking about.
- Evil ruler is betrayed by his right-hand man in the end.
Do you see what I’m getting at here? And none of these similarities would have bothered me had Paolini put a different spin on the story. Instead he dumbed it down, slapped on some purple prose, and called it literature.
And I should point out, that yes, while I do love this series, I couldn’t bring myself to finish Brisingr. I read the first half, couldn’t take it anymore, and skipped to the end to read when Yoda—I mean Oromis, except I don’t—dies. In fact, after Murtagh runs away in Inheritance I didn’t even bother reading the last forty some pages. There was no point really, since a prophecy in Eragon pretty much tells us how the books end. That, and the fact that everything, and I do mean everything, is completely predictable, even when Paolini does something different than Star Wars. His story is so linier, that there’s no way something else could have happened.
Like the big Eldunari in the Vault of Souls reveal. It was predictable. The only thing I didn’t see coming was all the eggs. The predictability in the series is so intense that Paolini constantly contradicts his own world in order to do it, such as with the religion issue or how magic works.
Or even the whole, Brom being Eragon’s dad instead of Morzan, which while I believe Paolini tried to hint at from the first book, it came across more like, “Oh, sorry about that, Eragon. False alarm. Don’t worry, no character development for you.”
Probably the most telling of bad writing is the relationship between Eragon and Saphira. They’re supposed to be life partners, but instead Saphira comes across more as a slave with little to no personality who adds nothing besides sparkling a lot. We barely see Thorn, Murtagh’s dragon, but at least they seem as though they have the connection Paolini wanted Eragon and Saphira to have, though it’s probably a mistake on Paolini’s part that theirs comes across stronger. I want to say it’s because Murtagh and Thorn only have each other, whereas Saphira and Eragon have Roran, Arya, and a number of other people, but that would probably be giving the series too much credit.
I’m not even going to bother checking Wikipedia to see who the green egg’s going to hatch for, because I know it’s Arya. I knew it was her since Eldest—wait, I’m sorry, I mean since Eragon had that dream within the first half of the first book. Paolini said it was going to be someone we wouldn’t expect, and I guess he didn’t bother reading all the fan theories that said it would be her. More people theorized it would be her than they did anyone else, so when he said it was going to be someone we wouldn’t expect, I figured he was trying to trick us into thinking it’d be Arya, and instead make it Nasuada, or King Orrin, or someone else. But, no, that clearly isn’t the case.
And quite frankly, I don’t really care enough to look up why Eragon’s going to be leaving Alagaësia forever, because I don’t really care about Eragon as a character. Maybe if he had a different author, or had Paolini waited until he was better at writing before starting the story, I would, but not the way he’s currently written.
As I said earlier, Eragon is supposed to be the hero, the young boy who gets handed a big responsibility and is morally good, and that’s just not the story. He’s supposed to be innocent and naïve, but he comes across as either stupid, or cruel, or some combination of the two every other page.
For example, in the first book, Eragon threatens to torture a guard to death, then gets pissy at Murtagh for killing a man who tried to sell them into slavery, then accuses Murtagh of empathy issues, because he killed someone who attacked them maliciously, compared to threatening someone for doing his job. Fast forward to Brisingr when Eragon kills a solider who’s begging for his life—an unarmed solider, I should add—because it would be “dangerous” to let him live, because the solider would go tell someone who could tell the king where Eragon and Arya are. Never mind the fact that they’re in the middle of nowhere, headed back for the Varden, whose location the king already knows, and would surely have reached their destination long before the solider made it back to civilization to tell anyone anything. That, and the fact that it’s established in Eragon that it’s possible to remove information from someone’s mind when Ajihad tries to tell Murtagh why he has to keep him prisoner.
Granted, that’s mind rape, and I do mean rape, but since in Paolini Land anything done by Eragon is automatically considered morally right, the scene becomes even more jarring. And the mind rape is another problem I have with the series. The good guys say over and over again that it’s wrong, and then they do it all the time.
Speaking of the mind rape and Eragon’s shitty characterization, he’s also a bad hero because he has a habit of turning other people’s problems into his own. Again, it’s his lack of empathy. Like, when Murtagh gets mind raped by the king and then forced to swear allegiance and is magically bound into slavery, Eragon’s reaction is along the lines of, “Murtagh’s evil, because he serves the king who is evil, and woe is me because Roran is my brother and not Murtagh.”
I understand the possibility of killing Murtagh. Yes, his situation sucks, but he’s now the enemy and we might not be able to save him, which is awful. What I don’t understand is why being forced to do bad things against his will makes him evil. He’s Eragon’s brother, and he’s in pain, and Eragon just don’t care because he’s too busy bitching about how bad his own life is, with no regard to what his brother’s going through. It’s just a “change your true name—so change the very essence of yourself—or you didn’t try and are therefore evil.”
Fuck you, Eragon.
I don’t know why Eragon and the Varden are considered the heroes, because they never do anything heroic. I mean, Eragon goes into battle and takes pleasure in the soldiers he kills. And I don’t know why Galbatorix and the Emipre are evil, because he’s never really shown to be evil. Why is he evil? Well, he taxes people. And that’s about it. Sure, he destroyed the Dragon Riders, but why were they good? Because they just were. The world is based around everything Eragon does being automatically good and everyone who disagrees with him or who works for the Empire being automatically bad.
The Empire’s stability is only threatened by the Varden, a terrorist group, but Galbatorix is still evil for trying to protect his lands and going to war with them. There are some things here and there to show his evilness, but they come across as more “See! He truly is evil! We must destroy him!” than as anything having to do with character development.
Paolini has a very black and white world, and that’s honestly why there is little to no character development on either side. It’s also probably why Murtagh’s the most interesting character, because he’s kind of gray. He doesn’t like the king, but he sees that the system works, so he doesn’t like the Varden for threatening it.
And any glance of characterization for either side seems to be a complete accident on Paolini’s part. Let’s take Morzan, for example. Morzan is Murtagh’s father, and being a completely clichéd evil villain who works for Galbatorix, he used to abuse his son and at one point threw a sword at his back when he was three. Whenever people who knew Morzan talk about him, we learn that he’s a flat, cruel bastard who’s evil for the sake of being evil. And this is clearly what Paolini intended.
However, contradicting what Paolini wants us to believe about him, if we take into account that the series is called Inheritance Cycle, because it’s about the younger generation inheriting the roles of their parents, we get something completely different about Morzan. Murtagh doesn’t serve the king willingly, and on occasion, Paolini heavily implies that Morzan was in the same situation. Such as these lines here:
“You underestimate Galbatorix, Eragon,” growled Murtagh. “He has been creating name-slaves for over a hundred years, ever since he recruited our father.” (Brisingr, pg. 321)
“Your father, Morzan, was far more powerful than either of you, and even he could not withstand my might.”
—Galbatorix (Inheritance, pg. 666)
This, however, is not expanded on, because Paolini didn’t intend for it to happen. It’s just one of those interesting tidbits, but it has nothing to do with how special Eragon is, so Paolini ignores it. Yes, if this were true, Morzan would still be a bastard—he threw a sword a child—but he would have so much more depth. And it would even raise questions like, was the Banishing of the Names morally acceptable—no, not in any situation, because it just makes the Rider’s dragons seem like assholes who epically mind raped their enemies—to include Morzan’s dragon. What if this was true and they had found out after his dragon’s name had been banished?
For all we know Morzan was in the same situation as Murtagh is and just wasn’t as vocal about it.
It would make the backstory so much more interesting, and then Murtagh would really be in the same role as his father. That’s what this series is about. It’s almost as though Paolini thinks that evil and goodness are genetic.
If Paolini had just fixed his characters and made them more like real people, the story would be infinitely better. And if he removed all the purple prose, if would be at least a couple hundred pages shorter.
For the record, the purple prose is why I couldn’t get through Brisingr. I remember I actually had a list of words that I either didn’t know, or that were uncommon and used in place of a better word so Paolini could show off his vocabulary, or that were misused, or a combination therein. When I made it to my stopping point, the list was over ten pages long in Word, one and a half spaced, font size twelve. Like, in Eragon, I could ignore it. In Eldest it was completely unnecessary and annoying. Then, in Brisingr I couldn’t figure out anything that was happening because every other sentence drowned me in its purpleness. Then again, Brisingr had no plot to speak of, so I didn’t really miss much. Not to mention, that by the time Brisingr came out, the way the characters spoke to each other made no sense. It was a completely different style than the first book, and not the way Eragon should be speaking, not the way half the characters should be speaking considering the amount of not-education they had growing up. I understand they live in a different world, so their speech and thought patterns will be different from ours, but we still need to understand them.
Like this sentence in the first chapter of Brisingr:
Each carried a rectangular metal frame subdivided by twelve horizontal crossbars from which hung iron bells the size of winter rutabagas. (pg. 2)
What the hell is a rutabaga?! Is this supposed to mean anything to me? And even looking up what a rutabaga is—it’s a turnip, I think—it still makes no sense, because turnips come in all sizes. That, and I shouldn’t have to look up the definition of a word every other page to understand the meaning of a sentence. Paolini spends so much time describing useless things, failing to realize that he’s calling attention to them and that therefore I can’t ignore it because it might be important.
I have actually started reading Brisingr in Japanese because the English version is too much for me. Certainly, not the best book to practice with, and I need a Kanzi dictionary to get through it, but at the very least, the Japanese version tends to cut out half the useless descriptions. That’s probably because Japanese has about one-fourth the amount of words English does, so most of what Paolini wrote is completely impossible to say in Japanese, for which I’m grateful.
Take this, for example, from pg. 3 of Brisingr.
Which roughly means:
“Hee!” Roran groaned quietly. “Disgusting. I’m going to vomit. Those religious fanatics are cannibalistic?!”
Compared to the English version:
“Gar!” said Roran in an undertone. “You failed to mention that those errant flesh-mongers, those gore-bellied, boggle-minded idiot worshipers were cannibals.”
I find it really sad that it’s easier for me to read this book in a language I barely speak. I also love how the Japanese had to add the “Disgusting. I’m going to vomit” part into the story in order to keep it about the same length, because of how impossible the rest of the sentence is for them to say. And they had to do this for the whole book…
I’m done reviewing this, and I’ve only barely touched on a few of the things I wanted to talk about. If you want to know the story, here’s a fun sporking page I found for it.
And in case you’re interested, here’s a fanfic I’m writing about Morzan. Fanfiction is not my forte, at least not when writing it, and I’m certain Rin and I will get around to reviewing it in our Fanfiction Follies eventually. Maybe someday. No promises.