I cannot get enough of this fandom, and considering that this is Inheritance Cycle, it comes as no surprise that we’d get a fic that is by far much better than the original source material. Of course, that could be said for anything. There will always be Harry Potter fanfiction written by people more skilled than Rowling, and there will always be LotR fanfiction better written than LotR. It happens. There’s always someone better. But these kinds of stories tend to be few and far between, and so I am happy to share this one with you guys.
I should also clarify that Shackled By Blood was started before the release of the last book, and so it is not canon compliant after the events of Brisingr. Told from the point of view of Murtagh, it is, however, everything the last book should have been. And I daresay that purplehairedwonder has a better grasp on Paolini’s character than, well, Paolini. And I don’t just mean Murtagh, because we spend the entire fic with him and Thorn. I mean, all the characters.
Shackled By Blood begins with Murtagh and Thorn still trying to come to terms with the deaths of Oromis and Glaedr and their roles in that event. But more so, they’re also coming to terms with how easily Galbatorix had been able to overtake and possess them.
It had been two weeks since he and Thorn had fought Oromis and Glaedr over Gil’ead; two weeks since Galbatorix had taken over Murtagh’s mind and killed the elder Rider. Murtagh hadn’t known what had happened until too late. He felt dirty; a heavy filth permeated his being that no amount of washing could cleanse. And Murtagh had tried, scrubbing his skin raw and bloody until Thorn had brought him back to his senses. But the desire to scrub himself for hours on end persisted, like an itch he could not scratch.
The two of them are eventually interrupted out of their musings when Galbatorix summons Murtagh to the throne room, where the young rider discovers that Roran has been captured by Empire forces. Following this event, Roran is tortured by Galbatorix as punishment for his role in the rebellion and then left to recover under the care of Murtagh, whom Galbatorix has tasked with teaching Roran both magic and sword fighting.
Roran’s recovery takes place in Murtagh’s childhood home, and it is there that Murtagh starts to discover more about his family, specifically his father.
One thing that I really like is the fact that, despite Morzan being dead, the story does his character justice. It makes him more three-dimensional and even gives him some redeeming qualities, but at the same time, it doesn’t shy away from all the horrible things Morzan did to Murtagh, nor does it try to justify them. But even though he was abusive, the story is still aware that he was Murtagh’s father.
The library was located toward the center of the manor, as if Morzan had been trying to protect it when organizing the layout of his home. The setting sun provided weak light to guide Murtagh through the winding corridors, but he moved from memory.
As a child, Murtagh had tried to sneak into the library countless times, though the magic Morzan used to guard the room always left him stuck on the outside. He’d been curious about what might be in the chamber, and when he’d begun to learn his letters, he had become even more curious about his father’s secret hideaway of books. But above all, he had been a young boy without a playmate looking for ways to entertain himself.
When the serving staff would find him stuck outside the large double doors, they would kindly chide him and lead him away from the room, always hurriedly, yet never seeming rushed as not to scare him. They all seemed nervous about what Morzan would do if he discovered his son trying to sneak into the room. The few times the man had caught Murtagh, he’d swatted the boy with a hand or Zar’roc’s sheath, but had never been angry—a fact that seemed to this day to remain between father and son.
Later on, in the latest chapter, Murtagh actually gets to speak to the ghost of his father and receive some closure. A driving subplot in the fic is that Murtagh slowly begins to realize that Morzan had planned to betray Galbatorix, and that Galbatorix was responsible for luring Brom and Morzan together, where Morzan could be killed.
Thorn sounded contemplative as he spoke. It also means he knows Morzan was plotting against him. Perhaps…
Murtagh stopped his pacing as the implications of that statement hit him. Perhaps Morzan’s death was no accident. Galbatorix lured Brom to find Morzan…shortly after Eragon was born.
Thorn did not miss the stab of pain in Murtagh’s chest at the thought—the Rider didn’t bother trying to conceal it. Murtagh sighed, staring at the fire across the room.
Mostly, at its core, this is a family story, about Murtagh finding a kindred spirit in someone else being in Galbatorix’s clutches, and Roran learning to not hate Murtagh for all the things he has done in Galbatorix’s name. It is also through Roran that Murtagh learns that Eragon is only his half-brother. And many of the injustices that Murtagh faces throughout the series are addressed here, specifically in his relationship to Eragon. Murtagh has good reason to hate just about every character in the books. He has all the right to hate Brom, the man who killed his father, seduced his mother, and for all intents and purposes, stole his brother from him, making Murtagh the only one bearing the hatred of Morzan. He has every reason to hate Oromis, a guy who pretty much sat on his ass the whole series and ignored his plight. And he has every reason to hate Eragon, for abandoning him and proclaiming Murtagh an evil betrayer for being kidnapped and forced to fight against the Varden.
And he especially has the right to hate Eragon, because though Eragon thinks Murtagh’s evil, he doesn’t extend that same thought to Roran, who is in the exact same position as Murtagh. In fact, he blames Murtagh when he realizes that Murtagh helped to train Roran.
“His style is much like yours,” Eragon said. “You taught him, didn’t you?”
Murtagh shrugged. “What if I did?”
Eragon and Saphira surged forward. Thorn dropped in altitude and flew under Saphira’s belly. Murtagh thrust his sword up, but Eragon’s appeared to protect the blue dragon’s underside. Thorn leveled out and turned to face their opponent again. Behind Eragon, Roran still held a hand to his shoulder as his one-handed spell slowly knit the damage back together.
“Then you’re partially to blame, aren’t you?” Eragon demanded, before Saphira shifted back toward Roran. Roran’s eyes widened and Murtagh cursed.
But one of the many reasons I like this story is the hatching of the green dragon egg. The green dragon in this story is called Edocsillif and he hatches for Roran. In the book, his name is Fírnen and he hatches for Arya. I couldn’t stand this setup in the book, because it happens after the final battle with Galbatorix. Having the third known dragon egg should have added more to the story. There should have been consequences with it. That was something that should have been resolved before the final battle. Instead, it was just a cheap way to make Arya special and give her a dragon. In the actual series, if Paolini had removed that egg, nothing would have changed. Arya having a dragon doesn’t affect the plot, because it happens after the plot has more or less concluded.
However, in Shackled By Blood, by making the dragon hatch for Roran, it changes everything. Things are bleaker. Galbatorix now has two riders at his command—and he’s managed to brainwash Roran in actually being loyal, instead of being forced into being loyal—and now Eragon has to confront them both. And Eragon also has to come to the realization that maybe he had been unfair to Murtagh.
If any of you are even remotely Inheritance Cycle fans, this fic is for you. It has a lot to offer, and it’s just a great read. Unfortunately, it’s not finished, but purplehairedwonder has by no means abandoned this story for good. She may be slow in updating, but she does get around to it, every once in a while. Check it out and tell me what you think.