It has now just been ten years since the Eragon movie came out, which means that I can finally talk about it for my Throwback. Like its book counterparts, I’m sure no one will be surprised to hear me say that the movie is awful. Granted, I’m sure that any movie which attempted to accurately portray the first book would be pretty bad—but this movie didn’t even try for accuracy. In terms of adaptations, it’s at about The Last Airbender’s level of bad. Not only is the movie only an hour and a half long—which is not enough time to adapt a book over five hundred pages—nothing in it makes any kind of sense.
The Inheritance Cycle is one of those series that is just filled to the brim with bad idea after bad idea. While that was rather apparent when reading the first three books, it didn’t occur to me just how much the author had no idea what he was doing until the last book. Like other fantasy narratives, the mechanics in The Inheritance Cycle are based on numerous myths, fairytales, and folklores. But one of the many problems with The Inheritance Cycle, however, is that it has no restraint. It doesn’t know which myths to use and which ones not to. It also doesn’t help that, once again, the story relies on telling and not showing.
We can see this in numerous instances, from the morality between the good and bad guys to how magic works to the roles dragons play in the narrative. The Inheritance Cycle has many common fantasy tropes, but it doesn’t utilize those tropes to the best of its ability, or at all. Instead, they become pointless instances in the story that rise up out of nowhere and have no impact on anything. A perfect example of this is when the series introduced changelings in the fourth book, Inheritance.
Sometimes when we’re following a story we come to the startling and awful realization that our protagonists are horrible characters. Maybe they’re not written very well, or given a good role in the story, or maybe they’re just terrible people. Whatever the case is, some protagonists are just unlikable. And that most certainly is not supposed to be the case as often as it is. The other day while replaying Star Ocean, I got to thinking of all the horrible protagonists out there that I am supposed to like, and I came to a not very startling conclusion: most of them are cishet, white men who are also full of entitlement. This is not the case for all unlikable protagonists—but it is the case for enough of them. And it really goes to show just how boring and generic our stories are, since there is very little variation in this character type. As such, I decided to compile a list of my Top 5 worst protagonists who I am supposed to like, but who are really just giant assholes.
When I was a kid, I loved dragons. I mean, I still love dragons, but I especially loved them as a kid—there was a time when I literally picked all my reading material based on the numbers of dragons they had. I devoured Tamora Pierce’s Immortals quartet, where main character Daine is raising a dragon called Kitten, Patricia Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles, where the princess volunteers to be a dragon’s “captive” princess so that she can have fun adventures—fuck, I even read Dragonriders of Pern when I was in the sixth grade. (My librarian apparently didn’t see anything wrong with giving that series to a girl just barely in middle school). But before reading Dragonriders of Pern, another of my favorite dragon books was Bruce Coville’s 1992 children’s novel Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.
It’s been four months since the last time I talked about my favorite series and my love-hate relationship with it, so I figured it was time for another post. One thing that always bothered me about The Inheritance Cycle was its use of magic. In the series, magic is an unstable force that can have various unpredictable consequences. While this is not a problematic idea, the story doesn’t use it to its full capacity. The dragons, for instance, being magical creatures, don’t have control over their own abilities. Yet the story doesn’t use that to the characters’ detriment, so much as it turns them into deus ex machinae in order to fix problems.
However, because magic is unpredictable and therefore dangerous, a long time ago a now-supposed extinct people called the Grey Folk somehow managed to bind magic to a language. Essentially, they made it impossible to use magic without knowing the Ancient Language. Unfortunately, just like the dragons, the rules governing magic in The Inheritance Cycle tend to change depending on what the narrative needs them to be.
As I pointed out to Lady Geek Girl the other day, more than a month has passed again since I last addressed this topic, so it’s time to revisit my favorite series. I’ve spent a good long while harping on The Inheritance Cycle in the past, and while it does have plenty more problems that I could go into, Paolini did do a decent job every once in a while. This series has a good number of avid fans and followers, and I highly doubt that would be the case if the books had no redeeming qualities whatsoever. We could argue all day about whether or not they’re good books (they’re not), but even if you don’t like the series, it’s hard to deny that there is an appeal to it.
So today, I’m going to talk about some of the things that I genuinely enjoyed, or at least appreciated, about the series.
Throughout literature and mythology, dragons have been interpreted and portrayed many different ways. The word “dragon” can be quite broad in its definition, and depending on where you go in the world, people will always have different images and ideas that they associate with dragons. The dragons that we’re most concerned about today are European Dragons, who are typically portrayed as evil and greedy, with a few exceptions, especially in modern literature. Here in America, European Dragons are what we tend to be most used to. They are big scaly lizards with large wings. They breathe fire, kidnap virgins, steal gold, and live in caves. With the exception of being innately evil and kidnapping virgins, this is the kind of dragon that The Inheritance Cycle uses.
Although I obviously knew about dragons before The Inheritance Cycle, Paolini’s books were my first real foray into their mythology, and so I’m more familiar with his interpretation than I am with others. Additionally, despite my love for dragons, they tend to bore me, because they’re often portrayed exactly the same over and over again. Paolini’s dragons were new and unique to me at the time, so naturally I fell in love with them (though I do hear that they are ripoffs from The Dragonriders of Pern). But because I’m so under-read in this matter, it is hard to compare them to other dragons and actually say what Paolini did that makes his dragons unique and worth your time. Like all things in his books, he occasionally hints at creativity with his dragons, but ultimately their magic tends to only happen for plot purposes.
Last month, I did a post on religion and culture in Inheritance Cycle, specifically for the people of Carvahall and Eragon himself. That, however, led to someone asking how I felt about a holy vision, I suppose you could say, that Eragon has in Brisingr. This post furthers my response to that question.
In Brisingr, during Orik’s coronation to become the new Dwarf king, Eragon sees a vision of the Dwarven god Gûntera. The vision—or rather, the manifestation—of the holy being is brought about by a Dwarven priest saying a prayer in the Ancient Language, the language of magic. This has led me to believe that this wasn’t a vision or something otherworldly. This particular scene undermined the Dwarven faith, instead of enhancing it, since it potentially provides proof to something I thought they believed simply through faith. Additionally, it could also go to show that their faith isn’t real and only the result of magic. I really disliked this scene, because I actually thought the Dwarven faith was really well done.
I’ve harped on Inheritance Cycle quite a lot, and that’s mostly because, despite it being my favorite series, it could have done so much better. Most of its flaws could have actually been strengths had the author been aware of them. For example, had Paolini been aware that he made Eragon a sociopath, the books would certainly have been more interesting.
The Varden would have needed to recognize having Eragon around as a necessary evil with which to overthrow a bigger evil. Eragon wouldn’t have been a beloved hero, but a terrifying anti-hero on whom people were forced to rely. Additionally, had the books been self-conscious about both the Varden’s and Eragon’s unethical practices and ideals, the Varden would have had to work harder at justifying their actions. Instead, the books assume that we’ll automatically agree with Eragon and the Varden, while simultaneously hating Galbatorix and the Empire.
That right there is a sure sign of terrible writing, especially because our main villain, Galbatorix, and his followers, the Forsworn, don’t seem anywhere as evil as the books make them out to be.
It has been at least four months since the last time I got on Inheritance Cycle’s case, which is entirely too long. So it’s time to rectify that now. A longstanding complaint of the series is the lack of culture within the world of Alagaësia, specifically among the humans of Carvahall. One of the ways Paolini could have fixed this would have been by adding more religion, which is surprisingly absent for a good portion of the first book, despite the fact that there is no logical reason for religion to not play a larger role in the narrative.