Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

After reading Inheritance, Paolini's monolithic finale to his epic cycle by the same name (which I generally refer to as "those Eragon books"), I decided to review the entire series.

The books center around Eragon, a simple farm boy who chanced upon a dragon egg in the forest and went on to alter the course of the world. Throughout the course of the series Eragon grows in his abilities as a dragon rider and in his relationships, as he becomes more mature in his dealings with his dragon Saphira, his elf-friend Arya, his cousin Roran, and the leaders of the various people of Alagaeisa. Ultimately he must face and destroy the tyrannical and nearly invincible Galbatorix in order to free the land from his rule and attempt to restore the race of dragons, which the evil king almost completely destroyed.

Paolini's attention to detail is impressive. His mastery of a thesaurus is downright heroic. His dragons are delightful. His storytelling is brilliant, but ultimately his story was missing something. I hate to say it, but it's true: I was disappointed by the ending. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I just couldn't appreciate the vastness of what the author was trying to do with the story. Still, in my opinion, it got away from him. After I finished Brisingr, and while I waited for this widely anticipated final volume, I was concerned that he had bitten off more than he could chew, and set events into motion which he would not be able to satisfactorily resolve. And in my opinion, that is exactly what happened. When I finish an epic series like this one, I want to feel something. Honestly, I want to cry. When I finished Inheritance, I felt nothing. Not excited, pleased, satisfied, happy, heartbroken, or any of those things that a really good book (or movie, or TV show, or sometimes even commercial) can make me feel. That in itself made me a little sad.

Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the series. Remember, in the spirit of positivity I only review things I like on this blog. Paolini obviously put a lot of thought into developing the major races of Alagaesia, including their languages, cultures, histories, and people. And although there are those who say his work is largely derivative of the true masters (read: Tolkien), I actually was impressed with his creativity and ingenuity. Plus, I am very forgiving of anything involving dragons. I love dragons, and Eragon's Saphira is no exception. She is really a great dragon. There were several other nice touches throughout the series. I could get all caught up in the things I didn't like and probably bore everyone to death, but I'm not going to do that here. Instead, I'll say that the books are good but not great. I recommend them to die-hard fantasy fans but people who can take or leave fantasy would probably be better off leaving these books.

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