Inheritance by Christopher Paolini – review

A good friend of mine who is not a fan of speculative fiction found that she loved the Harry Potter books (I recognise that she isn’t Robinson Crusoe there). When that series was coming to an end, she decided she wanted to try another fantasy series and settled on the Inheritance Cycle. While I don’t usually read much young adult fiction, I decided to read the books at the same time to be supportive and so we could discuss them (and with the hope I might be able to direct her towards some other novels she might like down the track).

So, I over the last couple of years I’ve found myself reading the four books of the Inheritance Cycle, culminating most recently in the final volume Inheritance. I give this by way of introduction to make it clear that I don’t read much young adult fiction, as such I perhaps don’t have a wide enough reading base to compare. So, this review is probably aimed more at an adult reader of speculative fiction i.e. not the target market for the book. Read on with that grain of salt.

My friend loves these books. She was absolutely gutted when the third book ended up being split into two. She has been waiting impatiently for this fourth book. A quick glance over some of the many reviews in Goodreads confirms that once again she isn’t stranded alone on a desert island on this topic (as a side note, I’m not quite sure I understand the desire to give a book a 5 star rating before it has been released. How do you know? I suspect I’m missing something there too).

I didn’t love this series in the same way. While I could perhaps understand the appeal intellectually, I found the characters and plots somewhat shallow. The good guys were really good. The bad guy was really bad. The few characters with shades of grey (I’m thinking mainly of Murtagh here) were compelled to be bad by forces outside their control (despite this I did find Murtagh to be the most interesting of the characters as a result of his “greyness”, and I would have liked to see more space devoted to him).

Difficulties faced by our heroes were mostly resolved within a few pages, especially internal imperfections. This seemed to be a major theme of all the books. Eragon in particular was faced with a series of personal challenges, but it seemed like as soon as a shortcoming was revealed he almost immediately found a way of overcoming it. Mr Paolini constantly told us that Eragon had character flaws, but these character flaws never seemed to actually manifest in anything other than trivial ways.

I also had some difficulty with some of the devices used to resolve major plot points (e.g. major sources of power becoming conveniently available – although to be fair Mr Paolini did make some effort to foreshadow some of these elements in earlier books). Mr Paolini does seem to be heavily influenced by some other stories, which again probably isn’t so much an issue for younger readers (or readers new to the genre) who haven’t come across the themes (dare I say tropes?) before.

The book was readable without being challenging at all. There did seem to be a lot of filler – I did find myself wondering whether the last two books really needed to be split, or whether some tighter editing could have produced a single volume covering the same plot.  The last hundred pages or so was a very Lord of the Rings style wrap up of nearly every plot point that had been raised throughout the series but hadn’t been resolved before the climactic battle. I was keen to finish the book by this point and that may have flavoured my reading, but it did feel like the editor had made a list of all the unresolved plot points and the author sat down and wrote a paragraph for each one. However I was happy with the way the Eragon/Arya relationship plot was resolved.

Having said all that, the plot did move along at a fairly fast rate (although I must admit that I was skipping the occasional descriptive paragraph). The battles were large scale and executed competently enough.

I did get the impression that I would have liked the book a lot more when I was a kid and I didn’t have patience for loose threads and flawed characters. There were enough battles with enough gore to keep young Mark entertained, and a lot of triumphing over impossible odds. As I said before, I’m not the target market for this book and I suspect that it probably does a much better job at appealing to that audience than I’m able to see.

Generally speaking this wasn’t the series for me, but I can see how for a younger audience or those new to genre books it would have greater appeal.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

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