Inheritance, the fourth book in Christopher Paolini’s trilogy (no, that’s not a typo—I realise trilogies should be three) has reportedly become the fastest-selling book of the year so far, with one selling every 5.5 seconds since its release (in the UK, but presumably around the world too). I have to admit that I’ve contributed to that selling success, having long pre-ordered my copy. Albeit, it should be noted, entirely begrudgingly.
Paolini came to fame as a child prodigy with Eragon, a book he penned while he was still in his teens. I considered it pretty much a classic hero’s-journey-slash-Lord-of-the-Rings cliché, but enjoyable enough that it kept me reading. Besides, Paolini had done what I hadn’t, which was to write a best-selling breakout book—I had to try to read between the lines to glean some pointers.
I read books two and three for the aforementioned reasons. Plus, when you read the first book of what you know is going to be a trilogy you know you’ve effectively signed up for all three. What I didn’t originally sign up for was a fourth book and I was, frankly, pretty damn grumpy when I got to the end of the third and Paolini shrugged (well, not literally) and told us he was extending it to a fourth. And that we’d have to wait years for him to write said book.
I wholly admit and own that I came to Inheritance with a little you-lied baggage. But is it just me, or was Inheritance 849 pages of time-dragging sideshow before we finally got to the one thing we were there for: the showdown between Eragon and Galbatorix, his archenemy?
Maybe I’m being harsh, and my enjoyment was hampered by having read the previous three books a long way back and retaining only a hazy memory, but I felt that Inheritance started slowly. The Varden were just fighting some random dudes from another random city that didn’t really matter, while rehashing things like how Roran was brave and lucky in battle. That and Paolini was making up ridiculously and unnecessarily long and unpronounce-able names for things. Like ‘Thardsvergundnzmal’, which appears on page 210 and which apparently means ‘a fake’. Urgghhh. I actually snorted in derision at that.
I felt that none of the Inheritance scenarios or manners of overcoming them were as clever as they’d been in previous books, and I was willing Paolini and his characters to just get on with it. It wasn’t until page 286 that something happened, which was 285 pages too late for me; all I wanted to do was get to the end of page 849.
There were, of course, moments that I enjoyed. But they were far outweighed by the moments I didn’t. And that I wondered how Paolini or his editors thought they were good—or even feasible—ideas. Say, for example (and I’ve kept it vague but am still issuing a spoiler alert here), when:
- a character spirits away a spoon as a weapon with too much ease
- a seemingly indestructible character that’s killed even the most powerful of elves is brought down with something (and by someone) much less powerful (and mortally injured, to boot)
- much is made of a character’s fingernails and then it never goes anywhere
- a character isn’t quite as devastated as he should be when his dragon is killed
- complex and interesting characters that Paolini’s spent three books hinting he’ll eventually explain never get explained. Angela the herbalist is one such character. He actually apologises for not unpacking her in his note at the end of the book
- there’s no pay-off pash. No, really.
I realise this blog sounds like a grump-fest, and for that I’m sorry. But I feel as though Paolini subjected me to a fourth book and countless pages of not advancing the story and then cheated me out of the few good bits I wanted.
I wanted a page-turning, climactic finish to the trilogy. I wanted to be impressed by Paolini’s ability to weave and weft a compelling story. I wanted Elva to do something really incredible. I wanted to know about Angela. I wanted a mind-blowingly clever fight between Eragon and Galbatorix.
And I wanted Eragon to get the girl. This was not because I need every book to have a happily-ever-after ending, but because Paolini was steering us towards it at every turn. Then there wasn’t a romance, a wedding, or even a pay-off pash.
Was it just me, or did you spend the book thinking: ‘This wasn’t worth the wait. There’s nothing new in this book and, in fact, nothing that warranted stretching this story out. You could—and should—have finished it as a trilogy’?