‘In the beginning, there were dragons: proud, fierce, and independent. Their scales were like gems, and all who gazed upon them despaired, for their beauty was great and terrible.’
Warning: Minor spoilers.
Despite having read the previous three books in the Inheritance Cycle, it has taken me three years to get round to reading Inheritance which was published back in 2011. Admittedly, I only decided to read the book for the sake of finishing a series I began reading back in 2006, as it seemed a shame not to. Although I can remember reading Eragon as a thirteen-year old and really liking it, and thinking the second instalment was OK, I was really disappointed with the long winded, meandering plot of Brisingr, and having read it years ago, could barely remember anything that happened when I began Inheritance. Luckily Christopher Paolini provides a synopsis of the entire series to date at the beginning, which perhaps suggests that he didn’t expect anyone else to remember either.
Beginning where Brisingr left off, Inheritance follows the fates of Eragon, a dragon rider, his dragon Saphira and Eragon’s cousin Roran throughout the final showdown with the evil King Galbatorix. The three travel with the Varden (a group of rebels against the King) as they launch an offensive, attacking city after city on their way to the capital city of Urû’baen and Galbatorix himself.
Inheritance was certainly an improvement on Brisingr, and is perhaps, in my opinion, an improvement upon the reasonable second book Eldest. There was certainly always something going on, the many battles providing constant action, whilst the odd quiet moments in between seemed to work on the mounting tension as the army marched towards the final showdown at Urû’baen. However, I felt that at times the plot was a little repetitive, following the pattern of ‘attack city, defeat city, march, attack city, defeat city, march’ throughout most of the book.
Nevertheless, the long-awaited meeting with Galbatorix, which had the potential to be an enormous let down, was actually a pleasant surprise. Whilst I almost expected the stereotypical mad king, or evil Dark Lord, Galbatorix turned out to be nothing of the sort. Whilst I don’t want to give too much away, I found that a lot of the reasoning behind the atrocities he committed was understandable (although of course, still unjustifiable). Despite being undoubtedly evil, he was more complex and well-drawn than I had expected, and I enjoyed finally getting to see him confronted by the main characters, after a three-book build up.
However, this leads me to the fatal flaw that the series has always had for me; I have never much liked the hero Eragon. Whilst I think on the whole the characterisation within the Inheritance Cycle is actually, despite the criticism, quite good – Brom, Murtaugh, Angela and Solembum being particular favourites of mine – being unable to truly get behind the protagonist was a major issue for me, and this became even more pronounced in this final book. There is nothing technically wrong with Eragon as a character, and it is perhaps for this reason I don’t like him. He seems like more of a cardboard cut-out hero than a believable character, and is therefore, in my opinion, rather boring and at times, irritatingly self-righteous.
I also felt that the fight scenes and battles within the book were a little ridiculous at times. Eragon and Roran in particular seemed to be killing hundreds of Galbatorix’s soldiers whilst rarely receiving more than a scratch themselves, which kind of amped down the element of danger, and was highly unrealistic (even for a fantasy novel!).
Overall though, I enjoyed the book more than I thought I would after the disappointment of Brisingr, and the final meeting with Galbatorix was worth the wait. The events of the ending (which I won’t spoil) were also in some cases unexpected, and I liked that it didn’t just end with a happy ever after – although it did in some ways resemble the end of a certain other notable fantasy saga…