There’s a scene in Inheritance, the final volume of Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, where our protagonists spend fourteen pages negotiating a hallway leading straight to the evil overlord’s throne room and the final battle of the series. The only problem is the many traps along the way—blades sliding out of the wall, spikes shooting up from the ground, that sort of thing.
It was a boring scene, really, and it’s the perfect analogy for the entire story of Inheritance. After three books spent setting up the pieces for this final battle, Paolini’s latest novel tells us the story of a rebellion marching in a straight line for the capital, the conquering of every city along the way being the only obstacle. It’s straightforward and honestly quite unimaginative.
Don’t get me wrong—I loved Eragon when I first read it at age eighteen. It was the first genre novel I read after The Lord of the Rings. While its sequels weren’t as good as Paolini’s debut novel, and though my taste has since matured, I still considered myself enough of a fan to buy Inheritance on the day it came out. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed. Of course, Paolini has never been enough of a wordsmith to please the lexophile in me—I mean, you know it’s poorly written when you read lines like, “His lips were torn and his right eye was ruined, but he could still see out of his remaining orb”—but at least his stories have always been interesting and entertaining.
Dragging on to the final battle
Inheritance starts out slow and, while it gains some momentum after about two hundred pages, it never becomes the page-turner that the first three novels were. The viewpoint of Roran, Eragon’s brother, was the only really interesting part; unfortunately, it seemed more like a ploy to drag the story on longer than necessary than an actual element to build upon. It’s not the only such ploy, either. There are long scenes of torture and interrogation that drag on interminably with no purpose to the story whatsoever, and a journey through a storm that only delays the inevitable.
Deus ex machina
All of this adds up to an 850-page book in which only two truly necessary events take place, resulting in a story that could just as well have been told in a quarter of the pages. Quite frankly, even those two necessary events left me underwhelmed. The final battle was anticlimactic, with the all-powerful overlord being defeated almost effortlessly, while the big reveal midway through the book was spontaneous and hardly foreshadowed, as well as lacking in imagination and creativity. In the end, Inheritance is a deus ex machina story if ever I read one.
This anticlimax isn’t ameliorated by the actual ending of the book following the inevitable and easy defeat of Emperor Galbatorix. Over one hundred pages are spent in an awkward attempt to wrap things up in entirely redundant ways. Paolini’s attempt to conclude the series is made even more awkward when it becomes apparent that he will likely write more novels in the world of this series, thus robbing readers of the closure they came to expect. The changes introduced in the end were insignificant enough that they could have instead been laid out at the start of a new novel.
Why should you read this novel?
All in all, Inheritance absolutely doesn’t deliver. It works neither as an epic fantasy novel nor as the end to a series loved by many, and only serves to prove what so many have said already: Christopher Paolini may well be undeserving of the popularity he has gained over the past six years. A tedious read at best, Inheritance has proven a huge disappointment to the dragon lover in me.
If you’re a fan of the series as I was, this review probably will not stop you from reading Inheritance, and you may well find it at least sparsely entertaining. Don’t expect the closure you’re looking for, however. If you’re an epic fantasy reader looking to see if the ending warrants reading the entire series, I would simply recommend you watch the original Star Wars trilogy and imagine dragons instead of lightsabers.