Thursday, November 17, 2011

Review: Inheritance - Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Series: The Inheritance Cycle #4
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on November 8, 2011
Published by Knopf
Pages: 849
Read From: 11.10.11 - 11.16.11

Not so very long ago, Eragon - Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider - was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now, the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders. 
Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chance.


I am desperately trying to think of one concise word which sums up the sheer misery of the last five and a half days, in which I had to slog my painful way through this 849-page monstrosity. The horrors of Inheritance are so vast and so many that I am unable to; instead, I find my mind reliving the pain, the awfulness, and the absolute boredom of this book. So maybe I should give up trying to express my feelings in one word - since it apparently cannot effectively be done - and just relate to you the atrocities which face any Reader brave enough - or dumb enough, depending on what led to such an unfortunate circumstance (I was being paid) - to pick Inheritance up. One thing I will say to my fellow critics - especially those being hired to read this book: you should demand hazard payment!

Whatever small hopes I might have expressed in my review of Brisingr, they were all crushed. Character development? Ha! Plot twists? Dream on. Deepening of character relationships? If you even wanted that, then you are already way too much into this series and will probably stone me for this review. Character deaths? My mind is drawing a blank. Paolini promised surprises and unexpectedness of all kinds; the only thing that surprised me was that I managed to finish this fourth - and blessedly last - book in this torturous four-volume collection as quickly as I did. Every single thing that happens is predictable, - no psychics needed - right down to the end.

But don't despair - there are some . . . surprises. Let's start with the worst of it, shall we? Now, I have often commented about the wrongness that pervades these books - in descriptions, word choice, and events. In Eldest, we were presented with a bathing scene where our oh-so-lovable hero shamelessly eyes his now-naked teacher (who is male, by the way) from head to toe, and the Author finds it necessary to inform us helpless Readers that Oromis has absolutely no hair on any of his person. I didn't think things could get much worse than that, and it doesn't, but my goodness, does it come close. There is a certain chapter in Inheritance which I have lovingly titled "The Chest Hair Chapter." Ladies, if you were picturing Roran as a buff young man with a waxed chest, think again, because our beloved Author makes it quite clear in this section - and others - that Mr. Muscleman is as wooly as a baboon.

Descriptions only get worse. In the same chapter, Roran is attacked by an assassin, and they fall into a heap at one point, trapped under a now-collapsed tent. Rather than expressing this in somesuch words as "Roran and the assassin fell atop each other in a tangle of limbs," he instead chooses the phrase (and I quote directly): "Roran continued to hold him as the life drained out of him, their embrace as intimate as any lovers.'" I am sorry, but unless you are trying to creep your Readers out, an Author does not use such . . . wrong imagery, because the Reader's mind is going to immediately jump to unwanted thoughts. I can't tell you how much I squirmed in my chair and made faces; I even got a bad taste in my mouth and shrieked out loud in horror.

However, among all of the chaos of just plain badly-written battle scenes (where Paolini attempts to be like Michael Cadnum and throws in gore, which doesn't succeed; there is a proper way to write gory scenes, and he didn't do it), looonngggg nightly character routines (we get to read about Eragon's regular spelling sessions!), and side travels that shouldn't take as much time as they do, the Reader is finally presented with a character! Enter, Mr. Fingernails! This part, by far, outweighed even The Chest Hair Chapter when it came to over-the-top unnecessary and ultimately vomit-inducing descriptions (though the number of flared nostrils nearly did me in). Page 414-416 is entirely devoted to describing, in microscopic detail, the clean and cultivated - yes, cultivated - fingernails of a character whose name you never even find out. And I hate to say it, but those fingernails were the only thing in that entire book which had even a smidgen of personality. By the end of page 416, I knew those fingernails so well that I was inclined to give them names, and the description is so in-your-face thorough that whenever the owner of the nails walked through the door, I no longer pictured a man, but a giant fingernail with googly eyes.

And if that isn't scary enough, Inheritance abounds with monsters fit for your worst nightmares. Imagine, if you are brave enough, being attacked by . . . a giant snail!!!! No joke! Eragon is attacked by a giant snail, like the sort you find in your garden, which proves, once and for all, that Eragon really is a vegetable. If the Author inserted these snails for comic relief, it is a joke which falls flat and wastes time. It is plain stupid and adds to the length of an already-lengthy novel. But apparently Paolini has some fear of insects, because before the giant snails, he introduces us to maggots called - again, I am not joking - burrow grubs with "obscene little mouths." I'm sorry, but there simply is nothing threatening about maggots. Spiders? Yes. Or even beetles, because there are actual existing beetles which are poisonous. But maggots?!

The rest of the book is just disappointing - even for an anti-fan like myself. Anyone who was anticipating an even halfway decent stand-off between Galbatorix and Eragon will be really disappointed. Not surprisingly, the oh-so-evil King sets up a one-on-one duel between Eragon and Darth Vader - I mean, Murtagh. Also not surprising, Murtagh has a "change of heart" and does something that helps Eragon kill Galbatorix. I thought I would never say this, but for once I would have rather had a cliche hero-kills-villain death, as opposed to how Galbatorix really dies. I am sorry if I an spoiling the book for anyone, but presumably if you're reading this, you either don't care or you've already read the book. Rather than a sword through the heart or a fireball to the head, Eragon and his accompanying Power Jellybeans kindly show Galbatorix the error in his ways, from when he stole a candy cane from his baby sister at Christmas, to his tempting people to join his side with their favorite cookies. In the words of the book, Eragon "makes him understand." Galbatorix is so overcome with all the awfulness he's committed that he spontaneously combusts. What do I need to add to this? What's wrong with this picture, people?! The villain - the evilest person in the book - is killed with sad memories!!!!!

That brings up another point that plagued me throughout the book, and that is Galbatorix's supposed badness. When a country is controlled by a tyrant, there are signs of it: soldiers in cities, secret police, crushing taxes, executions, people dragged from their homes at night, furtive glances over one's shoulder, starving peasants, closed borders - just to name a few. If I walked through Alagaesia and a random citizen came up to me and said, "Hey, our king is a tyrant!" I would be flummoxed, because there seems to be no real evidence of an evil monarch. Every once in a while, the Author kind of mentions a few high taxes, just in passing, but there has never been any real indication of a controlling king. Heck, Eragon and Brom traveled the entire country in the first book with no Imperial soldiers stopping or attacking them! No bands of knights or whatever pillaging. Nothing! And I failed to see his massive evilness in Inheritance when he had occasion to talk with other characters. He, in fact, seems no more evil than the average evil person. He sits in his tower all day, twiddling his thumbs, admiring his riches, eating cookies, making the occasional threat, and watching instructional videos on his plasma-screen TV. Explain to me how that makes him the Big Cheese out of the evil people in the kingdom.

All in all, Inheritance was as I anticipated - awful, painful, and boring. If you wanted an effective way of torturing people - well, this would be it! No one could recover from the giant snails, maggots, fingernails, and chest hair - or the fact that the book ends a good seven times. All I can say is - thank God I am done with The Inheritance Cycle for good! And I feel for anyone who had to suffer as I did through it. Thumbs up to you critics who bulldozed your way to the 849th page, and didn't cringe too badly at the ending so obviously stolen from The Lord of the Rings! I take my hat off to you!

Others in The Inheritance Cycle:

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