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Friday, 21 February 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #8 - "Inheritance" by Christopher Paolini.

It's been a long road to this point...2868 pages in fact (according to Yahoo Answers) and 880 of those from Inheritance alone.

Side note - this review has some spoilers in it, so be aware!

"Inheritance" opens with a siege of Belatona. Ever since "Eldest", the second book in the series, the Varden - rebels to the Empire - have been slowly progressing from Farthen Dur in the Beor Mountains to further up within the Empire, joining with the forces of Surda along the way. As it's the last book we know there is going to be the ultimate face-off with Galbatorix, the mad and evil king, at some point, but plot and sub-plot abounds long before we get there.

One of the most interesting of these provides a solution to the problem that Eragon and Saphira knew they would have to face. If Galbatorix is slain, what becomes of them, then? As far as they know, Saphira, Thorn (the dragon of Eragon's half-brother, Murtagh) and one as-yet unhatched dragon are the last of their race. Happily, SPOILER ALERT, they find this is no longer the case. Acting on cryptic advice from a werecat called Solembum, Eragon, Saphira, and Glaedr (no longer in dragon form, but in his heart of hearts form) travel to Vroengard - more specifically, to the Rock of Kuthian on that island. After discovering their "true names" - this is a pretty big deal in the Inheritance Cycle, as names equal power, and if anyone were to ever discover your true name you would be at their mercy - they open the Rock of Kuthian - or Vault of Souls - and make an incredible discovery. There are more dragon eggs and Eldunari (heart of hearts). Obviously they are overjoyed as, firstly, the eggs mean that the dragons can rise again and the extra Eldunari give Eragon more of a fighting chance against Galbatorix (Eldunari hold huge amounts of energy, and energy is needed for magic).

One of my other favourite strands of this book involves Nasuada, the leader of the Varden. She is abducted by Murtagh and taken to Galbatorix's court where he tries to break her and make her submit. We already knew Nasuada was a badass, but her holding out against Galbatorix's physical and mental torture makes you admire her even more.

Eragon's final showdown with Galbatorix is also suitably epic. Galbatorix's plan for Alagaesia is to limit the use of magic so no one will be at the mercy of a magician. A noble plan, if you didn't know how nuts and evil Galbatorix was. The reason he is able to do this is because he has discovered the "true name" of the ancient language.

(Basically, before the ancient language came along, magic was very difficult to use safely as there wasn't really anything one could do to control the release of it. One of Eragon's most important lessons was to only use the ancient language for magic, as to do otherwise could prove fatal.)

Anyway, Galbatorix has discovered the "true name" which means he is able to control who can do magic and when and how much, making Eragon's final battle with him even more hopeless than it was already. I won't say how Eragon finally beats him, a) because it's quite complex and I wouldn't be able to explain it very well b) it's just a really interesting bit of writing. However, beat him he does and then it falls to Paolini the immense task of tying up many loose ends. I won't give away the ending but I can say it's actually quite sad and, in some ways, frustrating too, though I'm sure Paolini had very good reasons for choosing the ending he did.

It feels strange that this series is over. I haven't had this feeling since the Harry Potter series ended, like I know the books can't carry on forever, but if they did I would read them because I've spent so much time investing in the characters.

The Inheritance Cycle is an incredible achievement and, finding it difficult to come to terms with its ending myself, I can't imagine what it must have been like for Paolini. I'm sure it's a series I'm going to come back to again. I would highly recommend this series for lovers of fantasy.

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