A while back I wrote up a post on Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle. I tried to convey the wonder and magic that this series created in me when I first picked it up. I have finally finished the final book in the series – it took me over two months – and I am now forced to acknowledge something that I have been desperately trying to deny since I read the third book in the series, Brisingr: somewhere along the way this series lost its magic.
When I read Eragon and Eldest in a matter of days I was so excited to have found another epic fantasy series to tide me over between Harry Potter books. I praised these books far and wide, defending them against the many criticisms that were leveled at them. When I then picked up Brisingr a few years later a little voice whispered in the back of my head that those critics may have been right after all. I quickly pushed that voice aside and convinced myself that the issues I couldn’t ignore were simply because it was originally supposed to be the last book, but Paolini had been forced to divide it into two. Surely once the final book came out all my concerns would be resolved, right? I clung to that hope like a lifeline.
I was so excited when Inheritance was released and I couldn’t wait to dive in. Uh oh. From the first page those things that I had been ignoring came crashing over me, but this time there was an added problem – I had spent the last several months studying the craft of writing and now I had names to put to all the things that had been bugging me before. The book opened in the middle of a full on battle, there were pages and pages of internal monologues, descriptions that went on to the point where I was no longer taking in the words, a writing style and word choice that came off as just plain pretentious……the list goes on.
All of those things I could have forgiven, however, if the story had been gripping and left me feeling satisfied. That was not the case. It took a good 150 pages for me to really get to that “can’t put it down” reading zone and even then it didn’t last for more than a few hundred pages. When I got about half-way through the book I got really busy and didn’t pick it up for about a month, which never bothered me. That is not normal for me. Usually I don’t care how busy I am, I will make time for a good book.
Then, when I started reading again everything felt like it was being unnecessarily dragged out. I got excited again when the big battle that the entire series had been leading up to happened, and it was just as intense and gripping as I had hoped, but the way it played out was…disappointing. Paolini had made the bad guy too powerful and was forced into the corner of contrivance. Oh, and did I mention there were still about 100 pages after the climax of the book ended? I felt like Paolini was trying to emulate Tolkein and it didn’t work. Again, I could have forgiven all of this if the ending had left me satisfied. It did not. It left me depressed. As my twitter friend Moriah put it, “forever alone = ALL THE CHARACTERS”.
I seriously hate writing a review like this. It pains me to complain so much about a book, especially a book in a series I once loved, but to not say all this would be dishonest. I originally tweeted that, overall, I liked Inheritance, and there were many parts that I did really enjoy, but as I thought more about it I realized that, overall, I was disappointed.
When Paolini started writing The Inheritance Cycle he was a 15 year old kid telling a fun adventure story and that youthful joy shone through the writing. I don’t know if he grew too full of himself and his abilities, felt the pressure to impress and tried too hard, or some other possibility that I can’t think of happened, but something happened and it breaks my heart.
Have you read The Inheritance Cycle? What did you think of it? Did the books lose their magic or keep going strong? Am I being too harsh? Let me know in the comments.