I went straight to the bookstore after getting off of work on the eighth. I had been looking forward to that moment for months, when I would finally be able to learn what becomes of Eragon, Saphira, Arya, Roran, and Alagaesia. When the cashier handed me the tome, I could really appreciate why Empire had been divided into two books, turning what had originally been a trilogy into a saga (or, as Paolini has called it, a cycle). The book tops out at 849 pages. I think this beats out even Harry Potter.
But it’s worth every line. Paolini has really grown as a writer and this book is (so far) his opus, where his talent shines. The descriptions are so rich, the reader feels as if he’s in the middle of the action. However, the downside of that is Paolini’s tendency to over-describe. There were times when it seemed story pace was sacrificed for the sake of detail (a trait of Tolkein, actually, so it’s a compliment at the same time).
I also want to know how Paolini kept up with all the plot points he covered. This is part of the reason why the book was so long. So many plot lines had to be tied (or burned). I have this mental image of a room in his house where the walls are papered in diagrams, time lines, and maps because, to me, it seems that’s the only way one could keep up with all that he covered.
Now, I read a review on Amazon.com that complained some characters’ pasts weren’t divulged and some plot lines weren’t followed. Well, in life we don’t know everyone’s complete past, and we don’t see the end of every event that passes through our lives. That’s part of a person’s mystery and mystique. It’s a part of life.
For instance, my mother lived a time in Arizona. I don’t know why, or for how long, or what she did while there. I only know because of a remark she made one day about the desert. But that not knowing is a part of my mental image of my mother and is an important part of how I view her. Though I know not the details, it deepens her character. This is what Paolini is doing in Inheritance by not explaining the detail of everyone’s lives. Angela the herbalist comes to mind, in fact. (Heck, I’d have been disappointed if I learned her past. It would ruin the character.)
Speaking of Angela, I challenge all of my readers to find the Doctor Who reference Paolini snuck into the book. You gotta love an author who puts private jokes into his work.
There is one thing I will complain about the book. In Eldest, Roran causes the death of Quimby. Quimby’s wife swears she’ll get payment from Roran. The moment that she does comes rather late in Inheritance and it almost feels like an afterthought, as if Paolini said, “Oh, wait, I forgot about her.” And, in reality, after traveling with Eragon through his epic adventure, I had kind of forgotten about it, as well. What happens between this woman and Roran is also anti-climatic. I thought, “That’s it? You’ve been hanging this over Roran’s head for, what, three books now, and that’s it?”
But, at the same time, I can kind of see what the author is trying to do. We’ve gotten so used to seeing Eragon as an almost-elf and a Rider that we are tempted to forget his past and where he’s come from. So, when this woman presents herself, and Eragon keeps Nasuada from interfering because it’s “their custom,” it’s like a shock of cold water to the face. We connect Eragon with Carvahall again, with that simple farmer boy, and it makes what happens later all the more heart-wrenching.
I don’t want to discuss the very ending of the book in too much detail. I will say, though, that, one, he surprised me, and, two, this is where Paolini really steps up. Endings are a bitch, plain and simple. Where do you end? How do you end? What do you want your reader’s last image to be? The image Paolini paints is heartbreaking and haunting. I couldn’t sleep after I read that because every time I closed my eyes, I saw that final image.
I can only compare it with Ford’s The Searchers. Ford was known for setting his actors against wide vistas, sometimes making them seem dwarfed or swallowed up by the surrounding landscape. At the end of the movie, the camera pulls back from John Wayne as he walks away, as if Wayne is stepping from fact to legend, from solid reality to amorphous myth. It’s an image that lingers. I don’t see that last image of Inheritance, as well as the feelings it provokes, leaving me any time soon.
There have been those who’ve said Paolini ripped off Tolkein and George Lucas, but what these people fail to understand is that every story has already been told. The trick is to tell these stories in a new way, to use one’s own voice to teach an old lesson in a new way. Paolini has done that in a way that is deep, beautiful, and resonating. I really look forward to reading more of his work in years to come.