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3.0 out of 5 stars A Strong Book, a Weak Ending to the Series (SPOILERS! You have been warned!), November 23, 2011
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This review is from: Inheritance (Inheritance Cycle) (Hardcover)
Look, lets get one thing out of the way: Inheritance is a good book on its own. Paolini spent many years of his life working on this book, and he clearly has talent. When I read about the battles I could see it in my mind's eye. When Eragon was left alone to run the Varden, I could feel his fear at his own incompetence to run this task. And when the "Kings" gathered after the climax of the book to discuss what was going to happen now, and old racial prejudices came out, I felt it was realistic and very well done. As a book, Inheritance is great. I simply could not put it down until the end.

But it is not just a book. It is the end to a series.

At this point, the story should be driven by the characters, wrapped up by the characters, and fulfilled by the characters. This is, what I feel is, Paolini's main weakness. He does not build a world with a story and have characters drive the story forward, he drives the story forward and has characters along for the ride. That would be ok for the first book in the series, when he was still building his world, but this isn't the first book. In fact, "Eragon," the first book in the series, felt organic. In "Inheritance" Paolini demands certain story points to come, not of the character's volition, but his own. Let me explain: in the first book, there was a prophecy that Eragon would leave Alagaesia and never return. So in the end of this book, it comes to pass. Why exactly? Why can't he just fly back into Alagaesia, when he has thousands of years to live and family and friends in the region? There is no logical reason, he just must. It is as if this was done just to satisfy the prophecy, a plot point, and not the character's own decision. After rebuilding the Riders, couldn't Eragon take at least 1 week to go to Alagaesia, out of the thousands of years he is alive? And yet, he will "never" return. This isn't organic: Eragon would return to see his niece, see his family, his friends (Orik for example) and his love (Arya). It only makes sense. What logical reason limits him from returning, even for a brief time?

And speaking of his love, Arya should have left with him (leaving Alagaesia, that is). I'm not saying this as a contrived fanboy demanding the plot to follow my whim. Rather, Arya as a character never loved to live a royal life, or exclusively a life amongst the elves (as she repeated in multiple books at multiple times). She is "use" to the humans and dwarves. So how does Paolini explain her decision to become queen? The persistance of the elves (persistance that lasts a week, according to the book). This makes no sense. She has lived for over 100 years, and rarely spent time with her mother or spent extended amounts of time amongst the elves exclusively. Again, Paolini explains her decision by saying that the elves "need" her. But the humans "need" Eragon. Again, Paolini, in his mind, decided long ago that Arya was to be queen. It does not seem to bother him that she did not organically reach her decision. Rather he formed a plot point, and fitted the characters in whether they would actually act in the way he desired them to act or not. This makes sense when you first start a series, when you are first inventing your characters. But now your characters have a life of their own (albeit, a fictional one), and they should organically flow into the story. Their actions should naturally lead to a conclusion. Instead we get Arya and Eragon saying their true names to one another as the only "romance" which was prophecized in the first book.

And the true names. What were they? Whole chapters are devoted to the true names, the name of names, but they are never revealed, nor hinted at. This may make sense to Paolini, since these phrases are so complex or deep that leaving them a unknown is more effective than explaining them, but I repeat: whole chapters are devoted to the discovery of these names. I could not form a connection with Arya, Saphira, or Eragon, about who they truly were, when their "names" we hear so much about is simply not elaborated on. I hate to say this, but this seems like laziness from Paolini.

And then there was various loose ends. That mysterious women from the previous book that saves Roran in "Inheritance," now with two children in row, should never have existed. She has no point. There is no mystery. There just is no backstory to be explored. The same goes for Angela. Sure, Paolini notes that he did not reveal who see really was intentionally, but the problem is that she has no backstory. There can be no MYSTERY unless there is something that one does not know fully. In the case of Angela, she is simply effective with the blade, potions/toxins, and magic (and her mind). She is the "Wise one" to the elves, hated by the head of the werecats, and respected by the Urgals. There is mystery in some of these issues, but as a whole, we know nothing about her. If Paolini never picked up the world he created here again, we would not miss much of her. Despite the obvious importance of her origins, no hint is given of who she is. And thus I cannot wonder who she is, because I have no starting point for exploring her as a character. She could be the Soothsayer, or not. Who knows?

I am sure there are other loose ends, unnatural character progressions in relation to the story, etc, woven into the book which I will not explore. I will not even mention Orrin. We understand there is stress here, but nevertheless, Paolini trashes Orrin's character, giving him no respect and protraying him as a drunk and an outsider to the "true" heros, aka Nasuada, Orik, Arya, and Eragon. Yet it was thanks to him that the invasion of the Empire even begun at all. Instead of respecting him as a character, Paolini made him jump from an eccentric, good natured man to a drunk with no more wisdom to share with Nasuada than a commoner (unlike what he was in earlier books, a guide and helper). Again, this is another example of Paolini putting the story in front of the character. This character was invented a few books ago, so we should see his organic growth, and if you wanted to make him a drunken weakling by the end, there should be some sort of PROGRESSION to that point. There is not. What we have is a plot point (Orrin breaks down) and the character following the plot point, regardless. Was there a character flaw that led to his break down? Was there a reason for his breakdown specifically (after a certain event in the war)?

I know I am being harsh here, but this is one of the few series I really enjoyed. Eragon was a masterpiece. Eldest left me wanting more (in a good way). Brisinger expanded the lore of the series. Inheritance concluded the series, to be sure, and did some really great things, but it just left too much loose ends and was to unusual (Eragon leaving forever for no good reason, save a prophecy, the key word here being that "forever" isn't necessary) for me to enjoy through and through. I loved how Murtaugh and Nasuada fell in love. It WAS ORGANIC, it made sense in terms of who they were as characters. I loved Galbatorix, the dead-centered logic of his actions, neither contrived (aka typical bad guy) nor shallow, but rather a logic that Nasuada herself admitted was a problem (the problem of magic). I love how everything did not just return to the way it was, but things changed after this history shattering even (Urgals and Dwarves join the Riders, for example). I love how Carvahall is still given attention (as with Brigit and the "blood price"). I love the epic battles, intense, difficult, always trying, always tense. But for all I love, I have the problems I mentioned above. Roran is a very strong character, but why do we still have to focus on his exploits? It made sense when we were exploring the events in the Empire while Eragon was in Du Weldenvarden, but now they are both fighting in the same war, roughly in the same battles (although, obviously, Roran heads to Aroughs). Why do we have to follow him still? This is my only real criticism of the book in and of itself. The criticisms above relate the book to the series as a whole, which is why I can say that this book is great ON ITS OWN but not as the completion of the series.

In the end, I applaud Paolini. As hard as it is for him to hear these criticisms, I hope he sees them for what they are and does not reject them off hand as a fanboy who wanted things to go his way. Paolini is a strong writer, and Alagaesia is to me a real world I can imagine in my mind's eye. It seems to be, however, that Paolini lost his grip on that fact, not with the world itself, but with the characters. He felt that the plot had to follow some points, and he fixed the characters into those points. A good series creates characters that organically grow with you, and their actions (and the actions upon them from others) naturally flows into the story as a whole. The Inheritance cycle is only partially there, with loose ends that weaken it further. For every good point I make, I feel a little disappointed that I can also make a harsh criticism.
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Comments


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 6, 2011 9:42:09 PM PST
Anthony L. says:
Well said. Very, very well said. You add compassion to your review, something I failed to do.

Posted on Dec 6, 2011 9:42:50 PM PST
Anthony L. says:
Well said. Very, very well said. You add compassion to your review, something I failed to do.

Posted on Dec 9, 2011 8:21:51 AM PST
Looooooong review, but I agree with Anthony, I could never put that much thought into a review, good job :)

Posted on Dec 12, 2011 2:08:10 PM PST
Laura says:
Everything you said hit the mark. I have enjoyed this series but this last book fell flat for the very reasons you explained. You have to drive a book through character motivations, and sometimes characters change whether you meant for it to happen or not. The story and plot must adjust or else it feels jilted.

Posted on Jan 7, 2012 2:54:26 AM PST
KholdStare88 says:
This is just an excellent reviewed that hit the mark about most things I see. I think Paolini was determined to "follow up" on the series with other books which would explain leaving out many things, but in hindsight it is a really bad idea. It offers little closure (at least to me), but I nevertheless enjoyed the series.

Posted on Feb 14, 2012 9:42:40 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2012 10:27:06 AM PST
sillyduck says:
Pete. you're the greatest. you put into words my exact thoughts and feelings about this book.

Posted on May 14, 2012 5:38:13 AM PDT
C. Hanna says:
Spot on! Everything you said is exactly as I thought of it when I was reading, and you said it eloquently.

Posted on Oct 29, 2012 9:08:17 AM PDT
Kristin says:
That mysterious women from the previous book that saves Roran in "Inheritance," now with two children in row, should never have existed. She has no point. <-- I am so glad I am not the only one that thought this!

And the true names. What were they?: I completely agree that it was laziness on the part of Paolini to avoid telling us the names. But maybe we should be glad not to have to sit through another 800+ pages on another reveal.

What was the point of the Vault of Souls? He spent all those chapters about how important that was to get the eldunari and then didn't even use them to beat Galbatorix!
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