Beginning with Eragon, the Inheritance series encompasses four books by Christopher Paolini. Told mainly from young Eragon’s perspective, we are introduced to Alagaësia’s hardships that stem from a tyrannical dictator. A dragon-rider, Galbatorix will live an impossibly long life. He was the one responsible for the fall of the riders and for the near-extinction of the dragons. When a mistake puts a dragon egg in the hands of farmboy Eragon, it hatches and his bond with Sephira begins. As Eragon goes through the series, he must grow as a person and as a dragon rider if he wishes to overthrow Galbatorix.
I want to start by saying that I enjoyed the Inheritance Cycle, even with its obvious similarities to other works (Lord of the Rings, I’m looking at you). Paolini’s writing skills improve throughout the series, and his characters become sharper as well. Many of his characters are richly drawn, with Eragon ironically being the weakest one. Eragon’s cousin, Roran, was actually my favorite character. Strong and stubborn, he wants only to look out for his family. His pains at his father’s death and anger at Eragon are real, believable reactions. Though we don’t really get to know Roran until Eldest (book 2), we are definitely shown a hero we can get behind.
I understand that Eragon is not supposed to be older than fifteen in the first novel, but I found him rather whiny and almost insufferable at times. He progressed a bit too fast with magic and other skills to make you care about his struggles. Or for him to really have struggles. While Eragon grew on me throughout the last three books, it was really his selfless desire to defeat Galbatorix that makes him appealing. Eragon has no desire for power or to take over the kingdom; he merely wants to save it from the insane man who currently sits upon the throne.
Having listened to all four books back to back, I was able to not forget the smaller plot points. Christopher Paolini might have taken a note out of my book and reread what he wrote. I was discussing the books with my friend today, and we both felt that he had forgotten a few things that he had written in Eragon and was not consistent with it through the rest of the series. The biggest instance that stuck out to me was the portrayal of Nasuada. Nasuada is the daughter of Ajihad, the leader of the Varden, a group whose sole purpose is to resist and bring down Galbatorix. In Eragon, we get a small introduction to Nasuada and that introduction left me (and my friend) thinking she was younger than Eragon, kind of silly, but brave. She does stay to fight alongside other archers at the book-end battle. Ajihad is killed at the end of Eragon, and the first of Eldest revolves around his successor. Nasuada is chosen, and she is then stated to be closer to 19 or 20. And she proves herself to be very strong, capable, and not at all silly. I honestly wonder if Paolini forgot how he originally wrote her or just wanted to correct her character to suit the rest of the series better. For someone who enjoyed the tightly-woven interconnected stories of Harry Potter a great deal, the messiness of the Inheritance Cycle was a bit bothersome.
The Inheritance Cycle survives mainly on action. And that’s not to say that the books are any less for it. They are enjoyable. I would often find myself unplugging my iPod from my car and sticking it near my ear to listen as I walked into the house. You want to know what happens next, and Paolini does a good job of keeping the story moving along. Frankly, that’s the largest reason my younger brother got into the series. He is not the biggest reader, but books like Inheritance with fast-paced plots and little downtime suit his sensibilities. (This attitude might explain why he is in the Air Force.)
Overall, I would recommend the books if you are a fan of fantasy series. It was an ambitious undertaking by a kid who was only 16 when he first started the books, and they definitely improve with each offering. If you have finished the series, I would be curious to hear what you think of the ending. *SLIGHT SPOILERS* Myself, not a fan. The unrelenting slavery to fate that Eragon forces himself to be is nothing less than ridiculous. Especially after every miracle he has witnessed along the way, his steadfast belief he must follow Angela’s earlier prophecy is a lazy excuse on Eragon and Paolini’s part. But hey, there are rumors Paolini may write more, so maybe he’ll address that bit of crazy. *END SPOILERS*
As far as audiobooks go, this was a great listen. Excellent narrator who isn’t afraid to voice dragons, say weird words, and give voice to some pretty strange sound effects.
Audiobook Rating: 9/10