Archive for Inheritance Cycle

A Worthy End

Posted in 2012 with tags , , , on January 24, 2012 by Kristen

Not long ago, I finished a literary journey that I’ve been traveling on sporadically for a good eight years. At long last, I finished reading the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini! It’s by no means the series that has influenced me the most in my life thus far, but it has certainly been one of the more memorable ones. It’s also one of the few I read while it was in the process of being published. A couple of my favorite series were written by authors who created them long before I was born, and even with the modern ones, I was just never on the ball enough to read them when they were new. It was quite a different experience for me, then, to devour each of these books as they arrived and wait for the next with bated breath, trying to guess at what could possibly happen next.

And let me tell you, there was a lot of waiting involved with these books. There are several years between the publication dates of each book, something that was made all the more frustrating when, sometime after the second book came out, fans of the series were told that what was once intended to be three books had now become four, as the story had grown beyond Paolini’s original reckoning. What was already a seemingly interminable wait had become even longer. As I more-or-less said in an earlier post, it gave me a bit of an ants-in-the-pants feeling whenever I thought about it (for lack of a less silly phrase…). But after I finished reading the last book of the series a short while ago, I felt that the wait had been distinctly and undeniably worth it.

In the last installment, Eragon and Saphira are about to take on their final and most difficult challenge–facing Galbatorix, the evil king. Most of the book describes the preparation for this final, decisive confrontation. Last discoveries are made (some of them huge and shocking), loose ends are tied up, and questions that have existed for the entire series are finally answered. Though the ending is bittersweet in the extreme, it’s unspeakably satisfying to watch everything come together, to see things that were set in motion in book one finally come to fruition. I found myself content with the way things had ended, admiring the skill in which such a detailed, well thought-out plot was rendered. Not to mention the fact that I was weeping like a child by the end. It still makes my chest hurt a little whenever I think of the ending. As if you needed any more proof of my nerdiness…

One thing I really love about these books is that, when you read them in close succession (which wasn’t possible until very recently, but which I took full advantage of just before reading Inheritance), you can watch Paolini grow as a writer before your very eyes. He started writing these books when he was just a kid, and, child prodigy or not, his youth and inexperience often show in the earlier books. As the series goes on, though, his style feels more and more effortless, as if he’s growing into his writer-skin. As Eragon grows and changes, so does Paolini. It’s pretty beautiful to behold, I’ve got to say.

Another thing that really impresses me is the amount of foresight Paolini had to have when plotting this series. It’s something that’s apparent in the rest of the series, but it becomes unmistakable in the last book. It’s easy to point out the many rookie mistakes that Paolini made in his books, and it’s even easier to talk about how derivative the storyline is. And quite honestly, there are some spots in Inheritance that feel a little thrown together. But when I watched everything fall together so well in Inheritance, it kind of blew my mind, especially considering how young Paolini was when he initially planned out the story. I’ve done some outlining of my own, and I know how excruciatingly difficult it can be to make everything work without leaving gaping holes in the plot or losing details along the way. The fact that Paolini’s storyline sometimes seems like it must have sprung into existence fully-formed makes me have a lot more respect for him as a writer than I used to.

It has to be said that I’m a bit predisposed to like this book–after all, I fell for the series before I even knew better than to take books at face-value without analyzing their worth beyond the level of entertainment they afforded, and so I tend to give them a lot of leeway. But all gushing aside, there were things that I didn’t like about the book, few as they may be. One relatively minor beef I have is with the title–I really think it could have been better. Since The Inheritance Cycle is the official title of the series, it just feels like a cop-out to call the last book Inheritance, but maybe that’s just me. Still, though, if my haphazard googling is any indication, the titles Empire and Eldunari were both possible titles for the last book, either of which would have been superior to Inheritance, in my opinion. I know the title changed when Paolini decided to split the last book and dispense with the alliterative e-word titles he had going up until then, but I feel like either of the alternates would have been a lot less vague in relation to what actually happens in the story.

And, as always, Paolini’s prose was awfully purple, most of the time. The overuse of pretentiously huge and obscure vocabulary wasn’t quite as glaring as usual, but it was definitely still there. I like big words as much as the next bibliophile, but the way Paolini uses them has a tendency to feel heavy-handed, or as though there’s something he’s desperately trying to prove. In general, I think his work would feel a lot more genuine if that aspect was toned down a bit.

But when all was said and done, I thought this book was wonderful. It was a satisfying conclusion to a series that hooked me almost a third of my life ago (eight years is still a long time for me, after all). You can call me easily pleased and naive, and you’d be right. But in my opinion, reading this book was absolutely worth it.

So, friends, let’s hear it! Have you read Inheritance yet? What did you think of it? Are you feeling as melodramatic about it as I am, or was your response a bit more subdued, or even negative? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Sometimes I Wish I Were Christopher Paolini

Posted in 2011 with tags , , on June 23, 2011 by Kristen

A recent photo of me. Oh, wait...

It must be good to be Christopher Paolini. I mean, look at him—he’s an attractive young Montanan on the verge of finishing the fourth and final book in his highly successful Inheritance Cycle series. He was pretty much a child prodigy; he graduated high school earlier than most, and he started writing his first book, Eragon, when he was only fifteen.

I started getting seriously interested in writing when I was about fifteen, too, but Chris’s story is a little different than mine. While I was mucking around with fantasy stories that make me laugh at myself in shame when I reread them today, Paolini was writing a story that kicks the butt of anything I’ve ever written, then or since, and was well on his way to becoming a bestselling author. Whether he’s really skilled or just got lucky, well, that’s up for debate. But whatever the case, that luck is enviable, especially to someone who struggles to even finish a story, let alone publish anything.

Why does Christopher Paolini inspire a raging jealousy in me unlike anything I’ve ever known? I don’t know, but what I do know is, every time I read one of his books, I have the instant urge to run to my computer and try desperately to write something cooler than he did. But I suppress the urge and keep reading, knowing that, seven years later, it would still be a futile effort – at least for now.

And on top of all of his other frustratingly awesome attributes, Paolini has managed to keep an entire subculture in his thrall as they await his next work with bated breath. Honestly, I don’t think many other authors could take several years to write each installment in a series and still expect to have any more fans left by the time the second book came out. But somehow, Paolini keeps us all wanting more, no matter how long we have to wait for him to get his butt in gear (I mean, really—he’s resting on his millions out there in Montana; how can he have anything better to do than get his next book written?). In any case, I do wish he’d hurry it up already. I’m so impatient for the next book to come out that I might pee my pants.

So, even though I’m insanely jealous of Paolini in several ways, I can use that to my advantage. Instead of feeling like I ought to have been a one-in-a-million author whose first book was published before she hit puberty, I’m going to funnel that energy into making my own stuff as good as it can be. So you better watch out, Chris. I’ll show you yet!