I feel the need to start this off with a couple of notes. I want you all to approach this "review" knowing a few things off the bat. First, THIS post is the result of a couple of hours of writing. My first three drafts didn't sound right because I attempted to tiptoe around some issues. That didn't work.
Second, I know you might be scratching your head and asking, "Why are there books with DRAGONS on a book blog?" My answer to that is that before I started this whole shebang, I read a great deal of fantasy and science-fiction.
Third, I have tried my best to keep massive spoilers out of this post, but I'm assuming you have some knowledge of the the books' general storyline.
Fourth...I debated not even posting this. I may even take it down.
And lastly, this isn't much of a review. I usually don't feel comfortable writing about authors' work when they're alive...especially when it is in an unfavorable light. But, not writing about my frustration would be unfair to myself. I need to vent.
Anyway, I did my best. Here we go.
Ah, Christopher Paolini...I avoided Eragon with a vengeance when it first came out. Back then, I was a hardcore fantasy geek, and while I adored the dragon on your cover (because hey, dragons are pretty awesome), I was unsure whether your young writer skills would live up to my high expectations. I mean, really, I spent my teenage years reading Anne McCaffrey's epic Pern series. Now, there is a writer who wrote epic dragon fantasy!
I eventually caved after my sister read Eragon. I knew that the second book, Eldest, had come out, so I received a beautiful box set for Christmas one year. I sat down and read them both.
I came away thinking "Hmmmm." Because I was young at the time, and not exactly sure of all the literary reasons why the books didn't sit right with me, I couldn't voice why the story felt off. I mean, it had a lot of elements I love in epic and high fantasy. There was an evil villain, a prophecy, an orphan...and hey, a beautiful blue dragon. I LIKE dragons...when they are done well. And while the story in Eragon was something I could see myself loving, I didn't love it. I liked it, but I wasn't convinced.
If we fast forward a few years, I was excited to learn that the third book, Brisingr, was being released. It had been a few years since reading the first two, and in the time in-between, I had gone to college, earned myself a degree in English, and read a lot more literature. The details of the books were hazy, so I determined to listen to them on audio as I went to and from work (I was long-term subbing in a district an hour from home-I listened to a lot of audio books that year).
When I finally got my copy of Brisingr, I was disappointed to hear that contrary to what I was told, the third book was not the end of the trilogy. Instead, I found out that Paolini couldn't wrap the story up in three books and needed a fourth book. I didn't mind. I LIKE long series. So I read Brisingr and was incredibly disappointed. Why were there random rambling passages? Why did it feel like nothing happened?
Again, it took years for Paolini to finish the next book, Inheritance, which is the book that just came out in November. For some reason, I was eager to reread the series, and I spent the last week plowing through all 4 books, all 2700+ pages of them.
I began with excitement. It had been three years since reading the series, and I was excited to revisit your world and get the whole story in one long, extended read. I had been looking forward to this experience for weeks, knowing that once I finished my piles of obligations books that I could dive into something fun and enjoyable.
^THAT is my unhappy face. Because while there were certain pieces of the books that I still liked this time around, I felt like slogging through all 2700+ pages of this "cycle" pushed me over the edge.
Now, I'm not trying to come across as snarky, mean, rude, or anything of the sort, but I really had a hard time with the fact that the publishers and editors let Paolini do some of the things he did in this series.
It wasn't the length that bothered me. Like I said before, I LOVE and enjoy long fantasy series. In fact, the longer and more involved the story, the better. I like getting lost in a world for a long period of time.
If it is done well.
Paolini didn't need the fourth book. There were pages upon pages of material in the third and fourth books that served absolutely no purpose-at least in the way Paolini constructed the story. There were side stories and threads that had nothing to do with propelling the plot forward. Instead, I felt cheated when I closed the last book. Why did I spend hours slogging through side story when it didn't matter in the least? If I am going to read a long piece, I want it to be worth my while. This wasn't.
My other huge irritation was the fact that Paolini needed to be more critical of his diction and choices. There were so many convoluted similes and metaphors that served no purpose and distracted from the story. I had to stop many times to share something with my husband.
For example, in the first book, Eragon is traveling and notices a storm approaching. Now, Eragon has lived a sheltered life so far. He grew up in a small village, which he has never left. He can't read or write and hasn't had any formal schooling. So why does he compare the storm clouds to a grand cathedral and explains the expressions of the "gargoyles" he sees? It makes no sense and pulled me completely out of the story.
Another example takes place in the fourth book, when in the span of three pages, the only focus was on a minor character's fingernails. Yes, his fingernails.
I know Paolini is young. Heck, he wrote Eragon as a 15-year-old. My own writing at 15 was awful, so props to him for managing to get his book published and widely read. But, his inexperience shows. By the fourth book, it is clear that he had to wrap up loose ends. After the climax, he spent another 100 pages wrapping everything up...and he did it badly. Paolini needed some more guidance from someone-someone to show him that describing everything was not the way to construct a story. The reader needs to be able to construct their own interpretation based on the few, good details a writer shows. Spending pages describing what each dwarf king looked like and what they were wearing is pointless when they disappear from the rest of the series after the next chapter. Does a reader need all that detail? Absolutely not. It serves no purpose and distracts from the real story.
And that isn't even the worst of it. I haven't even scratched the surface of all the little details that bothered me as I read.
Is my disappointment clear enough?
I think what bothers me the most is the wasted time. Like I said, I read hundreds of pages this week that amounted to nothing. They served no purpose. They didn't advance the story in any way. Now I am left feeling like Paolini stole precious time from me. So yes, I am disappointed.
More than anything, I am mad that Paolini didn't wait. The core of his story was great. He had something that was interesting, inventive enough, and the base for a great fantasy epic. But the overly descriptive, rambling, and pointless writing took away from everything he tried to accomplish. Had he edited, reworked some parts, and deleted a whole lot of pointless side story, he would have had something I would have truly loved. But he didn't. Instead, he finished this "cycle" of books with a disappointing end note.
I'm not sure what else I can truly say. If you've read this, or any of the books in the series, please comment below with your own thoughts. I'm curious to see what others have to say about this series.