It is hard to say what I thought of this book. I liked it, yet I detested it. It was epic, yet depressing. If I had to abbreviate this entire review to one sentence, it would be: "It was meh."
ERAGON was (and is) one of my favorite books. It is timeless and fantastic. It follows the classic `hero's journey', yet adds enough twists to remain fresh. It is long, but never boring. And, like Sabriel and Northern Lights, I feel children will still be reading and enjoying it decades from now.
ELDEST was a bit of a disappointment. Over-long, talky, and boring for most of its length. The Battle of Burning Plains was a fitting end, though, and gave me hope that the remainder of the series would be worth the wait.
BRISINGR was everything that Eldest was not. Things happened. Eragon grew stronger, and for the first time it appeared as if Galby might be defeated. There were boring parts, yes (ie, the dwarves choosing their new King). Yet the book as a whole brought everything together and setup the epic finale.
So, you ask, what of INHERITANCE?
Well... It was Meh.
It is sad that an 850 page book can be abbreviated thus. But I don't know how else to put it without rambling. However, I shall try to consolidate my ideas.
The first 740 pages of this book were excellent. I could debate some points, such as the birth of Elain's baby or Roran leading the siege of Aroughs. Neither of those storylines added much of anything. They could have been cut, or perhaps turned into the "exclusive content" at the end of the Deluxe Edition (which is certain to be released). I could also express disappointment at the climax of the book, which had a great setup, but was remarkably anticlimactic. Yet, none of these things bothered me. This was not my story to tell, and I knew from the start that I would not agree with every word that was written.
In fact, if those things above were all that I could complain about, I would gladly give this book 5 stars and declare it a brilliant work of fantastic fiction.
The problem is with the last 110 pages of the book. Everything from the chapter "Heir to the Empire" and forward sucks. I hate to say that, but it does. If this 110 pages was abbreviated to 40 pages and actually ANSWERED SOME QUESTIONS, this book would get 5 stars.
To explain what I mean, I will go into some (lengthy) spoilers. If you don't want the end of the book ruined, please skip to the end.
1. Let's talk about grammar. Normally, I am not one to complain about poor grammar and grade a book down for it, but there is one point within this book that bothered me regardless. That point is the plural of Eldunari, which has been definitively established as "Eldunarya". Yet the plural is not used once in this book. Every time the characters speak, regardless of whether they are referring to one Eldunari or one thousand, the singular is used. Every time this happened, I rolled my eyes and muttered, "Come on, Paolini. Don't you remember your own language?" Again, this is not a big thing. And if it were the only thing I could complain about in the whole book, I would shrug it off and give the book 5 stars.
2. The Dauthdaert. This supposedly legendary weapon comes straight from Deus Ex Machina Land and provides a heretofore unrecognized possibility to kill Galby and his evil dragon. This was a touch too ridiculous for me, and was not believable at all. I would have been able to accept it if, for example, it was a rider's sword they found (even an `extra special' riders sword), or if Arya explained that there was one legendary rider who used a spear instead of a sword, or if the idea of Dauthdaerts had been mentioned in any of the previous books... But to just throw it out there and say it is now the only hope to kill Galby... I'm sorry. I'm not buying it. And again, if this was the only problem with this book, I would be willing to overlook it and look at the book as a whole... rather than the sum of its flawed parts.
3. The Belt of Beloth the Wise. This thing was lost on page, what, 285? And after that it is mentioned a couple times, but never found. Seriously, what is with that? I would have understood if they found Galby or Murtagh wearing it at the climax. Or I would have no problem if they went back after the climax and found it buried deep under Helgrind. And I would have no problem if there was a rumor that some mysterious magician had stolen it and it could not be found. But to simply have it disappear, and to have no one care that a super-powerful artifact is on the loose... Seriously, now. What is the purpose of that? It just seems lazy.
4. That One Nameless Character, You Know Which. Do you remember that character in Brisingr with massive scars on her wrists, who got a prophecy from Angela and a blessing from Saphira, even though such things are rarely given to anyone? Saphira called her "Wild One" if I recall correctly. Well, after being utterly mysterious for years between books, she appears here in Inheritance--now with two apprentices (children?) in tow. She saves Roran, says a grand total of 4 words, then walks off into the mist. Seriously now. What was the point of that? We are given nothing on this character. No history, no reason for her to exist, not even a name. It would have been better if she had not existed in this book.
5. Tenga. That mysterious magician who appeared in Brisingr for a few pages, and who was Angela's teacher for a while. Well, the mysteries surrounding him are not answered or even mentioned once. Someone says his name, but only in passing. We learn nothing about him.
6. Angela. The most mysterious and intriguing character in the whole series gets even more mysterious as she faces down the priests of Helgrind and singlehandedly defeats them. She proves herself able to fight with her mind... and apparently she's better at it than Eragon or Arya, who are two of the greatest magicians in the world. Urgals, werecats and elves all respect and fear her, yet she admits she cannot face Galby because he is so powerful. Yet she controls weapons and spells that no one else even understands. Seriously, WHO IS SHE? We get a couple hints, and those imply that she is thousands of years old. Is she one of the Grey Folk, or perhaps the Soothsayer? This mystery bothers me A LOT because she is a strong, compelling, mysterious character that is given absolutely no history whatsoever.
7. The Faceless Monks on Vroengard. Eragon sees these guys momentarily, which indicates that humans (elves?) live in the rider's fallen city, which is one of the most hostile environments in the world. Although the setting on Vroengard (and its strange beasts) was excellent, the mysterious presence of these figures was utterly forgotten about within a page and never mentioned or considered ever again. Seriously, what was the point of that?
8. The Menoa Tree. What was her price? Eragon asks, and the tree sort of laughs... and then ignores him. It's ridiculous. Was her price the death of Galby? Or was it nothing? And if it was either of those, why didn't she just say so? When Eragon asks, she could merely say "the price is already paid", or something like that. But no. She says nothing. Another question unanswered.
9. Orrin. He acted like a drunk jerk the whole book, and even tried to kill Roran! And why? Some of the characters said it was "stress" or something like that. Well, if it was a temporary thing, then he should have recovered, and this recovery should have been made obvious to the reader. Honestly, though, I was expecting him to be the source of all the information Glaby was receiving. I was expecting him to reveal that he had been bespelled, or given an offer he couldn't refuse. I could see Galby telling him in a dream, "if the rebellion fails, I will give you half of my kingdom." That might be enough reason for him to take up drinking and act like a stressed out soulless monster. Seriously, this was just random and pointless. Another question unanswered.
10. Murtagh. For a time, he seemed to have closure. He escapes Galby and rides Thorn off into the sunset, but speaks to Eragon and redeems himself first. I was glad that he and Thorn were finally happy and could go on with their lives. Yet, they leave with 110 pages remaining in the book... And never show up again. No one even mentions them. They simply fly away and disappear.
11. Murtagh+Nasuada. For a while, this was my favorite storyline. Nasuada, kidnapped and tortured. Murtagh offering her comfort and trying to save her. The romance and comradeship between these two was true, organic, and did not feel false or contrived at all. I was eager to see how this romance played out, with Nasuada the likely heir to the empire and Murtagh untrusted and likely to be exiled. Murtagh even admits that it was his care for Nasuada that allowed him to break Galby's spell and fight him. So much could have been made of this relationship, but what happens? Nothing. Yep, nothing. Murtagh flies into the sunset and Nasuada never mentions him again. Talk about disappointing! We are given hope for a unique storyline, only to have it forgotten and ignored.
12. Queen Arya. Yeah, Queen Arya. This struck me as incredibly unlikely. Arya had stated (multiple times, IIRC) that she did not want to rule, and would rather ferry dragon eggs back and forth until the end of time. A noble decision, but one which never happens. Why? Well, apparently all the other elves really want her to be queen. Like, really, really, REALLY want her to be Queen. The reasons for their choice are not explored. But they badger her until she agrees. Really? I didn't know elves could be so adamant about giving a position of leadership to one who refuses to take it. Further, I am amazed that Arya accepts and then feels duty-bound to rule to the best of her ability. So, why didn't she just accept the crown temporarily or something? You know, "I'll be queen, but only until our realms are safe once again" or something like that. Further, she could abdicate the throne any time she wants. I mean, no one can MAKE her be Queen, can they?
13. Arya+Eragon. The epic romance is reduced to a bunch of epic angsting and, ultimately, nothing. I did not find this as disappointing as some, as I predicted from the start that they would never get together. But still, that does not make it better. Arya should have, without question, joined Eragon in his trip to the East and she should have helped him in re-establishing the riders. They could have been King and Queen of the new riders. I never expected them to get in bed together, but for Arya to just ABANDON him like that is ridiculous. Why did she leave him? Does she want to remain Queen of the elves? I find that hard to believe.
14. Firnen. Firnen was, without a doubt, the most pointless character in the whole book. His face may be on the cover, but he served no purpose whatsoever. First off, he should have hatched BEFORE the climax. It doesn't matter if he was as big as a puppy when Galby died, at least he could have served some purpose. As it is, he added absolutely nothing to the story because he only appeared after the story was over. Secondly, he was the greatest source of contention among fans before the book was published. Now, I'm not saying that the fans should decide how a book is written, but doesn't it make sense that the fan favorite should get a little more screen time than Firnen gets here? After years of guessing and theorizing, he appears with fifty pages left and has, what, one line of dialogue? Disappointing beyond words can say. (Even Snowfire, the horse, advanced the story more than Firnen.)
15. Firnen+Saphira. Ugh. This was the one storyline that I found, in the end, insulting. Saphira finds a male dragon that is not under Galby's control, and the first thing she can think of is boinking him. Nevermind that he is six months old. Nevermind that neither Arya nor Eragon gave their blessing. Nevermind that she met him less than two minutes ago. From then on, Saphira is barely even a part of the story as she and Firnen are far to busy having a bunch of (offscreen) dragon sex. So not only does Firnen barely exist, but he serves no greater purpose to the story than a barnyard stud. Now, I have no problem with Saphira finding a mate and raising a clutch of eggs, but this was absolutely the worst way to do it. She could have raised the eggs they found in the Vault of Souls. Besides, it is well established that she is vain, right? So why would she take the first eligible bachelor she sees? She should have made him work for it. Made him prove his strength and worthiness. As it is, I would have preferred she get knocked up with Glaedr. At least she knew him.
In the end, this book was simply too full of unanswered questions. Really. Go look at the titles of each of the 15 points above. Most of them could have been solved after the climax, or with a short paragraph somewhere within the story. Some could have been resolved with a single sentence. But we are given no resolution. No answers. Yes, Galby is defeated. Yes, peace now reigns. But the questions that REALLY MATTER are unanswered.
So where does that leave us?
I feel, when it is all over, that Inheritance was the conclusion to one storyline, but the beginning of another. It would not surprise me to hear in the next couple months of the upcoming EMPIRE: the first book of the Next Inheritance Trilogy. That is fine with me. I have no business telling Paolini what he can or cannot write. (Look at McCaffrey's Pern. 25 books over the past 50 years.) I fully support more books set in Alegaesia.
However, I feel that in setting up whatever comes next, Paolini has forgotten to give us any closure in THIS book. There are too many riddles remaining. Too many questions unanswered.