Eldest: Chapter 2

Eldest, Chapter 2: The Council of Elders

Alternate title: The Author Has No Idea How Boobs Work

Eragon wakes up and watches Saphira sleep. The sapphire that Arya broke was the floor of the dragonhold they were staying in, so they’ve been relocated to an old guardroom on the bottom level of Tronjheim.

Since she first breathed fire during his fight with Durza – while plunging toward them from the top of Tronjheim – Saphira had been insufferably proud of her new talent. She was constantly releasing little jets of flame, and she took every opportunity to light objects ablaze.

I’d be proud of myself too if I learned how to breathe fire. She sounds like a little kid showing off a new-found talent.

Eragon starts crying as he remembers what happened yesterday.

Tears filled his eyes, spilling over, and he caught one on his hand. […] As he stared at the tear in his hand – a small, glistening dome […]

Tears don’t work that way. Even if you somehow managed to defy physics (that tear is not going to form a perfect little dome when it hits your hand), the human hand is not a flat, non-porous surface. The liquid is just going to spread out and absorb into the skin.

Anyway, Arya came back late last night with one of the Twins’ blood-covered robes and Murtagh’s tunic and gauntlets. She says she found them on the edge of a chasm that stretches down past where any tunnels lead, and assumes that the Urgals stole their armor and threw their bodies over the side. She also says that she tried to scry them and saw only shadows.

In desperation, Eragon decides to scry the missing men himself – using the tear in his palm. Which makes no sense, because it’s such a tiny surface that even if you do see anything, it’s too small for you to make anything out. Why not get a glass of water at least?

Darkness enveloped the liquid, turning it into a small dot of night on his silver palm. Movement flickered through it, like the swish of a bird across a clouded moon . . . then nothing.

How does he see movement if it’s completely dark?

He realizes that he only beat Durza through sheer luck (probably the smartest thought he’s had so far) and comes to the conclusion that he needs to go to the elves to continue his training. Saphira wakes up and they prepare to go eat, but before they can leave Eragon’s back gives out and he’s left writhing in pain on the floor for a few minutes. The pain is bad enough that it affects Saphira as well. As he’s recovering, he remarks that the spasms are getting worse.

On their way to the kitchen, humans and dwarves alike stop and bow to Eragon, calling him “Argetlam” and “Shadeslayer.” Saphira drives off anyone trying to approach while Eragon eats, and they discuss who might take over the Varden. Saphira thinks Ajihad’s dying words could be taken as a blessing for Eragon to take control, but neither of them think it’s a good idea.

A boy interrupts their meal and tells Eragon that he’s been summoned by the Council of Elders. He’s confused by simple questions like “Who are the council?” but he impresses Eragon, who asks his name. Of course. The kid, Jarsha, takes them to the council.

Seated there were Jörmundur and two other men, one tall and one broad; a woman with pinched lips, close-set eyes, and elaborately painted cheeks; and a second woman with an immense pile of gray hair above a matronly face, belied by a dagger hilt peeking out of the vast hills of her bodice.

BOOBS. DO. NOT. WORK. THAT. WAY. And I will tell you exactly why not.

This is an under-bust bodice:



Visually striking, but not much support for the breasts. She’s more likely to be wearing an over-bust bodice:


You’re welcome.

Note how the breasts are pushed together to form cleavage. Please also note that, contrary to popular media, cleavage is not a bag of holding. You can’t keep an arsenal in there. Most women might be able to fit a credit card or a small cell phone. It only goes so deep.

Going off my own measurements, the distance from the bottom of my bust line to my chin is about 10 inches. I have no idea what kind of dagger she’s packing, so I’ll have to guess at the length. My browsing of Wikipedia and various sword-selling websites tells me the average blade length would be 7.5-10 inches. For fairness, I’ll stick to the low end of the scale. The hilt would probably be another five inches, bringing the dagger to just over a foot long. Which means that it would be smacking her in the face… if the weight of the hilt didn’t pull the dagger forward, which would not only mean it would fall out easily, but that it would be that much easier for someone to either grab it from her and stab her with it, or just smash it into her sternum. It seems like a really awkward place to keep a weapon – she’s likely to accidentally cut her face as she unsheathes it.

Also, I really hope she’s got that thing in a sheath, or else her chest is going to be sliced to ribbons.

“Thank you for coming, Eragon, even though you have suffered your own loss. This is Umérth,” the tall man; “Falberd,” the broad one; “and Sabrae and Elessari,” the two women.

Ah, yes, all women are interchangeable. It’s not necessary for the narration to differentiate between Sabra and Elessari, even though it did for the men. It’s not like they’re individuals or anything. And Paolini certainly couldn’t have just added their descriptions as they were introduced, which would not only erase this problem entirely but also make the text less redundant.

Eragon asks whether the Twins were part of this group, and Sabrae (the woman wearing too much makeup) says they were too self-serving to have a place on the council.

Eragon could smell her perfume all the way on the other side of the table; it was thick and oily, like a rotting flower. He hid a smile at the thought.

How is that funny? “Haha, you smell” is the kind of insult you hear from second-rate grade school bullies. Is Paolini trying to make a joke about how she’s overly made up and thinks she smells nice? Because she’s ugly? Because she’s old? Are we really supposed to think this kid’s a hero when he makes fun of people for their appearance? What are you, twelve?

Jörmundur tells Eragon he’s getting off topic; they’re really here to discuss who will be the next leader of the Varden. They’ve already decided who they’re going to support, but they want Eragon to “provide the legitimacy required by whoever is to take Ajihad’s place.” How Eragon is supposed to “provide legitimacy” is beyond me; he might be a Rider, but he just joined up, like, a week and a half ago. I don’t understand why they’re so trusting of this kid. They know nothing about him.

They make Eragon promise not to tell anyone outside the room who their choice is, and Saphira remarks that they haven’t made her promise anything, so she can go tell Arya if she wants.

Nasuada is their top pick. Eragon can’t tell why they would want her to lead. To stall so he can figure it out, he asks why Jörmundur doesn’t just take over, since Ajihad called him his right-hand man.

A current of unease ran through the council: Sabrae sat even straighter, hands clasped before her; Umérth and Falberd glanced at each other darkly, while Elessari just smiled, the dagger hilt jiggling on her chest.

I’m convinced the only reason Elessari exists is so Paolini could write about boobs.

Jörmundur deflects by saying Ajihad was only speaking of military matters, and that it would be “foolish and dangerous” for one council member to be raised above the rest, because their power comes from supporting each other. Eragon asks if Nasuada has enough experience, and Elessari says the people will love her and she’ll be “guided” by the council.

Understanding flooded Eragon. They want a puppet!

No shit. You wanna spell things out a little louder? I don’t think the entire audience got it before you did.

The council also wants Eragon to be at Nasuada’s appointment as leader, and for him to swear fealty to the Varden. They make it clear that it’s not really a choice; if he refuses, he’ll be publicly snubbing Nasuada and the Varden.

Eragon clenched Zar’roc’s pommel under the table, yearning to scream that it was unnecessary to force him to support the Varden, that he would have done it anyway. Now, however, he instinctively wanted to rebel, to elude the shackles they were trying to place on him. “Since Riders are so highly thought of, I could decided that my efforts would be best spent guiding the Varden myself.”

The mood in the room hardened. “That would be unwise,” stated Sabrae.

Yes, great idea. Antagonize the people who have no qualms about forcing you to do what they want. That won’t end badly at all.

After some discussion with Saphira, who points out that they can’t piss off the Varden, Eragon agrees to be there for Nasuada’s appointment. The council strongarms him into promising to give his word in fealty at the appointment, then breathes a sigh of relief when he says yes – literally:

All around the table were signs of relaxation – even a poorly concealed sigh from Umérth.


Eragon is amazed to discover that the council is afraid of little ol’ him. Nothing frightening about an unknown player in the political game with magic and a dragon on his side, nosirree!


The narrative wastes time by having Jörmundur summon Jarsha, then send him off again for Nasuada and Arya, then spending a couple paragraphs going on about the “uncomfortable silence” where Eragon ignores everybody else in the room. Nasuada and Arya finally appear.

The boy was dismissed, then Jörmundur helped Nasuada into a seat. Eragon hastened to do the same for Arya, but she ignored the proffered chair and stood at a distance from the table.

It fills my shriveled little heart with glee every time Arya snubs Eragon. Do it again!

“Nasuada, Daughter of Ajihad, the Council of Elders wishes to formally extend its deepest condolences for the loss you, more than anyone else, have suffered. . . .”

“We’d also like to apologize for the excessive capitalized letters. We’ve got an infestation and the pest control guy can never seem to find us.”

In a lower voice, he added, “You have our personal sympathies as well. We all know what it is like to have a family member killed by the Empire.”

That would be a nice sentiment if it was ever supported in the text. We have no evidence that anyone other than Eragon, Roran, Murtagh, and Nasuada have lost family members to the Empire. You wanna show some examples, maybe? Make your mad tyrant king actually look like a tyrant, instead of a little kid throwing a tantrum?

Anyway, Nasuada accepts the offer to be the next leader. Hooray for being a political puppet!

Eldest: Chapter 1

Eldest, Chapter 1: A Twin Disaster

Eldest opens three days after the climactic battle at the end of Eragon, with our hero stepping over bodies as he and Saphira wander around the battlefield. Like many sequels, the first few chapters are loaded with exposition recapping the event of the previous book. Under normal circumstances, this would be mildly annoying (I have never understood people who start a series in the middle), but here it’s entirely redundant considering there’s a five-page summary of Eragon directly preceding this chapter.

It was three days since the Varden and dwarves had fought the Urgals for possession of Tronjheim […] but the battlefield was still strewn with carnage. The sheer number of bodies had stymied their attempts to bury the dead. In the distance, a mountainous fire glowed sullenly by Farthen Dûr’s wall where the Urgals were being burned. No burial or honored resting place for them.

When Eragon reached Farthen Dûr in the last book, we learned that there were about 4,000 people in the Varden. Let’s say about half of those people were women and children, who were evacuated before the battle began. That’s 2,000 men, plus an unknown number of dwarves. Even accounting for Urgals that were killed during the fighting, how many people would have died to leave such a huge pile of bodies that they’re still not finished cleaning up three days later?

Since waking to find his wound healed by Angela, Eragon had tried three times to assist in the recovery effort. On each occasion he had been racked by terrible pains that seemed to explode from his spine. The healers gave him various potions to drink. Arya and Angela said that he was perfectly sound. Nevertheless, he hurt.

I actually feel quite bad for Eragon here. This is a pretty terrible thing to happen to him, and I can’t even begin to imagine how frustrated he must feel.

People have begun calling Eragon “Shadeslayer” now. He’s still shaken from the fight with Durza, and is wandering the battlefield because he feels compelled to. Predictably (though not in a bad way), he finds death instead of glory.

Before his uncle, Garrow, was slain by the Ra’zac months earlier, the brutality that Eragon had witnessed between the humans, dwarves, and Urgals would have destroyed him. Now it numbed him.

I get that Paolini is trying to make a point about death and there being no glory in war, but what does Garrow have to do with anything? His death was more like a revenge killing. A better comparison would have been Yazuac, where Eragon and Brom found all those slaughtered villagers. And wouldn’t a better conclusion be that life is precious? If it can be so easily wasted, then it’s all the more important to do the most with what little time you have.

He goes on thinking about how life has no meaning, picking up a tooth out of the dirt and playing with it while he walks. Ajihad’s second-in-command, Jörmundur, runs up and tells him that Ajihad wants to meet him by the west gate. Ajihad has been hunting Urgals in the tunnels with Murtagh and the Twins, and hasn’t been around much for the last three days. We also learn that Nasuada disobeyed his orders and stayed behind to join in the battle, fighting along with the archers. Of course Ajihad is furious, because doesn’t trust that his daughter can take care of herself.

Eragon approaches the west gate and joins a group of people that includes Orik and Arya. They’re all waiting for Ajihad and his men to emerge from a tunnel that’s a couple miles away. Why are they waiting so far away? If Ajihad or his men need help, wouldn’t they be better able to lend assistance if no one had to hike for miles?

The white bandage around her upper arm gleamed in the darkness, reflecting a faint highlight onto the bottom of her hair.

Is this bandage made out of the kind of reflective tape used for safety vests? I’m pretty sure a regular cloth bandage is not going to be that shiny.

Eragon felt a strange thrill, as he always did when he saw the elf.

Is that he calls his erection?

Apparently the dwarves are super pissed at Arya for breaking the star sapphire, even though she saved the day by doing so. They’re so angry they’ve just left all the shards lying around for people to climb over, just like your passive-aggressive aunt when someone breaks her favorite vase.

Half an hour passed before motion flickered in the distant tunnel. A group of ten men climbed out onto the ground, then turned and helped up as many dwarves. One of the men – Eragon assumed it was Ajihad – raised a hand, and the warriors assembled behind him in two straight lines. At a signal, the formation marched proudly toward Tronjheim.

This tunnel is two miles away. How can Eragon see all of this? I could buy the explanation that his body and senses are becoming more elf-like, except the very next paragraph negates all this:

Before they went more than five yards, the tunnel behind them swarmed with a flurry of activity as more figures jumped out. Eragon squinted, unable to see clearly from so far away.

See? He can see twenty people, correctly identify which race they are, guess which one is Ajihad, describe their gestures and the way they move… and now he can’t tell what’s going on?

Consistency does not just refer to the texture of cookie dough, Paolini.

Saphira determines that Urgals are attacking, and she and Eragon fly over to try and help. Arya runs after them, somehow keeping pace with Saphira, and she’s followed by Orik and a bunch of men. Eragon can’t do magic from so far away, so he’s forced to watch as the group is cut down. Eventually only Ajihad, Murtagh, and the Twins are left standing. The Urgals converge on them, then swarm back into the tunnel.

The moment Saphira touched down, Eragon vaulted off, then faltered, overcome by grief and anger. I can’t do this. It reminded him to much of when he had returned to the farm to find his uncle Garrow dying. Fighting back his dread with every step, he began to search for survivors.

The site was eerily similar to the battlefield he had inspected earlier, except that here the blood was fresh.

This bit’s actually pretty decent. I like the comparison to the current massacre and the battle scene from earlier. This also would have been a better point to bring up Garrow than his musing about there being no glory in war.

In the middle of all this bloodshed is Ajihad, who is very obviously mortally wounded. He’s surrounded by five Urgals he managed to kill. How do we know he killed them? Are their bodies artfully arranged in a secret code? Does his sword automatically carve “Ajihad was here” across their face? Anyway, Eragon manages to catch him just before he dies.

“Eragon.” The name slipped from Ajihad’s lips – no more than a whisper.

“Yes, I am here.”

“Listen to me, Eragon. . . . I have one last command for you.” Eragon leaned closer to catch the dying man’s words. “You must promise me something: promise that you . . . won’t let the Varden fall into chaos. They are the only hope for resisting the Empire. . . . They must be kept strong. You must promise me.”

“I promise.”

“Then peace be with you, Eragon Shadeslayer. . . .” With his last breath, Ajihad closed his eyes, setting his noble face in repose, and died.

This scene has no emotional impact on me at all. If Ajihad had been developed better as a character, I might care that he’s dead. Instead, I’m just kind of annoyed that the token black guy was killed off – especially in such a cheap way. It’s like he served his purpose in the last book, so Paolini had to kill him off before he started becoming something other than a stock character.

At least he didn’t say that Eragon was the only hope against the Empire.

Arya comments that Ajihad’s death will cause a lot of friction, then says that Eragon needs to avert the incoming power struggle and that she’ll help where she can. Saphira notes that Murtagh and the Twins aren’t among the bodies. She and Eragon conclude that they were taken by the Urgals, who aren’t known to take prisoners. Eragon doesn’t want to go after them, convinced that he’ll get lost in the tunnels and won’t catch up anyway, so Saphira suggests asking Arya to go.

Arya! Eragon hesitated, torn between his desire for action and his loathing to put her in danger.

She’s been in worse danger before and come out alive. If anything, she’s demonstrated that she can take care of herself a hell of a lot better than you.

Arya takes off into the tunnels, while Eragon sits with Ajihad’s body. Orik gets there, followed by Jörmundur and a bunch of the Varden, and Eragon tells them what happened, but not what Ajihad’s last words were. He won’t repeat them for anyone but the “right person”. Jörmundur says Arya shouldn’t have gone after Murtagh and the Twins, but it’s too late to do anything now. They won’t be able to find dwarf guides for at least an hour (seriously? How is it going to take you an hour to find dwarves in a dwarven city?), and everyone “important” has to stay in Tronjheim until they choose the next leader of the Varden. Arya will just have to fend for herself… which she could do anyway, so it’s not like she needs rescuers or anything.

Jörmundur makes a rousing speech about Ajihad dying a warrior’s death (seriously how can they tell he killed all those Urgals? Did he brand them before he died?), then everyone lays his body on their shields and marches him back to Tronjheim.

A wild Omskivar appears!

Hey folks, it’s been a while. Sorry for the huge gap in posts. The last seven months have been pretty hectic for me – I went from having a terrible boss, to having no boss, to getting a new job in a completely new field with a different schedule. My husband also got a promotion, and with it a change to third shift. It’s all been changes for the better, but even good changes can be stressful.

I plan on posting the first chapter review of Eldest in the next couple days. I know I announced I would be tackling The Sword of Truth next, but to be honest, I’m afraid that if I don’t stick to one series at a time, I will never finish any of them. So we’re going to be working our way through the multi-colored bricks that are Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, and if/when those are finished I will move on to Terry Goodkind.

Even if it kills me.

Eragon: Chapter 59

Eragon, Chapter 59: The Mourning Sage

Last chapter! Let’s do this!

For the first two and a half pages, Eragon is unconscious. Unfortunately that doesn’t grant us a reprieve from his POV, because now he’s stuck inside his own head, fighting off Durza’s memories. He sees all the terrible things the Shade has done and starts to question who he is, then remembers “all the events since he had found Saphira’s egg” and starts to defend himself.

He fought against the Shade’s sinister thoughts, weakly at first, then more strongly. He whispered words of the ancient language and found they gave him enough strength to withstand the shadow blurring his mind. Though his defenses faltered dangerously, he slowly began to draw his shattered consciousness into a small bright shell around his core. Outside his mind he was aware of a pain so great it threatened to blot out his very life, but something – or someone – seemed to keep it at bay.

It’s been fifty-four chapters since the whole concept of consciousness and mind-touching and all that has been introduced, and I still have no idea how it works. What does it feel like?  How do you put up a shield around your mind? Paolini writes about Eragon’s “consciousness” like it’s a separate entity, not an integral part of him.

He was still too weak to clear his mind completely, but he was lucid enough to examine his experiences since Carvahall. Where would he go now . . . and who would show him the way? Without Brom, there was no one to guide or teach him.

Except the elves everyone keeps telling you about. Most of them probably still remember the Riders from first-hand experience. And is this really the time to be wondering this? Shouldn’t you wait until you’re, y’know, conscious? Or at least sure you’re not going to die?

But wait! While Eragon’s pondering what his next move is, someone manages to contact him:

Come to me.

He recoiled at the touch of another consciousness – one so vast and powerful it was like a mountain looming over him. This was who was blocking the pain, he realized. Like Arya’s mind, music ran through this one: deep amber-gold chords that throbbed with magisterial melancholy.

Finally, he dared ask, Who . . . who are you?

One who would help. With a flicker of an unspoken thought, the Shade’s influence was brushed aside like an unwanted cobweb.

Well, that was anticlimactic.

The person helping Eragon explains that they’ve done all they can, but they’re too far away to do anything more. Eragon asks again who they are.

There was a low rumble. I am Osthato Chetowä, the Mourning Sage. And Togira Ikonoka, the Cripple Who Is Whole. Come to me, Eragon, for I have answers to all you ask. You will not be safe until you find me.

Then he tells Eragon to go with Arya to Ellesmera, and says that he’s “rid the land of a great evil.” Great, pump up his ego some more, why don’t you?

The stranger was right; what he had accomplished was worthy of honor, of recognition. No matter what his trials might be in the future, he was no longer just a pawn in the game of power. He had transcended that and was something else, something more. He had become what Ajihad wanted: an authority independent of any king or leader.

He has? Really? Who granted him this authority? What constitutes independence? Because I’m pretty sure he was taking orders from Ajihad for the last few chapters – that’s not very independent. I mean, yes, technically he could just tell Ajihad to piss off and go do his own thing, but he’s still too untrained to be much of an authority in any respect. He would just wind up getting himself killed. Killing the Shade doesn’t give him authority – or at least, it shouldn’t.

The Mourning Sage tells Eragon to rest, and to not tell anyone about him when he wakes up. Then, with a reminder to seek out the elves, he puts Eragon to sleep (even though he’s not actually awake?).

His last thought was that Brom would have been proud of him.

That really doesn’t say good things about Eragon.

Eragon wakes up with Angela “staring at his face intently”. Creepy. She asks how he feels, then gives him a drink of mead (wouldn’t water be the better choice?). He struggles to remember what happened, and Angela tells him his friends are alive and lets them in to see him. There’s a cute little exchange between him and Saphira where he says he’s proud of her for breathing fire for the first time. Then he asks Arya and Murtagh what happened. Murtagh says that when the Shade died and the spirits inside him flew out across the inside of the mountain, the Urgals “ceased fighting to watch them go,” and then started fighting and killing each other. The Varden got most of them, but quite a few managed to escape into the tunnels. Murtagh calls Eragon a hero, saying that if it wasn’t for him killing Durza they would have lost.

Eragon was troubled by his words but pushed them away for later consideration. “Where were the Twins? They weren’t where they were supposed to be – I couldn’t contact them. I needed their help.”

Murtagh shrugged. “I was told they bravely fought off a group of Urgals that broke into Tronjheim somewhere else. They were probably too busy to talk with you.”

That seemed wrong for some reason, but Eragon could not decide why.


Turning to Arya, Eragon asks why she and Saphira didn’t crash. Arya explains that by the time she got Saphira’s armor off, Eragon was already at the bottom of the slide, and she thought Durza would kill him before she could rescue him. So she created the biggest distraction she could think of and broke the star sapphire. Then, when they were just about to hit the floor, she used her magic to freeze all the pieces in the air and gently lower them to the floor so there wouldn’t be a million glittering pieces of deadly shrapnel flying about.

Eragon finally gets around to asking about his injuries. Angela waffles about, saying he’s been out for a day and a half and that if she wasn’t around it would have taken him weeks to heal, if he’d even lived at all.

Alarmed, Eragon pushed the blankets off his torso and twisted around to feel his back. Angela caught his wrist with her small hand, worry reflected in her eyes. “Eragon . . . you have to understand, my power is not like yours or Arya’s. It depends on the use of herbs and potions. There are limits to what I can do, especially with such a large–”

He yanked his hand out of her grip and reached back, fingers groping. The skin on his back was smooth and warm, flawless. Hard muscles flexed under his fingertips as he moved. He slid his hand toward the base of his neck and unexpectedly felt a hard bump about a half-inch wide. He followed it down his back with growing horror. Durza’s blow had left him with a huge, ropy scar, stretching from his right shoulder to the opposite hip.

Pity showed on Arya’s face as she murmured, “You have paid a terrible price for your deed, Eragon Shadeslayer.”

Murtagh laughed harshly. “Yes. Now you’re just like me.”

Why is Murtagh being such an asshole? He’s supposed to be Eragon’s friend, and you’d think he’d have some empathy considering he has the same kind of injury, but no, apparently he’s got to be a jerk about the whole thing.

Dismay filled Eragon, and he closed his eyes. He was disfigured. Then he remembered something from when he was unconscious . . . a figure in white who had helped him. A cripple who was whole – Togira Ikonoka.

We just found this out two pages ago! Do you honestly think your readers are so stupid they’ll forget what they read earlier in the chapter?

He had said, Think of what you have done and rejoice, for you have rid the land of a great evil. You have wrought a deed no one else could. Many are in your debt. . . .

Come to me, Eragon, for I have answers to all you ask.

A measure of peace and satisfaction consoled Eragon.

I will come.

And that’s the book. It actually comes across as a downer ending, since Eragon has been grievously injured, but at least they killed the Big Bad… who was kind of a let down, considering what little characterization he had came at the very end, and did little to make him an actual character worth caring about (as opposed to a boogeyman who pops up from time to time just to be scary and threatening).

But, hey, we’re done! I mean, there’s three more books in the series and they just get weirder from here, but we’re done with the first one! Rejoice!

Eragon: Chapter 58

Eragon, Chapter 58: Battle Under Farthen Dûr

Arya and Murtagh tell Eragon the Urgals are coming. Why couldn’t this have been added to the end of the last chapter? It would have made for an actual cliffhanger and Paolini wouldn’t have had to rewrite anything.

The first wave of Urgals comes out of the tunnels, and immediately they get boiling pitch dumped on them, which then gets set on fire. The rest of the Urgals pour out onto the field, and there’s a pitched battle. Eragon and Saphira jump in, and at one point Eragon gets knocked off Saphira and has to fight on foot. It’s at this point that Paolini’s tendency to constantly refer to Eragon’s sword by name gets really annoying. Zar’roc is mentioned four times in as many paragraphs. And Paolini keeps making creepy references about the sword…

Zar’roc’s crimson blade seemed to gleam with delight as blood spurted along its length.

Four more Urgals succumbed to Zar’roc’s thirsty bite […]

I get it – the sword used to belong to Morzan and it supposed to be creepy and evil. That’s great. You don’t have to give the sword an actual personality, though.

Murtagh pulls Eragon out of the fray and they make their way over to Saphira, who’s surrounded by Urgals.

The sight of Saphira’s blood enraged Eragon.

Did he forget this was a battle? Or did he not think Saphira would get injured?

Anyway, Eragon helps her kill the Urgals, and they fly over the battle and start buzzing Urgals from behind. You’d think the Urgals would have had some sort of contingency plan – they had to have known the Varden had a dragon on their side – but no, they have no way to counter Saphira and Eragon.

Eragon uses his vantage point over the battle to tell the Twins what’s going on. The battle is split into three separate fights thanks to the Urgals coming out of three different tunnels, and while the Urgals are clustered into their own clans there’s no obvious leader for the whole army. The Twins order Eragon to go help Hrothgar. That goes well for a while, with Eragon fighting on Saphira’s back, until he almost falls out of the saddle and gets attacked by a Kull. The Kull is about to kill him (hooray!) until he’s saved by Angela (BOO!).

The witch wore a long red cape over outlandish flanged armor enameled black and green. She bore a strange two-handed weapon – a long wooden shaft with a sword blade attached to each end. Angela winked at Eragon mischievously, then dashed away, spinning her staff-sword like a dervish. Close behind her was Solembum in the form of a young shaggy-haired boy. He held a small black dagger, sharp teeth bared in a feral snarl.

Well, that’s just peachy. Even in the middle of the climactic battle, Angela has to be quirky. Really adds to the atmosphere.

After a few hours of fighting*, the Twins tell Eragon that they think the Urgals are trying to dig into the city, and he and Arya need to go collapse any tunnels they’ve dug. Eragon plucks Arya out of the battle, and Saphira starts to take off, but an Urgal smashes an axe into her chest. It’s not a mortal would, but her armor’s been crushed and is pressing into her chest, making it hard for her to move.

Saphira manages to get up to the dragonhold and lands on top of the giant sapphire, “where the Twins were supposed to be watching the battle, but it was empty.” Two things: wasn’t there only supposed to be one Twin up there? I thought the other one was supposed to be on the battlefield to relay information to Ajihad. And why doesn’t anyone find it suspicious that no one is up there now? The Twins have left their positions and completely disappeared, and Shades is going to show up in a couple minutes, but no one ever puts two and two together.

Arya stays with Saphira to help get her armor off, and Eragon decides he’s going to take the slide instead of the stairs. It still takes him ten minutes (!!!) to get to the bottom, but I guess it’s faster than running. When he gets to the bottom, a section of the floor explodes and Urgals come pouring out of the hole, accompanied by Shades.

Madness burned in his maroon eyes, the madness of one who enjoys power and finds himself in the position to use it.

This is a 3rd-person limited POV and that is WAY too much information being conveyed through the eyes. For shame, Paolini, for shame.

Durza slowly approached Eragon with a triumphant expression. “So, my young Rider, we meet again. You were foolish to escape from me in Gil’ead. It will only make things worse for you in the end.”

“You’ll never capture me alive,” growled Eragon.

“Is that so?” asked the Shade, raising an eyebrow. […] “I don’t see your ‘friend’ Murtagh around to help you. You can’t stop me now. No one can!”

Fear touched Eragon. How does he know about Murtagh?

Well, he works for Galbatorix, and Galby kind of raised Murtagh, so… yeah. If you’re wondering how he knows Murtagh is here, well, there was that one guy Murtagh ran into who probably ran his mouth, so that could be it.

Eragon taunts Shades and refuses to tell him where Saphira is, which causes Shades to attack. At the same time Eragon is fending him off physically, Shades attacks him mentally as well, managing to break past Eragon’s defenses. Eragon gains the upper hand and knocks Shades down with his shield, Captain America-style. And then this happens:

Eragon thrust at the Shade with his mind and drove through Durza’s weakened defenses. A flood of images suddenly engulfed him, rushing through his consciousness–

Durza as a young boy living as a nomad with his parents on the empty plains. The tribe abandoned them and called his father “oathbreaker.” Only it was not Durza then, but Carsaib – the name his mother crooned while combing his hair. . . .

The Shade reeled wildly, face twisted in pain. Eragon tried to control the torrent of memories, but the force of them was overwhelming.

Standing on a hill over the graves of his parents, weeping that the men had not killed him as well. Then turning and stumbling blindly away, into the desert. . . .

Durza faced Eragon. Terrible hatred flowed from his maroon eyes. Eragon was on one knee – almost standing – struggling to seal his mind.

How the old man looked when he first saw Carsaib lying near death on a sand dune. The days it took Carsaib to recover and the fear he felt upon discovering that his rescuer was a sorcerer. How he had pleaded to be taught the control of spirits. How Haeg had finally agreed. Called him “Desert Rat.” . . .

Eragon was standing now. Durza charged . . . sword raised . . . shield ignored in his fury.

The days spent training under the scorching sun, always alert for the lizards they caught for food. How his power slowly grew, giving him pride and confidence. The weeks spent nursing his sick master after a failed spell. His joy when Haeg recovered . . .

There was not enough time to react . . . not enough time . . .

The bandits who attacked during the night, killing Haeg. The rage Carsaib had felt and the spirits he had summoned for vengeance. But the spirits were stronger than he expected. They turned on him, possessing mind and body. He had screamed. He was – I AM DURZA!

Why is this necessary?

Paolini has already established that Durza is evil because he’s possessed. He dies on the next page. What, exactly, is the point of shoving in all this backstory for a one-dimensional villain supposed to do? Is it supposed to make me feel sorry for him? Is it supposed to make me care? Because the time for that has long passed. If this had been presented even as late as when Eragon met Ajihad – if Ajihad had perhaps known Durza when he was still human, which would not only make Durza an enemy with an actual connection to the plot but a warning against working with spirits – then it might have worked. This just comes across as a cheap attempt to play to my sympathies.

i don't really care

You can make a villain sympathetic, but this is not the way to do it.

The sword smote heavily across Eragon’s back, cutting through both mail and skin. He screamed as pain blasted through him, forcing him to his knees. Agony bowed his body in half and obliterated all thought. He swayed, barely conscious, hot blood running down the small of his back. Durza said something he could not hear.

Durza attacked from the front. How did he manage to hit Eragon in the back?!


This is like that stupid explosion from Chapter One all over again. Oh well, who needs physics in a fantasy novel? Not Christopher Paolini!

In anguish, Eragon raised his eyes to the heavens, tears streaming down his cheeks. Everything had failed. The Varden and dwarves were destroyed. He was defeated. Saphira would give herself up for his sake – she had done it before – and Arya would be recaptured or killed. Why had it ended like this? What justice could this be? All was for nothing.

Of course the female characters would be unable to defeat Durza. Of course one would sacrifice herself for the male hero, and the other would just be incapable of fighting (even though it’s been clearly established she’s the best fighter AND magic-user in the Varden). Of course everything hinges on Eragon. It wouldn’t be a self-indulgent male power fantasy otherwise.

As Eragon’s weeping that everything he did was for nothing, the star sapphire hanging above the main chamber explodes, sending giant chunks plummeting to the floor. The reason it broke is because Saphira and Arya dove head-first through it (and it’s implied that Arya used magic to weaken/break it), and they’re divebombing Durza while Saphira breathes fire. Which is a really cool image and all, but if Saphira is breathing fire straight down while she falls, wouldn’t that just cause the fire to hit and damage her?

Everything goes slow-mo. Durza looks up points at Saphira and starts to say something, obviously attempting to cast magic. While he’s distracted, Eragon shouts “Brisingr!”, which sets his sword on fire, and stabs Durza in the heart. All before Durza can finish speaking. Durza explodes into … three balls of darkness? I don’t know, this is really hard to summarize without sounding ridiculous. Basically his body dissolves and the spirits inside him fly out of Tronjheim, never to be seen again.

Bereft of strength, Eragon fell back with arms outstretched. Above him, Saphira and Arya had nearly reached the floor – it looked as if they were going to smash into it with the deadly remains of Isidar Mithrim. As his sight faded, Saphira, Arya, the myriad fragments – all seemed to stop falling and hang motionless in the air.

How tall is that chamber? Like, is it realistic for Saphira to not have hit the ground at this point? How tall would it have to be? I guess it doesn’t matter since everything is scaled up to be ridiculously gigantic, so it’s possible there’s enough space that Saphira is still falling, but it bugs me.

Is anyone else not surprised that the ladies did all the hard work of destroying a giant sapphire and creating a vital distraction, but they didn’t get to even attempt to fight the bad guy? Arya justifiably has more reason to want to kill Durza, but it’s Eragon who gets the killing blow. Arya never even touches him. It’s pretty telling that the female characters are utilized in this scene purely for imagery, while all the action is attributed to the male hero.

It would actually be effective to end this scene with Eragon passing out if he didn’t pass out every other chapter. I’m so tired of this. Why must you torture me, Paolini?!

Last chapter is coming up! (I, uh, may have gotten my words mixed up when I said there were five chapters left. I meant to say there were five posts left. Whoops.) Don’t miss the thrilling conclusion to this tale of idiocy.

*Would the battle even last that long if they were spending the entire time fighting? Even accounting for adrenaline and training, wouldn’t the soldiers eventually be too tired to fight?

Eragon: Chapter 57

Eragon, Chapter 57: The Shadows Lengthen

In the middle of the night, a dwarf wakes Eragon up to tell him he’s been summoned by Ajihad. When he gets to Ajihad’s office, where Orik, Arya, and some guy named Jörmundur (who’s Ajihad’s second-in-command) are also waiting, Ajihad explains why they’re all here:

“I roused the five of you because we are all in grave danger. About half an hour ago a dwarf ran out of an abandoned tunnel under Tronjheim. He was bleeding and nearly incoherent, but he had enough sense left to tell the dwarves what was pursuing him: an army of Urgals, maybe a day’s march from here.”

Ajihad then feels the need to spell it out and says that the Urgals “aren’t approaching over land, but under it. They’re in the tunnels . . . we’re going to be attacked from below.” I thought this was obvious, considering the dwarf ran out of the underground tunnels and claimed to be chased by Urgals, but the Varden haven’t shown themselves to have a very good grasp on logic so I guess it must be necessary.

Eragon whines that they should have known about this earlier, and Orik tells him they’re lucky to know about it at all; the only dwarves that go into the uninhabited tunnels are hermits. I guess Eragon must have missed that part about the tunnel being abandoned? That, or he thought the dwarf was going for a morning jog in there.

With Orik’s help, they figure out that one of the abandoned dwarf cities has been taken over by the Urgals, and that they got in through collapsed tunnels. No one knows how many Urgals there are or if Galbatorix’s men are with them, but Ajihad says if the Urgals are accompanied by the Emperor’s soldiers, they don’t stand a chance. They decide the best course of action is to block off all but three main tunnels, to channel the Urgals into the plain outside Tronjheim. They can’t collapse all the tunnels, because that would weaken the ground beneath Tronjheim and the city could sink into the ground.

The women and children are being evacuated, Nasuada included. Y’know, if you trained some of your women to fight you would have more hands to fend off the Urgals… but then that would ruin the whole pseudo-chivalry wetdream Paolini’s got going on here, so the women and children have to go.

According to Ajihad, if Tronjheim falls, then everyone is doomed – the dwarves will fall, the Varden will be put to death, and Surda and the elves will eventually fall as well. This is why you shouldn’t keep your entire resistance movement in one place, people. Spread out! Have multiple cells around the country working to weaken the system! Don’t put all your leaders AND your army AND your most vulnerable members all in one place, because when you’re attacked you’ve got that much more to lose!

Eragon spends the next few hours collapsing the tunnels with magic. I question the wisdom in having him use precious energy that he’s going to need for the battle, but I guess he’s got the power of the plot backing him up. At the very least he should be working in tandem with the dwarves; they all just sit around waiting for him to collapse the tunnel, then fill it in with rubble, when it seems like it would go faster if they worked on another tunnel at the same time.

Once he’s done with that, Orik tells him that Ajihad wants him to join the army, and brings him a set of dragon armor. That’s actually pretty cool. I mean, if you can have armored war-horses, I don’t see why an armored dragon would be much of a stretch. The added weight would make flying more difficult, but Saphira acknowledges that the armor will slow her down, and frankly I don’t see a point in arguing about how a dragon can fly with plate armor. Whether or not it would be physically impossible for a standard fantasy dragon to fly while armored is kind of a moot point anyway.

Eragon gets his own set of armor as well. This is all well and good, but you’d think they might have brought it out earlier so Eragon could get used to wearing it. But I guess we don’t have to worry about him getting tired earlier from carrying extra weight or anything like that, huh?

They join up with the rest of the army on the battlefield and help dig trenches for a while. Then Murtagh shows up, much to Orik’s displeasure. Murtagh says Ajihad released him so he could “prove [his] good intentions.” Ajihad appears to back him up when Orik assumes Murtagh is lying. He then informs Eragon that one of the Twins is staying in Tronjheim “to watched the battle from the dragonhold and relay information from his brother to me.” Because Eragon can communicate mentally with them, he has to tell the Twins about anything unusual he sees during the battle, and they’ll be relaying his orders to Eragon. He talks to Eragon a bit more and then leaves.

That’s when Eragon notices Arya on the field.

Though he knew it was unreasonable, he had hoped she might accompany the other women out of Farthen Dûr. Concerned, he hastened to her. “You will fight?”

No, she’s gonna bake cookies for snack time. She’s just trying to decide whether she’s going to make chocolate chip or snickerdoodles.

At least he admits it’s unreasonable for him to wish she’d evacuated. Arya is clearly more than qualified to beat the ass of everyone around her. If I had to take bets on the last person standing, I’d put all my money on her.

“I do what I must,” Arya said calmly.

“But it’s too dangerous!”

Her face darkened. “Do not pamper me, human. Elves train both their men and women to fight. I am not one of your helpless females to run away whenever there is danger. […] You forget that I am stronger with magic than many here, including you. If the Shade comes, who can defeat him but me? And who else has the right?”

I really wish Arya could tell Eragon off without disparaging other women in the first place. She even acknowledges that the elves have a different take on gender roles than humans, but then she immediately calls human women “helpless” and implies that they’re cowards for running away – when it’s what they’ve been socialized to do. You’d think that, being the envoy between the elves and humans, she would be more likely to understand that. I mean, the humans would have treated her differently than the male elves she was accompanied by. You’d think she would have some sympathy for human women given how the men treat them. But, no, we’re just going to have her declare that she’s not like those other girls. That’s what makes for a Strong Female Character.

Eragon stared at her helplessly, knowing she was right and hating the fact. “Then stay safe.” Out of desperation, he added in the ancient language, “Wiol pömnuria ilian.” For my happiness.

Arya turned her gaze away uneasily, the fringe of her hair obscuring her face. She ran a hand along her polished bow, then murmured, “It is my wyrd to be here. The debt must be paid.”

Eragon has had exactly one previous conversation with Arya, and already he’s pressuring her to bow to his feelings. After insulting her and implying that she can’t hold her own in battle. Fuck off Eragon, you gross little child. You barely know this woman (creeping on her while she’s unconscious doesn’t count) and it’s completely unreasonable for you to make demands of her. Especially the kind of demands usually made by a lover or family member.

Everyone spends the night waiting around on the battlefield. I’m not a tactician, so I don’t know if this is a good idea. It seems to me like it would be better to have at least half your men resting, so they’re not exhausted and keyed-up from anticipation, and have scouts keeping an eye out for signs that the army is approaching… but again, I have no idea if that would work or not.

Eragon eventually goes to sleep at Orik’s suggestion. He has vague nightmares and wakes up just in time for the chapter to end.

Eragon: Chapter 56

I guess it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about the lack of updates; I’ve been having a rough summer (partially because my computer died and I lost a lot of stuff that I stupidly didn’t back up) and haven’t been feeling a lot of motivation to write anything, let alone work on a new blog post. This means, of course, that my self-imposed goal of finishing Eragon by the end of the summer is unlikely to happen – since, y’know, it’s fall and everything. I’m going to shoot for finishing by Christmas. That’s five chapters left (including today’s review), a followup post, and a special surprise post at the very end. After that, I’ll be reviewing Wizard’s First Rule.

And now, on to the part you actually want to read.


Eragon, Chapter 56: Arya’s Test

CONTENT WARNING: This post discusses rape/sexual assualt.

Eragon meets up with Orik the next day, and the first thing he does is ask about Nasuada. We learn that she’s “totally devoted to her father and spends all her time helping him” and has apparently manipulated his enemies behind the scenes several times without anyone knowing. Which begs the question, why the hell does Orik know this? It makes her sound cool and all, but if no one ever found out she was in control of these situations, how can Orik be telling Eragon about it? Would it really be so hard to reveal this in a later action scene? Or would that be taking too much attention away from our boy hero?

Orik also tells Eragon that no one knows who Nasuada’s mother is; Ajihad brought her to Farthen Dûr alone when she was a newborn and raised her by himself. Eragon muses that Nasuada also grew up without a mother. This goes absolutely nowhere, and has no emotional impact on either the characters or the reader, because it’s being conveyed in a detached manner by a character that has no stake in the situation whatsoever. Why should I care that Nasuada has no mother when even Eragon doesn’t seem to care? He has no emotional reaction to it, just a random thought that she shares a similar background with him, and that’s it. He moves on to ask about the testing he’s supposed to do, and doesn’t return to the topic for the rest of the book.

They head to a training field outside of Tronjheim, where some guy named Fredric is waiting to evaluate Eragon. He asks how strong Eragon is (which I think is a weird question: wouldn’t it be better to ask what he can do, then test his strength?). Eragon replies that he’s “strong enough” because he uses magic, and Fredric says he’s more concerned with Eragon’s physical prowess in battle.

“Do you know how to use any weapons besides that sword and bow?”

Eragon thought about it. “Only my fists.”

Please point out where you’ve used your fists, Eragon. The only time you threw a punch is when you got into that little fistfight with Murtagh, and as I recall that ended with the both of you getting pinned to the ground by an angry dragon. At any rate, Fredric seems to like this answer, but his good mood vanishes when he sees the Twins coming toward them. They’re here to test Eragon’s magical abilities.

Shrugging, Eragon followed with Saphira. Behind him he heard Fredric say to Orik, “We have to stop them from going too far.”

“I know,” answered Orik in a low voice, “but I can’t interfere again. Hrothgar made it clear he won’t be able to protect me the next time it happens.”

Everyone expects the Twins to push Eragon past reasonable limits, and Ajihad’s okay with that? Small wonder they’re such arrogant sadists, if the boss lets them get away with anything short of murder.

The Twins ask Eragon if he’s decided to join Du Vrangr Gata, and they’re obviously angry when he says no. Then they tell him that his test is to complete the tasks they give him… which is pretty much the standard definition of an ability test, isn’t it? Did we really need that spelled out for us? Anyway, Eragon’s first task is to lift a rock to eye level.

That’s easy enough, commented Eragon to Saphira. “Stenr reisa!” The rock wobbled, then smoothly rose from the ground. Before it went more than a foot, an unexpected resistance halted it in midair. A smile touched the Twins’ lips. Eragon stared at them, enraged – they were trying to make him fail! If he became exhausted now, it would be impossible to complete the harder tasks. Obviously they were confident that their combined strength could easily wear him down.

But I’m not alone either, snarled Eragon to himself. Saphira, now! Her mind melded with his, and the rock jerked through the air to stop, quivering, at eye level. The Twins’ eyes narrowed cruelly.

“Very . . . good,” they hissed.

If it weren’t for the fact that the Twins are obviously enjoying this, I would say that they’re probably pushing down on the rock to see how Eragon holds up against opposing magical forces. It’s one thing to see that he can perform a simple spell. It’s another to see how he does when he meets resistance. But that would be giving this book too much credit.

It’s also becoming really annoying how lazily the Twins are written. It’s like a double whammy of bad writing: not only are they obviously evil villains, but they’re entirely interchangeable. They don’t have individual personalities, or even individual names, and they could easily be merged into one character and the story would lose nothing. The only reason they’re even twins in the first place is so Paolini can have creepy evil twins who do everything in unison. That’s how twins work, right?

 In a break between two of the tasks, he asked her, Why do they continue this testing? Our abilities were clear enough from what they saw in my mind.

Eragon sounds like a whiny high schooler who doesn’t want to take his final exam. “But why do I have to take this test? I already did all the homework, the teacher should know how smart I am!”

He catches on to the fact that the Twins want to learn more words from the ancient language, and Saphira tells him to speak softly and simply. The testing continues for over an hour (which makes him sound even MORE like a high schooler when he complains that he’s hot and thirsty), until the Twins come up with their final test.

Finally the Twins raised their hands and said, “There is only one thing left to do. It is simple enough – any competent user of magic should find this easy.” One of them removed a silver ring from his finger and smugly handed it to Eragon. “Summon the essence of silver.”

Eragon and Saphira have no clue what the essence of silver even is, let alone how to summon it. Eragon doesn’t even know the word for silver, though he is smart enough to figure it’s part of the word argetlam. Eventually he decides to combine arget with the word for invoke, but just as he’s opening his mouth to speak, he’s interrupted.


The word rushed over Eragon like cool water – the voice was strangely familiar, like a half-remembered melody. The back of his neck tingled. He slowly turned toward its source.

A lone figure stood behind them: Arya. A leather strip incircled her brow, restraining her voluminous black hair, which tumbled behind her shoulders in a lustrous cascade. Her slender sword was at her hip, her bow on her back. Plain black leather clothed her shapely frame, poor raiment for one so fair. She was taller than most men, and her stance was perfectly balanced and relaxed. An unmarked face reflected none of the horrific abuse she had endured.

Did we really need another description of her? Was Paolini afraid we’d forget she’s super beautiful if he didn’t repeat it every time she appears? Because I remember from the last five times you described her. I really didn’t need a reminder.

Remember that bolded phrase. It’s going to be important in just a little bit.

Arya scolds the Twins for lying to Ajihad about Eragon’s abilities and asking him to do “what only a master can do.” She tells them to leave, then summons the essence of silver herself – which is a glowing ghost-image of the ring? The Twins turn tail when they see it, and then Arya stalks over to the training field, where everyone stops to stare at her. Lovely.

Eragon was inexorably dragged forward by his own fascination.

Yes, I got that you were infatuated with her from every other interaction you’ve had with her. You really didn’t need to hammer that in.

A large circle formed around Arya. Looking only at Eragon, she proclaimed, “I claim the right of trial by arms. Draw your sword.”

She means to duel me!

NO SHIT. And here I thought she meant to bake you a cherry pie.

Eragon reluctantly stepped forward. He did not want to do this when he was exhausted from magic use and when there were so many people watching.

“Waaaaaaah, I don’t wanna fight the elf! I’m hot! I’m tired! There’s too many people! WAAAAAAAAAAAAH!”

Besides, Arya could be in no shape for sparring. It had only been two days since she had received Tunivor’s Nectar. I will soften my blows so I don’t hurt her, he decided.

She was clearly well enough to perform master-level magic. This is just another excuse for Paolini’s dumb pseudo-chivalry to rear its outdated head.

They stare at each other for a bit, weapons drawn, then Arya attacks and it’s immediately clear that she’s stronger than he is.

Belatedly, Eragon remembered Brom’s warning that even the weakest elf could easily overpower a human.

HA ha ha it’s so funny how Paolini sets up Arya as this badass beauty, then immediately undermines that by reminding us that she could be 98-pound weakling and still kick Eragon’s ass. So she’s super tough, but not so intimidating that Eragon doesn’t still want to bone her.

Also, does Eragon ever remember Brom’s teachings before he gets himself in hot water? I’ve lost count of how many times he’s remembered what Brom said after he does something he shouldn’t have.

He had about as much chance of defeating Arya as he did Durza. She attacked again, swinging at his head. He ducked under the razor-sharp edge. But then why was she . . . toying with him? For a few long seconds he was too busy warding her off to think about it, then he realized, She wants to know how proficient I am.



This prompts Eragon to “[begin] the most complicated series of attacks he knew.” Which basically means he throws everything he’s got and the kitchen sink at her. Predicably, Arya beats him, but this is apparently enough for him to pass her test.

Dazed, he slowly straightened. Fredric was beside him now, thumping his back enthusiastically. “That was incredible swordsmanship! I even learned some new moves from watching the two of you. And the elf – stunning!”

But I lost, he protested silently.

You just realized you wouldn’t be able to beat her four paragraphs ago! How are you stunned that you lost when you know she’s more powerful than you are and you know full well she was testing you? You clearly did well if everyone is congratulating you.

Arya walks off to a spot about a mile off, motioning for Eragon to follow her. For some reason he flies over instead of walking, which gives us a chance to witness this lovely exchange between him and Saphira:

As they soared toward the knoll, Eragon saw Arya running below them with clean, easy strides. Saphira commented, You find her form pleasing, do you not?

Yes, he admitted, blushing.

Her face does have more character than that of most humans, she sniffed. But it’s long, like a horse’s, and overall she’s rather shapeless.

Eragon looked at Saphira with amazement. You’re jealous, aren’t you!

Impossible. I never get jealous, she said, offended.

You are now, admit it! he laughed.

She snapped her jaws together loudly. I am not! He smiled and shook his head, but let her denial stand.

It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that women in fiction tend to get pitted against each other, usually as romantic rivals. It’s kind of concerning that Saphira is jealous of Eragon’s obvious romantic interest in Arya, however.

Now, you could argue that Saphira is upset because Eragon is paying attention to someone other than her, and he’s the main person she interacts with … except she was never jealous of Brom, or Murtagh, or Orik. Even if you narrowed it down to women, she has no problems with him talking to Angela or Nasuada. She never makes negative comments about their appearances. It’s only when Eragon shows an interest in romance that she gets jealous. Why? What’s the point of having Saphira feel envious of Arya? It just makes her come across as really creepy – especially when you combine that with the overprotective mom vibe she’s got going on.

Arya greets Saphira in the ancient language, then tells Eragon that she owes him for saving her life. Eragon asks how she wound up in Gilead, and Arya asks him to walk with her. She tells him that she was ambushed by Durza, captured, drugged, and taken back to Gilead. Galbatorix ordered Durza to find out where the egg went and everything she knew about Arya.

She stared ahead icily, jaw clenched. “He tried for months without success. His methods were . . . harsh. When torture failed, he ordered his soldiers to use me as they would. Fortunately, I still had the strength to nudge their minds and make them incapable. At last Galbatorix ordered that I was to be brought to Urû’baen. Dread filled me when I learned this, as I was weary in both mind and body and had no strength to resist him. If it were not for you, I would have stood before Galbatorix in a weeks’ time.”

Eragon shuddered inwardly. It was amazing what she had survived. The memory of her injuries was still vivid in his mind. Softly, he asked, “Why do you tell me all this?”

“So that you know what I was saved from. Do not presume I can ignore your deed.”

Also not a surprise: the fact that Arya was almost raped.

This incident is boiled down to two lines, recounted in the past tense, and only said to make Eragon feel sorry for her. It never gets brought up again. We have no idea how this affected Arya, because she never shows any outward signs of being affected and we never see the story from her point of view.* Arya tells Eragon that she was almost gang-raped in prison, and his response is to ask why she’s telling him this.

I’d also like to point out that it’s remarkably convenient that Eragon’s love interest is threatened with rape, but that threat is neutralized so she’s still untouched, and Eragon still got to save her and be a hero. Paolini gets to have his cake and eat it too – Arya has a traumatic backstory, but she’s still “untouched” and therefore okay for Eragon to lust after. It makes me wonder how Eragon would have reacted if she had been raped… but honestly, I don’t really want to find out.

I’m just going to leave this quote from Linkara of That Guy With The Glasses here (source). While Linkara is talking about an unrelated comic book, I think it highlights the problem with using rape as a plot device and/or cheap instant backstory quite nicely – and the problem with Paolini throwing it in as an afterthought.

Rape is not a subject to be treated lightly, and certainly not something to be used in the way it’s used here. Rape is often employed by writers, not because they have a story they want to tell about rape, but because rape is something that “happens to women.” Not in the real world sense, of course, rape is something that can and does happen to people from all genders, ages, and walks of life. But in the hands of a lesser-skilled writer, rape is generally employed as a “thing that happens to women.” And it is no less evident than in this book.
This story is not about Sue Dibny’s rape. Sue is essentially a prop, and we only see the rape in how it affects everybody else. The rape is used only as a catalyst for other characters. We don’t know how she recovers from the incident. Where is HER story? For that matter, WHY did this have to be a rape? It could have been anything else. A kidnapping. An attempted murder. Instead, it goes for rape for two reasons: One, the assumption that rape is something that “happens to women,” and two, to give the veneer that this is a “mature” story, edgy and more adult. But the story is not handled in an adult way. A mature story would’ve focused on the rape itself and show how it affected Sue as a character. Instead, it’s nothing more than a red herring, added for shock value. You can’t just throw adult elements into the story and ignore them. You have to deal with the consequences of it.

Moving on…

Eragon asks if Arya will go back to Ellesméra. She says she can’t leave yet, because Ajihad needs her help. However, she thinks Brom has taught him well enough for him to proceed in his training.

“You mean for me to go to Ellesméra?”


Eragon felt a flash of irritation. Did he and Saphira have no say in the matter?

If you want proper training as a Rider? No, you don’t have a say.

Arya says that he won’t have to go for a few weeks at least. Eragon asks her what the Twins were trying to make him do, and she gets huffy and says they wanted him to summon the “true form” of silver. What would this accomplish? Who knows! It’s just another place where the characters all confirm that they hate the Twins, but nothing is ever done about them.

Eragon mentions he dreamed about Arya and that he scryed her from his dreams. Instead of running away screaming, Arya says she sometimes felt someone watching her, and that she’s never heard of anyone being able to “scry in their sleep.” Oh look, yet another person pointing out how special Eragon is. How novel. Eragon asks what the tattoo on Arya’s shoulder means, adding that it looks like the one on Brom’s ring. Arya inspects the ring and says the symbol is a yawë, and the ring is “a token given only to the most valued elf-friends”. She says to hang on to the ring in case he needs to gain favor with the queen, but not to tell anyone about her tattoo.

Eventually Eragon heads back to Farthen Dûr, where he finally remembers that he can visit Murtagh – but not before a bit of lunch! I know Murtagh’s not going anywhere, but you’d think he’d be a higher priority than snacktime.

It’s okay, though, because it turns out Murtagh has a pretty cushy setup going on. He’s not allowed to leave his room, but as long as he’s on his best behavior he gets all his meals delivered to him, anything he wants to read from the library, a writing desk, a bed, a rug, and more. I guess we can’t have Eragon living it up while his friend suffers in the dungeon.

Eragon laughed, and with a wondering smile seated himself next to Murtagh. “But aren’t you angry? You’re still a prisoner.”

“Oh, I was a first,” said Murtagh with a shrug. “But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that this is really the best place for me. Even if Ajihad gave me my freedom, I would stay in my room most of the time anyway.”

“But why?”

“You know well enough. No one would be at ease around me, knowing my true identity, and there would always be people who wouldn’t limit themselves to harsh looks or words.”

I’m still not sure how most people would know who you are in the first place. As it’s been said before, Morzan kept his son a secret, and Galbatorix didn’t exactly parade you around the kingdom declaring who you were. If you submitted to a mind probe and came out clean, Ajihad could tell people who you are – but then that would cause more trouble than it’s worth, especially since you’re worried about people trying to attack you. Speaking of which, most of the Varden should be smart enough to realize that if Ajihad let you in, he’s okay with you being there, and attacking you would be just as bad as attacking another resistance member.

The boys talk for a while. Eragon asks about Nasuada visiting, and Murtagh seems to have developed a bit of a crush on her:

Murtagh’s gaze shifted into the distance, and he shook his head. “No, she only wanted to meet me. Doesn’t she look like a princess? And the way she carries herself! When she first entered through that doorway, I thought she was one of the great ladies of Galbatorix’s court. I’ve seen earls and counts who had wives that, compared to her, were more fitted for life as a hog than of nobility.”

Eragon listened to his praise with growing apprehension. It may be nothing, he reminded himself. You’re leaping to conclusions. Yet the foreboding would not leave him.

Paolini never goes into detail about what this “foreboding” is, so I’m forced to come to the conclusion that Eragon has a crush on Murtagh, and doesn’t like hearing that Murtagh might like someone else. That would be a lot more interesting than his attempts to pursue Arya.

Also, does anyone else just love that little dig at noblewomen there? I love it when women are compared to animals to show how much a guy loves a girl.

The chapter ends when Eragon asks how long Murtagh is going to hide away in his room, and Murtagh says he’s content for now.

*At least, not as far as I’ve read. I haven’t managed to get through Inheritance yet, so I don’t know if he ever does write a chapter from her POV. But isn’t it funny how we get to see the story from the perspective of Eragon, Roran, Saphira, Nasuada, and probably someone else I’ve forgotten about, but we never see it from Arya’s side? It’s almost like Paolini finds it easier to relate to a fictional creature than a woman designated as the love interest in a relationship she doesn’t want.

Eragon: Chapter 55

Eragon, Chapter 55: Hall of the Mountain King

There’s a dwarf waiting for Eragon when he gets back to the dragonhold, who tells him that Orik’s waiting for him and then runs away. Saphira urges Eragon to wear Zar’roc, saying that while it may have a bloody history he should wield a Rider’s sword and he can use it for good. Which makes sense, especially considering most people’s reactions to the sword are to go on about how terrible Morzan was. Eragon’s not being shunned for using this sword, or being pelted with rotten vegetables, or anything like that. He’s just being subjected to endless yammering about a dead villain.

So Saphira and Eragon fly down to the main gates where Orik lets them in. Hrothgar, the dwarf king, wants a private audience with Eragon and Saphira. They’re led to a throne room underneath Tronjheim, where Hrothgar is waiting for them. He apologizes for not meeting with them the day before. Apparently some of the dwarf clans wanted him to expel Eragon from Farthen Dûr and he had to argue with them all day. Then he segues into his next question by giving us some random history (which really means that Paolini dumped a bunch of meaningless exposition on us for no reason):

The king accepted his thanks, then lifted a gnarled hand and pointed. “See there, Rider Eragon, where my predecessors sit upon their graven thrones. One and forty there are, with I the forty-second. When I pass from this world into the care of the gods, my hírna will be added to their ranks. The first statue is the likeness of my ancestor Korgan, who forged this mace, Volund. For eight millennia – since the dawn of our race – dwarves have ruled under Farthen Dûr. We are the bones of the land, older than both the fair elves and the savage dragons.” Saphira shifted slightly.

Wait, Hrothgar was described as holding a hammer when Eragon walked in. Is he talking about a mace that the statue was holding, or does Paolini not know the difference between a mace and a hammer? Also, does no one in this damn book have any situational awareness? Because I swear Hrothgar is the third person to say something offhand that makes it sound like he’s not aware there’s a dragon standing right in front of him.

Hrothgar asks what Eragon intends to do in Tronjheim. Eragon says that right now he wants to “find sanctuary,” and that he’s not planning to leave unless Ajihad sends him to the elves. This is apparently not a satisfactory answer:

“Then it was only the desire for safety that drove you?” asked Hrothgar. “Do you just seek to live here and forget your troubles with the Empire?”

Eragon shook his head, his pride rejecting that statement. “If Ajihad told you of my past, you should know that I have grievances enough to fight the Empire until it is nothing but scattered ashes.

The problem with this statement is that Eragon’s grievances are the only ones we see. Let’s take a look at what the Empire has done to Eragon, shall we?

  1. Killed his uncle
  2. Imprisoned him
  3. Drugged and interrogated him
  4. Chased him across the continent
  5. Killed his mentor

I can guarantee that any one of those things has been done to people in the Varden as well. Not all of them – I’m sure a good chunk of the refugees living in Tronjheim are family members who left with the victims – but let’s say at least a quarter of these people have been directly victimized by the Empire. And when I say directly victimized, I mean they’ve probably been: threatened (whether with imprisonment, torture, death, or the death of a loved one); imprisoned, whether it’s under false charges, or for saying the wrong thing or not paying their taxes or whatever; beaten, tortured, or driven out of their homes; had personal property destroyed by agents of the Empire; or lost someone close to them, whether that person was killed outright or quietly disappeared. Eragon acts like he has more reason than most to fight the Empire, but any one of these is reason enough – and he’s certainly not the only one to suffer multiple injustices at the Empire’s hands.

What this book needs is a scene where Eragon learns what other refugees have gone through. We need to hear from the family that lost everything because the taxes were so high they couldn’t afford to eat; from the young widow whose husband went out to meet with like-minded revolutionaries and never came home; from the old man who can barely walk because he was so badly beaten for badmouthing the Emperor. If nothing else, this would provide some much-needed believability. For all his worldbuilding, Paolini really got hung up on the physical details and forgot about atmosphere. And Eragon has all these revelations about death and slavery, but what he really needs is a kick in the head and a reminder that he’s not the only one who has suffered.

Hrothgar asks Saphira the same question, and her answer is appropriately bloodthirsty – she wants to kill Galbatorix and free the two dragon eggs he still holds. Then there’s some prattle about obligations, Hrothgar joins the horde of people pointing out that Eragon is carrying an evil sword, we find out Orik is Hrothgar’s nephew, and finally Eragon is dismissed. He meets up with Orik outside, who says that Eragon is now super popular thanks to that blessing he performed the other day – every mom is out to get Eragon to bless their kids. Saphira goes back to the dragonhold to meet somebody, while Eragon says he wants to keep looking around (while simultaneously wanting to stay out of sight – good luck with that one).

Orik takes Eragon to the library, and Eragon amuses himself by skimming the book titles.

He was somewhat disheartened by how hard reading was after months of neglect.

Oh for the love of – didn’t he only learn to read, what, three months ago? Over the course of a week? And then had no opportunity to practice between fleeing for his life and being imprisoned? Of course reading is going to be hard!

Eventually he became immersed in a translation of poems by Dóndar, the tenth dwarf king.

Either those are some really easy poems to read, or reading is a skill you can pick up in about ten minutes.

Anyway, Eragon hears people moving around in the library, and he gets paranoid, starts trying to find Orik, and runs into the Twins… and this is where the weirdest scene in the book starts.

 The Twins stood together, their shoulders meeting, a blank expression on their smooth faces. Their black snake eyes bored into him. Their hands, hidden within the folds of their purple robes, twitched slightly. They both bowed, but the movement was insolent and derisive.

Someone please tell me how bowing can be “insolent and derisive”. Are they maintaining eye contact when they should be looking at the floor? Bowing too low, or too shallow, for someone of Eragon’s station? And how can Eragon tell what’s going on with the Twins’ hands if they’re hidden?

“We have been searching for you,” one said. His voice was uncomfortably like the Ra’zac’s.

Eragon suppressed a shiver. “What for?” He reached out with his mind and contacted Saphira. She immediately joined thoughts with him.

“Ever since you met with Ajihad, we have wanted to . . . apologize for our actions.” The words were mocking, but not in a way Eragon could challenge. “We have come to pay homage to you.” Eragon flushed angrily as they bowed again.

Careful! warned Saphira.

He pushed back his rising temper. He could not afford to be riled by this confrontation. An idea came to him, and he said with a small smile, “Nay, it is I who pay homage to you. Without your approval I never could have gained entrance to Farthen Dûr.” He bowed to them in turn, making the movement as insulting as he could.

Yeah, okay, there is not nearly enough detail here for this scene to make any sense. What is Eragon doing to make that would make bowing insulting? What is the cultural context for bowing? It appears to be a formal gesture, much like it is in the real world, but does social standing affect how you’re supposed to bow? Is there some misunderstanding here – is Eragon making himself out to be a lot more important than other people see him? Do the Twins assume he’s just a trumped-up yokel who should be kneeling at their feet in awe? It makes sense for Eragon to be angry that they’re mocking him, but there needs to be some sort of context so we can tell how he’s being mocked. This just makes it look like bowing is this huge insult in their culture, while also being a sign of respect.

There was a flicker of irritation in the Twins’ eyes, but they smiled and said, “We are honored that one so . . . important . . . as yourself thinks so highly of us. We are in your debt for your kind words.”

Now it was Eragon’s turn to be irritated. “I will remember that when I’m in need.”

Paolini was clearly going for a falsely polite, passive-aggressive tone, but it really just reads like people in this world view politeness with suspicion at best, and as a grave insult at worst. Or like it’s the height of rudeness to be polite to someone you despise.

The Twins invite Eragon to join their little magic club, Du Vrangr Gata. They claim they want to show Eragon what they’ve learned, and if he wants to share his own knowledge with them that would be totally awesome. Eragon sees through them and yells at them that he won’t share what Brom taught him (what happened to not getting riled up?). The Twins threaten to make his magic test particularly unpleasant, then stalk off. Eragon decides it’s time to go back to the dragonhold. He tries to find Angela’s room again, so he can ask her about the Twins, but he can’t remember the way and he eventually heads back.

On his way back into the dragonhold, he hears a woman’s voice. Saphira says she’ll distract her while he comes in, and Eragon enters the dragonhold to discover a young woman with “skin the same deep shade as Ajihad’s” asking Saphira where she can find him. Eragon comes up from behind and surprises her. She introduces herself as Nasuada, and Eragon asks what she wants.

Nasuada smiled charmingly. “My father, Ajihad, sent me here with a message. Would you like to hear it?”

That’s… a really odd way to tell someone you have a message for them. Why wouldn’t he want to hear it?

The Varden’s leader had not struck Eragon as one inclined to marriage and fatherhood. He wondered who Nasuada’s mother was – she must have been an uncommon woman to have attracted Ajihad’s eye.

Am I the only one who finds this passage kind of racist? Because it sounds like Eragon’s making this assumption off the stereotype that black men sleep around and aren’t active in their kids’ lives. Ajihad’s been in one scene, and mostly he’s come across as stern and commanding – which doesn’t really preclude marriage or children. There are plenty of stern, commanding fathers out there. (Of course, it should be no surprise that the only two black people in the book are related to each other.)

Anyway, Ajihad’s message is that Eragon probably shouldn’t do any more blessings, and that he needs to be tested on his abilities as soon as possible. She also mentions that he’s now allowed to visit Murtagh, and gives him directions. Eragon, wonderful friend to Murtagh that he is, immediately asks if he can see Arya. Thankfully, no one’s allowed to see her except a handful of people, what with her being imprisoned, tortured, poisoned, and put into a magical coma.

Nasuada leaves, and Eragon realizes that Solembum is sitting on Saphira’s back. I think this would have been a much better way to reveal that Angela and Solembum were in Tronjheim, but whatever. Eragon resolves to go visit Murtagh the next day, and the chapter ends.

Eragon: Chapter 54

Eragon, Chapter 54: Mandrake Root and Newt’s Tongue

So I neglected to mention in the last post that there’s a staircase called “Vol Turin, The Endless Staircase.” It is constantly referred to like this. I didn’t think the stairs needed a special name, but I guess that shows how much I know.

You will all be shocked and amazed at this: the chapter begins with Eragon waking up. I know, right? This never happens. He lays in bed for a bit, thinking about Murtagh, Arya, and how he doesn’t need to be afraid anymore, before noticing Solembum sitting at the cave entrance. Hooray, the snarky kitty is back! But then that means… oh no…

Solembum leads Eragon on a merry chase around Tronjheim, which ends on one of the unused floors.

He entered an earthy two-room suite, lavishly decorated with carved wood and clinging plants. The air was warm, fresh, and humid. Bright lanterns hung on the walls and from the low ceiling. Piles of intriguing items cluttered the floor, obscuring the corners. A large four-poster bed, curtained by even more plants, was in the far room.

In the center of the main room, on a plush leather chair, sat the fortuneteller and witch, Angela. She smiled brightly.

“What are you doing here?” blurted Eragon.

How are you surprised by this when you just spent the last page chasing Solembum around? I mean, you know he hangs around Angela (she mentioned there were other people he’s talked to, so they’ve been together for a while), so wouldn’t it be a given that if he shows up, she’s somewhere nearby? Did this not occur to you while you were following the one werecat you know?

Also, way to vague up the description there, Paolini. “Piles of intriguing items,” really? Not gonna give us an example or anything? Thanks.

“So!” exclaimed Angela, leaning forward. “You are a Rider. I suspected as much, but I didn’t know for certain until yesterday. I’m sure Solembum knew, but he never told me. I should have figured it out the moment you mentioned Brom. Saphira . . . I like the name – fitting for a dragon.”

“Brom’s dead,” said Eragon abruptly. “The Ra’zac killed him.”

Segue? What’s a segue? I’m just gonna drop in shocking comments whenever anything remotely related comes up.

Angela was taken aback. She twirled a lock of her dense curls. “I’m sorry. I truly am,” she said softly.

Eragon smiled bitterly. “But not surprised, are you? You foretold his death, after all.”

“I didn’t know whose death it would be,” she said, shaking her head. “But no . . . I’m not surprised. I met Brom once or twice. He didn’t care for my ‘frivolous’ attitude toward magic. It irritated him.”

If Angela and Brom have met before, then why didn’t they recognize each other back in Teirm? They had an entire conversation about frogs and toads (which showcased some of Angela’s “frivolous” attitude) before she gave them directions, and neither of them thought the other was familiar at all? Ajihad can recognize Murtagh, who he’s never met, because his voice sounds like that of a man who died twenty years ago, but Angela and Brom can speak to each other and not realize they’ve met before? Fuck it, why am I expecting consistency from this book? It just gets worse as the series progresses anyway.

Hey, at least someone else is irritated by this character, even if he is a dead jerk.

Eragon frowned. “In Teirm you laughed at his fate and said that it was something of a joke. Why?”

Angela’s face tightened momentarily. “In retrospect, it was in rather bad taste” —


Mocking a man behind his back for being fated to fail at everything is tactless? Who knew!

— “but I didn’t know what would befall him. How do I put this? . . . Brom was cursed in a way. It was his wyrd to fail at all of his tasks except one, although through no fault of his own. He was chosen as a Rider, but his dragon was killed. He loved a woman, but it was his affection that was her undoing. And he was chosen, I assumed, to guard and train you, but in the end he failed at that as well. The only thing he succeeded at was killing Morzan, and a better deed he couldn’t have done.”

I’m pretty sure this bit about Brom being cursed is supposed to make us more sympathetic to him. But it doesn’t work, because it’s just thrown in there as an afterthought and tries to say that nothing is Brom’s fault because fate. His dragon dies? Fate. A woman dies because he loved her? Fate. He dies trying to train a new Rider in increasingly abusive ways? Fate, motherfucker. Nothing is his fault; it’s just fate screwing him over. Doesn’t matter that he refused to give Eragon important information unless absolutely necessary – and sometimes not even then – or that brought about a woman’s downfall because he loved her: it’s all fate. Nothing he could do to change it.

Actually, I’m not sure how his dragon dying is a sign of him failing. Did he fail at being a Rider because he couldn’t protect his dragon? Did he get her killed, in which case it would definitely be his fault? Was he supposed to sacrifice himself to keep her alive? What constitutes as failure when it comes to being a Rider? If a Rider was killed, would you say the dragon failed at being a dragon?

“Brom never mentioned a woman to me,” retorted Eragon.

Why on earth would he? Not only did he make it very clear that he didn’t want to talk about his past unless absolutely necessary, but it was none of your business in the first place.

Well, actually, no, that’s not entirely true. Because, as we’ll find out in Brisingr, that woman Brom was in love with? Was Eragon’s mom. And Brom is his father. Which means that it really is Eragon’s business, and Brom is not only a terrible person but a terrible father as well, but at this point the reader’s not supposed to know that. (Shoot, I’m not sure Paolini knew that when he wrote this. It’s hard to tell how much plotting went into this series, because there’s a lot of events that seem like they were pulled out of nowhere and make very little sense plot-wise.) All we know right now is that Brom only talked about his past when he couldn’t avoid it, and this woman was clearly tangential to the lessons he was trying to impart on Eragon. So it’s pretty arrogant of Eragon to assume that just because Brom didn’t mention once being in love, that Angela must be lying about it. Brom was never one to confide in Eragon.

Angela shrugs this off and changes the subject, revealing that she knew about the egg, and she joined up with the Varden shortly after Eragon was in Teirm. Eragon tells her all about what happened since the last time they met. When he mentions the Shade, she gets upset, and explains that Shades are sorcerers who have been possessed by evil spirits. They’re super hard to kill, and only two people have ever survived doing so. That would have been nice to know earlier, especially since Eragon apparently knows all this. Would have made Durza a lot scarier, that’s for sure.

Apparently she’s also hiding in a faraway corner of Tronjheim because all the magic users in the Varden are pestering her to join their little magic group. She also didn’t have to submit to the Twins’ mind-probing, because of reasons?

A cold gleam leapt into Angela’s eye. “The Twins wouldn’t dare probe me, for fear of what I might do to them. Oh, they’d love to, but they know the effort would leave them broken and gibbering nonsense. I’ve been coming here long before the Varden began examining people’s minds . . . and they’re not about to start on me now.”

Yyyyyeah, this just kind of emphasizes that the Twins are clearly abusing their roles as the mind-reading gatekeepers. They can get away with subjecting Eragon and who knows else to violent, painful probing under the guise of protecting the Varden, but Angela scares them so bad they just let her prance in and out at her leisure? They’re obviously using unnecessary force on people who, for whatever reason, can’t fight back or get the authorities on their side, and they let Angela come and go as she pleases, regardless of the risk inherent in doing so, because she’s not only able but willing to fight back and make them regret it.

And, of course, no one sees a problem with this. And everyone will be super shocked when these two turn out to be working for the Empire later.

“Well! This has been an enlightening talk, but I’m afraid you have to go now. My brew of mandrake root and newt’s tongue is about to boil, and it needs attending.”

This is why I hate the named chapters in this book. Because at this point Paolini was so lazy he didn’t even bother coming up with an appropriate title – he just grabbed a random line from the chapter that had nothing to do with anything.

The chapter ends with Solembum taking Eragon back to the dragonhold. I can’t remember, did Paolini learn how to write a decent chapter ending in the next couple books, or does he still leave out a decent hook so the reader will want to know what happens next? I mean, I’m not asking for an epic cliffhanger or anything like that, I just want something more interesting than, “and then Eragon went back to his room.”

Eragon: Chapter 53

Eragon, Chapter 53: Bless the Child, Argetlam

Hey kids, it’s time for more exposition! But it’s okay, because this is all dumped on us through sight-seeing and not through a long, boring conversation. Totally different, right?

Eragon runs into Orik outside Ajihad’s study. He apologizes for getting Orik in trouble and basically being the reason he’s now a glorified babysitter, but Orik says he actually wanted it this way. He can’t fight with the army, but as a subject of the dwarf king he’s still allowed to run around Tronjheim as he likes, and showing the new Dragon Rider around puts him in a pretty powerful position.

“Come on, lad, I’m sure you’re hungry. And we have to get your dragon settled in.”

Saphira hissed. Eragon said, “Her name is Saphira.”

Orik made a small bow to her. “My apologies, I’ll be sure to remember that.”

How dare Orik not instantly know Saphira’s name? It’s totally reasonable for her to hiss at him because he wasn’t introduced to her before now. I like to think that he’s being sarcastic here.

Eragon asks how many people in Tronjheim can use magic, and Orik says there’s a small handful who “can’t do much more than heal bruises”. They’re all attending to Arya at the moment, leaving the Twins to their own devices.

“She [Arya] wouldn’t want their help anyway; their arts are not for healing. Their talents lie in scheming and plotting for power – to everyone else’s detriment. Deynor, Ajihad’s predecessor, allowed them to join the Varden because he needed their support . . . you can’t oppose the Empire without spellcasters who can hold their own on the field of battle. They’re a nasty pair, but they do have their uses.”

So they’ve been with the Varden since before Ajihad took charge, but in over twenty years the Varden’s been unable to find any other mages willing to join up who weren’t useless on the battlefield? None of their allies in Surda can cause some magical damage? They’re just stuck having two incredibly powerful men they clearly don’t trust in their employ? Paolini, are you trying to make the Varden look incompetent or does it just come naturally?

You  know what a better reason to keep them around would be? If they had been the first magic-users recruited to the cause, and through their connections have them draw in all the other spellcasters. That would keep them as the most powerful of the bunch, with the added bonus of giving them some charisma so they’re not so annoying to read about. THEN, have a couple scenes where maybe the Twins are threatened with being kicked out, and have them imply that if they go, they’re taking all their magic-wielding friends with them. Tadah! I’ve just given you a good reason to keep these two creepy jerks around, plus some bonus tension and possible drama about being forced to ally with unscrupulous people to achieve a mutual goal.

Orik leads Eragon outside of Tronjheim so Saphira can fly up to the weyr – oh, sorry, I mean “dragonhold” – located above the giant ruby, which is called Isidar Mithrim or the Star Rose. (I’m just glad it doesn’t have stupidly unnecessary punctuation.) Then they go back inside to eat, where Orik talks about how Tronjheim is mostly unused, and they only keep it occupied because it can house every single dwarf in existence if there’s an emergency. How… practical. Then Eragon asks how many humans have fled the Empire, and Orik says there’s four thousand here in Tronjheim, and the rest are in Surda. There’s some more talk about the dwarf clans, and when Eragon and Orik go to turn their plates in some dwarf bows and called Eragon “Argetlam.” Orik says it’s an elven word for the Riders that means silver hand. Why are the dwarves using an elven word? Don’t they have their own word for Riders?

Then Eragon takes a bath. Then he and Orik talk about how the dwarves essentially use lights and Morse code to get messages across Tronjheim. Then they go back out into Farthen Dûr to meet up with Saphira, which immediately causes people to come out to see the new Rider and his dragon. Apparently Orik didn’t expect this, because he gets antsy and tells Eragon to leave. Before he can get away, though, an old woman grabs Eragon and begs him to bless the baby she’s carrying.

Eragon had never blessed anyone. It was not something done lightly in Alagaësia, as a blessing could easily go awry and prove to be more curse than boon – especially if it was spoken with ill intent or lack of conviction. Do I dare take that responsibility? he wondered.

“Bless her, Argetlam, bless her.”

Suddenly decided, he searched for a phrase or expression to use. Nothing came to mind until, inspired, he thought of the ancient language. This would be a true blessing, spoken with words of power, by one of power.

So, what, all those other blessings aren’t real because they weren’t said using the magic words?

Who gives blessings in this world, anyway? What does a blessing even do? Is it supposed to be magic – and if so, wouldn’t they all be said in the ancient language? Do respected elders give blessings? Nobles? Clergy? Were the Riders known to give blessings? How often are strange young men asked to give blessings to babies they don’t know a thing about?

He bent down and tugged the glove off his right hand. Laying his palm on the babe’s brow, he intoned, “Atra guliä un ilian tauthr ono un atra ono waíse skölir fra rauthr.” The words left him unexpectedly weak, as if he had used magic.

You used the ancient language to lay a blessing of protection and then suddenly feel weak. HMMM. I WONDER IF MAYBE YOU ACCIDENTALLY CAST MAGIC THERE. No no, don’t question it. This won’t come back to bite you in the ass at all.

Then Saphira touches her nose to the baby’s forehead, which leaves “a star-shaped patch of skin as white and silvery as Eragon’s gedwëy ignasia.” Then she flies away, saying that she gave the baby hope and Eragon gave her a future.

Eragon starts freaking out about being asked for blessings and pursued by powerful people at such a young age, giving us another convenient recap of what’s happened in case the reader developed spontaneous amnesia. Saphira basically tells him not to worry. There’s some more boring conversation about fate, and then Saphira lands on top of the giant sapphire and takes Eragon to the cave she picked out for herself, which conveniently has a bed set up for him. The chapter ends with Saphira giving yet another recap of the last two chapters and saying that they might not be able to stand independent of politics in the Varden. I don’t know why the characters have to constantly repeat what’s happened, but it’s been old since the first time it happened and it’s starting to smell.