Upon first impression, you would not be wrong to think that author, Christopher Paolini, must have been sick the day they taught about plagiarism in English class.
It might be to his credit if he was, but unfortunately, he cannot use that excuse because this twenty-eight year old and bestselling writer of the Inheritance Cycle was homeschooled his entire life. After graduating high school at fifteen, he wrote the first draft of a fantasy novel, Eragon, which became a New York Times bestseller. Thirteen years since that first draft, the final book, Inheritance, was released on November 8th.
It centers on a young man named Eragon and his dragon Saphira, as they determinedly battle to rid their world of evil by destroying the wicked king Galbatorix, whose villainy has corrupted the land of Alagaesia.
Although Paolini’s writing has matured since the arrival of Eragon in 2003, he does not seem to understand the difference between good writing and unnecessary-to-the-point-of-ridiculous writing. If a writer is going to yammer away for eight hundred sixty pages, then he either needs to have something very important to say, or he needs to keep me entertained. I am a busy person. Do not waste my time.
There is nothing wrong with lengthy books, but that is only if the author knows how to keep your attention fixed on the page and not edging towards your computer or television to find something more interesting, or checking ahead to see how long until you get to the end of the chapter. I did both.
While the first few pages begin in the midst of a battle that keeps readers interested for a little while, trudging through the sagging, middle weight of Inheritance was about as enjoyable as staring at the ceiling in the dentist’s office as someone drills a hole in your molar.
Under other circumstances, you would think that Paolini would have benefited from studying novelists such as J.K. Rowling or George R. R. Martin, whose thick, intriguing works could have kept neighborhoods warm through an entire winter if used as firewood. However, Paolini gives the appearance of studying his fellow fantasy writers too much.
While Inheritance tries to be an epic conclusion to its series, it falls back on the tried-and-true brilliance of better, more experienced, writers.
Obvious themes of Inheritance come from the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and A Song of Ice and Fire series. But watch out for the last chapter of Inheritance, because it mirrors the Return of the King so severely, I thought for a moment I saw a hobbit staring back at me from the page.
Now, a writer’s inspiration can come from anywhere and no aspiring writer can ever hope to improve their writing if they are not reading. It would be like trying to train a musician by taking away his guitar. It would be stupid.
However, there is a line between absorbing influence from others and flat-out copying their genius and success and Paolini flirts with it from cover to cover. But he is never able to duplicate characters that receive an emotional response from the reader or contain any depth.
Every character–good, bad, or apathetic–is one-dimensional, boring, and flat…save two. Paolini’s minuscule redemption comes in the forms of Angela, a mysterious herbalist, and a morally conflicted minion of Galbatorix named Murtaugh, but neither get enough face-time. The majority of those that do are goody-two-shoes, with no temptations or flaws and the bad characters are bad, but for all the wrong reasons. Even Galbatorix, the black-hearted tyrant, fell flat. After building him up for three whole books, Paolini delivered his antagonist with zero charisma and clichéd villainy. He was about as fascinating as a stale saltine cracker…but with less personality. But for all his flaws, achieving bestselling success for four novels before the age of thirty is impressive, no matter how you slice it. Christopher Paolini’s success story will undoubtedly inspire other beginning writers who have stories of their own.
But if there is a lesson in this, heed it wisely. Take your time with what you want to say. If you have a story to tell and are willing to put in the work for it to be told, make sure that it is your own. Not someone else’s.
Photo by Karumello