This is not the seventh chapter of The Mirror Looks at Eragon. That’s still in the editing stage.

After finishing Inheritance (and, consequently, Inheritance), I decided to do a chapter by chapter breakdown of the book, starting with the first two chapters. Now, I will point out both flaws as well as things done right.

Let’s begin, shall we?

We start the first chapter in medias res, as Eragon and the Varden are hours into the fight to take Belatona. Shortly into the opening, Eragon twists his ankle after jumping down off some rubble, and when one of the enemy soldiers attempts to take advantage of this opening, we’re treated to this:

Eragon parried the thrust with a flick of his wrist, swinging Brisingr faster than either a human or an elf could follow. The soldier’s face grew slack with fear as he realized his mistake. He tried to flee, but before he could move more than a few inches, Eragon lunged forward and took him in the gut.

Remember that “faster than either a human or an elf could follow.” I’m saving that for later. Now, does anyone remember the last few books in which Eragon, being such a sensitive guy, was suffering over the many, many people he had to kill for the greater good? Yes? Well, that’s over. I’m serious. It never comes up again. He never again considers all the people that he slaughters. Notice something else: he stabs the fellow in the gut. Now, we’re informed that Eragon is an excellent swordsman, so he could’ve stabbed the fellow anywhere. Why the gut? A gut wound kills slowly. The following are the only reasons I can think of to stab someone in the gut instead of somewhere that would kill quicker:

1) You want him to survive long enough that you can heal/treat him, thus saving his life. (Eragon doesn’t do this.)

2) It was the only opening you had, so you stabbed him there to debilitate him and then finished him off quickly and mercifully. (Eragon doesn’t do this.)

3) You wanted him to die slowly. Suffering. In great agony.

I can only conclude that 3 is correct.

There are other excerpts of Eragon “cutting them down with impunity” and so on. This is a regular occurrence. So, the characterization of Eragon feeling any remorse for those that he kills is done. He no longer cares about meting out death (especially painful deaths) to others. I guess Paolini dropped all pretense that Eragon isn’t supposed to be a sociopath.

Our next incongruity happens during this battle as well. When an unseen magician protects several soldiers from being roasted alive by Saphira, Eragon speculates about who it may be:

Was it Murtagh? he wondered. If so, why aren’t he and Thorn here to defend Belatona? Doesn’t Galbatorix care to keep control of his cities?

Look, Paolini, we’re perfectly capable of spotting your plot holes. You don’t need to point them out us, but thanks.

Let’s answer Eragon’s questions, though.

Was it Murtagh? No.

If so, why aren’t he and Thorn here to defend Belatona? I think you mean “if not.” Because if it is Murtagh, then he and Thorn are here to defend Belatona. So, why isn’t he here to defend Belatona? No reason. Not only is there no speculative reason why he might not be there, there’s also no narrative reason given for him not to be there. It’s mystifying.

Doesn’t Galbatorix care to keep control of his cities? No. Why not? No idea. We’ll keep our eyes open, though, in case we’re given a reason in the future. (I caution you, however, not to hold your breath.)

There are only two other items of note in the first chapter: a man on a horse with an eerie lance charges Saphira and manages to wound her despite Eragon’s wards. This gives Eragon The Rage, and he starts to call upon all available energy—himself, the sapphire in his sword’s pommel, the 12 diamonds in his belt, and the tremendous store in the ring Aren—in order to kill the rider. Fortunately, the elves do it first to keep Eragon from being a raging fool. Although we do get an example of Paolini overexplaining things.

“How badly—Is she—” Eragon said, too upset to complete his sentences.

It’s a good thing you pointed that out or I probably would’ve thought Eragon was out of breath or something.

Anyway, Eragon wonders if Galbatorix made the spear, thinking that maybe Galbatorix thinks he and Saphira may actually be a threat and it would be safer to kill them. The furry elf lets Eragon know he’s being an idiot because Galbatorix could easily handle all of them if only he would bother to show up. Why doesn’t he do that? No idea, but I’m sure it’s going to be a really good reason.

The last thing of note in the chapter is that a wall collapses on Jimmy Olsen while Superman inexplicably watches and does nothing. No, wait, I’m sorry. A wall very slowly collapses (it’s described for more than a page) on some Varden soldiers being led by Roran. Does Eragon consider drawing upon all the energy of his body, pommel, belt, and ring to shore up the wall or deflect it or shield those underneath, thus saving Roran and the others with him? No. With Eragon it’s apparently hos before bros. Also, the next chapter is called “Hammerfall,” so this highly contrived scenario is not looking good for Jimmy Stronghammer… Roran. I meant, Roran. Roran Olsen… Stronghammer.

Ok, next chapter.

Nothing particularly interesting happens in this chapter (get used to me saying that).

See, Roran was near a doorway when the wall fell, so there’s a chance he’s ok (there were other Varden with him? what?), and Eragon dashes up the rubble into the keep and kills many people in physically ridiculous ways as he tries to find his way to Roran. When he gets there, Roran is struggling with an enemy soldier, finishing him off as Eragon arrives. He says, “About time you—” and collapses (he falls!) unconscious (don’t worry; he’s fine).

At first, I wasn’t sure why the chapter title irritated me so much, but I realized what it was when I compared it to a similar thing in my own writing. Those of you that have been following the crossover fic are already aware that a character of mine named Celestine is kidnapped and sold into slavery during the course of the story. During this period of captivity, I have a chapter entitled “The Great Escape,” in which Celestine attempts an escape… and fails. The title of the chapter is in reference to a group of other characters from the main group that realize they’ve been taken captive by another lord and manage to escape him. Thus, there is the subversion of expectation. Celestine is captive; we expect the escape to be hers. We didn’t realize the others were captive and thus had no reason to expect that they needed to escape. Surprise!

So, what’s the difference between that and Inheritance? It’s not a subversion based on hidden information; it’s based on a different way of understanding the word “Hammerfall.” It’s a pun. That’s in addition to the annoyance that Eragon or any of the elves with him could’ve saved all of the soldiers (including Roran), so there’s no reason for it to unfold this way. And furthermore, I didn’t expect Roran to die anyway. It’s hard to subvert an expectation that no one holds.

Stay tuned for more.

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Comment

  1. BlackStar on 21 January 2012, 18:58 said:

    Nothing particularly interesting happens in this chapter (get used to me saying that).

    There are a lot of filler chapters in Inheritance. It’s just another sign of Paolini’s lack of improvement as a writer, in my opinion anyway. Did he even have an editor for Inheritance?

    Anyway, I quite enjoyed this critique. :D

  2. Talisman on 21 January 2012, 19:06 said:

    This gives Eragon The Rage,

    Is that a Bahzell Bahnakson reference? If it is, I love you.

  3. Nate Winchester on 25 January 2012, 10:51 said:

    We start the first chapter in medias res, as Eragon and the Varden are hours into the fight to take Belatona.

    I can’t help it, “Belatona” sounds to me like the name of a sweedish model or something. Which makes a lot of segments here extra humorous.

    This gives Eragon The Rage

    oooo… you didn’t trademark that. The ninja lawyers will be after you soon…

    and he starts to call upon all available energy—himself, the sapphire in his sword’s pommel, the 12 diamonds in his belt, and the tremendous store in the ring Aren—in order to kill the rider.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but…

    1) Isn’t that like… prepping the equivalent of a nuke? To kill one guy? I’m starting to actually prefer Galbatorix to Eragon.
    2) So… wait… I forgot the magic rules. Can he just put that energy back into their containers or… what happens to it?

    Is that a Bahzell Bahnakson reference? If it is, I love you.

    More like a grudge-match reference I bet.

  4. Arska on 26 January 2012, 00:17 said:

    Read farther into Inheritance. I WANT Galbatorix to win. His chapters are actually becoming the highlights.

  5. Asahel on 26 January 2012, 16:03 said:

    oooo… you didn’t trademark that. The ninja lawyers will be after you soon…

    I would’ve, but I don’t know how to do the trademark thing in this format. After explaining that to the ninja lawyers (and inflicting a few casualties), they decided to let me off this time.

    1) Isn’t that like… prepping the equivalent of a nuke? To kill one guy? I’m starting to actually prefer Galbatorix to Eragon.

    Yes. It’s supposed to be like some kind of heroic BSOD, but it fails since we’re only told that he’s ready to snap and overpower kill the guy instead of being shown anything.

    2) So… wait… I forgot the magic rules. Can he just put that energy back into their containers or… what happens to it?

    I suppose he must be able to just put the energy back if he doesn’t use it because he uses the ring later. The more pertinent question, though, is what prevents enemy spellcasters from using energy you’ve stored in gems? What makes the energy “yours” to call upon instead of someone else?

    More like a grudge-match reference I bet.

    Indeed. The TM would’ve made it more apparent if I’d been able to do it.

    Read farther into Inheritance. I WANT Galbatorix to win. His chapters are actually becoming the highlights.

    Oh, I’ve finished the whole thing, and I quite agree. The entire handling of Galbatorix is just terrible. So much wasted potential for a truly interesting story…

  6. TheArmada on 6 February 2012, 01:39 said:

    About Eragon stabbing the dude in the gut: I’d say he’s evil, but for me he crossed that line when he killed the child soldier begging for his life in book three.

    In general, Eragon is such a sloppy fighter, it isn’t even funny. He’s in an army and should act like a proper soldier and fight like a proper soldier. I write soldiers for my novel, and I make sure they are competent, willing to avoid a fight unless all else fails, and humane. Just sayin’

  7. Arska on 8 February 2012, 01:29 said:

    I finished. Honestly, if Eragon was supposed to be the bad guy I would probably gain serious respect points from me.

    That and what’s most annoying is I’d have prefered to see one story or another; the magic revolution sure to come, or the Riders fall. It’d be far, far better, IMO.

  8. Arska on 8 February 2012, 13:59 said:

    *Honestly, if Eragon was supposed to be the bad guy CP would probably gain serious respect points from me.

    Sorry for the typo >~<