Chapter 3: Shadows on the Horizon

Nothing particularly interesting happens in this chapter (prepare yourself to hear that more often).

This chapter starts off poorly even from the first two lines:

In order to catch Roran before he struck the floor, Eragon had to drop Brisingr, which he was reluctant to do. Nevertheless, he opened his hand, and the sword clattered against the stones even as Roran’s weight settled into his arms.

Here’s the good general rule of writing that Paolini just broke: It shouldn’t take much longer to read an action than it takes for it to occur. How long does it take for a person to collapse in a heap? Now, how long does it take to slog through those two beasts of sentences?

Also, think of what’s implied in these lines. Eragon’s cousin-who’s-like-a-brother (or cwlab from now on) is collapsing. As he starts to fall, Eragon first thinks, “I’m going to have to drop my sword to catch him.” He THEN thinks, “Gosh, I really don’t want to drop my sword.” He THEN thinks, “Well, I guess I have to.” And all of this is before Roran hits the ground. Amazing.

By the way, the compassionate Eragon went the entire last chapter without even giving a thought to the other soldiers who were with Roran. Want to guess how many other things he says before even wondering about someone that isn’t directly related to him? Four. It kind of makes it ring hollow when he finally does ask if anyone else is ok.

The rest of the chapter is Eragon, Roran, Arya, and furry Elf finding Lord Bradburn to force his surrender. When they finally catch up to him, we’re treated to this unintentionally condemnatory line:

As they and Roran entered the chambers, the high-ranking retainers and castle guards who had gathered in front of Lord Bradburn blanched, and many began to shake. To Eragon’s relief, he only had to kill three of the guards before the rest of the group placed their weapons and shields on the floor in surrender.

Please, Eragon, don’t even pretend. They were quaking in their boots at your sheer awesomeness. You didn’t need to kill anybody. Smack them around a little bit. Hew a few swords in half. Cleave a few shields in twain. Make your sword catch fire. A nice show of force would’ve garnered the same surrender with no body count. The fact is, you wanted to kill them. You were disappointed when they surrendered because you couldn’t kill more without giving yourself away.

At any rate, they subdue Lord Bradburn and then werecats show up.

Chapter 4: King Cat

In this chapter, the Varden seek an alliance with the werecats. Frankly, the political maneuvering is baffling. Not because it’s intricate, no. It’s because it’s stupid. There’s some concern that they may not be able to afford an alliance if the werecats desire too much compensation, and Nasuada says this:

“Perhaps they wish nothing more of us than a chance to strike back at Galbatorix.” She paused. “But if not, we shall have to find means other than gold to persuade them to join our ranks.”

Keep that in mind.

Anyway, King Grimrr Halfpaw of the werecats is shown into the throne room. Previously, the only people we knew were present were Nasuada (leader of the Varden), Jormundur (her senior commander), and Eragon (the person the world revolves around). Now, these selections to receive a royal delegation make sense. However, as Grimrr walks down the aisle, we discover that also present are Angela and Roran. An herbalist and a random captain. Ok, ok, the captain is also the cwlab of the man whom the world revolves around and nepotism is clearly rampant in this world, so I can forgive even that. But Angela? Really? And—even better—she says something odd and intentionally inflammatory to the visiting royal that they hope to forge an alliance with. Who invited her? Baffling political maneuver #1.

So, Nasuada and Grimrr exchange pleasantries, and Nasuada gets around to asking why werecats have been so secretive up until about now. Grimrr points to Eragon and says it’s because he is Galbatorix’s weakness and concludes saying:

“Time has come, human, for every race, even werecats, to stand together and prove to Galbatorix that he has not broken our will to fight. We would join your army, Lady Nasuada, as free allies, and help you achieve this.”

For some reason, I read all of his lines in the book with the voice of Antonio Banderas. I can’t help it. And now you can’t either. Enjoy.

Anyway, are you ready for baffling political maneuver #2? You bet you are. So, after this person you’re courting as an ally has just made this bold pronouncement, what would your response be? Actually, you know what would be better? Try to imagine the absolute last thing you would say (short of actually rejecting the offer, of course). You probably still won’t guess it. Nasuada asks how much they want for compensation and hints that they wouldn’t be able to pay much. The guy just announced that they want to get Galbatorix and they want to join your army as FREE allies, and she asks how much they want in return.

How can she be so stupid? She even speculated/hoped before that they may want nothing more than the chance to strike at Galbatorix, and now she asks what else they may want in return? Grimrr shows more restraint than I would by not starting his next sentence with, “Well, since you’re offering…” How could she not see that merely asking what they want in return would lead to them asking for something in return? Why not let them broach the subject of potential compensation if they so choose? After this demonstrated level of intelligence, I’m amazed she doesn’t have an adviser to remind her to breathe periodically.

At any rate, an affordable accord is reached, and the werecats join. And there was much rejoicing. Yay.

Also, remember when I said that I would point out flaws as well as things done right, but I haven’t pointed out anything done right yet? I haven’t forgotten. I’ll still point out things done right when the time comes. It’s just going to be a while, but you probably should’ve figured that already.

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Comment

  1. Fell Blade on 1 March 2012, 13:20 said:

    I think these guys were trying to aggravate the werecats. Not only did they include Angela in the meeting (and she somehow insults the werecats), but it also mentions that they make a joke before the cats get there of offering them cream to fight. Aren’t these creatures supposed to be on the same intelligence level as humans and dragons and whatnot? Wouldn’t an offer like that be condescending and, frankly, insulting?

  2. WulfRitter on 1 March 2012, 17:30 said:

    For some reason, I read all of his lines in the book with the voice of Antonio Banderas.

    What has been heard can now not be unheard.

  3. Taku on 1 March 2012, 21:04 said:

    What has been heard can now not be unheard.

    At least Grimrr wasn’t wearing boots.

    Second, at least the political inadequacies of the characters are fairly consistent. If only they were acknowledged by the world/author.

  4. BettyCross on 2 March 2012, 11:09 said:

    My writers’ critique group would have made chopped liver of this chapter.

    Not to mention a writer friend who provided an elaborate critique of my most recent novel. She did me the great favor of complaining my protagonist never did a single unselfish thing and concluded, “Really, I do not like [Character A].”

    I had to do a rewrite to highlight Character A’s good qualities. It helped, greatly.

    Nobody did that favor for Paolini, not even his editors at Major Publisher.

  5. Rorschach on 2 March 2012, 15:06 said:

    You highlighted yet another reason why I absolutely despise Nasuada.

  6. Nate Winchester on 13 March 2012, 12:18 said:

    (prepare yourself to hear that more often).

    There’s only one way to do so…

    DRINKING GAME!

    Here’s the good general rule of writing that Paolini just broke: It shouldn’t take much longer to read an action than it takes for it to occur.

    hehehe, I’m going to have to remember this line to call back sometime. ;)

    Someone answer a question I have about the werecats: Was Galbatorix doing ANYTHING to them? Had he ever demonstrated any possible threat to their lives or whatever?

    Just seems like another rip off of Tolkien’s “We all must unite or we’ll die” motif without any explanation for how Galby is a threat to everyone. Isn’t he just kind of interested in human lands?

  7. Catflap on 28 March 2012, 21:08 said:

    “To Eragon’s relief, he only had to kill three of the guards before the rest of the group placed their weapons and shields on the floor in surrender.”

    1. He “only had to kill three” of them, rather than boring them to sleep by reading from the FTSE index – or, he “had to kill” only three of them, and not four or forty ?
  8. Grammah mattahs, like wot spelin duz. Uvverwiz, wot’s ment i’nt kleer.

    When reading Paolini, I have to fight the urge to re-write the whole thing. It would not be difficult to improve it:

    “With a crash, Eragon burst the through the door, and cut down three of the guards at a single blow. Those whom he had not killed fled in terror, leaving their weapons behind them”.

    Something along those lines.

  9. Tim on 28 March 2012, 22:34 said:

    Clearly he pressed tab to check his objectives. Also, third meaning is he only had to kill three of them, and killing the other ten was just for fun.