I was reading Hanceek’s In Defense of Eragon article the other day and it got me to thinking once again about the value of the Inheritance Cycle. While I feel that arguing that the books are good books technically is pointless, because they aren’t, I can explain why I (and many other people) at one point really enjoyed the series.

When I was twelve, I discovered the Inheritance cycle. I devoured Eragon, Eldest, and, when it came out, Brisingr. I wished I could use magic and be a Dragon Rider, read as many fanfics as I could find, and couldn’t stop thinking about how excited I was for the fourth book. I considered myself a huge fan.

A year or so after my initial infatuation with the series, I discovered the Inheritance [re]Cycle article here on II. Reading it marked the beginning of my disenchantment with the Inheritance cycle. I realized the series I’d worshipped really wasn’t that great after all, and as I spent time reading Swankivy’s essays and the content on AS, I started to wonder why I ever liked the series in the first place. Now when I the books, I see most everything (especially the writing style: dialogue, description, word choice, etc.) in a different light— it’s often painfully inane and pretentious. But once upon a time I thought it was amazing. So the purpose of the article is to try to explain why I thought it was so magnificent, even though I now acknowledge its crapiness. These points are my own and I am in no way attempting to imply that these reasons are exactly why everyone who ever has liked these books has liked them.

1) Let’s face it, when you’re a kid, ridiculously overpowered characters are badass and easily made into role models.
As any fan of Dragon Ball may tell you, really, really powerful characters can be very cool. Watching as the hero progresses from an average joe (or something to that effect) to an incredibly strong and cool badass is actually quite inspirational. For me, I thought it was really exciting that Eragon went from being a nobody to one of the most important people in his world. It wasn’t really about his actual actions or character so much as just the idea that someone could rise up into this world of epic magic and dragons and adventure. In a sense, Eragon was a role model of sorts, because reading about how he became so important inspired me to want to become a somebody too.
2) Ah, the appeal of sword and sorcery.
Dragons, special swords, magic, telepathy, battles, immortality. They’re all staples of the fantasy genre, and seem to be intrinsically epic. I attribute my liking of Inheritance for this reason to be because I hadn’t read much traditional fantasy besides Tolkien when I first discovered the Inheritance cycle (therefore it didn’t seem stale or reused to me.) Reading about all these epic abilities and creatures fed my imagination, and it was exciting to put myself in the characters’ places and imagine castings spells and flying on a dragon’s back and partying with the elves.
3) Hot characters and romance.
Yes, I’m bringing this up. I was a fangirl. Have mercy on me. But basically, with Paolini’s constant referencing of the attractiveness of the elven population in general, and then the way that Eragon, Murtagh, and Arya especially were described kind of made me crush on them. (Does it help that after his psuedo-elven transformation I imagined Eragon to look like Link from the Legend of Zelda? fangirl) Also, and again I blame my adolescence, I found Eragon and Arya’s relationship to be really dramatic and tense and eagerly anticipated the next development, whether it was their getting closer romantically or not. It was kind of like a soap opera to me, now that I think about it… (shudder.)
4) ADVENTURE.
The structure of the Inheritance books, where the POV characters are always traveling from place to place, was attractive to me because of how much adventuring and exploration they were doing. I’ve always wanted to travel extensively, so it sort of enabled me to live vicariously through them and go on a quest through new and epic lands. As Eragon met the different races of Alagaesia, explored the “secret” dwarven and elven kingdoms, and learned about other cultures, it made me feel like I was exploring and learning too.
5) I hate to bring up the age card, but I’m going to.
Paolini’s age should not make people perceive the books as being of better quality, but it did change my perception of them in the sense that it inspired me to start writing more myself. I’d always enjoyed creative writing, but I started writing my first novel after researching Paolini and learning that he was only a few years older than I was at the time when he started Eragon. So in that sense, I enjoyed the books because they made me realize that even as a kid I could write a whole book (even if that something might not be very good. And my first novel was horrendous.)

These are all the reasons I can think of to explain why I enjoyed the Inheritance Cycle. I feel kind of embarrassed when I recall how much I liked them, but I think it’s worthwhile to consider what makes people enjoy them. To be fair, I still read parts of Eragon and Eldest, but I don’t have the mindless affection for them that I once did.

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Comment

  1. Pryotra on 19 February 2013, 21:08 said:

    Good article. This is pretty close to my feelings about the series when it came out when I was fifteen. It was, to me, the first Sword and Sorcery Adventure that had featured someone my age and was geared for someone my age, and I admit that I devoured it.

    And yes, age was involved. I was inspired. I admit it.

    So, yeah, I’d say that there were some appeals in the series that might have been wish fulfillment, but were a normal kind of wish fulfillment, and while Paopao’s writing is annoying, there was enthusiasm in it. So, while I think the series is pretty stupid now, I’m not completely ashamed that I had a liking for it the way I would be if it had been Twilight.

  2. Forest Purple on 19 February 2013, 21:27 said:

    Also, and this is a big one, PaoPao isn’t arrogant. I mean, there is that comment about J.K. Rowling … but that seems to be more misguided enthusiasm, once again. He’s like a puppy who drags a dead body over the river, but is so excited about it.
    Also, there are legions of teenagers that wind up with fantasy novels that are roughly equal to the Inheritance Cycle and query publishers about them. If they actually got accepted, I can’t really see them doing much different than PaoPao did. To continue my metaphor, whoever killed the guy in the river is at fault. I have no idea who that person represents, I just know it means the puppy isn’t the one to blame.

  3. Fireshark on 19 February 2013, 22:23 said:

    For points 1, 2, and 4, I think maybe Inheritance would work well as a video game or something. You have the feeling of growing from a regular person to an uber-leet demigod, you have the swords and magic and stuff, you have the globetrotting adventure—without lots of overwrought description.

    In fact, there actually is a decent Eragon RPG for the Gameboy Advance of all things (the other systems got mediocre third-person beat-em-ups).

  4. goldedge on 19 February 2013, 23:35 said:

    I kind of enjoy the Inheritance cycle books as a guilty pleasure now-a-days. Because he does put a lot of passion in the books and for me it drew me into the story itself, even though it is obviously ripped off from other better material. But now I like them as guilty pleasures these days because, there is a lot of other books worse then it, (E.g. The Twilight saga, and Terry Goodkind.)

    I did think he has improved slightly, slightly, in the last book. The real Problem in Book 4 was its ending was way to long than it needed to be.

  5. Asahel on 20 February 2013, 00:02 said:

    I did think he has improved slightly, slightly, in the last book.

    That’s kind of funny because for me each successive book grew worse and worse. Eragon is my favorite of the four (and the only one I’d count as a guilty pleasure) with each one losing quality until the only reason I read Inheritance is because I kind of have to finish a series that I start. Inheritance was about 80% boring, 15% anger-inducing, and 5% not too bad.

    I’ve been writing it up in a Critique of Pure Inheritance on this site. I haven’t gotten to the anger-inducing parts yet. Trust me, you’ll know when I do.

  6. goldedge on 20 February 2013, 00:48 said:

    That’s kind of funny because for me each successive book grew worse and worse. Eragon is my favorite of the four (and the only one I’d count as a guilty pleasure) with each one losing quality until the only reason I read Inheritance is because I kind of have to finish a series that I start. Inheritance was about 80% boring, 15% anger-inducing, and 5% not too bad.

    @Asahel Inheritance is an improvement over Brisingr my brother also read this and summed upped Brisingr as: “Nothing happens until the last hundred pages” samething goes for Eldest. At least in Inheritance things actually happen. an anger-inducing is entitled: Lacuna, part the second

  7. Fireshark on 20 February 2013, 00:58 said:

    Eragon is the best because it manages to keep going, and really never loses focus. Eldest and Brisingr both stop dead over and over for forced worldbuilding. Inheritance tries to regain the style of Eragon, but because of Paolini’s failure at writing war, it ends up being the same scene every few chapters. Also, the ending never ever stopped and everything built up to be awesome (like the ancient language’s name, the green dragon, and Galby’s defeat) was a total anticlimax.

  8. Cristina on 20 February 2013, 04:52 said:

    About the supposed arrogance….correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Paopao once claim his prose was something between Seamus Heaney and Tolkien?

    Or did he only wish it were that way?

    I don’t quite remember, but although he seems like a nice enough fellow, I always thought he was too enamoured with his own writing to leave enough room for improvement.

    But as far as bad fantasy books go…I never thought these ones were horrible, only kind of, well….bland.

  9. Juracan on 20 February 2013, 06:04 said:

    I think I’ve said it before— I actually kind of like The Inheritance Cycle. Like you said, it’s not good writing, but it is kind of enjoyable to read and to criticize. The errors in these books, when put with the authors statements and interviews make it sound like it’s just bad writing, unlike things like Twilight and other crappy romances which reveal much more disturbing ideas within the psyche of their readers and writers.

    All I’m saying is that no one’s killed themselves because their lives aren’t like Eragon’s, or written essays bemoaning that real life men aren’t like those in Paolini’s work.

    And I think that’s what turns me off from some things like Eragon-Sporkings— how mean-spirited it all is.

    [Well, that, and people not knowing what they’re sporking; I swear every time in every book Eragon mentions his shield, Kippur starts complaining that it’s never been mentioned before. And the amount of times I’ve seen people say there’s no mention of cavalry in the battles? It’s there, guys. Mind you, I’m sure they’re deployed incorrectly, but they’re there.]

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t make fun of what we’re criticizing, or that I have a right to sit here and tell online writers what they should and shouldn’t do in terms of writing. But I DO think it’s a bit disappointing when I see someone look at a work and say, “This work is bad, ergo its author is Satan and everyone who likes it is deluded/brainwashed/stupid.”

    …I’m gonna hop off my soapbox now.

    For points 1, 2, and 4, I think maybe Inheritance would work well as a video game or something. You have the feeling of growing from a regular person to an uber-leet demigod, you have the swords and magic and stuff, you have the globetrotting adventure—without lots of overwrought description.

    That… actually sounds kind of awesome. You’d still have to rework a lot of the story to make it a good story, but it could potentially work. My only issue now is that it might come across as an Elder Scrolls rip-off if it was made today.

    About the supposed arrogance….correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Paopao once claim his prose was something between Seamus Heaney and Tolkien?

    I believe he said that’s what he aspired to, and everyone put words in his mouth saying he thought he was the next Tolkien.

  10. lilyWhite on 20 February 2013, 10:29 said:

    For points 1, 2, and 4, I think maybe Inheritance would work well as a video game or something.

    This made me decide to look up reviews for the Eragon game. Among the most amusing finds:

    The AI routine for any enemy that is on fire is for them to run directly off of a cliff.

  11. Juracan on 20 February 2013, 10:56 said:

    I actually have the Eragon game. Much more fun than the movie, but still an average licensed game.

    But dear God, is lighting people on fire fun.

    The AI routine for any enemy that is on fire is for them to run directly off of a cliff.

    Definitely my favorite part.

  12. Asahel on 20 February 2013, 13:25 said:

    @Asahel Inheritance is an improvement over Brisingr my brother also read this and summed upped Brisingr as: “Nothing happens until the last hundred pages” samething goes for Eldest. At least in Inheritance things actually happen. an anger-inducing is entitled: Lacuna, part the second

    Oh, I’ll agree with those summaries for Brisingr and Eldest; however, that just makes them boring. In addition to having the same problem of almost nothing happening, Inheritance kicks it up a notch by actually making me angry. And I don’t mean angry at the villains. I should be angry at the villains. I mean angry at Eragon. Not to spoil anything in the upcoming installments of my critique, but there were parts of that book where I just wanted to slap Eragon a few times and yell, “What do you think you’re doing? Who do you think you are?” right in his face. And as far as the climactic battle with Galbatorix went, that was disappointing as well. I knew Paolini had written himself into a corner, but the way he got out of it was a total cheat, inconsistent with what he’d written up to that point (again, not going into more detail so as not to spoil my critique).

    So, for me, Inheritance isn’t better just because more things happen; it’s worse because the few things that do happen are worse then everything else beforehand.

  13. Epke on 20 February 2013, 14:31 said:

    I read LotR when I was twelve and Harry Potter before that and then Narnia… so when I did try Eragon out, it just fell flat. It was so hyped and people went gaga over it, and it was so bad. I personally think that Eragon is a book for people who hasn’t read or seen (Star Wars) much fantasy before. But for the cynical, cold-hearted veterans? It’s as far from the lyrical beauty somewhere between Tolkien at his best and Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, as Pluto is to Earth.

  14. Finn on 24 February 2013, 17:15 said:

    I liked Eragon for all these reasons, but also because I wanted to like it, and when that happens, my brain seems to naturally block out all the bad writing and turn the story into a way better story than it actually is. I kept loving the series mostly because it seemed to promise…that things would actually happen, you know what I mean? Character development, exciting twists…but then it just didn’t do that, instead dragging on and becoming something totally different from what I expected, in a bad way. Part of the reason I stayed a fan for so long was because I kept hoping that Murtagh would become an important character again, but he was just left at the roadside. Such a waste of potential.

  15. not well written oops on 10 March 2018, 15:53 said:

    literally the only thing that i truly, really enjoyed about this book series as something i liked was that whole thing with nasauda funding the varden with LACE. (because it was so tedious to make and took so long- which made it expensive- but magic could make it with ease because the effort expended wasn’t that bad and the time was cut majorly, she could sell it and fund the rebels). that little plot line- how the king of surda was all indignant and “they won’t tell grand stories about LACE!” and she’s like “bitch i don’t care about the songs they’ll sing i care about WINNING”, and how CLEVER it was to me. if someone would listen to my yammering, i’d go on for hours about it and nasuada and how much i loved it. it really stuck with me

    well, that’s not fair. as a kid, angela and solembum were my absolute favorite characters and Ideal Role Models, but they weren’t in it nearly enough