Okay, I’m gonna be real here. I absolutely adore the Inheritance series. I love the world and the characters and I mostly love the writing. It’s an easy book to read and an easy book to sink into. I can read the whole lot in less than a week, which is probably why I’ve read it about eight times.
Of course, it has it’s problems. Everyone who read Eragon when they were twelve knows the painful purple prose and the occasional tribute to another work. It’s kinda questionable in quality but hey, I love the series so much that I’m gonna read it again just so I can dissect all my favourite parts and the parts I don’t like so much. Why not.
Spoiler: my favourite part of the series is Nasuada. There.
Prologue: Shade of Fear
I have to say, this is my least favourite chapter in the entire Inheritance series. It’s not a good piece of writing, plain and simple. It’s a shame, since you’d really want the first part of a book to be the best it can be but the first chapter of Eragon just isn’t.
First of all, why do the words ‘shade’ and ‘urgal’ have capital letters? ‘Elf’, ‘human’, ‘dragon’ and ‘dwarf’ do not have capitals throughout the books. For some reason, these two races have capital letters when they shouldn’t. It’s not really correct and it’s not consistent. When I reread the books, that first ‘Shade’ always jars me right out of the moment. It might seem a bit of a nitpick (I promise I won’t do too much grammar nitpicking throughout these posts) but you don’t want something that jars the reader right out of the book in the first paragraph. I know these books are aimed at kids but it’s just bad writing – why only these two races?
The description in this chapter is a bit clunky as well. The writing jitters from describing the actions of the shade and the urgals to what things look like. It’s not smooth writing. I don’t know anything about the writing process of Eragon (besides the author being apparently young when it was started) but I have a sneaking suspicion that this may have been one of the first parts written and it probably went largely unchanged throughout the editing process. It reads like an early draft.
Another thing that makes me think of this chapter as being part of a very early draft: the elves. They come off as very stereotypical fantasy elves here: pretty, tall, pointed ears. The further you get into the Inheritance series, the more investing they get in my opinion. While this first description of Arya could easily be Arwen, later in the series her description gets a bit more original.
I don’t have that many thoughts about the attack and the chase scene. It’s a bit clunky but unremarkable. An action scene should really be that – action. This scene jumps from fast-paced running and fighting to description of the forest they’re in. There’s some weirdly placed commas and an unnecessary adverb but that’s about it. It’s readable.
I do, however, like the last three paragraphs. They really start to characterise the shade, enough so that we know he’s a threat but not exactly what he is. “Her beauty, which would have entranced any mortal man, held no charm for him.” I particularly like this sentence because having read the book before, I’m aware of how Arya uses her beauty and charm to disarm her opponents. The fact that it has no impact on the shade actually conveys what a monster he is. “He quenched the fires in his path but left the rest to burn.” I enjoy this sentence as well for the characterisation. It’s a good (and irritatingly rare) example of showing rather than telling in this series. It shows us that Durza is capable of quenching the fires with ease – he doesn’t hesitate to do this and there’s no mention of a struggle with the spell – but he has no desire to stop the fire more than he has to. He’s apathetic. He doesn’t care what the consequences of this fire might be. Those last three paragraphs set up the ‘big bad’ of Eragon well.
Even though it’s easily the worst chapter in the series, it’s not bad. It’s not unreadable, and there are good parts. We get our villain and know what he’s capable of. Plus, it only gets better from here on out!