Sure, the books have an uncanny resemblance to the great epics of English literature – those paragons of science fiction and fantasy written by the scriveners George Lucas and the legendary J.R.R. Tolkien. Sure, his writing style has fluctuated through the saga that is The Inheritance Cycle. But one thing remains: Christopher Paolini is a published author, and you’re not (unless, that is, you are in fact published, in which case my argument crumbles quicker that the great Ozymandias… oh well.)
I always see Tolkien as the trail-blazer of the fantasy genre. He opened-up the worlds of fantastical creatures and epic quests. Subsequently, many an aspiring fantasy writer has adhered to this “blueprint” in etching out their own work. Christopher Paolini is no exception. The Inheritance Cycle is literally one giant quest, where our unsuspecting hero, Eragon (see that play on “Dragon” there?) and his… wait for it… dragon, must battle the evil forces of the King Galbatorix and his dragon, Shruikan. Along the way, they are trained in the ancient arts of the Elves (residing, no less, than in the forest of Du Weldenvarden [“the guarding forest” in the ancient language]), maintain diplomacy between the diverse creatures that form the resistance (“the Varden”) – elves, dwarves, urgals (strikingly similar to Orcs from LOTR) and humans, and fight the various battles that take them closer to defeating the King.
The tale is set against a complex character background, where Eragon’s history and pedigree is brought to the fore in determining his stature as a hero. This is where the similarity with Lucas’s Star Wars series is evident.
Yet I thoroughly enjoy reading this series. Why? Because it is both inspiring to know that at merely 15 years old, the author wrote the first book, and it also provides for a captivating read. As an aspiring writer, I found it interesting to follow Paolini as he grew as a writer through the series. He truly found his voice in designing the multifaceted world of Alagäesia. His determination to write has inspired me to experiment with longer pieces of text, and, fundamentally, if you’re a lover of drawn-out tales consisting of colourful characters and epic landscapes, this is one series you should really check out.
Nothing will ever compare to the might of Tolkien. But we can’t be forever re-reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings (or, for some of us daring souls, Tolkien’s “Bible” of the world he created, The Silmarillion). Authors like Paolini are perhaps to our generation, and the generations to come, what Tolkien and his contemporaries were to their era: vessels through which we can experience the magic of the written word.
The final novel in the cycle, Inheritance, was released to much fanfare on November 8th. I’ve finally received my copy, and from what I’ve read (I’m about 200 pages into it…) I’ll be posting my thoughts on the series finalé once I’ve finished it. Until then, what’s your take on the Inheritance Cycle? And on fantasy/sci-fi writing, or simply books in general? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!