© Christopher Paolini, cover illustration © John Jude Palencar.
This is the final of four long books in this fantasy series, one I’ve enjoyed reading. Yes, as some have said, it’s derivative of Tolkien and somewhat of Ann McCaffrey. Yes, the author began it in his teens, so there were some areas along the way that might have benefited from more life experience. On the whole, though, I thought Paolini did a fine job. His characters are appealing, his world is complex enough to seem real, and his storyline, while often familiar, has enough new things in it to make the books fun to read.
In this book we get the final confrontation between the hero, Eragon and his dragon Saphira with Galbatorix, the evil overlord of most of this tale’s realm, himself once a heroic dragon-rider. Before that we have lots of smaller battles as the army of rebellion moves toward Galbatorix’s capital city. By now it’s clear that Eragon will meet the big evil, so to make the smaller battles more exciting, we often see them through the eyes of Eragon’s much less powerful brother Roran, a strong and brave man, but one who must rely more on his wits than any magic or powers. The alliance of the rebel army is a fragile one, and that makes up another part of the tale. Finally, there’s a deus ex machina plot element which comes into play when the odds seem impossible for the rebels. Eragon is directed to a distant island where unexpected help may lie.
The big climax is a good one, where every player that we’ve seen developed through the four books (at least those still alive) has a major part to play, and none of it seemed very predictable to me. One element which Christopher has introduced in this book seems a little out of place in a fantasy, but on the other hand it’s a clever addition: nuclear disaster as a final option for Galbatorix, and previously as what brought down some of his biggest enemies. Magic plays such a large part in everything that only the most dire threats to life and limb seem to count, and that’s certainly a big one.
Finally there’s a pretty long wind-down as everyone sorts out what happens next, and some of the character paths are surprising.
A good series, one I enjoyed reading. Not a classic, certainly not on the level of Tolkien, but quite entertaining and recommended.