And so we keep moving forward with Eragon, and the next chapter, “Capture at Gil’ead”. Hm, I wonder what’s going to happen here? As chapters titles go, I guess it’s not bad. Certainly, no worse than “Doom of Innocence”. But it doesn’t leave much room for suspense. However, the title does come from the only memorable part of this chapter, so there’s that.
Most of this chapter seems like filler. Eragon and Murtagh are traveling to Gil’ead, where Brom had instructed Eragon to go before he died. I found it really boring and uneventful. This is partly because I’ve been reading Storm of Swords, where characters can’t step out their door for five minutes before something terrible happens, never mind a long journey. Where’s the bandits and gore? But more than that, this chapter covers weeks worth of travel, long enough for Eragon’s broken ribs to heal, and we see only three conversations between Eragon and Murtagh, and even less of Saphira. All the events are glossed over, and it’s really disappointing.
For instance, Eragon and Murtagh must ride near Urû’baen*, the capital where Galby reigns. Eragon and Saphira have just escaped from some of Galby’s most fearsome allies, and everyone loyal to the king will be on the look-out for them. They’ll have to use all their wits and skills to keep Saphira hidden and remain free, or else a fate most foul awaits them.
Or not. Instead, we get this.
Their travels north forced them toward the capital, Urû’baen. It was a heavily populated area, which made it difficult to escape notice. Soldiers patrolled the roads and guarded the bridges. It took them several tense, irritable days to skirt the capital.
That’s it. Seriously, that’s all we get. What might have been exciting and tense is boiled down to one insipid paragraph.
There’s another thing I’m trying to figure out as well. When I first read this book, I really liked Murtagh. He was easily my favorite character. Now, I’m honestly trying to remember why. I think it’s because he’s a badass with a dark and mysterious past, and I always did like angsty boys.** But Murtagh hasn’t exhibited much personality other than those few traits. Even when though we’ve known him for a few chapters now, we still don’t know much more about him as a person than we did when we first met him. In this chapter he demonstrates that he’s smarter than Eragon, but so are most characters in this book.
After pages of being told (not shown) that Eragon and Murtagh are friends, they arrive near Gil’ead and Murtagh arranges a meeting with one of Brom’s allies. But then–gasp!–Eragon loses consciousness. Again. And gets captured. Again.
How many times has he fainted now? I stopped counting.
Eragon wakes in a cell, drugged and dopey. He’s fairly sedated, to the point where he can’t remember enough of the Ancient Language to use magic to escape. He does see the elf from his dreams, Arya, in the prison, and her description is…well…
Her long midnight-black hair obscured her face, despite a leather strip bound around her head to hold the tresses back. [. . .] Her sculpted face was as perfect as a painting. Her round chin, high cheekbones, and long eyelashes gave her an exotic look. The only mar in her beauty was a scrape along her jaw; nevertheless, she was the fairest woman he had ever seen.
It made me roll my eyes, but then I remembered that the elves in this universe are a race of Mary Sues. Brom did imply this before, and the point really gets hammered home in the sequel, Eldest. After remembering that, I don’t mind it as much. At least it makes sense with the rest of the book.
No, it’s Eragon’s reaction that’s truly worthy of an eye roll.
Eragon’s blood burned as he looked at her. Something awoke in him–something he had never felt before. It was an obsession, except stronger, almost a fevered madness.
All other obvious jokes aside, I do have another nit to pick about this chapter. In the first book in the series, Eragon’s greatest enemy is Durza, the Shade. Remember Durza, how scary he was?
Oh, no, you don’t. Or, at least, I didn’t. Until now, Durza had only been in the prologue. There was passing mention of Shades and how dangerous they are, but I don’t think we’re ever told what exactly a Shade is. Far more time is spent learning about the Ra’zac or dragons, which is fair. But when it becomes clear that Eragon wouldn’t be able to defeat the Ra’zac, his new enemy becomes Durza. But since we know next to nothing about Shades or Durza, his sudden appearance here doesn’t do much to scare the reader.
That, and because Durza’s description sounds like Ronald McDonald. White face with red lips and hair? Forget powerful magician, he’s a hamburger-slinging clown.
Durza has a conversation with Eragon, saying that he’s visiting the cell just to gloat at capturing a Dragon Rider. You know, an action that’s never led to any villain’s downfall, ever. In truth, he comes to find out exactly what Eragon’s “true name” is, which is a wasted effort as Eragon doesn’t even know what it really is.
If you ask me, the true purpose of their conversation is to remind the reader that Eragon has enemies besides the Ra’zac, but Durza doesn’t feel particularly threatening, especially since it’s been more than 40 chapters since we last heard from the Shade, or cared about what he was doing.