It’s been awhile since I griped about a single sentence in Eragon, but there’s one that’s just truly perplexing at the beginning of chapter 42, “Fighting Shadows”. During his captivity, Eragon is drugged, which renders him unable to use his magic. He figures out the drug is in his food, and abstains from eating or drinking until it wears off. When it does the following day,
It was dark in Eragon’s cells when he sat up with a start, electrified. The wrinkle had shifted! He had felt the magic at the edge of his consciousness for hours, but every time he tried to use it, nothing happened.
“The wrinkle had shifted”?
That’s such a weird line. I know it means that the drug has worn off, so Eragon isn’t foggy and able to do magic again, but…”wrinkle”? Is there a definition of “wrinkle” that I’ve never heard before? I know I’ve been pretty hard on Eragon, so I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this was a phrase that people used and I’d never heard before, so I decided to Google it, just to be sure.
Congratulations, Paolini. You might be the first person to ever have the sentence “The wrinkle had shifted” in a published book.
Since a “wrinkle” was never mentioned before, I choose to believe that it refers to the folds in Eragon’s brain that allow him to use magic.
Not surprisingly, Eragon uses magic to break himself out of prison, at the same time Murtagh arrives in disguise to rescue him. But why wasn’t Murtagh also captured along with Eragon? Murtagh is wanted by the Empire, and it was his appearance in Gil’ead that led to Eragon’s capture. How did Murtagh get away? If it was due to Saphira’s intervention, why would she save Murtagh, and not her Rider?
What if Murtagh had been captured, and not Eragon? Eragon and Saphira could have some conflicts about risking themselves to save him, especially when he’s kept so much of his past a secret. There could have been a dilemma that wasn’t solved with swords or magic, something this book has been severely lacking.
But the plot marches ever-forward, and soon Eragon and Murtagh are rushing off to save Arya. When they find her, there’s another paragraph talking about how beautiful she is, and that she smells like pine needles. Wait, what? She’s been imprisoned and tortured for months. She shouldn’t smell nice. She should smell like iron and blood and…well, maybe elves’ sweat smells like pine needles. That’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
The most exciting part of this chapter is when Eragon duels the Shade, Durza, to try to cover Murtagh’s escape with Arya. We’ve seen Durza use magic in the prologue, but it didn’t have a lot of impact on the reader’s view of him, because we knew so little about what was going on. When Eragon and Durza engage in a sword fight, we know what’s at stake. We also have something to compare Durza to. We know that Eragon’s a gifted swordsman, but Durza is toying with him when they fight. There’s a huge gap between their skills, and so their fight is actually interesting to read, knowing Eragon is likely to lose.
The day is saved by Saphira, who ends up landing on the prison and destroying it. Normally I’m not a fan of the “Big Damn Heroes” trope, with the characters arriving right in the nick of time to save everyone. In this case I’ll forgive it, because Saphira is one of the few reasons I’ve managed to keep reading this book.
My first complaint about the next chapter, “A Warrior and a Healer”, was the abundant use of adverbs. The one that struck me as the laziest was Eragon “tiredly” healing one of Saphira’s wounds after their escape from Gil’ead.
Eragon also brings up that elves speak the Ancient Language, and most of them can use magic. This still brings me back to the question I had many chapters ago: how do elves have a conversation without casting spells and lighting everything on fire? This book goes into detail on so many things I don’t care about and have no impact on the story, but still has yet to answer that one question.
As Eragon, et. al. flee from Gil’ead, Murtagh tells him that the Urgals and Durza were working for Galby. No shit. Even as a kid, I knew that would be the case. The obvious bad guys are working for the bigger bad guy. This is just how the hierarchy of villainy works. I wasn’t shocked then, and I wasn’t shocked now.
I am, perhaps, a little more shocked and disappointed by Saphira’s explanation of all this.
A sick, angry feeling welled in his stomach. ‘The Urgals were under Galbatorix’s orders! Why would he commit such an atrocity on his own subjects?’
‘Because he is evil,’ stated Saphira flatly.
From Saphira’s perspective, this makes perfect sense. However, this is one of the big problems I have with the Inheritance series. Galby is evil because he’s crazy, and…well, that’s it. The antagonist who is evil for the sake of being evil is just a lousy villain. There’s no greater depth to them, no chance for them to be sympathetic or intriguing. If your only descriptor is “evil”, you’re not just a flat character. You’re boring and indistinguishable from the multitude of bland, oh-so-evil forgotten baddies.
After Eragon learns the not-so-shocking truth about the Urgals and Durza, he sets about to healing Arya. Paolini spends two paragraphs describing her wounds: back covered with bruises, oozing cuts, marks from whips and hot brands. Credit where it’s due: the description of Arya’s wounds is pretty horrifying, especially when you add in the fact she’s probably been tortured daily for months. So, nice one, Paolini.
But we still can’t go one chapter without mentioning how beautiful the elf is, even after she’s been brutally tortured.
[H]e could not help but notice that underneath the disfiguring marks, her body was exceptionally beautiful.