Christopher Paolini has so far written a single book series, ‘The Inheritance Cycle’. It should be noted that he was only fifteen when he wrote the first book, and while it wasn’t a great book, it was a good book. This was a superb achievement for a fifteen year old. As a huge fan of fantasy and an avid reader, I personally give Paolini two thumbs way up.
His first book was great for his age. But while his writing improved dramatically during the latter books. His storytelling and character development did not.
Pacing seems to be something Paolini never quite masters.
Eragon started out as a farm boy with some hunting experience on the side. And after evening lessons received while traveling, in less than a year, he turns into a master swordsman who can outfight warriors with centuries of combat experience. This is not very realistic, even in a fantasy world. Then we have Arya, the main heroine who spent three books ‘not interested’ in the main character and suddenly did a 180 in the last book and went to ‘interested’. These are just two examples, there are plenty more.
And not just the characters, the plot itself is paced in this manner. Especially from the second book onwards. For example in the second book, the move of the Varden, the training of Eragon, and the exodus of the villagers all seem to happen at the same time, but if someone made a calender for Alagaësia we might see that the dates don’t quite match up, or Eragon and the Varden have moved with superhuman speed. And in the final book, the way the buildup for the last battle happened was similar. Though you could get away by calling it a plot twist. Again these are just two examples of many.
Another thing Paolini does frequently is using magic to solve every little problem.
When Eragon found that his incredible swordsmanship (impossibility acquired) couldn’t match up against the superhuman prowess of the elves he got a magical power boost. When he was faced with a crippling injury and looked to be useless for frontline fighting, he was magically healed. When there was no way for Eragon to acquire a riders sword, a magical solution presented itself that let him make his own. And when Eragon faced Galbathorix in the final battle, he found a magical solution that let him defeat the enemy who remained undefeated for a century. And these instances weren’t even normal magic as practiced in the land of Alagaësia, they were practically ass-pulls.
If I were unkind I would wonder if these incidents happen when the author writes himself into a corner and needs to recuse the plot.
One thing Paolini can be praised for is his worldbuilding.
The world of Alagaësia is beautifully detailed. Even though it is populated by the usual suspects of high fantasy (elves,dwarfs, dragons) each race has their history, nation and culture. He even created a language (Of sorts) for the story. And the map is great.
I believe that the success of a fantasy story depends in large part on the world building that went on beforehand. And while Paolini is no Tolkien, he did a great job with Alagaësia. It is a world you can immerse yourself in.
I think that if Paolini writes another book, or series of books, they will be much better than ‘The Inheritance Cycle’. The way his writing improves through the books shows that he is devloping as a writer. Now if only he pays closer attention to organizing the plot and developing his characters, he would write great fantasy.