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Review: Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (Inheritance Cycle #4)

November 2011, Random House Children’s Books

Young Adult fantasy

Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.

What a long journey the Inheritance Cycle has been! From the first book about a poor 15-year-old farm boy to this final volume about a mighty Dragon Rider, the series has undeniably developed and matured along with its protagonist. I’ve been reading this series since I was about eleven years old, and I felt an acute sense of nostalgia as old characters and locations were revisited. The nostalgia wasn’t always entirely welcome, however: the long, arduous descriptions found throughout the series haven’t lessened in Inheritance, and neither have the meticulous political arrangements that are unlikely to fascinate the average reader.

Christopher Paolini is an excellent writer. For the majority of the book, though, I felt this talent was a bit overused. For the first six hundred pages or so, the vivid descriptions of people, landscapes, mental states, weather conditions, and nearly everything else were an inescapable impediment to the action and flow of the story. This, in turn, made me a thoroughly disengaged reader for the majority of the book, and was in part why it took me several months to plow my way through the novel. The overuse of description and slightly heavy-handed plot set-up are my only real complaints about Inheritance.

Once the action really gets going, as the plot nears its climax, Inheritance improves immensely. The heart-pounding action and suspense really kept the pages turning for me as the final confrontation grew near. Paolini’s characters are, as always, delightfully varied and skillfully painted, from the haunting witch child Elva to the despicable King Galbatorix himself. The world of Alagaësia is enthralling, and it’s clear that Paolini put much time and effort into its development. It’s world-building at its best, and the sort that I aspire to.

Most fans of the Inheritance Cycle have probably already readInheritance and are “tsk-tsk”-ing behind their computer screens at my slowness. Fans of high fantasy who haven’t started this series yet should definitely try it. It’s a difficult-at-times but rewarding reading experience.

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Books Waiting in the Wings

One of the worst parts of slogging through a long, somewhat boring text (coughInheritancecough) for me is looking at all the books you have around that I have yet to read. Here are some of the books that I’ll be reading after Inheritance.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

Even if this book weren’t an international bestseller and Book of the Year, the premise would be enough to get me interested in reading. I’m starting to venture into the realm of “regular” (i.e., adult) fiction, and this looks like a good book to start off with.

Escape from Verona by David Gray

This one was a gift from a friend. I love Romeo and Juliet and tear up every time I see an adaptation on stage or screen. Mercutio’s death really gets me. Anyway–I admit the premise is of this book is somewhat cheesy (Romeo and Juliet faking their deaths in the tomb and escaping), but I’m willing to overlook it.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Jane Austen plus zombies is an instant win for me. What more can I say? I can’t wait to read this one.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I’ve heard nothing but good about this book, from book blogs, professional reviews, and friends. The story sounds quite original and just the sort of thing I’d like. I highly look forward to reading this one, as well.

Have you read any of my books waiting in the wings? What did you think? What do you think I should read first? Tell me in the comments!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Book Rambles

 

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Inheritance: A Progress Report

My current reading situation is one that I am entirely new to. Going back into my January archives, you’ll find references to my failed attempts to read Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance at a somewhat decent pace. Any reasonable person would assume that by now I have either given up or finished and forgotten to write a review.

I am still reading it, and just approaching the halfway point. This may well be considered an abomination to reader-kind, an act of blasphemy against the reputation of a bibliophile. I must assure you that I have conquered books just as formidable as Paolini’s work in a much shorter time. What is it about Inheritance that is making it so difficult to read?

My first theory is that it has been such a long time since I read the first three books in the Inheritance Cycle that I have ceased to care about the characters or the story. Correct me if I’m wrong–actually, don’t, because even as slow as this reading process is going, I don’t want spoilers–but I have a sneaking suspicion that our hero, Eragon, will triumph, and I’m just following him on his arduous journey to success. As I continue reading, though, I’m getting more and more intrigued as to how this is all going to turn out. Nevertheless, I don’t have the deeply personal interest in the characters’ well-being as I did a few years ago.

Secondly, the plot has taken a good deal of time in building and laying out a framework for how the rest of the novel is going to go. The action is really starting to take off now and I find myself reading more and more every day. Maybe this long, foot-dragging reading experience will end now and I can finish off Inheritance within the week.

Either way, my preliminary assessment of the book so far is overall good–not fantastic, but good. Readers looking for a rollicking thriller from page one may want to avoid it. There have been lots of plot elements left hanging that need to be finalized, and I’m curious to see how Paolini does it.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Book Rambles

 

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On Love Polygons and the Big Kiss

This post is for the February 2012 edition of the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain. This month’s prompt was:

“What are your thoughts on romance for your typical genre? Do you tend to have a little, a lot, or none at all?”

 

Undoubtedly, my typical and favorite genre in both reading and writing is fantasy/sci-fi and its various derivatives, including but not limited to dystopian, steampunk, paranormal, epic fantasy, and macabre. While it is most certainly possible for these types of storylines to stand on their own merits, I always find them most enjoyable when there’s an element of romance lurking somewhere in the thick of the plot.

In reading these types of stories, I find that a touch of romance in the background–or even a broad brush of it in the foreground–adds that much-needed sense of humanity to the outlandish plot, particularly in YA. Even if a group of teenagers gets involved in a supernatural event of some sort, are they honestly expected to drop all hormones immediately and for all time? Let’s face it–it’s not going to happen. My taste for a bit of romance in reading is also fed by my own secret inner idealist (or hopeless romantic). This is the girl who doesn’t like animated Disney films. And you thought I was soulless!

Writing romance, however, is a whole other evil empire to be overthrown. Reading about love is easy–all you do is soak in someone else’s words. When one has no experience in these matters, as I do as of the posting date, it is decidedly difficult to write about it oneself. How are you expected to write about that fabled Big Kiss when, to yourself, it reminds just that–a myth? It’s like the Forever Alone guy handing out relationship advice. On the other hand, if I could only write just what I know, I would only be writing stories about single high schoolers who are told by their elders that their “intelligence is intimidating” but are probably just awkward weirdos.

So basically what I’m getting at is that the best I can do when writing romance is to take all I’ve read, watched, and heard from others, put them together in a big mental jumble, and use modified versions of the pieces that work best with the rest of the story. In a few years, I’ll probably read back the so-called romantic moments I write now and spray some beverage across the room from laughter.

The one thing I am confident about when writing romance is cliche avoidance. Love triangles featuring two badass guys and a weak-minded central female character have no place in my story, and neither do trouble-free InstaLUV tales. Love polygons of other sorts are acceptable, and two characters can fall in love quickly as long as there’s some amount of conflict later on. I’m chill with it as long as vampires and werewolves don’t both get involved.

Oh no! A Twilight reference! Everyone run for cover before she starts ranting!

All right, I can take a hint, you guys. Why don’t you check out the rest of the blog chain instead?

February 5– http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com –Novel Journeys

February 6– http://lilyjenness.blogspot.com –Lily’s Notes in the Margins

February 7– http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com –Kirsten Writes!

February 8– http://correctingpenswelcome.wordpress.com — Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish

February 9– http://delorfinde.wordpress.com –A Farewell to Sanity

February 10– http://thewordasylum.wordpress.com –The Word Asylum

February 11– http://weirdalocity.wordpress.com –From My Head

February 12– http://estherstar1996.wordpress.com –Esther Victoria1996

February 13– http://alohathemuse.wordpress.com –Embracing Insanity

February 14– http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com –Red Herring Online

February 15– http://goteenwriters.blogspot.com –Go Teen Writers (Honorary Participant)

February 16– http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com –This Page Intentionally Left Blank

February 17– http://oyeahwrite.wordpress.com –Oh Yeah, Write!

February 18–http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com –The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

February 19– https://herestous.wordpress.com –Here’s To Us

February 20– http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

 

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Writing

 

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Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (Gemma Doyle Trilogy #1)

December 2003, Random House Children’s Books

Young Adult fantasy

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

I adored Libba Bray’s most recent novel, Beauty Queens, so it’s a wonder I haven’t read the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, for which Bray is better known, before now. I’m sorry I’ve waited so long. This book is, simply put, utterly flawless.

A Great and Terrible Beauty starts off with a scene the majority of the readership will be able to relate to: a mother-daughter dispute. From there the story takes off and refuses to slow. Bray sets the scene vividly and shows sharp contrast between the three main settings, India, England, and the spiritual realms. Most of the characters started off as simple, but as I got to know them better through Gemma’s eyes, new layers of complexity were added and I found myself deeply invested.

Bray is known for confronting issues prevalent in her adolescent audience head-on in her writings, and this book is no exception. Things as light as high-school politics to as heavy as self-mutilation are seamlessly touched on, but I especially noticed Bray’s inclusion of girls’ budding sexualities in a society where showing one’s ankles is considered scandalous. Readers will undoubtably see portions of themselves reflected in the characters and perhaps even find comfort.

A Great and Terrible Beauty is dark, adventurous, romantic, fantastical–there’s something for everyone here. It’s consistently well-written and believable; it’s not particularly difficult to read–the thoroughly engaging plot forbids that–yet is anything but mind candy. I can’t wait to get on with this series, and, as an added bonus, there seems to be a movie planned for 2015 release. This book is a must-read.

Rating: 5 stars

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

Mastiff by Tamora Pierce (The Beka Cooper Trilogy, #3)

October 2011, Random House Children’s Books

Young Adult fantasy

Three years have passed since Beka Cooper almost died in the sewers of Port Caynn, and she is now a respected member of the Provost’s Guard. But her life takes an unexpected turn when her fiancé is killed on a slave raid. Beka is faced with a mixture of emotions as, unbeknownst to many, she was about to call the engagement off.

It is as Beka is facing these feelings that Lord Gershom appears at her door. Within hours, Beka; her partner, Tunstall; her scent hound, Achoo; and an unusual but powerful mage are working on an extremely secretive case that threatens the future of the Tortallan royal family, and therefore the entire Tortallan government. As Beka delves deeper into the motivations of the criminals she now Hunts, she learns of deep-seated political dissatisfaction, betrayal, and corruption. These are people with power, money, and influence. They are able to hire the most skilled of mages, well versed in the darkest forms of magic. And they are nearly impossible to identify.

This case–a Hunt that will take her to places she’s never been–will challenge Beka’s tracking skills beyond the city walls, as well as her ability to judge exactly whom she can trust with her life and her country’s future.

 Let me start off by saying that Book One of this series, Terrier, is one of my all-time favorites. It was exemplary in characters, action, and plot. Beka was ineffably believable in this volume, along with the rest of the cast. Things only went downhill a little in Bloodhound, as the plot got a bit less intriguing, but it was still an excellent book. In Mastiff, most of all the wonderful things about Terrier are lost. Beka seems an entirely different person, changed so much over three years that she is not at all recognizable as the shy but street-smart Lower City trainee of the first book.

The plot is well laid in Mastiff, and once all the pieces are put together, the horrible truth does make sense. However, the story is grandiose to the point of being obnoxious: instead of tracking down kidnappers and counterfeiters in cases staying within city walls, Beka gallops across the realm, dealing with various noble houses and overall getting involved in things much bigger than she is. This sort of story may appeal to many, but it’s jarringly different from the first two books of the series. It might have been more tolerable for me if it had moved along a bit faster–it wasn’t until the final hundred pages or so that I began reading at more than a snail’s pace.

Beka wasn’t the only character who changed in this book. Favorites from prior volumes, such as the classic trio of “rushers,” Aniki, Kora, and Rosto, were all but nonexistent in Mastiff. As Beka expands her horizons, the wonderful world of the Lower City created in Terrier disappears in readers’ sights. It was, frankly, depressing, and the final pages left me discontented and disappointed.

Tamora Pierce, however, continues using her well-earned trademarks of strong female protagonists, intricate plots, and scrupulous description in Mastiff. Glimpses of Beka’s former life are breaths of fresh air throughout the story. Call me an old softy, but Pierce could have done better to stick with the Corus area and her fantastic older characters throughout this otherwise wonderful series.

Rating: 3 stars

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments #2)

March 2008, Margaret K. McElderry Books

Young Adult urban fantasy

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go—especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil—and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings—and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

As I continue on my quest to read the Mortal Instruments series in its entirety before the movie, slated for release in 2012, comes out, it’s fairly easy for me to see where this story is going. This isn’t entirely a bad thing: I can be a big believer in the classic storyline. Cassandra Clare’s true talent doesn’t lie in the realm of creating a storyline, but in the crucial ability to draw readers in. Clare has created a rich and addictive New York underworld that can be very hard to leave; it’s fully a sensory experience, replete with intriguing detail.

Clare continues to create strong characters to inhabit this world. Clary still isn’t one of my favorites, but everyone else is fantastic. The variety of supernatural creatures is astonishing, from grotesque demons to the elegant fey, with a few of our beloved vampires and werewolves thrown in the mix. (Have I mentioned how relieved I am that these vamps don’t sparkle?)

There’s plenty of action in City of Ashes, and this volume certainly has its fair share of angst. It isn’t markedly different from the first book in this series, but expands on the same themes, adding a few welcome new characters and subplots. This isn’t an extraordinary series, but one worth reading; I’ll be looking forward to reading Book Three.

Rating: 4 stars

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2011 in Book Reviews

 

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