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Despite its popularity, the Inheritance Cycle has suffered significant criticism, largely stemming from the assertion that Christopher Paolini's stories are poorly written and that his plotlines are derived from other sources. Various groups and websites have been founded for this purpose since the first book, Eragon, was published.
Similarities to Tolkien
Many critics hold that some of the story's aspects come directly from J. R. R. Tolkien, such as the following:
- The elves of both Tolkien and Paolini are tall, beautiful, immortal, and have keen senses, as well as being proficient at archery. Additionally, these elves have strong bonds with nature and some live in the trees. As some Elves returned to Middle-earth in Tolkien's legendarium, Paolini's elves sailed to Alagaësia from a hidden land westward over the seas, do not sleep, and the only way to kill them is through a wound or heartbreak. Though because of Tolkien's series, fantasy elves are often seen in this way, and Paolini may have been simply using the popular picture. Further elves are not an original work of Tolkien and instead originate from Scandinavian/Germanic folklore although they are typically portrayed as small mischief makers
- The humans of Paolini's world who are the superior race in the land are similar to the Númenóreans of Tolkien's legendarium. Like the Númenóreans, Paolini's humans came from a distant land to the southwest of the main continent where the Inheritance Cycle takes place.
- Another similarity is the quote of Paolini's elvish queen Islanzadí, "I am diminished." and the quote of the Tolkien's elven Lady Galadriel, "I will diminish."
- Critics also see similarities in the dwarven race. The concept of a gruff mining race is found in the works of both authors. The elves and dwarves in both cases do not get along, but for different reasons. But in many works with dwarves they are portrayed as a mining race.
- Eragon leaves Alagaësia at the end of the last book, Inheritance, on an elven ship, with elves and one of his old mentors (Glaedr). This is highly similar to Frodo Baggins leaving Middle-earth at the end of The Lord of the Rings on one of Círdan's elven ships with Galadriel, Celeborn, Elrond, and Gandalf (Frodo's mentor).
- There are many geographic similarities between Alagaësia and the West of Middle-earth. Bordering the western coast there is a mountain range split in two by a lake (the Spine in Paolini's stories and the Blue Mountains in Tolkien's legendarium). The sea to the south borders a southern kingdom (Surda in Paolini's stories and Gondor in Tolkien's legendarium). There is a northern forest ruled over by elves (Du Weldenvarden in Paolini's stories and Mirkwood/Greenwood in Tolkien's stories). The capital of the great human kingdom in the land has a city with many towers and walls (Ilirea/Urû'baen in Paolini's stories and Minas Tirith in Tolkien's legendarium), each marked by a giant stone precipice and backed up against a natural wall.
- Surda is also comparable to Gondor, the Man Kingdom at the borders of the evil lands.
- King Orrin is highly similar to Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, in that they both preside over a long-suffering kingdom that opposes the antagonist - but gradually, as the war deepens they nurture serious doubts about the meaning and success of their cause, potentially endangering their own allies.
- Many also see the forbidden love between Arya and Eragon as a reproduction of the love between Arwen and Aragorn.
- Many have made comparisons between the evil races of both stories: Ra'zac and Nazgûl, the Lethrblaka and Fell Beasts, the Urgals and Orcs, and the Kull and Uruk-hai.
- In the fourth book, Inheritance, page xii first paragraph reads, "Their scales were like gems, and all who gazed upon them despaired, for their beauty was great and terrible." This uses many keywords and similar meaning as in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the paragraph about Galadriel and the One Ring, "And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night.... All shall love me and despair!" (page 410 second to last paragraph).
- In the Surdan village of Deldarad, Roran slays 193 soldiers, which were counted off by his men. This is similar to Legolas and Gimli's competition to see who can kill more Orcs at the Battle of Helm's Deep in Tolkien's The Two Towers, and several other battles in Peter Jackson's film adaptations.
- In Inheritance, Elva reveals that she has been given a mail shirt made by two dwarf brothers, Ûmar and Ulmar. This resembles the thirteen dwarves who whisk Bilbo Baggins away from his home in The Hobbit, many of whom are close relatives with similar names, such as Balin and Dwalin, Fíli and Kíli, Óin and Glóin, etc.
- Lord Barst in Inheritance and the Witch-king in The Return of the King are very similar, as they both carry a mace, kill a protagonist monarch, are the commander of the main antagonist's armies, and are very hard to kill - and when they are killed, the character who kills them (Roran/Éowyn) is unable to assist in the battle any further, having been severely exhausted and disabled from the exertion.
- Critics furthermore believe that Paolini directly copied names from the works of Tolkien or just switched some letters around. The following is a list of possible such names:
|The Inheritance Cycle||The Lord of The Rings|
|Angrenost – king of the Broddring Kingdom||Angrenost – Elvish name for Isengard|
|(Note: Both instances seem to derive from Airgetlám (modern Irish, Airgeatlámh) of Irish mythology who was the first king of the Tribe of Danu (the invaders and mythologised ancestors of Ireland), and is associated with other Celtic Deities such as Nudd (British) or Nodens (Gaul, Romano-British). Airgetlám lost his arm in battle and was given one of silver by the deities.)|
|Eragon – hero of the Inheritance cycle, is a human||
Aragorn – a hero of The Lord of the Rings, is a human
Eregion – a kingdom in the Silmarillion
|(Note: Christopher Paolini has stated that the name is a play on the word dragon.)||(Note: Aragon is not an original name, being a region of Spain.)|
|Arya – elven princess, Eragon's love interest||Arwen – elven aristocrat, Aragorn's love interest|
|Beirland - the largest of the Southern Isles||Beleriand - a region in northwest Middle-earth that sunk into the sea|
|Belgabad - the largest dragon of his time, unbonded, slain on Vroengard||Gundabad - a goblin-colonized mountain at the northern end of the Misty Mountains|
|Beorn - the elves' name for a cave bear unique to the Beors||Beorn - a character in 'The Hobbit' who had the power to transform into a bear|
|(Note: Beorn is also an Old Norse word meaning bear.)|
|Celbedeil - a dwarvish temple||Celebdil - a peak of the Misty Mountains|
|Ceranthor – an elvish monarch||Caranthir – one of the sons of Fëanor|
|Edoc'sil - an abandoned watchtower in the Spine||Amon Sûl - an abandoned watchtower between Bree and Rivendell|
|Elessari – a member of the Council of Elders||Elessar – title of Aragorn|
|Eridor – a former dragon||Eriador – a region of northern Middle-earth|
|Faelnirv - an elven drink||Faelvrin - Gwindor's name for Finduilas.|
|Fenmark - a province west of Surda, to which the city of Aroughs belongs||Fenmarch - a province of Rohan|
|(Note: A fen is a boggy patch of land while mark is often used at the end of german place names)|
|Furnost – minor town in Alagaësia||Fornost – a deserted city in Middle-earth|
|Gil'ead – an ancient city in Alagaësia||Gil-galad – High King of the Ñoldorin Elves|
|(Note: Gilead is a mountainous region east of the Jordan River, situated in the Kingdom of Jordan.)|
|Glaerun - one of the Forsworn, the only one to die on Vroengard||Glaurung - the first of all dragons in Tolkien's legendarium, wingless|
|Hadarac – a desert in Alagaësia||Harad – a desert continent in Middle-earth|
|Inzilbêth – the province where Galbatorix was born||Inzilbêth – a queen of Númenor|
|Isenstar – a lake of Alagaësia||
Isengard – a large fortress of Middle-earth
Isen River – a river west of Rohan
|(Note: Eisen is the German word for iron)|
|Istalri - the word for "flame" in the Ancient Language||Istari - the Quenya (Elvish) term for wizards in Tolkien's legendarium|
|Kirtan - a city in Du Weldenvarden||Cirdan - a very old elf and one of the holders of the Three Rings|
|Melian – a town of Alagaësia||Melian – a minor goddess and queen of Doriath|
|Mithrim – part of the name of a stone art piece||
Mithrim – a land of Beleriand.
Mithril, an enchanted metal that is almost impenetrable.
|Morgothal – Fire god of the Dwarves||Morgoth – the evil god, the Enemy of the World, appearing in The Silmarillion|
|Nrech – Urgal name for Lethrblaka||Yrch – An elvish name for the Orcs|
|Oromis - Dragon Rider who trained Eragon||Oromë - one of the Valar|
|Roran - Eragon's cousin||Rohan - a kingdom of men in Middle Earth|
|Sindri - Earth god of the Dwarves||Sindar - A group of Elves that decided to remain in Beleriand until the First Age's end|
|Snowfire - Brom's horse||Snowmane - King Theoden's horse|
|(Note: It is common in many cultures to give animals names describing their appearance. Both horses are white and to have 'snow' in their names is unsurprising. However, in the original self-published edition of Eragon "Snowfire" was named "Snowmane", so it's unlikely to be a coincidence. Similar horse names are not uncommon in fantasy, for example, Tolkien's own Shadowfax is similar to Silverfax from 1896 fantasy novel The Well at the World's End.)|
|Thuviel- A Rider who sacrificed himself during the Fall.||Tinuviel- The name given to Luthien the Fair by Beren.|
|Vanilor – a former dragon||Valinor – the home of the deities in Aman|
- Celebrimbor – a character from the Silmarillion who's name is Sindarin for "Silver Fist"
Similarities to Lucas
Critics also claim that the plot line of the Inheritance Cycle is similar to that of Star Wars.
|Morzan, the idol of Brom, turns evil at the time of the Fall of the Riders.||Anakin, a best friend to Obi-Wan, turns evil at the time of the Great Jedi Purge.|
|Galbatorix convinces Morzan and twelve others to betray the Dragon Riders and create an Empire.||Palpatine convinces Anakin to betray the Jedi and create an Empire.|
|Morzan was married to Selena, who had two children (although of different ages, and one was with Brom).||Anakin was married to Padme with whom he had twins. They were separated when they were young.|
|Eragon, a poor farm boy, was brought up by his uncle in an isolated village.||Luke, a poor farm boy, was brought up by his uncle and aunt on an isolated planet.|
|Princess Arya, an enemy of the Empire, sent a dragon egg to Brom when she was attacked.||Princess Leia, an enemy of the Empire, sent a message to Obi-Wan Kenobi when she was attacked.|
|Eragon found the dragon egg and his uncle was later killed by the Ra'zac.||Luke found the special message and returned home to find his uncle and aunt killed by Imperial forces.|
|Eragon met supposedly the last of an old order of Dragon Riders who taught him the ways of the old order.||Luke met supposedly the last of an old order of Jedi who taught him the ways of the old order.|
|Brom passed the sword of Morzan onto Eragon.||Obi-Wan passed the second lightsaber of Anakin onto Luke.|
|Eragon and Brom met Murtagh, a loner trying to evade the empire and track the Ra'zac, who saved them from getting killed by the Ra'zac.||Luke and Obi-Wan met Han Solo, a smuggler wanted by Jabba the Hutt, and his sidekick Chewbacca, who saved them from their predicament.|
|Brom died early on in the series trying to protect Eragon but spoke to him again through Saphira's memories.||Obi-Wan died early on in the series trying to protect Luke but spoke to him again through the Force.|
Murtagh and Eragon rescued Arya from a prison (Gil'ead) and later found out the elf was a princess.
Han Solo and Luke rescued Princess Leia from the Death Star.
|Eragon went to the distant Du Weldenvarden to train with another Dragon Rider.||Luke went to the distant Dagobah system to train with another Jedi.|
|Eragon found out that the Varden was in trouble and left Oromis to go help them.||Luke sensed that his friends were in trouble and left Yoda to go help them.|
|It was revealed by Murtagh during the Battle of the Burning Plains that Morzan was Eragon's father, (which, as revealed in Brisingr, he really was not).||It was revealed by Darth Vader during the subjugation of Bespin that he was Luke's father.|
|The Dragon Riders were advised by a Council of Elders, one of which was Oromis, Eragon's teacher.||The Jedi Order was governed by the Jedi Council, one of which was Yoda, Luke's teacher.|
|Luke made himself a new green lightsaber to replace one he lost before, with help from R2-D2.|
|After being bested by Eragon in a duel, Murtagh breaks free of his magic bonds to King Galbatorix and attacks him.||After being bested by Luke in a duel, Darth Vader attacks his master the Emperor.|
|At the end, King Galbatorix explodes in a violent burst of energy.||At the end, Emperor Palpatine falls down the shaft and explodes in a violent burst of energy.|
|Following a great battle shortly after the arrival of Eragon, the Varden must abandon the base they have used for years, Farthen Dur.||Following a great battle shortly after the arrival of Luke, the Rebellion must abandon Yavin 4, a base they have used for many years.|
|Near the end of the series, a species called Werecats ally themselves with the Varden and help them achieve their goal. Werecats are part cat, a small, furry creature.||Near the end of the series, a species called Ewoks ally themselves with the Rebels and help them achieve their goal. Ewoks are small, furry creatures.|
|Vrael and Galbatorix clash, with the former wounding the latter but not killing him. Galbatorix chases Vrael and fights with him again, which ends with Galbatorix eventually killing Vrael.||After pledging allegiance to Darth Sidious/ Emperor Palpatine, Anakin engages Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar. Obi-Wan defeats Anakin and leaves him for dead but refuses to kill him outright. In their second encounter, Anakin/ Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan.|
Outside of the universes of The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, critics have found other similarities elsewhere. In the series Dragonriders of Pern, the dragons choose their Riders and speak to them telepathically, as they do in Eragon. The dragon Tiamat also speaks telepathically in the book Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher. The beginning of Eragon resembles the beginning of Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, and the end resembles that of The Dragonbone Chair.
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, it is stated that magic can destroy, or kill, a user if one summons a spell so powerful it is beyond the user's physical capacity. The same is also said in the Inheritance cycle. However, the last book Inheritance was published November 8, 2011 which predates The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’s November 11, 2011 release.
There are also many similarities to Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series.
There are also similarities to Edding's Belgariad series, in the passage in which he learns to take energy from his surroundings. The reaction of magic to the attempt to destroy something also appears to come from Belgariad. The Gedwey Ignasia appears to reflect the mark of the main character's line in Belgariad. The first spell used by Eragon, "Brisngr", is identical in content to the first spell of the main character of Belgariad, "Burn!", though application differs. Brom is extremely similar in personality and role to Belgarath, and like Garion Eragon is illiterate despite being raised by a literate guardian. Galbatorix's defeat is also extremely similar to the climax of Magician's Gambit, including the villain shouting the words "be not", and dying in an explosion which causes the castle to collapse.
Paolini has stated that "Mr. Eddings influenced how I approach fantasy [...] as an author. The Belgariad will always have a place of honor on my bookshelves."
In Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series magic is done by knowing the "true name" of things. Each person has a secret true name and a use name. This comes from an ancient language still spoken by dragons. Wizards must be cautious in spellmaking, for overreaching can severely drain energy and even kill.
Paolini and others have frequently defended these complaints by claiming that he was drawing on Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey, but The Hero's Journey is an incredibly broad set of tropes which applies to every story ever written and does not include the very specific details which have clearly been lifted from original works of fiction.
Unrealistic plot elements/inconsistencies
The warfare and weaponry of Alagaësia has also come under scrutiny.
The campaign between the Varden and Empire has been criticized as containing somewhat plain and simple general strategy (just attacking cities closer and closer to Urû'baen). The only battles the Empire won were the Battle of Carvahall, the Yazuac Massacre, the battle of Ithrö Zhâda and Murtagh's raid (considered a defeat despite killing the soldiers). Some of this can be attributed to the fact that Eragon and Saphira were the only Rider and Dragon that participated heavily in a major battle (Murtagh does kill King Hrothgar in the Battle of The Burning Plains, and Shruikan flies out to intimidate the Allied Army in the Battle of Urû'baen; however these are isolated attacks, and didn't inflict any direct widespread casualties).
Additionally, some criticize the massive poisoning carried out by Angela as unrealistic for two reasons. Firstly, the fact that Angela is allowed to walk into the enemy camp at any time is questionable by itself (though Angela is known to get places she has no right to be). Secondly, the fact that she had enough poison hidden in her clothes to kill hundreds, if not thousands of enemy soldiers without getting caught is unrealistic (though the poison could have been extremely potent). The use of trebuchets and siege engines in an open battle has also been criticized. Such weapons are meant for and very useful for sieges and attacks upon a city, where they can be used to destroy an enemies walls, or if propelled over the walls into a city, destroy buildings and food stockpiles, and thus inflict large collateral damage. In an open battle, however, they are much less useful; They can only be used effectively in cases when the opposing army is densely packed together.
The siege weapons in Urû'baen have also been criticized. The Empire had no need for catapults and siege weapons in Urû'baen; they were defending a city from an army that was loosely packed, with walls described as being well over 300 feet tall. Siege weapons would have a large risk of hitting the wall, thus weakening their own defenses. In fact, in the book, Roran has to dodge out of the way of a chunk of the wall collapsing from being hit by one of the projectiles. Despite the wall's implausible height, the Varden come equipped with suitable siege towers, with their wheels alone being 20 feet tall, which is highly improbable and would have required much more preparation than indicated. In addition, the entire city of Urû'baen is underneath a giant slab of rock; if enough of these projectiles hit this slab, it might collapse and destroy the entire city. However, this criticism is slightly invalidated, as it is stated in Inheritance that the slab was imbued with spells to prevent it from crumbling (note: this fact is not revealed until after the siege of the capital is complete, making the revelation slightly deus ex machina).
Effectiveness of gold for armor and weaponry
The books mentions that at least some aristocrats' armor being gold, which by itself is very unrealistic. Gold is heavy and incredibly soft, making it slow, clumsy, and easy to pierce. However, simple wards cast upon the gold would make it much stronger, and aristocrats, and especially Elven ones, could probably afford to have even more advanced wards to make the armor lighter. Unfortunately, gold armor would likely be incredibly costly to maintain just by itself, not to mention the wards and spells required to make it functioning.
It is a possibility that this "gold" armor was just golden in color and not made of the precious metal, as the series never directly specified that their armor was made of gold.
Critics also have found errors in both the story's pseudo-archaic language and the Ancient Language itself. The bits of archaic English, such as "aye", "thee", "thine", etc., are often used incorrectly. On page 367 in Eldest, Orik says, "What has put me in mine state?" "Mine" was only used before vowels, and thus this usage is incorrect. It is possible that because Orik was drunk on faelnirv, however this usage seems to be common among the Dwarves, so it may be part of their dialect and this "mistake" could be justified. However, "mine" is also used incorrectly on page 78 of the Eldest hardback edition: "Mine king, Hrothgar, desires that I present this helm as a symbol of the friendship he bears for you." In this passage, Orik is sober and consciously using the word incorrectly. It is, however, likely that the Dwarves have a different dialect of English. Additionally, the people of Alagaësia make a distinction between the pronouns "thou" and "you", one being familiar and the other being respectful. However, many times they use both of these pronouns in the same sentence, which is highly improper. Many critics believe this to be a result of lack of research on the part of the author. The Ancient Language itself has no distinct grammatical structure, and this has become subject to further criticism. Page 294 in Eldest reads:
- "You blessed a child in the ancient language?" asked Oromis, suddenly alert.
- "Do you remember how you worded this blessing?"
- "Recite it for me."
- Eragon did so, and a look of pure horror engulfed Oromis.
- He exclaimed, "You used skölir! Are you sure? Wasn’t it sköliro?"
- Eragon frowned. "No, skölir. Why shouldn’t I have used it? Skölir means shielded. '…and may you be shielded from misfortune.' It was a good blessing."
- "That was no blessing, but a curse." Oromis was more agitated than Eragon had ever seen him. "The suffix o forms the past tense of verbs ending with r and i. Sköliro means shielded, but skölir means shield. What you said was ‘May luck and happiness follow you and may you be a shield from misfortune.’"
There are two problems with this explanation of the Ancient Language. Oromis says that "skölir" means "shield" and that you add an "o" to make it past tense. "Shield" in this case is a noun as evidenced by the translation, "a shield"; therefore, it cannot have a past tense. Some fans say that this is because "shield" can be a noun and a verb, as in English. If this is the case, many feel that this shows another example of the author translating the English language word for word without giving thought to the wide-ranging grammar. It has also been noted that by adding an "o", he did not make it past tense but made it passive. The phrase "may you be shielded" (because it pertains to future events and is an instruction) is the future perfect passive subjunctive and not the perfect active.
Most inflected languages would have a separate ending to the verb - for example, "you shall be carried" in Latin would be "portator", from the infinitve "portare" ("to be carried"). Based on this some suggest that the Ancient Language is merely encoded English, and others complain that Paolini did not put much effort into designing said language. This complaint might be uncharitable, as we have little frame of reference by which to judge this verb-inflection, nor even reason to believe this is a regular verb. It is plausible that a verb derived from skölir exists, has a set of alternative endings for each tense, mood and case, and it happens that the future perfect passive tense requires only the addition of '-o'. Another minor complaint is the use of names such as Islanzadí, Ra'zac, and Zar'roc, which some feel look out of place in a Norse-based language. These names and others are also filled with seemingly useless diacritics, for Paolini has not clarified what they mean.
In seemingly random places throughout the series, the subject of scientific investigation is brought up. In one scene, King Orrin claims that by mixing phosphorous and water he came up with "quite violent" results. This is quite ironic since water stops phosphorous's potent reactiveness. King Orrin also seems to invent a vacuum in a process which is almost identical to that process used by Evangelista Torricelli. This short focus on science seems out of place in a medieval fantasy world. The rest of Alagaësia is in a very primitive state, yet King Orrin seems to be doing experiments that were conducted in real life in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Even though Orrin has the considerable resources of the entire Surdan nation at his disposal, these experiments are somewhat of a stretch. This may be accounted for by the fact that the elves, who have resources (both material and leisure) dedicate at least some time to scientific endeavor, and had shared the ideas and discovery. The aforementioned discoveries were made by people in similar situations, thus it may be the case that in Alagaësia at this time there was sufficient free time among, and communication between elites to spread such theoretical progress.
Later in Eldest, the narration mentions Eragon mastering the magical use of several things, including electricity and gravity, implying that the Elves have discovered these. This seems somewhat out of place. The Elves are aware of electricity and able to command it via magic, even though the technology level of Alagaësia seems to roughly correspond to the High Middle Ages. However, it is more likely that the electricity mentioned may be referring to naturally-occurring electricity, such as lightning and static electricity, both of which had been discovered and studied, albeit not intensively, in the Greek Classical Period. The idea that they were referring to lightning is also supported by the fact that in Brisingr, Eragon says, "the air prickled and hummed, as if a bolt of lightning were about to strike". Further evidence for this theory exist in the fact that in Inheritance, lightning is directly summoned by Wyrden, one of the Elves sent by Islanzadí to guard Eragon.
Domia abr Wyrda
The Domia abr Wyrda from the Deluxe Edition of Eldest has not been free from criticism. Some find it full of inconsistencies and contradictions. The Domia abr Wyrda was "written" by Heslant the Monk, but no monastic organization was ever described before, and no human religion, other than the Worshipers of Helgrind, has ever been identified.
The Empire eventually burned Heslant as a heretic, though the Empire has no state religion. Many critics consider this to be puzzling. They also question the random evil acts done by wicked kings; King Galbatorix burned libraries and King Palancar attacked the Dragon Riders, both for no reason other than just being mad.
Other, more minor inconsistencies have been noticed in the series. When she was attacked, Arya magically transports the egg to the Spine. Critics point out that if she possessed this ability, she could have transported the egg in the first place and not made the journey. Later books address this, but the ability to transport objects in this fashion still creates inconsistencies. A further inconsistency is the quixotic route Arya and her companions take - they are ambushed near Ceunon, which implies that the route the egg takes between the Varden and the Elves is not the safer Eastern route via Hedarth and the Âz Ragni (which Eragon uses in Eldest), but a Western route that runs the entire length of the Empire - which makes it look like Arya is digging her own gravestone. The path they used through Du Weldenvarden could have been very circuitous, though.
Also, the book repeatedly informs the reader that Garrow is poor. However, Roran and Garrow are found eating chicken for breakfast, and Garrow is using his money to buy trinkets. Furthermore, the house he lives in seems fairly luxurious for a poor man's house of the era; Eragon, for example, has his own room.
In Eragon, Eragon and Brom were ambushed in Yazuac when he suddenly calls "Brisingr" and kills the two Urgals. Given that he had no idea what the word meant, it should have caused nothing to happen.
In the beginning of Eldest, the character Elain is five months pregnant. At the end of the novel, she is pregnant with the same child. However, critics claim, Eldest begins and ends in spring, making this impossible.
The elves are strict vegans; they refuse to eat meat and use animal products. Despite this, Arya is seen wearing a leather suit in Eragon.
As revealed in Eragon, Morzan threw his sword at a three-year-old Murtagh. Also, it was said in the synopsis at the beginning of Eldest and Brisingr that Brom and Jeod stole the egg twenty years ago and killed Morzan in the process. However, Murtagh's 'last birthday' as of Eragon was his eighteenth, which would put his birth a year or two after Morzan's death if the "twenty years" number is correct. Thus, if the "twenty years" is not just an estimate or a "rounded up" number of years (like saying 'last decade' to mean 'seven years ago'), it is impossible for Morzan to have thrown his sword at a three-year-old Murtagh; Arya also mentions in Eldest that she spent seventeen years of her position as ambassador ferrying Saphira's egg back and forth between Farthen Dûr and Ellesméra. However, Orik also stated that Morzan had died in "the last decade and a half," fifteen years, which would be consistent with a three-year-old Murtagh, and probably also with Arya's statement, as Saphira's egg was stolen before Morzan died and there was an indeterminate period of searching in between.
Arya apparently said that she had not visited Du Weldenvarden for seventy years, but she apparently invited Rhunön to the Midsummers Feast three and a half years ago.
As told in Eragon, Murtagh has brown hair. However, in Eldest and Brisingr, Murtagh is described as having black hair, although this may have been a side effect of his training in dark magic.
In the book Brisingr, in the chapter titled "The Whipping Post", a passage reads:
Moving farther into the tent, Nasuada lifted the hem of her green dress and sat on the small chest of belongings Katrina had brought with her from Carvahall.
This is problematic, because Katrina and Sloan had been kidnapped by the Ra'zac, leaving her with no opportunity to pack. Christopher Paolini has stated that this was the result of an error during manuscript editing, and was corrected in later printings.
Some have also criticized the actions of the Dragon Riders, who are supposed to be rightful and just, during the Ra'zac War, regarding their actions as kin to unjustified attempted genocide. Arya stated in Brisingr that the Ra'zac were inherently evil (unlike the Urgals), but no proof is given to back up her claim.
It is stated that every time Eragon says Brisingr, his sword bursts into flames. However, in Inheritance, Eragon says to Arya that she would be better off with the Dauthdaert and he with Brisingr, and his sword remained normal.
Complaints have been made along the series that Eragon's and Saphira's friendship is a widely asymmetrical one; many fans have seen Saphira as little more than a sidekick to Eragon, a giant fire-breathing war-horse for him to ride, one that plays little importance throughout the series. Her dialogue, it is said, is crude and beastly, such as this example from Inheritance, when Saphira consoles Eragon after his near-death experience during his duel with Murtagh:
"If he wishes to rip out your throat, then cut his hamstrings and make sure that he cannot do it again."
Saphira at least twice sounds almost like a servant to Eragon, asking for his permission to knock over Wyrden after the elf bests him four times in a sparring session, and to eat Birgit when she comes to collect her blood price from Roran. Eragon respectively responds, "Not today" and, "Not yet", implying that he can loose Saphira on whomever he likes. The reader is consistently reminded that Saphira will support Eragon in whatever choice he makes, but not the same in reverse. (The only exception is when Nasuada formed a pact of friendship with the Urgals, and Saphira disapproved of Eragon's distrust of the alliance.) Additionally, the fact that their friendship is the result of a spell can be viewed as deteriorating from their friendship, and some readers interpret this as that Eragon and Saphira are forced to love one another because they were so closely linked by magic before they even began looking out for one another. Saphira chose Eragon as her rider before he even knew her, therefore binding them before they could even take the time to know one another and developing a more realistic relationship. Their friendship is never truly jeopardized by any moral disagreements; neither of them ever question whether or not they truly are the best of companions to face Galbatorix together. Eragon's turmultous relationship with Arya is much more complicated and affecting than with Saphira.
To be fair, Saphira does sometimes try to take control of things between her and Eragon, such as kidnapping him to save him from the Ra'zac and attempting to stop him from re-entering Helgrind. But this does not answer the accusation that Saphira overall serves very little major purpose in the series; most of the plot's major twists are brought about by Eragon's feats, not Saphira's.
She manages to successfully breathe fire at the climax of the first book, Eragon, but this serves as nothing more than an additional distraction and helps to, as it were, paint a good visual image. She gives Elva the mark upon her brow, but this does not alter Elva's personality or actions in any way; Elva even says to Saphira that, because of the mark she gave her, she will always be her faithful servant—yet still she refuses to help the Varden when Saphira tries to coerce her.
Though she massacres hundreds of enemies in the cycle's many battles, she never slays a named major antagonist (unless one counts the Lethrblaka). The only significant contribution Saphira makes to the series, it can be argued, is her magical repairing of Isidar Mithrim, which significantly encourages the dwarves to lend the Varden their aid. And even this might be seen as irrelevant, since Orik (a sympathizer for the Varden and Riders) had already been elected king, and Eragon's personal emotions, Saphira admitted, were the only inspiration that allowed her to work her spell.
Deus ex Machina Instances
Deus ex machina, or simply ex machina is a point in the storyline where a seemingly unsolvable predicament is suddenly resolved with the abrupt introduction of a new character, item, or piece of knowledge; in other words, an unprecedented and all-too-convenient miracle. Deus ex machina implies that the writer has frankly trapped his own character and has to resort to bending his own reality to ensure that all still ends well, and it is generally frowned upon as a symbol of neglecting to think the plot through beforehand. However, one might also see it as a planned attempt to surprise the reader. Deus ex machina is heavily used in Inheritance.
Roran finds himself facing death during the siege of Urû'baen; surrounded by soldiers and about to be killed, he is suddenly saved by the appearance of a woman briefly mentioned in a previous book who simply refers to herself as "a passing stranger" and leaves. This is the woman who Eragon blesses in Brisingr after Angela casts the dragon bones for her.
Under Dras-Leona, Angela miraculously reveals Albitr, or "Tinkledeath", the sharpest sword in existence, which she consequently uses to free Eragon and Arya from a previously unsolvable peril.
The abrupt appearance of an entire army of werecats, which proves invaluable to the Varden in their campaign, even though up until then werecats (the only two before then being Solembum and Maud) have been seen singularly and there has been no hint of them gathering in force (or even of just how numerous werecats are) until now.
Umaroth, speaker for the Eldunarya on Vroengard, teaches Eragon a secret spell that miraculously enables Saphira to lift and carry the 136 Eldunarí without their being seen or felt, or her needing to even be in physical contact with them. The explanation for this twisting of space is not very clear, and its origins are shallow.
Murtagh's ability to strip Galbatorix of his hundreds and hundreds of wards all at once with an unidentified spell by use of the Name of Names, which it was not said that Galbatorix ever risked teaching to him.
The Eldunarí on Vroengard are able to send visions, see happenings, and alter spells across Alagaësia, even sending Eragon glimpses of the future, crediting this to their amassed numbers. They can interfere so far as to speak to Eragon through possessing Solembum, telling him where in Domia abr Wyrda he may find vital information about the Vault of Souls. But although there is no mentioning of dragons being able to do this before then, this inexplicable omniscience has been extremely helpful to all who oppose Galbatorix.
Arya and the other elves, who were left behind in the crumbling citadel after Galbatorix's death, emerge from the ruin unharmed, and in possession of the final dragon egg and all Galbatorix's Eldunarí - even though the elven spellcasters were last seen immobilized and helpless.
During the siege of Urû'baen, Roran arranges for several siege weapons to target Lord Barst simultaneously, hoping that they will break through his wards by having spellcasters guiding the projectiles to all hit him at once. The plan works almost perfectly, even though up until then the Varden's spellcasters have been suffering sporadic and uncontrollable side effects of their spells.
The unprecedented introduction of Du Niernen, the Dauthdaert, is another example of deus ex machina, seeing as the weapon was specifically designed to kill dragons and can penetrate most any wards - the perfect weapon against Galbatorix. An entire new section of history, the forging and use of the Dauthdaertya during the War of Elves and Dragons, is introduced just to explain how useful such a weapon will be in the war.
And this is only in Inheritance. Examples could be aduced from the other books as well. For instance, when the seven dwarf assassins confront Eragon in Brisingr, he would have been killed by the seventh, but the seventh one was (conveniently) unlucky enough to side-swipe one of the dwarf lanterns with his dagger, whereupon he was killed by the resulting explosion.
The criticism of the Inheritance Cycle is not limited to inconsistencies and imitation. The writing style of Christopher Paolini has also come under question. Many feel that the writing is emotionless, mathematical in its descriptions, and unable to make the readers feel for the characters. Strange and complicated synonyms are used almost at random, many of which would not have been known to one of Eragon's farmboy background and education.
His portrayal of Eragon, some believe, is unrealistically mature and calculating. Eragon can be (and has been) viewed as a Gary-Stu character - that is, an idealized and overly perfect self-insertion of the actual writer, who makes no (acknowledged) immoral decisions, is usually (alleged to be) in the right, and always does what is (supposedly) best for everyone, and getting the better of all his enemies in the process. Paolini has admitted that Eragon served as a stand-in for himself.
Similarly, Roran is sometimes also viewed as a Gary-Stu.
Additionally some believe the writing style is excessively ornate and flowery, such as this example from Eldest:
- "Every day since leaving the outpost of Ceris was a hazy dream of warm afternoons spent paddling up Eldor Lake and then the Gaena River. All around them, water gurgled through the tunnel of verdant pines that wound ever deeper into Du Weldenvarden. Eragon found traveling with the elves delightful. Narí and Lifaen were perpetually smiling, laughing, and singing songs, especially when Saphira was around. They rarely looked elsewhere or spoke of another subject but her in her presence. However, the elves were not human, no matter the similarity of appearance. They moved too quickly, too fluidly, for creatures born of simple flesh and blood. And when they spoke, they often used roundabout expressions and aphorisms that left Eragon more confused than when they began. In between their bursts of merriment, Lifaen and Narí would remain silent for hours, observing their surroundings with a glow of peaceful rapture on their faces. If Eragon or Orik attempted to talk with them during their contemplation, they would receive only a word or two in response."
The verbosity of this passage and others is the reason that many have the opinion that Paolini over-describes certain settings or characters. The main plot suffers sometimes from this much detail during the story; often taking out half of this amount of details could make the books 300-400 pages instead of around 800.
Critics also criticize Paolini's excessive use of similes, often nonsensical at times. For example, we have "Slippers flashing beneath her dress, like mice darting from a hole" in Eldest - this is unnecessary and clearly does not make sense.
The books are also said to be very predictable at times due to its overuse of cliches, and "revelations" are often obvious.
Many of those who criticize the Inheritance Cycle also add that Paolini's work was published by his parents, and then by Knopf, leaving him without the need to rewrite it for different publishers after a rejection.