As I mentioned in my review of Brisingr, book three of the series, I was crazy about Eragon when I originally read it a decade ago. I was less thrilled with books two and three, but this book captured some of the magic of the original for me! I actually really enjoyed this book.
This review will not contain significant spoilers.
I don't know if Paolini's writing has improved since books two and three or if it really is just a return to whatever made the first book work, but this book was really solid! While it is in a fairly generic fantasy setting, he has some really interesting and very original plot elements. More on that later.
The writing is still maybe not the best, particularly dialogue. Which there was a lot of. I feel like this book improved over earlier works, and it should be noted that Paolini is still very young. He seems to mostly have recovered from his dangerous thesaurus addiction. I would have liked to see less lengthy dialogue and more depth to certain people and relationships, but this book was very enjoyable overall.
The other problem I had with the book was that it went on for a hundred pages after it was done. The main plot ended, and Paolini had characters wandering around the continent wrapping up every single loose end in excruciating detail. That was bad. Leave some mystery, or just summarize or something! The part after the epic conflict was pretty brutal to read.
While I generally took issue with the dialogue and frequent conversations characters sat around and had, there was one quote that filled my heart with joy. Eragon and another character were discussing religion. It was in no way relevant to the story, like many conversations in the book. It is implied that Eragon lacks morality due to not believing he is accountable to a god. He replies:
I need no master to punish me in order to behave as I ought. If I did, I would be no more than a child who obeys his father's rules only because he fears the whip, and not because he actually means good.This is a concept that I feel like I have tried to express before, somewhat less articulately. Morality isn't really morality if it's just based on divine repercussions! It made me happy to have that thought expressed so well in this book.
My favorite thing about Inheritance was the Murtagh/Nasuada plotline. As I mentioned in my review of Brisingr, Murtagh was totes my favorite character when I was 16. He was not super interesting (ok, what was?) in books two or three, but his chapters were really, really compelling in this book! Not to give away anything, but there were really dark themes that appealed to me that I was surprised to see happening in a young adult book! Murtagh's plot was really original and startling, and was the strongest part of the book for me.
I can almost recommend reading Eragon, skipping the middle two books and going straight for this one. There is an extensive summary of the other books at the beginning of Inheritance that almost would do the trick! Either way, I do recommend this series to young readers, or to unusually tolerant adult readers. I think the unusual aspects of the story and compelling plot overcome the sketchy writing, but not by a huge margin.