This reaction came from a mix of A. There are a lot of other (read: better) fantasy books in the world to read and B. I had a few friends in high school that liked to complain about Paolini's writing and more recently I've realized how easily I can be swayed by other people's opinions. So to throw off that stigma of the Inheritance Cycle being "oh so terrible" or "god awful" (as I've seen it described) and form my own opinion about the series, I decided to re-read the first two books and actually finish the series for once, but this time I listened to the audiobooks (much like I did with the Divergent series last year).
Let's just say, I was surprised at what I discovered. Eragon has always been held in a different place in my heart than other books because back in middle school (when dragons ruled the earth), Eragon was my life. It's the reason I started writing my own dragon stories and came to love dragons more than almost anything. (I mean, chocolate and books also exist.) Basically, Eragon (and The Hobbit because, duh, Smaug) is the basis of everything I write. But I always felt that the series let me down after I read Eldest, and I couldn't bear to pick up the monster that was Brisingr (and then Inheritance came out and made Brisingr look small, wowzer).
More recently, though, I can say that I enjoyed the series. Yes, there are a lot of flaws in the story. Yes, it's cliche and stereotypical. Yes, it could have been better. But you know what? For what it is, the series is good, it's decent, and it definitely has potential. (Seriously, though, give me a Game of Thrones-style show where it can dive into the darker, grittier side of high fantasy and I guarantee people would watch it, not the lame-o garbage of a movie we got in 2006).
Eragon follows the Hero's Journey so closely it's basically the story of Star Wars in a Lord of the Rings world. (Seriously, I could map it out for you; I might just do that because it's hilarious.) But if you can ignore that and the lengthy descriptions of exposition, the story isn't bad. It involves dragons and creepy monsters and Brom. Brom is definitely the best in this book, followed by Arya and Murtagh. (Basically, everybody but Eragon, amirite?) There's action and world-building (lots and lots of world-building) and did I mention the dragons yet? Because dragons. It's a fun adventure story with a lot of detail and dragons.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Of the entire "cycle," Eldest is the worst. It has a lot of boring parts like Eragon training (there is literally 5 minutes worth of narrative that consists of Eragon interacting with ants! Ants!!!) or Roran traveling for days on end with the entire village of Carvahall. But there are some merits: Roran kicking butt, Arya kicking butt, and
Rating: 3/5 stars (though it probably deserves like 2.75 or something)
Brisingr is a step-up from Eldest, but only due to the amazingly epic dragon battles! Seriously, those parts were the absolute best! (Yes, plural: two whole dragon battles. I mean, is it Christmas or what?) But this book dives deeper into the world's history and the dragon lore. There is so much explored and explained that I'm kind of in awe. (You mean Paolini has an imagination? What the what?) We also get our first appearance of Galabatorix, and it was kind of glorious. Nasuada and Arya are obviously cool also. If they (along with the dragon battles) weren't present in this book, it would suffer a lot. But they do. So it's definitely possible to get through this book without too much screaming or pulling out your eyeballs (*whispers* because dragon battles).
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Inheritance, however, sealed the deal for me. This book--how it flowed, how the characters developed, how everything was resolved--it was all done well. I think you can see that Paolini grew as a writer over the course of the series, and it shines in Inheritance. It surprised me, but I think that's a good thing. There was a lot I enjoyed about this book, but to keep it spoiler-free, I'll just say if you've come this far, read Inheritance and finish the series. Believe me, it's definitely worth it.
Rating: 4/5 stars
OverallThe Inheritance Cycle is definitely not going to satisfy everybody. I know a lot of people who dislike it, and I know a lot of people who love it. I think if you can read it and enjoy it for what it is--a YA high fantasy involving dragons--then it's worth reading. Look past the flaws, ignore the lengthy passages (which are definitely not as lengthy as Tolkien's work), and appreciate all the dragons. Because there are actually a lot of dragons by the end of it, and it's glorious. What more do you need?
~I checked out audiobook copies of the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini from my local library and chose to review them of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~