jair_greycoat (jair_greycoat) wrote in antishurtugal,
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Inheritance Spork: Chapter 8 - The Price of Power

Hello everyone!

In which nothing much happens, except that I bore you all to tears with approximately 2,300 words.

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The chapter begins with Nasuada standing in front of a ragged tapestry that’s got a lot of holes in it, while a servant is taking the wrappings off her arms. Orrin is in the room, looking out of a window down on the city. I imagine that they’re high up in the keep, in a room by the outer wall, most likely.
It’s boring.


Almost immediately we get a paragraph that is twelve lines long and contains nothing except description of the scars on Nasuada’s arms, which she got back in Brisingr, during what was basically a staring contest with knives. The paragraph adds absolutely nothing to the chapter, either character development or plot. It wrecks the pacing. It also includes some particularly pink purple prose:

The scars rose above the surface of her arm about a quarter of an inch, forming hard ridges of flesh that looked exactly as if smooth steel rods had been inserted underneath her skin.

. . . And by “particularly,” I mean that on a level of 1 to 10, where Paolini’s usual style would be called an eight on the purple-prose scale, this rates an eight-and-a-half. I think the whole paragraph should have been cut. In fact, a lot of this chapter could be trimmed down or outright cut.


Then Paolini drops some throw-away references, mentioning two rituals that as far as I know have never been mentioned before.

The only rituals of the wandering tribes that she observed, and then only irregularly, were associated with their religion. She had never aspired to master the Drum Dance, nor participate in the arduous Calling of Names, nor—and this most particularly—best anyone in the Trial of the Long Knives.

Technically I don’t have a problem with the prose (aside from the fact that it’s part of a boring start-up to a chapter). I take issue because it sounds like Paolini came up with the first two rituals on the spot as he wrote them in, and he hasn’t actually thought them out. Based on his past record, these throw-away references will be just that: thrown away, having no background support and no foreground relevance. I don’t like this. Nearly every bit of world-building is supposed to have at least something to do with the story, otherwise it’s just dandelion seed. World-building, in general, is something that is supposed to be done in the first and/or second book if it’s part of a series, and the last book is supposed to focus on bringing the plot threads to a close. If the author keeps adding throw-away references that often can’t possibly affect the plot because of their late disclosure, it starts to feel like fluff in the reader’s mouth.


Orrin tells Nasuada that she should break her alliance with the urgals, and then gets upset when Nasuada tells him she won’t and can’t. He says some racist things:

“[. . .] Or better yet, send Eragon and Saphira into the Spine with a battalion of men to wipe [the urgals] out once and for all, as the Riders should have done centuries ago.”

. . .

“[. . .] Fine, leave some of the Urgals alive, but kill enough of them that they won’t dare leave their haunts for a hundred years or more!”

. . . That is pretty racist. Unfortunately, any disgust Paolini probably wanted me to feel at Orrin’s character for saying this is destroyed due to the fact that all through the first three books, elves and dragons were regarded by word-of-author as being better than everyone else. If a character didn’t imply it, the narration did, using such underhanded tactics as “elves are enlightened and have science!” and “humans are ignorant savages.” If someone was not saying urgals needed to be killed, they were saying elves are better than fill-in-the-blank, and if they were not saying elves are better, they were saying dragons are better. . . and so on. Oh, I almost forgot—humans smell, but “Compared to [humans], the scent of a dragon is a perfume as delightful as a meadow of mountain flowers.” *gag*

Bleh.

To be fair, the stinky racism was strongest in Eldest. Maybe Paolini will write it differently this time. I haven’t read very far into Inheritance, so I can’t say yet.

I think Paolini shoved the racism on Orrin’s character as a set-up to make him look really bad later in the book. 

Nasuada explains that she wants to make peace with the urgals (I refuse to capitalize race-titles), and Orrin responds that they’ll probably just attack the Varden after the war with Galbatorix is over. Nasuada replies that they should follow the example of the elves, dragons, and Riders in not killing the urgals, and once again Paolini manages to imply that elves and dragons are greater than everything else, even while trying to have his character say something that’s supposed to be good. Is he implying that the humans in his world couldn’t figure out for themselves some reasons why racism is bad?

Nasuada asks Orrin if he lost someone, and how it happened. Orrin’s reply starts with the phrase “as you might expect” which indicates that he thinks flippantly of this person’s death. . . or maybe Paolini has just failed his social/emotional perception checks.

It turns out that he is upset over the death of a friend, so that’s why he’s being genocidal. A Borromeo Castle is mentioned; it’s not on the map. I suspect Paolini doesn’t know where this castle is, and that it will be forgotten and never mentioned again. It’s another throw-away reference. I think what I said about world-building applies.

Nasuada says she’s sorry.

The gems in Orrin’s crown glittered as he nodded in acknowledgment.

This is, I think, a good example of how Paolini’s prose tends to wreck the mood of a scene.  Mentioning that the gems in Orrin’s crown are glittering moves the focus from him to the description, as if the description is just as, or more important, than the characters. I don’t think we need to hear about Orrin’s crown, or the gems in it. Here is one way the sentence is better written: “Orrin nodded.” It’s short and concise, and I think that implies respect on the part of the narrator for Orrin’s loss. Paolini: a few words well placed are better than ten that fog the mark.

Nasuada says the urgals killed her father, but that she’s decided an alliance would help the Varden more than feuding, and that they must not allow grief to dictate their decisions.

Then we get this:

“At least,” said Nasuada, “we didn’t encounter any soldiers who were enchanted not to feel pain.”
“The laughing dead, you mean,” Orrin muttered, using the term that she knew had become widespread throughout the Varden.

As you know, Bob. . . .

I think Paolini either decided the name he had invented for them wasn’t descriptive enough, and so he felt he needed to explain, or, he was just trying to avoid using the word ‘painless’ as a name, which would have been better. Either way, if we were going to encounter these soldiers again in this book, then there would be no need to explain that they can’t feel pain in such an obvious manner—what happened to the practice of subtly hinting at things in order to create tension? From this I’m guessing we won’t see painless* in this story again.

Nasuada and Orrin talk about prisoners, and how they have so many that it’s getting hard to keep track of them all. Apparently Galbatorix has been forcing a lot of soldiers and civilians to swear allegiance in the ancient language to him, which means that now that the Varden have moved in, they have to keep everyone prisoner for fear some unknown person will wreck havoc on them. The Varden’s magicians are overworked, and it’s implied that they’re trying to find out who’s sworn an oath to Galbatorix and who hasn’t.

Okay, first of all, why should Galbatorix need to extract the ultimate oath from anyone? The citizens in his Empire already owe him their allegiance. Unless everybody is irreligious, an ordinary oath in this medieval setting should be strong enough. (Of course, it could be argued that this is something that makes Galbatorix a bad guy.)

Second, why does everyone seem to assume that only people who have sworn allegiance to Galbatorix in the ancient language are dangerous? Does that mean people who haven’t are not going to try and undermine the Varden? That people who haven’t are going to welcome the Varden with open arms?

There’s more exposition about how the war has been going from Nasuada’s POV. It’s very boring. Paolini could have said all he needed to say with some more dialog between her and Orrin, but instead we have. . . six monster paragraphs of exposition, with one lonely, insignificant bit of dialog cowering between them. That is one and a half whole pages of stuff that could have been said in a few short, simple lines.

The worst of it is that this exposition is probably not going to have any impact on the plot at all.
Then Orrin gets the idea that they can solve their prisoner problem (and presumably save time and shorten the war), by going around Dras-Leona, the next city on Nasuada’s list to sack—um, I mean “liberate”. 

Nasuada did not need to ponder his suggestion; she had already considered the possibility. “The risk would be too great. Galbatorix could still attack us with the soldiers he has stationed in Dras-Leona—which is no small number, if our spies are to be trusted—and then we’d end up fending off attacks from two directions at once. I know of no quicker way to lose a battle, or a war. No, we must capture Dras-Leona.”

Attacking each city in turn before they get to Urû’baen is NOT a good strategy. Sieges are long and costly, and the Varden will lose just as many soldiers if they tried to take the city right away as they would otherwise, possibly a lot more. A general does not go up and attack every city he comes across in a medieval campaign—doing so weakens his army unnecessarily. By Nasuada’s own admission, the city is well-defended. In fact, considering that the city is next to a lake, it couldn’t even be besieged effectively without having to spread the army’s forces around the lake to make sure Galbatorix doesn’t ferry in supplies from the opposite shore via boat.

The fact that their reinforcements, the dwarves, haven’t arrived back from Farthen Dûr yet, isn’t even considered at all.

In short, Nasuada is making a major tactical mistake. From Galbatorix’s perspective all he needs to do to make Dras-Leona next to impossible to capture is to send Murtaugh and Thorn there. Of course, that’s not even starting on how this whole war is a mistake to begin with.

Also, I’m not clear on why she’s worrying that Galbatorix will attack them from Dras-Leona if they bypass it. Considering how he hasn’t attacked them so far except for the last battle in Eldest and the two-hundred laughing dead a little later, the narration doesn’t give a reason why this would suddenly change for the worse. That said, I’m not even clear on why Galbatorix has an army in the first place. Didn’t the Varden totally defeat the Empire’s (unreasonable) number of forces at the end of the second book?

Continuing on the subject of prisoners:

“[. . .] Maybe we can also bind [them] with spells to restrict their movement, so that we don’t have to keep watch over them so closely. Other than that, I see no solution, except to slaughter the whole lot of them, and I would rather—” She tried to imagine what she would not do in order to defeat Galbatorix. “I would rather not resort to such . . . drastic measures.”

This sounds very much like one of those points of detachedness from the rest of the human race Eragon has often been accused of. That she’s even thinking this shows her to be a tyrant, and a person who can’t, or doesn’t, empathize with the common people.

Nasuada, think on what you are saying!

Orrin worries that their campaign against the Empire is badly-executed:

“[. . .] That our forces, and those of our allies, are dangerously scattered, and that if Galbatorix should take it in his head to join in the fight himself, he could destroy us as easily as Saphira could a herd of goats. [. . .]”

Then why doesn’t he?

Apparently they intend to meet with Queen Islanzadí’s army at Urû’baen, instead of meeting up at some point <i>before</i> they reach the Empire’s capital. In real life, if that was their plan, then they’re dead. Even the characters realize it now. Paolini’s super-massive plot-hole (Galbatorix not outright attacking the Varden) just grows bigger and bigger, and I don’t think he is even trying to patch it up.

The Dauthdaert is mentioned, and its place as a plot-saver is reaffirmed. It’s implied that Nasuada had no real plan to kill Galbatorix before the spear was discovered, which makes me wonder why she decided to invade in the first place!

One last gem from Nasuada-she-who-fights-valiantly-but-has-no-wisdom:

“Besides, it does no good to worry. We cannot hasten the dwarves here, nor speed our own progress toward Urû’baen, nor turn tail and flee. So I would not let our situation trouble you excessively. All we can do is strive to accept our fate with grace, whatever it might be. The alternative is to allow the thought of Galbatorix’s possible actions to unsettle our minds, and that I won’t do. I refuse to give him such power over me.”

So she’s not even going to consider what Galbatorix might do, which would require a massive change of tactics on her part? These words sound pretty, but she’s chosen to sink her head in the oil. . . what if Galbatorix decides to light a match? Is she not going to allow the thought of that to upset her mind?

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*I’m using the word as a name, which Paolini could have done and would have been much more creative than calling them “the laughing dead.”
Tags: anti-shur'tugal, inheritance, inheritance sporks, sporkings
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