You would think a chapter entitled “No Honor, No Glory, Only Blisters in Unfortunate Places” would be unintentionally hilarious, but unfortunately, this is no “Around the Campfire.”
Like the chapters before it, this one is filler. Nothing relevant happens in the slightest, aside from giving me the chance to do some Extreme Complaining.
The chapter starts off with Roran and some of his men being chased by a pack of baying dogs. Wait, no, sorry, it's “belling” dogs. I'm not exactly sure how that verb works when applied to dogs.
Minor nitpick time:
The pounding of the horse’s hooves rolled through [Roran] like thunder.
I'll admit, I'm no horse-woman, but I've ridden before, and I've never really registered the force of the hooves. Perhaps it's because I've always been too concerned with the motion of the horse that kept threatening to toss me out of the saddle, but I can't ever recall noting the feel of the feet pounding.
After three sentences about actiony “being chased” stuff, the book spends a paragraph explaining what is going on. This seems par for the course for this book; an exciting (Paolini's and our definitions of “exciting” wildly vary) action hook starts the chapter, only to be quickly halted in order to insert some description or exposition. It's sloppy, amateurish writing, and it's a very cheap trick authors use to get readers interested in their books.
This particular wrench in the narrative stops to tell us that Roran and his dudes stole horses from a manor, and the grooms “had not taken kindly to the theft.” This is a prime example of telling, rather than showing, and it doesn't even make sense in the story.
[Nasuada] pursed her lips, considering. “Very well, take whomever you want, just so long as you leave within the hour. Let me know how many are going with you, and I’ll see to it that the appropriate number of horses are waiting along the way.”
So why in the name of Belgium did they steal horses?! Is Roran secretly a serial horse-thief? There is no reason at all in story continuity that Roran would be stealing horses.
However, outside of story continuity, there is a very simple reason why he would steal horses.
Paolini wanted to write a chase scene.
This is really quite galling to me, especially since Roran is already (let's face it) an entirely irrelevant character. Writing something for the reason “because I felt like it, dang it” is incredibly self-indulgent, and it's not acceptable in a published work. When you write for yourself, you can write pages upon pages of your self-insert visiting the magical bazaar. That is fine. But when you're writing for an audience, you cannot write whatever comes to mind. You have to write what is best for the story, not for yourself, because the book isn't about you. It's frustrating when I can feel the author seeping through the story, because I didn't sign up to read about Paolini; I signed up to read about Alagaesia. Ostensibly.
Long-winded tangent aside, I had better get back to the chapter before the spork ends up longer than the source material.
The dudes leave the road and head toward some hills and a stream. Roran asks Carn, his magician, if he can magically hide their trail, and Carn says that he doesn't know how. I'm not exactly sure how hiding one's trail would help, since they're being followed by hounds who track by scent.
Out of context time!
They seemed to fly over the ground, their long, lean bodies lengthening and contracting at a violent rate.
Surprisingly, the heroes have more than just stallions. Roran is riding a gelding, and one of his men has a mare. Of course, these were presumably stolen from Bad Guys, so I guess it only makes sense that they aren't stallions.
The dudes ride through a birch thicket. Don't ask me why, it doesn't make any sense.
Roran notices one of his dudes, Mandel, and spends a paragraph recalling how impressed he is by this character. Mandel plays no significant role in the story. And this is the middle of a chase scene.
They reach the top of the hill and hurtle down it toward the river. We get some lovely description like “dead leaves crackled under its iron-shod hooves” and “splashing wings of water as high as Roran's knees” during this oh-so-tense chase scene.
Roran realizes that they're going to have to turn and fight, apparently, because his horse is completely spent after running about, oh, a mile. No, really. The manor they took them from was just half a mile away, and all they've done is run over this hill and across a river, and the horses are acting like they're about to DIE. Yeah, running at full gallop isn't going to really brighten their days, but I'd imagine any good riding horse would be able to run for at least a few miles before collapsing from exhaustion.
Across the river, they find a hollow where they put the horses. Roran and Baldor move a log around to help gain some cover, and Roran thinks about how weak he is after riding “at full gallop” for three days.
Carn casts a spell, a Roran feels frustrated that he doesn't have that ability.
Of all the skills a warrior could possess, none was more useful; lacking it left him at the mercy of those who could reshape the world with nothing more than their will and a word.
This is actually kind of good. I really like seeing Roran feeling envious of magicians, and I would have loved to see this sentiment played out more, especially between Roran and Eragon. This sense of helplessness from non-magicians is a very interesting and powerful idea. I only wish it was played with more.
Fact-check; the dogs had red tongues in the previous page. Now a dog has an “engorged, purplish tongue.” Yes, that exact phrasing. Where was the editor in all of this? It was on the PREVIOUS PAGE.
Carn's spell makes the dogs confused, and they leave the hollow. This moment of peace gives Roran a chance to explore the title of the chapter.
As he sat waiting, Roran noticed that his leggings were mottled with several dark blotches along the inside of his thighs. He touched one of the discolored areas, and his fingers came away with a film of bloody liquid. Each blotch marked the location of a blister. Nor were they his only ones; he could feel blisters on his hands—where the reins had chafed the web of skin between his thumbs and forefingers—and on his heels, and in other, more uncomfortable places.
Okay. We had Oromis in Eldest. We had Eragon in Brisingr. And now we have Roran in Inheritance. WE DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR CHARACTERS' MAN-BITS, PAOLINI. This is getting seriously out-of-hand. I'm wondering if this is just one of his author quirks, like Orson Scott Card including a naked scene in every book. One word of advice. GET BETTER QUIRKS.
Again, I am not that much of an equestrian, but I've lived in a semi-rural area for pretty much all my life, and I know a lot of people who do own horses. That, plus a bit of googling, leads me to believe that Paolini doesn't know what he's talking about.
Either that, or Roran is a complete and utter idiot. Saddle soreness primarily comes from resting your weight improperly or in the same way for long periods of time. It leads to muscular soreness in the thighs, and it can also lead to abrasion (and eventually abscess) on the buttocks. If wearing the wrong type of clothing (pants with prominent seams, like jeans) or riding a slippery saddle, a rider can badly chafe the inside of his or her thighs. But blistering? I don't think so.
Maybe on the inside of your knees, which WOULD rub against the saddle, but I have never heard of someone getting blisters—let alone blood blisters—on their thighs due to riding. Plus, why would they be small, individual blisters? The chafing would be fairly uniform, one would think, unless Roran has sequins in his pants or something, so he should have a long, thin blister if anything, not a group of small individual ones.
Plus, blisters take time to form. They've only ridden for a couple miles since their last stop, so they must have been there before. Did Roran not notice that he had legions of blisters all along his legs when he mounted his gelding? Did he fail to see the streaks of blood on his saddle when he dismounted?
Also. Blisters on his hands and heels. And groin (eeew). Why isn't Roran wearing gloves? He's handling a rough rope in his hands for hours on end, I would think he would want some gloves. And as I'm sitting here, imagining myself on my pretend horse (she's a palomino!), I would definitely think that you'd end up with blisters either on the bit at the base of your fingers or along the outside of your index fingers. I can't really picture holding the reins in a way that would blister the webbing part of your hands. And Roran must have really bizarre boots, if he can manage to Moses his way through the wilderness no problem, but a few days of riding somehow gives him heel blisters. I don't know how the heck that works.
Roran looks around and realizes that everyone else has also been stupid and gotten blisters, so he thinks that he'll have Carn heal them. Except for himself.
If the magician seemed too tired, however, Roran would refrain from having his own blisters healed; he would rather endure the pain than allow Carn to expend all of his strength before they arrived at Aroughs, for Roran suspected that Carn’s skills might very well prove useful in capturing the city.
Yes. Because it's a good idea to have your CAPTAIN going through horrible, agonizing, distracting pain for capturing a city. GREAT plan, Roran. I know this is meant to show how he's being Noble and Heroic and Self-Sacrificing, but it falls flat because Roran has always seemed more pragmatic than noble in the past. It's a stupid gesture, and it doesn't work with this character.
Thinking of Aroughs and of the siege he was somehow supposed to win caused Roran to press his free hand against his breast to check that the packet containing the orders he could not read and the commission he doubted he would be able to keep were still safely tucked in his tunic. They were.
Where was Paolini's editor?!
Thinking a thought does not cause someone to move their hand to their chest. There is no causality there. It's not a knee-jerk reaction. This could have been so easily fixed. Here, I'll show you.
Thinking of Aroughs and the siege he was somehow supposed to win, Roran pressed his free hand...
Roran thought of Aroughs and of the siege he was somehow supposed to win. He pressed his free hand...
Roran pressed his hand against the packet containing his orders, thinking of Aroughs and the siege he was somehow supposed to win.
Any of these, plus a bunch of other variations I could have written, would have worked far, far better than the gangly, unorganized, nonsensical sentence that Paolini and his editor decided to go with. Shoddy, shoddy work, guys.
After the dogs run off, one of the men asks Carn why he didn't cast the Spell of Confusion before. Carn angrily retorts that he hadn't thought of it yet, and that he shouldn't be so ungrateful. He has a point, Carn. You really should be a bit more on your toes.
Roran asks if Carn can hide their trail. Carn says no, because “Men are harder to fool than dogs” even though the dogs would be following their scent, not their trail.
This is dumb. Roran and co. would have presumably stolen the best horses in the manor. They could have stayed on the nice, bramble-free road and simply outrun the guards. Instead, they ran the horses over a hill, through a thicket, and across a stream, leaving a clear trail for them to be followed and killed. Carn could have even cast a sleeping spell on the remaining horses so that the guards wouldn't be able to follow them at all. They've wasted a lot of time and effort running from people that they should never have had to run from.
This chapter accomplished nothing. I know that's nothing new for this book, but this chapter was even worse than the previous ones. They begin the chapter riding, they end the chapter riding. Nothing in this chapter affects anything. While you can argue that a chapter like “Dancing With Swords” gives us a bit of character development, this chapter is devoid of anything to contribute to the overall story. Paolini has inexplicably gotten worse and more self-indulgent as a writer, and that really disappoints me.