Amid The Ruins
Another boring chapter where nothing happens. It mainly seems to exist to give the Exposition Sphere (aka Glaedr) something to exposit about. The biggest story point in it is the introduction of maginuclear explosions. Because Paolini just had to
This chapter was quick to deal with, because - that's right - NOTHING HAPPENS.
The chapter opens with a description of the crater valley on the island and exposits about Eragon's elf-vision as an excuse for the pointless detail about hanging moss and droopy lichen and blasted remains of all the Cyclopean, decrepit, non-euclidean architecture in the remains of Gondolin the home of Cthulhu. No, wait, Doru Araeba.
There's a thirty-foot-deep crater right next to the city ruins. More of that later.
It's drab but alright as far as descriptions go and a lot more than we ever got about, say, Arya. Then we get this:
'Altogether, the circular valley presented a dismal picture.'
No shit. You just told us. We get the picture.
Exposition Sphere teaches Eragon the magic spell Protection from Radiation, 30' radius. Eragon wonders why and gets treated with exposition about how Thuviel, not a Maid of Mars, asploded himself and turned the whole island into a post-apocalyptic wasteland by turning his flesh into energy.
Physics flash time! (Pun intended.)
Nuclear bombs have pretty lousy matter-to-energy conversion ratio. The Fat Man bomb managed to convert about 1 gram of matter into heat and radiation, making up a 21 kiloton explosion. Now here we have an elf - they're skinny so let's assume a mass around 60kg - converting into energy, so we get 60 000 x 21 kilotons or 1260 megatons. The Tsar Bomba, biggest nuke ever built, was originally designed up to 100 megatons but nerfed to half of that to reduce fallout. It was powerful enough to completely obliterate an area of 35 kilometer radius, crack windows 900 kilometers away and turn Andrei Sakharov into a pacifist.
The Krakatoa explosion is estimated about 200 megatons and the shock wave from that went around the globe seven times.
The point? An explosion like that on the ground would have flattened every single building and glassed the whole damn island. It wouldn't have left a measly 30-ft-deep crater. Conventional bunker-buster bombs of WW2 were perfectly sufficient for that. It probably would not have caused a complete nuclear winter, going off in a valley with no large areas to put on fire or megatons of volcanic ash to spew into stratosphere, but it would have dropped global temperature quite a bit for a number of years. However it would have vaporized all living things there, bones and all.
Now back to business.
Glaedr babbles on about how big the explosion was. If it was only that big then it was a miserable failure. Even bigger failure here is introducing maginuclear explosions at this point of the story. It is only well after halfway through the last book.
They go further down and Glaedr uses his long-distance ESP radar to guide them and keeps babbling about the curiously Tolkienesquely named mountain peaks and people who lived there and about the kinds of dandelions used to grow there and whatever and makes everyone sad because he just won't shut up. Down down they go and buildings get bigger and Eragon who could see the bees' knees in the abandoned flower gardens gets all the more impressed by them, so either the building are truly non-euclidean and don't obey the laws of optics, or Eragon can't see a forest from the squirrels. I'd guess the latter.
They fly by the humongous skull of Belgarath, or Belgabigbad or whatever, and Exposition Sphere gets all Yorick about him and what a fellow of infinite jest he used to be alive. Not. More exposition about how advanced dragons can hibernate to save energy, just like computers. The dragon boneyard only makes Eragon angry, because being sad is a sign weakness and only to be experienced by proxy of geriatric dragonballs. Saphira must be flying really really slow here, and by Jove she does get ambushed by the ground as soon as the exposition ends. The altitude-detection spell from the storm must have worn off the same moment Glaedr's ESP radar failed. Cue dragon-hits-the-ground scene fresh from Skyrim trailers.
'“We made it,” [Eragon] said, amazed.'
No shit, you have been flying over the damn island for the whole chapter and could have landed at any time.
'The field sloped upward, away from the city, to the base of the nearest foothill, which was covered with forest.'
Generally cities are more important than foresty foothills, so the field would more naturally slope downward toward the city. If the protagonists were heading away from city this would make sense, but instead we only get a prime example about how backward Paolini's writing often is.
Eragon spots an ugly tall rock standing somewhere and deduces with his Marty Stu powers that it must be the Rock of Kuthian. Way to go, crashlanding into a giant city full of humongous dragon hangars and other giant architecture you spot the ultimate goal in plain view less than a minute after dismounting. Exposition Sphere has laser-guided amnesia about the rock, which for Eragon is the ultimate proof. For Paolini, that's untypically subtle writing.
They make their way trough the Old Haunted Applewood that has grown uncouth in the absence of ents to the clearing about the big ugly rock, full of plants never seen growing in the same place in nature. Eragon gets all spirited up and ready rush in proverbial guns blazing but Exposition Sphere tells him to stop and get some sleep instead. Eragon, being his usual sociopathic self, climbs onto his dead tired magic pony and rides her back out of the woods because he's afraid of the trees and invisible squirrels and they set up camp at a safe distance.
'Do not wake me unless something is trying to eat us,' says Saphira and they go to sleep.
That wraps up the boring chapter and next up is even more boring SNALGLÍ FOR TWO where Eragon gets eaten by a snail. Or so you'd wish. It's mostly exposition about how wrong everything is in Wrongard.