Welcome to Chapter 61 of the Inheritance spork: FIRE-IN-THE-NIGHT!
After nightfall, Eragon sneaks into the Varden camp to see Roran and Katrina. The reason is to place protective magic spells them.
Of course, this is where we again run into the problem of Paolini’s weird magic system. Paolini goes on for several paragraphs about these spells. Eragon “placed spells around Katrina, to protect her against any who might harm her.” That’s nice. But it’s also very vague. That would be fine, but Paolini keeps dwelling on this stuff even when he doesn’t explain it any better. And it feels pretty irrelevant too. I’m pretty sure we’re never going to need to worry about Katrina’s safety, so who cares what wards she’s got on her?
And then, we get stuff like “he endowed the spells with more energy than he thought Roran would approve of.” So how much is that? Not even in terms of any units, but based on comparison? Like, worth three of seven jewels in his magic belt? Or what? We know nothing. And worse yet, we can be pretty sure that Eragon’s not in any real danger because of this excessive use of energy.
Frankly, I feel like the Paolini magic is a huge waste of time and words. We keep talking about it, but it’s never really anything interesting or relevant.
For magic systems, there are basically two options. One, magic is there, it does things, we never even ask how or why. Plenty of video games approach magic like this. This spell book lets you shoot fireballs. It never mystically lets you freeze things or, most likely, even warm up a cup of tea. This is Magic A, and it functions just like a sword or an axe would, but works off a different stat and uses MP. That’s it. See Fire Emblem, Tales Series, most RPGs, the Harry Potter books (not including any supplementary materials).
Two, you make a magic system that is obscenely complicated and integral to the nature of your fictional world. You explain every detail – and the ones you don’t explain, fans will fanwank into some logical progression based on what you did give them. See, Type-Moon.
Now, feel free to disagree with me, but I prefer to read things in those two categories. Either tell me everything and have it make sense, or don’t bother telling anything.
Eragon also uses a few spells that will draw off Roran and Katrina’s strength to function. That’s… you know, as far as I remember, normal humans don’t have that much energy to give to spells. That’s why dragon riders make far better casters – they can draw magic from their dragons. So how is basing spells on the normal humans Katrina and Roran a good and worthwhile decision?
You know, Eragon, there might be a reason why no one does this.
Then, Eragon justifies himself by saying, “He could not bear the thought of defeating Galbatorix only to find that Roran had died during the battle.”
That’s a nice sentiment. I would like to see that. Except that so far, Eragon has kind of failed to show emotional depth when faced with the loss of a loved one (see Garrow, Brom). Also, I just never really got the feeling that Eragon and Roran are that close.
Eragon and Roran chat a bit about how they’re looking forward to more murder. We get this great line: Roran gave an evil chuckle. “That I will.” That seems wildly out of place somehow.
Before Eragon leaves, he asks Roran to bury him and Saphira at Carvahall, if they should die. Because he can’t stand the thought of leaving his bones to rot at Uru’baen. You know, I thought Eragon was above superstition, like an elf. So that kind of sentimentality shouldn’t matter. He should be concerned about leaving a corpse to turn into a zombie.
Then Eragon goes to see Horst and his family, then Jeod. There is brief mention of Jeod writing an account of Eragon’s journey and his own dragon egg stealing adventures. This is supposed to be him wrapping up loose ends, and also a kind of review of “this is what we did to get here.” It… well, it falls a bit flat. It’s very mechanical. Actually, a lot of Paolini’s writing is very mechanical in this chapter. It reads more like a script. It’s a list of what happened, with no real description or emotion behind it. (I have that problem sometimes…)
Eragon unmagics himself and talks to the ordinary troops. Or rather, lies to them, about where he and Saphira will be fighting, with the purpose of misleading Galbatorix’s spies. I feel a bit like this is somehow pointless.
Then, he goes to see Elva.
Apparently, his entire plan hinges on a little girl.
Elva… no, you know what, that name is stupid, especially in a series with actual elves.
Elva Eva has a great moment, when Eragon tries to talk her into helping.
“I’ll help.” She stamped her foot and glared at him. “You don’t have to bribe me. I was going to help anyway. I’m not about to let Galbatorix destroy the Varden just because I don’t like you. You’re not that important, Eragon.”
Oh Evie. You’ve grown up so much. From a selfish (if justifiedly so) mean girl, to a real hero, striving for the greater good, for everyone’s sake. Too bad you got kind of ruined by Eragon along the way.
They hear strange sounds from the city, and after a bit Eragon realizes it’s the sound of a dragon walking on stone. But he can hear it a mile away! What kind of dragon is that (not a quote)
This starts a very terrible problem. A problem of proportions. If this thing can be heard a mile away, how loud is it for those within the city? Also, would the sound of clicking claws on stone pavement really be that much louder? I would expect the sound of stomping instead. Not to mention, that’s some amazing pavement, to endure his weight.
Then we get this: The dragon’s shadowy bulk blotted out most of the lanterns and watchlights in the city. How big is he? Eragon wondered, dismayed. Bigger than Glaedr, that was certain. As big as Belgabad? Eragon could not tell.
The dragon took off. How is something like that flying?
Everyone panics. Shruikan starts setting fire to the camp. There are lots of really stupid descriptions. “The night filled with a sound like a crashing waterfall.” “His formless black shape.” And so on.
Then this giant dragon sets down among the city buildings and wanders off. Eragon is terrified. That would be nice, but aside from two sentences, it doesn’t appear again.
But why didn’t it kill them? “He wanted to frighten us.” Eragon frowned. “Or distract us.” Right. That makes about as much sense as anything else Galbatorix has done.
Elva tells Eragon that Shruikan is completely insane and out to kill everything. That makes Eragon sad because he wants to save Shruikan. And only Shruikan. So, more proof for my theory that it’s really Saphira and her mentality that are in charge here?
Eragon and Elva take off to execute some plan. Which we, of course, know nothing about.