Inheritance cycle

Christopher Paolini, only 15 when he started writing his epic fantasy, has created a majestic, vastly enjoyable series that has become a family favourite. A measure of its value is that despite the books, especially the last two, being doorstoppers, they are have been read and reread a number of times (witness their dog-eared and tattered state) by myself and two sons with different tastes in novels.

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The world Paolini has created across the Novels, Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr and Inheritance is complex and fascinating with a slightly different take on the usual suspects of Dragons, Elves and Dwarves. The action is fast-paced and descriptive elements are kept to a minimum with an emphasis on the thoughts and motivations of the characters which involves the reader.

Fantasy usually involves self-growth if not epiphanies and this learning is made more vivid by magical and fantastical elements. The journey Eragon goes on is far-reaching and forces him to confront every flaw and weakness.

Paolini has created a unique character in Eragon in his refusal to align himself with one race or group. The forming of strong relationships in extraordinary circumstances leads to multiple loyalties and this allows him to be a powerful catalyst for the future. Physically he actually takes on aspects of every race and this willingness to let go of self is a particular and relevant metaphor. It also leads us to understand the different races more deeply and his willingness to see beyond superficial differences to the connections between races is a great lesson.

Arya is a complex, mysterious character and her thoughts and agenda are never fully revealed to readers. Their relationship evolves from Eragon’s romantic yearning into a deep abiding connection and this pathos is a current that flows through the action.

Love is central to the development of the characters over the series and does not follow conventional patterns. Around this central relationship are a range of wonderful, brave, heroic characters. The interweaving of their distinct destinies and their struggles is compelling. The impact of violence and trauma on the characters is significant and lasting.

While this work has been labelled derivative, I don’t see this as a negative within the fantasy genre. A lot of novels are referential and the classic storyline of an orphan going on a personal quest and at the same time saving the world is the basis of many successful series. It is the way authors differentiate the story that makes them enjoyable. The Inheritance series distinguishes itself with original characters. The ending of the series is actually a perfect one, with only some ends being tied together and the rest left for one’s optimistic imagination.

Highly recommended entertaining read for when you have some spare time as you won’t be able to put it down. For readers 12 and above due to the nature of some of the content.

Being one of our favourite stories, the movie Eragon was hugely disappointing. While it followed some of the major plot aspects, the treatment was reduced to a one-dimensional adventure tale. This sort of series deserves a Peter Jackson-style treatment, with such grand settings and far-reaching themes. One particularly grating element was the character of the dragon Saphira, whose pleasant voice sounded like an airline steward rather than a savage, vain, carnivore. A significant feature of the novels is the fear and awe that the dragons inspire and this was not well-portrayed. While it may have been interesting for people new to the story, not a hit for these fans of the series.

Laws of Magic Series

Michael Pryor is the author of one of my favourite beginnings to a story.

Aubrey Fitzwilliam hated being dead. It made things much harder than they needed to be“. (Blaze of Glory).

His steampunk “Laws of Magic” series for adolescents is fast-paced, funny, thought-provoking and has a lot of plot twists. However, it is the characters that I love most about this series. They are flawed, fully-rounded personalities with histories and aspirations. The women in the series are strong, resilient and interesting with unique and mostly unbelievable skills and knowledge. The women do not wait for the male characters to define the plot but journey off errantly at times creating havoc and being heroes in their own right. The emotions between the characters are restrained and subtle which makes the different friendships and love interests authentic and poignant.

Aubrey as the main character, as in all epic series, undergoes significant growth and self-actualisation over the course of the books, learning to curb his arrogance and impatience and especially what it is to love. Most of the male characters demonstrate gentlemanliness, with little and stilted expressions of emotion underpinned by a strong sense of moral duty and doing the right thing.

The novels evoke a vivid sense of time and space, describing Edwardian dress and interiors within a wild universe of shifting realities and magic, elaborate machines and devices. When I first read them, I was struck by the originality of both the narrative and the writing. Michael Pryor assumes intelligence in his reading audience.

Both my son and I eagerly awaited each book as it came out to seek it out for purchase. As much as I love the series, for some reason I found the last novel harder to follow, it was quite dense with action as the different story lines came together and had less humour and light perhaps than the others. A satisfying conclusion but less pleasurable to read.

In summary, a vastly entertaining series and suitable for an audience of mature 10 and above. Begging to be translated into the big screen with all of the new technology for special effects.

Author: Michael Pryor
Titles: Laws of Magic series
1. Blaze of Glory
2. Heart of Gold
3. Word of Honour
4. Time of Trial
5. Moment of Truth
6. Hour of Need

http://www.michaelpryor.com.au

(Great reading also)

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pre-ramble

Before I commence posting comments, I will give my readers some guideposts to make meaning and decide if this reading experience is for you.

1. Narrative is all. I get lost and moved (can you be both at the same time?) in strong stories about human experience.

2. I review whole series rather than one novel at a time. The reason for this is that to me it is one continuous story, it should be considered and enjoyed as a whole.

3. I read pretty much anything except as I have got older, crime novels and those novels containing violent episodes. I am now more careful about what I put into my mind. A major influencer was a novel I read years ago that was vile – what is read cannot be unread!

4. I will be writing about all sorts of fiction with an emphasis though on young fiction to start with. This is because I have three sons between the ages of 11 and 16 and I tend to read books concurrently as well as having read whole series aloud in the past. Therefore novels for boys and young men are prominent. I have loved sharing the reading and viewing experiences with the boys and it provides us with a common language and references as we discuss what happens in their lives and in the world, a collective intelligence if you like. Also I simply enjoy reading the excellent fiction that is available for young people over the last ten years.

5. Where relevant, I will be reviewing the film at the same time as the books. While this is against the trend, the film is a visual translation of the story and is relevant in the way it has been treated. I don’t expect the film to follow the novel religiously, however a film that communicates the spirit of a book is a joy. Films can be enjoyed certainly without reading the book. Book-lovers will know what I mean that it is different experience to have read the book first.

6. I am so hoping this will be a dialogue, not only a monologue, I would love to read your thoughts. I am not presuming to write about literary merit, I am only describing the experience of reading and viewing for me.

I am ready to have fun.