The covers of the four books.
|Cover artist||John Jude Palencar|
|Publisher||Paolini LLC (early edition of Eragon)
Alfred A. Knopf
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback) and audio|
The Inheritance Cycle is a young adult tetralogy of epic fantasy novels written by American author Christopher Paolini. Set in the fictional world of Alagaësia (//), the novels focus on the adventures of a teenage boy named Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, as they struggle to overthrow the evil king Galbatorix. The series was originally intended to be a trilogy (named the "Inheritance Trilogy") until Paolini announced on October 30, 2007, while working on the third novel, that he believed the story was too complex to conclude in just three books.
The book series as a whole received mostly mixed to negative reviews by critics, but has gained both popularity and commercial success. The first book in the series, Eragon, was originally self-published by Paolini in 2001, and subsequently re-published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on June 25, 2003. The second book in the series, Eldest, was published by Knopf on August 23, 2005. Both were New York Times bestsellers. The third book in the series, Brisingr, was published by Knopf on September 20, 2008. The fourth and final book in the series, Inheritance, was published by Knopf on November 8, 2011. The series has sold 33.5 million copies worldwide.
In 2006, a feature film was released based on the first book in the cycle, Eragon, starring Ed Speleers, Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich and Djimon Hounsou. The film received generally negative reviews and closed as the 13th highest grossing fantasy-live action film within the United States.
Homeschooled by his parents, Christopher Paolini graduated from high school at the age of fifteen, but felt he was not yet mature enough for college, so he wrote Eragon in his spare time. After writing the first draft for a year, he spent a second year rewriting it and fleshing out the story and characters, and then presented it to his parents. They had it self-published by the family publishing company, Paolini International, and Paolini then travelled to various schools advertising his novel. In 2002, author Carl Hiaasen discovered the book while his stepson was reading it, and brought it to the attention of his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf. It was republished by Knopf in 2003.
Eldest was released in hardcover in August 2005, and in paperback in March 2007. A limited edition, featuring extras such as a brief history of Alagaësia, a double-sided poster featuring Brom's ring and Glaedr, and a sneak peek of Brisingr was released in September 2006. The deluxe edition of Eldest has an excerpt from the third chapter of Brisingr.
Brisingr—a word that means "fire" in Alagaësia's ancient language, taken from Old Norse—was published on September 20, 2008. Paolini's announcement of the book's publishing date included the revelation that the Inheritance Trilogy would now contain four books instead of three, thus resulting in the renaming of the series to the Inheritance Cycle.
In the fictional land of Alagaësia, an order was originally created to oversee the countries and bring peace to the world. This group was known as the Dragon Riders, for they rode dragons, at the birth of which a bond was formed in accordance with a pact made between elves and dragons millennia earlier. One Dragon Rider named Galbatorix had his dragon slain by a group of Urgals; the dragon's death pushed him to insanity. Denied another Dragon by the Council of Elder Riders, Galbatorix blamed the Council for the death of his dragon and sought to destroy the order. He made an alliance with an at first innocent young rider, Morzan, and with his help slew another rider and took his next dragon captive, Shruikan. Using magic, he broke Shruikan's will and forced the dragon to serve him. Gathering more Riders to his cause, he created the Thirteen Forsworn and with their help, took over Ilirea, the capital of the Broddring Kingdom, and destroyed Vroengard, the center of the Dragon Riders. Galbatorix slew the Elders, their leader Vrael, and most of the Dragon Riders. When the remaining dragons found out that the betrayal was aided by their own species, they collectively cast a spell on the Forsworn's dragons, which made them unable to be named.
Elder Rider Oromis and his Dragon Glaedr fled to Ellesmera, the capital of the elves' kingdom, while Morzan confronted his old friend Brom, slaying his Dragon. However, Morzan showed mercy to Brom, who later escaped. After the fall of the Riders, Galbatorix declared himself King over all of Alagaesia. He then focused his efforts into going after the elves and the dwarfs but he was thwarted.
Over the next century, several of the Forsworn were killed either from battle or power struggles, or committed suicide after going mad. Surda declared independence from Galbatorix and became its own country. Brom created the Varden, a rebellion meant to oppose the Empire, killing three of the Forsworn including Morzan personally; and orchestrated the deaths of five more. Brom and Morzan's wife, Selena, fell in love while Brom was working undercover in Morzan's staff (though this is revealed in the third book). Selena, who already had had Morzan's son, became pregnant with Brom's child. She returned to Carvahall, her brother Garrow's home, to give birth to the child. After begging her brother and his wife to raise her son, Eragon, as their own, she left Carvahall to return to Morzan and her first son. She died soon afterward. When Brom needed to disappear he travelled to Carvahall, disguised as a storyteller to be near his son who is not aware of his relationship to the man.
The first book in the series started with the attack on Arya (an elf) who was carrying a dragon's egg, by Durza, who was a servant of Galbatorix. Only two other Dragon eggs remain in the citadel in Ilirea, which had been renamed Urû'baen by Galbatorix. Arya attempted to send the egg to Brom, but the remaining Eldunarí altered the spell making the egg go to Eragon, because they believed that the egg might hatch for him (revealed in the final book), who finds the egg while on a hunting trip. A few days later, the egg hatches, and Eragon names the hatchling Saphira, becoming a Dragon Rider through their bond. His cousin, Roran, leaves for a job to earn money so he can start a family with his beloved, Katrina. His uncle, Garrow, is killed by King Galbatorix's servants, the Ra'zac, and Eragon flees Carvahall with Brom to hunt down the Ra'zac, unbeknownst to him that Brom is his father. Brom gives Morzan's sword, Zar'roc, to Eragon.
On the journey, Brom teaches Eragon sword fighting, magic, a minimal understanding of the Ancient Language, and the ways of the Dragon Riders. On the journey they become close friends. Halfway through their journey, their camp is ambushed by the Ra'zac and a stranger named Murtagh rescues them, but Brom is gravely injured. In his dying breath, Brom reveals to Eragon that he once was a Dragon Rider and his Dragon was also named Saphira.
Eragon decides to follow his dream of Arya to Gil'ead. Murtagh and Eragon rescue the courier Arya who reveals she is an elf and is in need of the Varden's medical assistance. They flee to the Varden as they are being chased by Urgals to the capital Tronjheim. As they are trapped, Murtagh is revealed to be Morzan's son. The Varden imprisons Murtagh after he refuses to allow his mind to be read, as Murtagh doesn't want them to learn of his parentage. Eragon is introduced to the Varden's leader, Ajihad, his daughter Nasuada, the dwarf King Hrothgar, and his foster son Orik. The Varden are attacked by an army of Urgals. In the ensuing battle, Eragon gets separated from the main fighting and finds himself in a one-on-one duel with Durza. In the duel, Eragon receives a large cursed scar on his back, but Arya and Saphira create a distraction long enough for Eragon to stab Durza through the heart. In the aftermath, Ajihad is killed by a band of Urgals and Murtagh is captured.
In the remainder of the Rider War, Eragon and Saphira learn under the tutelage of Oromis and Glaedr in Ellesmera. During an elvish Blood-Oath Celebration, Eragon is changed by the dragons, giving him elf-like abilities (speed, strength) and healing his back as well as all of his other injuries. Eragon then reveals his true feelings to Arya. After much persistence, Arya angrily rejects Eragon's suit. Meanwhile, Nasuada moves the Varden to the separate country of Surda which is ruled by King Orrin, and Roran moves the villagers of Carvahall to Surda, after their village was destroyed by the Ra'zac, who also captured Katrina. Roran is promoted to Captain while Nasuada allows the Urgals to join the ranks of the Varden. Eragon and Saphira confront Murtagh and Thorn, who slew King Hrothgar. Murtagh bests Eragon, taking his sword Zar'roc, and revealing to him the truth that they are brothers.
Eragon, Saphira, and Roran arrive at Helgrind, where they free Katrina. Eragon and Roran destroy much of Helgrind, slaying the Raz'ac while Saphira kills the Lethrblaka, the Raz'ac's adult form. He then goes to the Beor mountains and helps Orik become king of the dwarves. After that, Eragon goes back to Du Weldenvarden (the homeland of the elves)and creates his own sword Brisingr, which bursts into flames each time Eragon speaks its name, and learns that Brom is his real father (Eragon and Murtagh are actually only half brothers) and of the Eldunarí, the hearts of hearts, which is also the source to Galbatorix's power from Oromis and Glaedr.
The Varden captures several cities of the Empire, and Oromis and Glaedr are killed by Murtagh and Thorn, though Glaedr has given his Eldunarí to Eragon and Saphira to further their training. After the defeat of one of the Empire's cities, Nasuada is captured for interrogation by Murtagh, who heals her of her injuries, which causes an identity switch, breaking his oath to Galbatorix. Eragon travels to the Vault of Souls on the ruined Vroengard, which has a massive amount of secret Eldunarí and Dragon eggs hidden from Galbatorix. Taking many of the Eldunarí, he faces Galbatorix and after a fierce battle (after Murtagh and Thorn decide to help them), Galbatorix is slain by Eragon's improvised spell, which he spoke mentally. Meanwhile, Shruikan is killed by Arya.
Murtagh and Thorn retreat to somewhere in the north to have some time to themselves. Nasuada, after a heated debate with the leaders of the Varden, becomes the High Queen of Alagaësia. Arya returns to Du Weldenvarden to help choose a new monarch for the elves after the death of Queen Islanzadí in battle, and is chosen. She takes with her the rescued green dragon egg, which soon hatches for her. Thus, Arya becomes a Rider with her dragon named Fírnen. Near the end of the book, Arya reveals this to Eragon, and Saphira decides to test Fírnen "to see if he has the iron in his bones, and the fire in his belly to match [her]". They become mates shortly thereafter.
Eragon reworks the magic of the original pact between Riders and dragons to include both Dwarves and Urgals, allowing the dragon eggs to hatch for members of their races. Eragon, coming to the conclusion that there is no safe place to raise the dragons and train new Riders in Alagaësia, begins planning transport of the Eldunarí and the eggs to a region east of Alagaësia, save for two eggs which are kept in Alagaësia: one is to be sent to the dwarves, and the other to the Urgals. Those future Riders will travel to Eragon's new home for training, while new eggs will be sent back to Alagaësia to hatch for new Riders.
- Eragon: His quest begins when he finds a mysterious stone, which turned out to be a dragon egg, during a hunting trip. His journey begins by fleeing Carvahall with a mysterious old man named Brom. Eventually, his true training begins when he meets Oromis—an elven Dragon Rider who has been presumed dead who is hiding in Ellesmera awaiting the next Rider. He gradually learns how to fight, use magic, and read. He was named by his mother after the first Dragon Rider. He is deeply in love with Arya, has sworn fealty to Nasuada and is a member of the Ingeitum clan of dwarves. He has become widely known by various titles such as "Shadeslayer", "Kingkiller", "Argetlam" ("silver hand"), "Firesword", and "Bane of the Ra'zac." His main goal is to eventually defeat Galbatorix in battle and free Alagaësia, which he accomplishes in Inheritance. Following this, however, he leaves Alagaësia forever to be able to train the next Dragon Riders. This fulfills the prophecy described by Angela at the beginning of the cycle.
- Arya: an elven princess rescued by Eragon in Eragon, with whom he falls in love. Until she was ambushed and captured by Durza, she acted as a courier for Saphira's egg, carrying it between the elves and the Varden. Formerly referred to as Arya Dröttningu, and referred to occasionally as Arya-eldä, denoting her as worthy of high honor. At the end of Brisingr she kills a Shade, a creature in opposition to the protagonists, becoming one of the few people besides Eragon to have earned the name "Shadeslayer". After her mother's death in Inheritance, she takes over her position as queen (not by inheritance, but by fitness to rule). At the end of Inheritance, the last dragon egg that Galbatorix held hatches for her, and Arya names the dragon Fírnen. She tells Eragon that, given time, they could be together. However, Eragon leaves Alagaësia to raise up new dragons and Riders and Arya remains as queen of the elves.
- Galbatorix:, the initiator of the rebellion responsible for the Fall of the Riders. He is described as cruel and merciless, with little regard for any kind of life. Now the king of the Empire, he has amassed unparalleled power because of the enslavement of hundreds of dragons. Because of the power he wields, no one has been able to dethrone him and he has ruled for more than a century. He rides a black dragon named Shruikan, whom he stole from another Rider (whom he killed) and forced to bond with him. Throughout the first three books, he is only mentioned, never appearing in person until the final book where he finally dethroned.
- Murtagh: the son of Morzan and Selena, is Eragon's half brother, an inch or so taller than Eragon, and is a few years older. He rescues Eragon and Saphira from the Ra'zac, when Brom was killed, and travels with them to Gil'ead, where Eragon is captured. Later, Murtagh and Saphira rescue Eragon and Arya from Durza, the Shade. Murtagh shoots Durza twice, once in the shoulder and once between the eyes, causing Durza to disappear. Murtagh then travels with Eragon to Farthen Dur and the Varden, where he gets locked up because off his father's legacy, though Ajihad lets him fight in The Battle Under Farthen Dur. Murtagh, in Eldest, gets captured and taken to Galbatorix, where the red dragon, Thorn, hatches for him. Here, he gets tortured and is forced to swear loyalty to the king. At the end of Eldest, during the Battle of the Burning Plains, he kills Hrothgar and beats Eragon in a duel. But because of their previous friendship, he lets Eragon go, after taking Zar'roc and telling Eragon that he is his brother. In the third book, Murtagh is forced to swear more oaths to Galbatorix to ensure his obedience. Later, he battles Eragon again, but this time, with the help of elven spellcasters, Eragon beats him, though he loses consciousness and Murtagh escapes. In Inheritance, Murtagh is chosen to defend Dras Leona, though the Varden still capture the city. At the final confrontation between Eragon and Galbatorix, Galbatorix tells Murtagh to fight Eragon instead of himself. Murtagh nearly strikes a fatal blow in his anger, but Galbatorix prevents him from killing Eragon. Eragon, after realizing that Murtagh is probably a better swordsman, purposely leaves an opening for Murtagh to strike so he that could counterattack. This move gravely injures Murtagh and Eragon escapes only slightly wounded, ending the duel, with Galbatorix claiming Eragon as the winner. Right after the duel, Murtagh understands (he says "we understand") and his true name changes. Then, using the name of all names, Murtagh strips Galbatorix of his wards, allowing Eragon to kill him. Then, after the battle, Murtagh flies off and Eragon goes after him. They then acknowledge each other as brothers and Murtagh leaves. He was last sighted near Du Weldenvarden.
The series is set on the mythical continent of Alagaësia.
The Beor Mountains are a vast and incredibly tall mountain range in the south of Alagaësia. Within this area is the Az Ragni (river) and Beartooth River, as well as multiple dwarf cities. The city of Tronjheim is located inside the hollow mountain Farthen Dûr. Northwest of Farthen Dûr is Tarnag, the home of Celbedeil, a great dwarven temple.
Du Weldenvarden is a dense forest which covers the north of Alagaësia. The elf cities of Ceris and Ellesméra are located within the forest, as well as the Gaena River and Lake Ardwen.
"The Empire" covers the west of Alagaësia and is the area under the control of King Galbatorix. The area is populated by humans living in cities and towns such as Aroughs, Belatona, Carvahall, Ceunon, Daret, Dras-Leona, Eastcroft, Feinster, Gil'ead, Kuasta, Narda, Therinsford, Teirm, Urû'baen, and Yazuac. The Empire is split by an untamed mountain range known as The Spine. The Palancar Valley, a major valley of The Spine, is the location of Eragon's hometown and is thus where the Inheritance Cycle begins. Helgrind is a large bare rock mountain near Dras-Leona. South of The Empire is the country of "Surda" which seceded from The Empire while Galbatorix was learning to use the Dragon's Heart of Hearts. Surda includes the cities of Aberon, Petrøvya, Dauth, Cithrí, Reavstone, and Lithgow.
The Hadarac Desert is a giant desert which covers the middle of Alagaësia.
Northwest of the mainland lies the island of Vroengard, containing the city of Doru Araeba. This used to be the home of the Riders before they fell. Now, it is inhabited by strange creatures and is almost completely abandoned except for strange people that Eragon saw.
Alagaësia is populated by various sentient races, including Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Urgals (Urgals who grow over 8 feet tall are referred to as a Kull.), Dragons, Werecats, Shades (a human that is possessed by a spirit or spirits that are stronger than the human vessel), and Ra'zac. Alagaësia was once host to a now extinct race known as the Grey Folk.
There are multiple languages in the world of Alagaësia - many races have their own, and the language for magic is shared with the Elvish language. Common is chiefly spoken by humans and the Varden. Many races can speak Common, including the dragons (through thought). The Ancient Language is spoken by Elves and spellcasters from any race as it is the language of magic. It is impossible to lie whilst speaking in the Ancient Language, though the Elves have mastered the ability to omit the truth, or at least part of it. Dwarvish is spoken (somewhat obviously) by the Dwarves. The huge, grey skinned Urgals speak their own guttural language, as well as more primitive Common. The Nomadic language is spoken by the various tribes that wander throughout Alagaësia. The Ra'zac and the Letherblaka have their own form of communication. It is a series of clicks, hisses and rattles that no others have been able to speak or decipher.
Eragon's Guide to Alagaësia
Eragon's Guide to Alagaësia is a supplemental book to the Inheritance Cycle, published in November 2009.  It is considered by fans to be non-canon due to the fact that ideas changed after the book was written. The book takes the appearance of being written by Eragon after the events of Inheritance, and is directed at a "young Dragon Rider" (the reader). Fully in color, the book features fifteen pieces of artwork depicting cities and the various races of Alagaësia. Since it was published before the release of Inheritance, it contains hints of the novel's direction.
In an interview, Christopher Paolini stated that he was considering writing more stories set in Alagaësia. He plans for one of them to be a continuation of the Inheritance Cycle, and the others to be for new story lines (such as a possible prequel centering around Brom).
The books have been criticized for their derivative nature. The two most commonly discussed sources are Star Wars (because of numerous similarities in the plots) and The Lord of the Rings (because of the setting, elf and dwarven races, the language and character and place names). Even many positive reviews note that the work pulls strongly from the conventions of fantasy, in characters, maps, dialogue and concepts.
The reviews of Eldest were similar. Paolini was cited as having developed as a writer from Eragon, but also noted were strong use of The Empire Strikes Back as source material, as well as The Two Towers and Dune. USAToday also cited strong echoes of Star Wars in Eragon's plot, while Entertainment Weekly writes that the plot closely resembles that of The Lord of the Rings.
Eragon film adaptation
On December 15, 2006, a film adaptation of Eragon was released. The movie, starring Edward Speleers in the title role of Eragon, as well as Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich, Rachel Weisz, Sienna Guillory, Djimon Hounsou and Robert Carlyle, was produced by 20th Century Fox. Stefen Fangmeier made his directorial debut with Eragon. The screenplay was written by Peter Buchman. Principal photography for the film took place in Hungary and Slovakia. A DVD of the movie was released March 20, 2007. The film received negative reviews due to claims of amateur writing and of borrowing from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. Because of the film's extensive criticism, and of the trilogy being unexpectedly extended into a cycle, there have been no plans for any future films.
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- "Interview with Christopher Paolini". The Author Hour. January 21, 2009.
- "Brisingr by Christopher Paolini". www.randomhouse.com. Random House. Retrieved July 14, 2008.
- "Last book of Christopher Paolini's ‘Inheritance' cycle out in November", Washington Post, March 23, 2011
- "Fantasy — Live Action Movies". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
- "The Author, About Christopher Paolini". alagaesia.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-23. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- "Book Three in the Inheritance Cycle Will Have a First Printing of 2.5 Million Copies" (PDF). Random House. January 16, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- "Book 4 News Release". March 23, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2012.
- "Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia on Amazon". Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- "Big Twenty Exploring the Huge Book 4 Plot Revelations Made in Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia". August 2, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
- "Alagaesia Newsletter May 2009". May 2009. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
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- "More of the 'Rings' magic", USA Today January 20, 2004
- Books 2005: The 5 Worst", Entertainment Weekly
- VaBookworm (March 2, 2009). "Barnes & Noble Editorial Reviews". Barnes & Noble.
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- "Eragon (2006) - Rotten Tomatoes". December 15, 2006.
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- alagaesia.com official Inheritance Cycle website