Inheritance Cycle

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The Inheritance Cycle
Inheritance Cycle cover.jpg
Cover of The Inheritance Cycle collection

Eragon (2003)
Eldest (2005)
Brisingr (2008)
Inheritance (2011)

Author Christopher Paolini
Cover artist John Jude Palencar
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young adult fiction
High fantasy
Publisher Paolini LLC (early edition of Eragon)
Alfred A. Knopf
Published 2002–2011
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback) and audio

The Inheritance Cycle is a tetralogy of young adult high fantasy novels written by American author Christopher Paolini. Set in the fictional world of Alagaësia (/æləˈɡziə/), 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 mixed 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.[1][2][3] The third book in the series, Brisingr, was published by Knopf on September 20, 2008.[4] The fourth and final book in the series, Inheritance, was published by Knopf on November 8, 2011.[5] 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.[6]

Publication history[edit]

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.

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.

Inheritance was announced by Random House on March 23, 2011 with the cover artwork. It was released on November 8, 2011 in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.[7]


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 suffered the death of his dragon, Jarnunvösk, at the hands of a group of Urgals (a species of brutish humanoids); 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 ambitious 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 took his sword, 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 prevents them from being 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 Alagaësia. He then focused his efforts onto 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 borne 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 (a shade (a sorcerer consumed by spirits)), 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(which are the crystalline hearts of dragons) 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 touches the dragon that was inside of the egg, giving him a silver mark on his palm and making Eragon a Dragon Rider through their bond. The hatchling chooses the name Saphira from a list of dragon names Eragon recites, from Brom, to her. Eragon's 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, unaware 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.

Meanwhile, Roran is wanted by the Empire. His supporters help him fortify and defend Carvahall. He later evacuates to Surda along with most of the villagers.

In the remainder of the Rider War, Eragon and Saphira are tutored by Oromis and Glaedr in Ellesmera. During an elvish Blood-Oath Celebration, Eragon is changed by a symbolic dragon, giving him elf-like abilities (speed, strength) and completely 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, even though her decision is opposed by many. Eragon and Saphira confront Murtagh and Thorn, who slew King Hrothgar.Thorn hatched for Murtagh and was magically made almost as big as Saphira. Murtagh bests Eragon, taking his sword Zar'roc, and revealing to him 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 from Oromis and Glaedr that Brom is his real father (Eragon and Murtagh are actually only half brothers) and of the Eldunarí, the dragons' hearts of hearts, which are also the source of Galbatorix's power.

The Varden capture 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 herself. 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, as well as her True Name, while Saphira decides to test Fírnen "to see if he has the iron in his bones, and the fire in his belly to match [her]". The two dragons 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 far from 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.

Major characters[edit]

  • 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. He gradually learns how to fight, use magic, and read.
  • Saphira: A sapphire blue dragon whose Rider is Eragon Shadeslayer, she is possibly the last female dragon.
  • Brom: A storyteller in Carvahall whom Eragon travels with, later revealed to be a Dragon Rider. He dies mid-way through the first book, but is revealed to be Eragon's father in the third.
  • Arya: an elven princess rescued by Eragon in Eragon, with whom he falls in love.
  • Islanzadi: The elven queen, and Arya's mother.
  • Oromis: an elven Dragon Rider, presumed dead, who is hiding in Ellesmera awaiting the next Rider.
  • Glaedr: Oromis's dragon, who, although physically killed along with Oromis at the end of the third book, survives through his Eldunari.
  • Galbatorix: the initiator of the rebellion responsible for the Fall of the Riders.
  • 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.
  • Thorn: Murtagh's dragon. Like Murtagh, he is forced to serve Galbatorix.
  • Ajihad: the first ruler of the Varden, an alliance that opposes Galbatorix, in the series. He is killed in the opening chapter of the second book.
  • Nasuada: the second ruler of the Varden. She is held prisoner by Galbatorix and is tortured in Inheritance.
  • Roran: Eragon's cousin, he leads his village across Alagaesia and fights against Galbatorix. He becomes known as "Stronghammer" after his preferred weapon.
  • Angela: An eccentric witch who is allied with the Varden.
  • Elva: An orphaned baby whom Eragon unwittingly curses in the first book, she is forced to be a shield to protect others from harm. She grows at a rapid pace for some time afterwards, eventually becoming around six years old.


The series is set on the mythical continent of Alagaësia. Its name was invented by the author, although other place names in the series are drawn from real-world examples.[8]


The Beor Mountains are a vast and incredibly tall mountain range in the southeast 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 (named after Ellesmere Island[8]) 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. One peak, named Utgard (from the Norse language[8]), contains the Rider's sanctuary where Vrael died. The Palancar Valley, a major valley of The Spine, is the location of Eragon's hometown and is thus where the Inheritance Cycle begins. It was named for the artist John Jude Palencar before he was chosen as the series' cover artist.[8] Helgrind is a large black bare rock mountain known as the gates of death, 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 a few 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 Kull), Dragons, Werecats, Weredogs/Werewolves (mentioned in Eldest was a Weredog and as a woman with a cloak on (the hood and rest would cover ears and tail) who turned into a she-wolf. They have the ability to turn into any canine and appear as a human with a tail and wolf ears. She may or may not be an elf), 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 (The Ancient Language) 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 Lethrblaka 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[edit]

Eragon's Guide to Alagaësia is a supplemental book to the Inheritance Cycle, published in November 2009. 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). It is a collection of information about the characters, settings and objects referred to in the Inheritance novels,[9] and offers some hints as to the ending of Inheritance. It is Paolini's fourth book.[10] Fully in color, the book features fifteen pieces of artwork depicting cities and the various races of Alagaësia.[11] The illustrations were created by Fred Gambino, Larry McDougal, Ian Miller, and David Wyatt.[12] According to the Publishers Weekly Children's Hardcover Frontlist, more than 100,000 copies of the book were sold in 2009.[13]

Potential sequels[edit]

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 on Brom).[14]


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)[15][16] and The Lord of the Rings (because of the setting, elf[16][17] and dwarven races,[16] the language[16] and character and place names).[18] However, there were also many positive reviews.[19]

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.[20][not in citation given][better source needed]

Eragon film adaptation[edit]

On December 15, 2006, a film adaptation of Eragon was released. The movie, starring Ed 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 complaints of amateur writing and of borrowing from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.[21]


  1. ^ "Best sellers: September 14, 2003". The New York Times. September 13, 2003. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  2. ^ "Children's best sellers: September 11, 2005". The New York Times. September 11, 2005. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Interview with Christopher Paolini". The Author Hour. January 21, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Brisingr by Christopher Paolini". Random House. Retrieved July 14, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Last book of Christopher Paolini's 'Inheritance' cycle out in November", Washington Post, March 23, 2011 
  6. ^ "Fantasy — Live Action Movies". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  7. ^ "Book 4 News Release". March 23, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d Macauley, Mike (September 24, 2014). "Naming the Inheritance Cycle's Memorable Characters and Places". Paolini International LLC. Retrieved February 27, 2018. 
  9. ^ "Reviewer's Choice". "The Bookwatch" - Midwest Book Reviews, Volume 5, Number 1 January 2010
  10. ^ "Big Twenty Exploring the Huge Book 4 Plot Revelations Made in Eragon's Guide to Alagaesia". August 2, 2011. Retrieved January 14, 2012. 
  11. ^ Peterson, Matthew (21 January 2010). "Interview with Christopher Paolini". The Author Hour. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  12. ^ Messina, Leah. "Eragon's Guide to Alagaësia". Book Divas. Retrieved 30 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Facts and Figures 2009: Meyer's Reign Continues". Publishers Weekly, by Diane Roback |Mar 22, 2010
  14. ^ "Shurtugal fansite -First Post-Inheritance Interview with Christopher Paolini". 
  15. ^ "Commonsense Media: Review of Eragon". 
  16. ^ a b c d "More of the 'Rings' magic", USA Today January 20, 2004
  17. ^ Books 2005: The 5 Worst", Entertainment Weekly
  18. ^ "Book Review: Eldest, Entertainment Weekly, August 19, 2005". Archived from the original on March 4, 2009. 
  19. ^ VaBookworm (March 2, 2009). "Barnes & Noble Editorial Reviews". Barnes & Noble. 
  20. ^ "Commonsense Media: Review ofEldest". 
  21. ^ "Eragon (2006) - Rotten Tomatoes". December 15, 2006. 

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