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Book Review

*Inheritance" by Christopher Paolini has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fourth book in the "Inheritance Cycle" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Eragon was an orphan at 15. When the dragon egg he found hatched, Saphira was born and a powerful friendship was birthed. Inheritance begins with a summary about the origins of Dragon Riders and how Eragon became a Rider, his alliance with the Varden army, the epic battles in which Eragon engaged, and his ongoing efforts to defeat the evil leader and former Rider, Galbatorix.

As the story begins, the Varden battle for the city of Belatona. Eragon and Saphira, along with Eragon's cousin, Roran, his elven friend Arya, bodyguard Blödhgarm and many others, fight a bloody battle. Their ultimate goal is to overthrow several cities Galbatorix holds so they can reach the king in his command center of Urû'baen. Before long, King Halfpaw and his army of werecats arrive to join the Varden, and their other allies (including dwarves and Urgals) in battle.

Nasuada, the Varden leader, sends Roran to capture the well-fortified city of Aroughs. Roran and his men infiltrate Aroughs through the dams and take the city. Eragon, Saphira, Arya, Blödhgarm and the rest of the troops head for Dras-Leona. Eragon carries with him the stone-like heart of hearts (or Eldunarí) of a dragon named Glaedr, Saphira's mentor. Though Glaedr's body failed in a previous book, his consciousness lives on in his Eldunarí. When Eragon's sparring with the elves proves inadequate, Glaedr's Eldunarí speaks to him, telling him he must learn to see what he is looking at.

As the Varden army prepares to attack Dras-Leona, they're halted at the gates by Murtagh and his dragon, Thorn. Murtagh, Eragon's half-brother, doesn't want to battle the Varden but was forced to swear his allegiance to Galbatorix. The Varden army waits for days until someone can formulate a plan to thwart Murtagh. Eragon uses the time to spar with Arya and improve his mental and physical abilities in battle. Glaedr's Eldunarí coaches him; the dragon pushes him to improve his concentration and know his enemy. A scholar named Joed comes to Eragon, convinced there is a system of tunnels beneath Dras-Leona. Nasuada sends Eragon, Arya, an herbalist named Angela and a few others to locate the tunnels and infiltrate the city. Inside the tunnels, the group is attacked and pursued by men serving the priests of Helgrind. The men capture Eragon and Arya. The priests are known for practicing a dark religion that includes self-mutilation and dismemberment. They come to the imprisoned Eragon, angered that he has killed some of their gods, horrific creatures called the Ra'zac. The priests attempt to kill Eragon and Arya by leaving them bound in a room with two Ra'zac eggs preparing to hatch. Angela and her werecat, Solembum, save them, and the group kills the hatching monsters. They then engage in an intense mental battle with the priests while, outside, Saphira battles Thorn. Eragon manages to open the city gates from within, allowing the Varden to enter and take Dras-Leona. Murtagh leaves with Thorn, vowing that Eragon hasn't seen the last of them.

Murtagh and Thorn attack the Varden camp at night, badly injuring Arya and capturing Nasuada. Leaders representing the various tribes in the Varden army agree Eragon should lead in Nasuada's absence. They decide they must continue their mission to conquer Urû'baen. Feeling overwhelmed with his leadership tasks, Eragon remembers information he once received from Solumbum. The werecat had instructed him that if Eragon ever felt his power was insufficient, he should go to the Rock of Kuthian and speak his name to open the Vault of Souls. Eragon summons the werecat to his tent for clarification, but Solumbum says he doesn't know where to find the Rock of Kuthian. Something speaks through the werecat and directs Eragon to a magical book the cat once gave him. In its pages, he learns that the location of the Rock is an island called Vroengard. He also discovers that when he speaks of the Rock to others, they forget it immediately. He and Saphira determine that someone has placed an enchantment over the entire region to make people forget about the Rock. Eragon, Saphira and Glaedr secretly journey to Vroengard to discover whether the Rock is a trap or holds the key to defeating Galbatorix.

Galbatorix tortures Nasuada, pressuring her to submit to and join forces with him. He wants to create a united kingdom where anyone with spell-casting abilities has his or her power limited so no one can undermine his leadership. Murtagh secretly casts spells to ease Nasuada's pain. He promises to help free her.

After a perilous journey to Vroengard, Eragon and Saphira find the Rock. They must discover and use their true names; when they do, they gain entry. They discover more Eldunarí and numerous dragon eggs no one knew existed. Eragon and Saphira are delighted to know dragons and Riders will not become extinct. They return to Urû'baen with some of the Eldunarí to help them battle Galbatorix. The Varden attack Urû'baen but have difficulty fighting because of the many spells Galbatorix has cast against them. Many warriors, including Nasuada's mother, Queen Islanzadi, are slaughtered. Roran commands the battle in the city while Aragon, Saphira, Arya and the Eldunarí infiltrate Galbatorix's palace. In his throne room, the king places powerful spells on them, preventing them from moving or using their magic. He threatens Eragon, demanding Eragon join him in building his new kingdom. Galbatorix reveals his greatest power is derived from speaking an ancient Word called "the name of all names." Murtagh uses the Word against Galbatorix, while Eragon casts a spell to make Galbatorix understand the depth of the damage he's done to the nation. Galbatorix is destroyed, and an ensuing explosion leaves the city in chaos. Murtagh saves Nasuada, then he and Thorn leave for the wilderness. After the dust settles, Nasuada is chosen as ruler over all of Alagaësia. Arya accepts her mother's throne and becomes a Rider. Eragon is asked to raise and train the new batch of dragons. He decides he must leave Alagaësia to do this safely. It pains him to say goodbye to Roran and Arya, but he looks forward to his new task.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Magic: Eragon's world is entirely driven by magic. Almost no event takes place, whether a birth or a battle, in which spells are not cast. The land is full of spell-casters, some more powerful than others. Individuals of many races, elves in particular, can create powerful enchantments by speaking in an ancient language. Common spells provide protection or the ability to conquer others in battle. For example, Blödhgarm uses magic to cause an enemy to kill himself. Eragon often places wards on people so battle instruments cannot touch them. Evil spell-casters, such as Galbatorix, perform magic that forces others to obey and serve him. Spells require energy, and more powerful spells require greater amounts. Energy can be obtained through living things or by people linking their minds with other beings or Eldunarí and working together mentally. As animals are being slaughtered for food in one camp, Eragon goes to their pens and transfers the dying animals' energy into the gems in his magical belt. When he loses the belt in battle, he feels it's almost sacrilegious to abandon his search for it since so many creatures had died to fill it with energy. Eragon and his company fight many battles that take place between minds as well as on a physical level. As Eragon tries to improve his skill in mental and physical battle, Glaedr urges him to empty his mind and allow understanding to form from that emptiness. Eragon can communicate telepathically and transfer thoughts or memories with a number of individuals. His mental link with Saphira is by far the strongest. Sometimes it's as though they are one. Each being has a true name, which he or she must discover to gain ultimate self-knowledge. If an enemy knows someone's true name, he can bind that person into his service. (This is how Murtagh became an unwilling slave of Galbatorix.) Some people worship dragons and Riders as gods. Saphira believes grown dragons are greater than gods. She asks what good gods are if they won't allow themselves to be seen and appear not to take part in the events of the world.

Religion: The Priests of Helgrind worship creatures called the Ra'zac, some of which Eragon killed to avenge his family. The priests' faith is founded on the Book of Tosk. Because they practice intensive self-mutilation, many are lacking limbs and other body parts. The High Priest is described as armless, legless, toothless and seemingly sexless. Part of his tongue is missing, carved away by a knife. He is carried around on a bier by others. As they prepare to avenge the death of their gods by killing Eragon, the Priest tells Eragon and Arya to rejoice. He says their sacrifice will wash clean their sins and they will enter the afterlife as pure as newborn children. Roran says the war between the Varden and Galbatorix may be a battle between gods, and that he will keep fighting until the gods strike him down or he strikes them down.

Eragon considers praying to a dwarf god for help. He thinks it would be a relief to lay his troubles at the feet of and trust his fate to someone greater than himself. Then he can't bring himself to pray because he believes he is responsible for his fate and the fates of those he loves. It would be wrong, he decides, to pass off that responsibility on a god or the idea of a god. As a child, Nasuada occasionally engaged in the religious rituals of her parents. When she's in captivity, she prays to Gokukara, the praying mantis goddess. As Eragon prepares to leave Alagaësia, Nasuada asks him if he believes in any gods or in a higher power than himself. He says he's not sure, but if they exist, he doesn't think too highly of them for leaving Galbatorix in power for so long. When Nasuada suggests the gods used Eragon to remove Galbatorix, Eragon says either way, it doesn't seem like the gods care whether people live or die. Nasuada recommends he follow one, perhaps the creator of them all who is called Unulukuna. This god offers life everlasting, she says. He says the Eldunarí provide him the strength to do almost anything, so what else could a god offer him? Nasuada says the gods provide a chance to see your loved ones again. Eragon argues that he does not want to simply endure for an eternity. Nasuada, concerned, asks if he holds himself accountable to anyone other than himself and Saphira. He says he's not a bad person and he needs no master to punish him in order to make him behave.

The god Helzvog created dwarves from desert stone. Orik, the dwarf king, passes time between battles by creating a highly polished ball of soil. He says it is a sacred undertaking that reaffirms a dwarf's faith in Helzvog and offers tribute to him. It is a form of worship that provides a glimpse of eternity.

Other: In a previous book, Eragon attempted to bless a child named Elva but partially cursed her instead. She's referred to as a witch-child. Eragon fears her for her ability to search inside people's souls. Arya ponders whether it is better for Glaedr to give up and die mentally (his physical body has already failed) if every moment is torment for him. Galbatorix is able to best all magicians by obtaining and using the ancient "name of all names" to cast spells. The name is referred to as the Word. Eragon and others can scry, or magically see what's happening in other places or to people who aren't near. Characters frequently wish each other well by saying, "Luck be with you."

Authority Roles

Galbatorix is an evil king bent on ruling Alagaësia, no matter how much death or bloodshed is required. He wants to squelch others' magical power so they cannot defy him. Nasuada governs the Varden with wisdom and bravery in wartime, leading the various tribes to believe she will govern Alagaësia well. King Orrin drinks a lot and allows his pride to color his judgment. Eragon is given various long- and short-term opportunities to lead. He guides the people wisely but stays out of such roles whenever possible.


B--tard appears half a dozen times or more. Many extremely bloody battle scenes include dismemberment by sword or teeth, the ripping off of heads and limbs, the burning of corpses, people bursting into flames, broken bones, teeth extracted and throats torn open. Blood sprays and streams, running through the gutters at some points as dead and dying litter the streets. Metal crashes against bone. Necks snap loudly. Ribbons of flesh hang loosely around an enemy commander's bloody face as he's attacked by a raven. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people and creatures die.

While Roran attempts to get information from a girl, he jams his shield against her chest and knocks the wind out of her before he pins her. One of Roran's magicians casts a spell drawing every drop of moisture from an enemy's body and reducing him to a mummified skeleton. When a woman has a difficult birth, a caregiver's arms are streaked with various fluids, and the mother is wrapped up in bloodstained sheets. Nasuada has large scars on her forearms where she cut herself to win a ritual of courage called The Trial of the Long Knives. One blade Eragon acquires is so sharp, it slices through people effortlessly. A woman without hands sits below the High Priest of Helgrind's bier catching his blood in a golden chalice. The chalice falls and guards slip and slide around on the bloody floor. Galbatorix tortures Nasuada physically (burning her with hot coals, having grub beetles burrow into her body, etc.)  as well as causing mental and emotional torment. Plates of metal cut a group of magicians in two like a giant pair of scissors.


Roran kisses his wife, Katrina, several times. A soldier jokes that his father had a bad habit of seducing milkmaids. Arya kisses Eragon formally on the forehead as he prepares for a journey. When Arya asks about Galbatorix's whereabouts, Murtagh says he's probably playing with his favorite concubines. Katrina kisses Eragon on the cheeks to say goodbye. Eragon can feel the heat of Saphira's passion as she prepares to mate with Arya's dragon, Fírnen.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Characters commonly drink ale. Roran pretends to drink ale when confronting an enemy, knowing he can't afford to have his mind clouded with alcohol in such a dire situation. A man who attacks Roran in the night has alcohol on his breath. Arya urges Eragon to get drunk with her after a battle. He hesitates at first, wondering if Glaedr is watching them. He justifies his binge by recalling the horrible things he'd seen in battle that day. He hears and feels such strange things, he wonders if he's been poisoned. Arya urges him to relax and enjoy the sensations, as they will wear off by dawn. When they're suddenly attacked, Arya casts a spell that makes them sober. Murtagh drinks to overcome his anguish at having to serve Galbatorix, but he regrets getting so drunk. King Orrin drinks a lot, which clouds his judgment and causes him to lose people's respect.

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Christopher Paolini






Record Label



Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Books


On Video

Year Published





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