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A heart-to-heart

Oddly, for a chapter called “A heart-to-heart” very little of it is devoted to the conversation. And very little of the conversation could be considered heart-to-heart.

We begin where we left off last time: Glaedr making Eragon and Arya fight until they fall down from exhaustion and can’t fight any more. Literally. They end up lying on the ground heaving for air and only at that point does Glaedr agree that it would be “counterproductive” and possibly “harmful” if they were to continue fighting. Yeahup. There’s not really much you can say about that. He made them do this because he wanted to see who the better warrior was. Oh, and by this point Eragon is able to finally end the duels in a draw with Arya.

This is an interesting thing here, who is the better warrior. Not where they need work, but who is the better warrior. I would think that the former is more important than the latter, after all they’re going to still be sparing and they’re both in need of help. Also, why isn’t it obvious that Arya is the better warrior since she’s been training since long before Eragon was born?

It’s also one of those weird bits when you’ve got humans and non-humans fighting together or against one another. One would assume that a dedicated warrior from a long lived race would be better than someone that’s not. They’d, in theory, have the skills and the time to perfect the skills. Much like the difference between a pro-baseball player and a little league baseball player. It’s all a matter of experience and training.

But if we were to stick to rational matters like that, then the humans wouldn’t ever get anywhere, would they?

From there they return their ruined shields to the weapon master, who is rightly pissed off that they ruined his shields. After all, supplies are at a premium and shields are very important to protect your soldiers. At least, your named ones. Named ones are the only important soldiers out there.

Then they talk to Nasuada who’s hanging out by Eragon’s tent and who wants to know if that was Glaedr she felt and it was and if she could talk to him and she could. He’s still buried in the dirt by the way. The odd thing here, and I don’t mean that I want the book to be dragged out any more than it already is, but Paolini tells us about their conversation. He tells us that Nasuada gives Glaedr a formal greeting and exchanged pleasantries. That she asked after his health and that he said he didn’t need anything. Which could have been an interesting conversation since this is the first non-elf, non-rider person he’s talked to… after telling people that they shouldn’t mention him to anyone. How does he act with her compared to the riders and elves? Again, a chance for character development but it is, instead, brushed over for...other shit. In fact there is a lot of brushing over.

After Nasuada is done talking with Glaedr, the dragon in a stone, Eragon, Arya and Saphira start discussing mental combat. Or at least getting lectured on it. We don’t see what the lecture is about but they soon move on to practicing.

And it’s the most boring thing ever.

We don’t get any description of what it’s like for Eragon beyond he’s tired and it’s hard for him to fight them. Arya, we’re told, is more than his equal. BUT considering Arya’s been doing this for ages and Eragon not, one would assume so. Especially when he’s fighting against Glaedr and Arya and he’s only got Saphira on his side. Still we’re told they fight mind to mind. The closest we get to any description is Eragon being aware “the wild strains of music that wafted through the dark spaces of Arya’s consciousness.”

In a Star Trek the Next Generation book that I have called Dark Mirror Deana Troi runs into a sort of similar situation of dealing with a mental battle. She’s in the mirror universe and has run into her evil self. They fight and Deana spends time describing what her mental blocks were - in this case they look like actual children’s blocks, the wooden ones with letters and numbers on them. And how evil Troi was having trouble getting in meanwhile she slipped into the other’s mind “from underneath, stabbing it deep with a well-whetted knife of rage at what the counselor had done to Geordi”. There’s some nice visual imagery of the blocks being slammed down and trembling. Of someone beating against them.

In Inheritance we get things like wrestling and grip but that’s not very visual. And we don’t get any real emotional responses. It doesn’t feel like a battle. Perhaps later it will when he runs into Galbatorix, but for now the most we get is Eragon “curling into a tight ball like a wounded animal while he recited scraps of verse and waited for the waves of mental energy the hurled at him to subside.” Though I’m not sure why he needs to recite scraps of verse.

THEN we get this fun statement from Glaedr, “However it is impossible for you to learn what you need to learn in a matter of days or weeks. … it takes years to master the art of fighting with your mind: years and decades and centuries, and even then there is still more to discover.”

GOSH. Can you guess that Eragon, despite this, is some how going to be able to do it anyway? CAN YOU!? Is he going to be that special!?

Damn straight I bet he is.

Then we get to what I believe is the heart to heart talk.

Arya mentions that she thinks that Glaedr is doing better and that few creatures - elves dragons and humans could survive such grief. Now, I’m fairly certain she’s talking about the loss of a dragon’s bond with their rider, but she’s not specific about it. Now, I’ve got several issues with this bit. One: Since she’s not specific about the rider - dragon relationship in this instance, I have to wonder why does she not include dwarves or the not-orcs. Do they not feel things as deeply as elves, humans and dragons? However, since we’ve already established that Arya doesn’t like dwarves, or looks down upon them, this could be considered perfectly in character for her. Why would she think about lesser beings? The second thing is, there are other dragons with their souls in stones. Other dragons who used to have riders and they’re… okay as far as I can tell. So why is Glaedr so special?

Beyond Glaedr being so special.

They talk about how they’re worried he might just stop existing and conversing and things because he’s stuck in a stone and can’t sense anything. The funny thing is… the thing that amuses me the most about this scene is that Glaedr is currently buried under the ground in Eragon’s tent where they’re talking about him and in theory he could hear them because he communicates with them telepathically and was able to sense and hear what they were saying away from the tent.

So, they’re basically talking behind his back where he can hear them. Even though they’re not saying anything bad about him.

It’s also interesting because in a way they’re also talking about suicide. Possibly sort of medical assisted suicide. Because Arya says that if Glaedr is in constant torment, why should they stop him from releasing himself from existence and into the void. Which is… weird when you think about it. They’re advocating it.

I wonder if Paolini realized this is what he was doing when he wrote this scene. I don’t think he did, because when he usually tries to make statements like this, it’s a bit more obviously hammered out. He’s not usually very good at subtle. I don’t know how he feels about assisted suicide and I’ve no intention of asking, but here, for a good reason, it seems like he’s for it.

Eragon and Saphira have no good response to that and so don’t say anything. Which is also good.

It’s a very well done little section.

Saphira leaves and Eragon and Arya small talk for a bit.

He then asks her what she wants to do when everything is all over. She asks him what he wants to do and he admits that hasn’t thought that far. Maybe return home and build a little house for him and Saphira to live in when they’re not doing dragon rider stuff.

She says that she’d like to stay as an ambassador because she doesn’t feel comfortable living among the elves any more. She likes living among the men and dwarves, it’s more interesting. While Eragon is disappointed that she didn’t say stay with him, he’s willing to accept it.

This is actually, the talk between Arya and Eragon, a surprisingly good section. The earlier parts are boring and bullshit, but Arya and Eragon talking works very well. They’re talking about realistic concerns about a friend and how to deal with it. They don’t come up with easy answers and there’s an admittance of uncertainty and possible failure.

Which is rare in this book.

And sadly, a pleasant surprise. Sadly, because I shouldn’t be surprised when reading a book to find a good part.

(And my boook. Pre-order now!)


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Kippur Critiques Bad Books

January 2016


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