Literature: Inheritance Cycle aka: The Inheritance Cycle
The Inheritance Cycle, formerly known as the Inheritance Trilogy is a series of High Fantasy novels written by Christopher Paolini. The first book was originally self-published by Paolini and his parents, but has since migrated to Alfred A Knopf on the recommendation of Carl Hiaasen. It so far features the following books:
Eragon's Guide to Alagaësia (2009) (canon, but not part of the Cycle)
An officially endorsed guidebook, The Inheritance Almanac, was released in October of 2010.The novels tell the tale of Eragon, a farmboy who discovers a dragon egg in the mountains and is amazed when it hatches for him. He raises the dragon, Saphira, and becomes bonded with her as a Dragon Rider. Unfortunately, the evil Galbatorix, the ruler of The Empire who betrayed and destroyed the Dragon Riders long ago, finds out, and sends his impenetrably cowled Ra'zac servants to capture Eragon and Saphira. They escape, but the Ra'zac burn down Eragon's home and kill his uncle. Our heroes set out for revenge, joined by the village's old storyteller, Brom, who, as it turns out, is a former Dragon Rider himself. On their quest, Eragon and Saphira meet up with a BadassAnti-Hero with a Mysterious Past, rescue an elf princess, join the Varden (La Résistance), learn the truth about Eragon's past and his missing father, and face down foes far more powerful than themselves—eventually culminating in a final battle against Galbatorix himself.The first book was adapted into a film in 2006, but there are currently no plans for any movie sequels.Not to be confused with The Inheritance Trilogy, especially since that was the name of this series before book 4 came along.
Author Appeal: Arguably the elves, particularly Arya (whose beauty is oft-mentioned in the narration, and leaves Eragon in awe). However, Paolini says his favourite race is the dwarves (he often speaks a bit in Dwarvish when he goes to IRL events).
Automaton Horses: Lampshaded with the elves' horses. Both played straight and lampshaded elsewhere, such as in the first book where they ride through a desert for almost a week, although Eragon does use magic to raise water from the ground.
Author Avatar: According to some, Eragon is Christopher Paolini and Angela is, well, his sister Angela. Paolini himself admits that Angela is based on his sister, and that Eragon "started out" as an autobiographical character but eventually developed into his own character.
Bittersweet Ending: Yeah, Galby is dead, but half the surviving Eldunarya are insane, Arya and Eragon and Firnen and Saphira have to be separated, Nasuada has a whole lot on her plate, and Murtagh and Thorn are outcast. Eragon has to leave Alagaesia for ever too.
The Berserker: In Brisingr, Imperial berserkers who have had their ability to feel pain magically removed are introduced.
Body Horror: The bewitched soldiers in the third book feel no pain, and thus fight through dismemberment that by all rights should have killed them. Most Varden lose their nerve while fighting these guys, because fighting someone with half his face hanging off his bare skull — who laughs at you, no less — is horrifying.
Can't Argue with Elves: Since Paolini's Elves are pretty and magical, they know everything and are very happy to tell you that.
Cast from Hit Points: Ordinarily, magic works like this. Except for dragon riders, who can borrow their dragon's hit points (and dragons have plenty to spare). Skilled magic users can borrow hit points from the local wildlife (killing it in the process if they aren't careful). Except for people who get hold of an Eldunari, who can borrow a dead dragon's hit points.
The Chains of Commanding: Trianna says it's wise Eragon doesn't want to be king, because a king is simply a man imprisoned by his duties.
Chekhov's Gun: When Glaedr tells Saphira to "keep her heart safe" before she and Eragon leave to go help the Varden fight the Empire's army in Eldest. Later revealed that he was referring to a special magic stone every dragon has called an Eldunari which is basically their source of magical power and where their souls go if the Eldunari is removed from their bodies, they're also the source of Galbatorix's power, so that's quite a big gun.
Covered in Mud: In Eldest, Eragon has a seizure caused by a cursed injury to his back. He's feeling terrible already because of the seizure and because it was in front of his teacher, but then he becomes especially embarrassed when he realizes that rolling around on the ground caused him to get his clothes (which were new and a gift from the elves) covered in dirt/mud.
Creation Myth: According to the dwarven calender in the deluxe edition of Eldest, the world was created 8000 years ago by several gods, after they vanquished the giants.
The Determinator: Roran. He'll do absolutely anything to accomplish his goals, and woe onto anyone who gets in his way.
Deus ex Machina: Frequently, especially the Blood Oath Ceremony, which magically transforms Eragon in a super-attractive half-elf and heals his crippling back scar. Also Saphira who says she can change reality in some unspecified way, although not at will. Although this is not unique to her, all the dragons can.
Mmm....she's doomed! You're doomed!! They're all doomed! Notice I didn't specify what kind of doom, so no matter what happens, I predicted it. How very WISE of me.
Doorstopper: Each successive book is about 150-200 pages longer than the previous instalment, with Brisingr topping out at 748 pages. This is the reason for Book Four; "Book Three" was pushing 900 pages and not even halfway finished. A reprinting of Eragon and Eldest in a single volume dubbed the "Inheritance Omnibus" is 1216 pages long and large enough to crush a small dog if dropped from sufficient height. The Japanese translation of Eldest is so large that it is split into two books.
Downer Ending: Eragon leaves Alagaesia forever, Arya is stuck with a job she doesn't want, Orrin doesn't get the kingdom and his country becomes an appendage to the Empire, Nasuada has a whole lot on her plate, and Saphira has to leave Firnen.
Dragon Rider: Eragon, naturally. Also, Oromis, Murtagh and Galbatorix count. Brom, Orik, and Arya have also ridden Saphira at various points, Brom was also a Rider before his dragon was killed.
The Dragon: Murtagh and his literal dragon, who are the dragons for his evil King, and his dragon. Prior to him joining up with Galbatorix, the role of the Dragon was Durza the Shade, and in the backstory before Durza, Morzan the Dragon Rider.
Dude, She's Like in a Coma: Done in the first first book as Eragon observes Arya's overall hotness...after she'd been tortured...and poisoned...and is still very much in danger. Overlaps nicely with Beauty Is Never Tarnished. A month in torture, poisoning and living in a dank cell in the basement, without a wash... still hot.
Egg McGuffin: The one from which Saphira eventually hatches in the first book.
Elaborate Underground Base: The dwarven capital, Tronjheim, is a city built like a small mountain inside the crater of a much larger extinct volcano so tall the top is inaccessible, even to dragons, making it only accessible by underground tunnels.
Elves VS Dwarves: Although they aren't exactly best friends, they do get on better than most Elves VS Dwarves do, although arguably only due to a common enemy. Also, a huge desert in between them probably helps.
Enemy to All Living Things: Eragon learns how to draw power from all life around him to boost his own magic, draining nearby things of their Life Energy. The result is plants and small animals dying around him when he needs extra power, if he isn't careful.
Functional Magic: Basically follows an Inherent Gift structure (though Dragon Riders get a Gift for free), and mages must memorize various magic words for things and then combine them to create spells.
General Ripper: Nasuada. If you are on the side of the Empire, she'll do everything she can do kill you, and celebrate when you're dead. Disobey her orders, and the best you'll get is 50 lashes to the back, even if you saved the Varden a costly defeat by doing so. Eragon might also qualify. Averted by Jormundur and Murtagh.
Generation Xerox: Murtagh is doomed to follow in the footsteps of Morzan, his father.
Here There Were Dragons: 100 years ago, Evil Overlord Galbatorix threw down the Dragon Riders and forced every magic user to swear loyalty to himself and swear the Empire, resulting in magic becoming much rarer, dragons nearly going extinct, and the power of the elves to begin to fade away. However, Galbatorix regrets his past actions and is now actively working to resurrect the dragons under his command.
Heroic Resolve: Roran uses a lot of this to survive being given 50 freaking lashes!
Hero Insurance: Eragon, being the poster boy for the Varden, has a license to kill, maim, and destroy as much as he pleases. Possible Subversion in Brisingr when Eragon finds a man that he had previously stolen from and pays him far over the original price with gold, while he says he really didn't mind, considering how Eragon used them and that he destroyed the rest before leaving Carvahall anyway.
Hollywood Tactics: Everyone sucks at battle-planning, doing things no sane person who has at least played a Total War game would do, like having archers and siege weapons shoot into a melee, abandoning a perfectly good defensive position to meet a smaller enemy force in the open field, and having heavy infantry charge a great distance.
I Am Who?: Eragon's identity is a closely kept secret until Brisingr wherein it's revealed that he is the son of Brom.
Idiot Ball: Neither the heroes nor villains are safe from this.
Idiosyncratic Cover Art: Each novel in the series introduces a new, differently-colored dragon as a character. This dragon gets his/her picture on the cover of the book, and the book is the same color as his/her hide.
Immortal Procreation Clause: Dwarves, who live much longer than humans, are repeatedly stated to reproduce at a slower rate. This is even more extreme with the immortal-unless-killed elves, who are even less prolific than the dwarves. At the beginning of the cycle, it's been over a decade since the last elf children(twins) were born.
Indo-European Alien Language: In the early books, the Ancient Language apparently follows exactly the same grammatical constructions and rules as English. This was cruelly exposed in Eldest, where Paolini also drops a huge clanger when Oromis talks about Eragon's screw-up with Elva, applying idiosyncratic rules of English, wrongly, to his fictional language. (Just for the record, "May you be shielded," is not in the past tense). This is improved on in later books.
Instant Expert: Eragon learns magic faster than any of the other characters, despite him being Just a Kid. He also learns to read in a week, and never has literacy problems after that, in either his own or the Ancient Language.
Killed Off for Real: Brom, Ajihad, Hrothgar, and Oromis. Glaedr just happens to have survived by giving away his 'heart of hearts'.
King Incognito: Murtagh appears to be just an ordinary rogue, albeit one with a lot of expensive stuff, until it is revealed that he is the son of Morzan, Galbatorix's most powerful general, and soon after takes his father's place as the Empire's champion.
Knight Templar: Eragon, arguably, and the Varden in general. In fact, all the factions (both good and bad) have traits of this, except the dwarves.
Language Of Truth: The same as the language of magic. Doesn't apply when written though, only spoken or when in someone's mind. Any oath sworn in the Ancient Language is also binding, making it impossible to break unless you are released from it.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: Each book has received a "Deluxe Edition" reprinting which usually includes some goodies like drawings from cover artist John Jude Palancar and/or Christopher Paolini himself. Deluxe Editions are usually released a year after the original publication and can be distinguished by a ring of gold around the cover. Eragon and Eldest were reprinted together in an Omnibus edition which was so big it could be used as a bludgeon.
Mayfly-December Romance: Eragon and Arya. (Interestingly, Arya once indirectly described such a relationship to be viewed by the elves as similar to paedophilia on the elves' part. And it's implied that the perfect elves may not be right about everything after all.)
Meaningful Name: "Eragon" is "dragon" with one letter changed, but then Paolini retconned this into "era gone by".
Mighty Glacier: Dwarves. Dragons lean towards this as they get older, growing gradually bigger but losing mobility.
Million Mook March: Galbatorix's army, fully marshalled at the end of Eldest numbers over 100,000. To put that into perspective, the Varden's forces number about 4,000 at the start of the books.
Mind Probe: The main psychic power. Unfortunately, this particular ability can be used for Mind Rape.
Mind Rape: Often used by the Big Bad. Also done by the Twins on Eragon — they just didn't care about the pain they caused as long as they got what they wanted to know.
Not So Different: The heroes have committed some distasteful actions of their own, such as poisoning Galbatorix's army before a battle. Lampshaded by Elva, who points out to Eragon, "Galbatorix would approve." when he tries to forcibly remove her powers after botching the job the first time.
Offstage Villainy: One of the most common complaints about the The Inheritance Cycle is that the reader is never actually shown Evil Overlord Galbatorix doing anything particularly evil to the people of Alagaësia other than raising taxes. Brisingr may count, though, given how its stated that he enslaved the souls of the dragons he killed. Just the fact that he successfully overthrew the Dragon Riders seems to be enough justification for the war waged by the Varden, the elves, and the dwarves in the series.
The Only One: By the last book, Eragon is the last sane, free Dragon Rider left after Brom is killed by Durza and Murtagh is enslaved by Galbatorix, who mind controls him into killing Oromis and Glaedr.
Orcus on His Throne: Galbatorix, while strong enough to wipe out the Varden by himself, decides to spend his time in the capital city, Uru'baen. Lampshaded when Nasuada thinks about how Galbatorix's pride is the only thing keeping the Varden from being destroyed.
Also there's Thorn, born close to a year after Saphira yet is nearly as large as she is when he's first confronted at the end of Eldest, although this is only because Galbatorix did it, Thorn is still mentally only a few months old despite having the body of a grown dragon..
Proud Warrior Race: The Urgals qualify after Eldest. Elves and Dragons have traits of this, too.
Psychic Powers: Anyone who can use magic also gains the ability to touch other minds via a Mind Probe. It is also mentioned that non magic users can have this ability too(then called "Mindbreakers"), although so far the only mentioned case of this is with dragons (who technically are magic users, but not at will).
Psychic Static: This technique can be learned by just about anyone with the right willpower to block psychics. It seems to be widely used in governments, to prevent any rogue Mindbreakers from stealing important information.
Rule of Cool: Possible Lampshade Hanging when the elven blacksmith chastises Eragon for specifying a design for purely aesthetic reasons, as well as by Angela in the battle at Feinster.
Sand in My Eyes: Every emotional scene is punctuated with "a single shining tear". This leads to the unfortunate implication that many of the characters never cared much for their loved ones, as more tears have been shed for other, lesser things.
Screening The Call: Eragon's uncle Garrow tries to sell Saphira's egg before it can hatch and make Eragon a Rider.
Screw You, Elves!: Murtagh makes a speech about this at the end of Eldest, basically saying that they're a bunch of cowards who oppress humans.
In Brisingr, Arya doodles something about a lonely god in the sand in reference to Doctor Who. Paolini mentions this in the afterword. He says he did it because he's a fan of the doctor. "And to those who got the line about the lonely god, all I have to say is that The Doctor can be anywhere at any time, even alternate dimensions. Hey! I'm a fan too!"
Eragon: "What does it mean?"
Arya: "I don't know."
In Inheritance There's another Doctor Who reference. Angela, the herbalist, is knitting a blue hat with runes around the edge. When asked what the runes say, she responds: "Raxacori—Oh, never mind. It wouldn't mean anything to you anyway." There is a planet in Doctor Who called Raxacoricofallapatorius (it's where the Slitheen come from.)
Spider-Sense: Eragon's gedwëy ignasia (Shining Palm, the mark he got from becoming a Dragon Rider) sometimes itches when he's just barely missing something significant nearby. For instance, when he's about to be attacked it quite often itches, and having a werecat sneak by at the edge of Eragon's sight seems to have triggered it another time.
Straw Character: An argument is presented between representatives of the religious Dwarves and atheist Elves. The Dwarf is as wasteful and ranting, the Elf is calm and wise.
Super Soldier: the soldiers Galbatorix deleted the capacity to feel pain from.
Super Speed: Possessed naturally by elves, Shades, Ra'zac, and Kull. Dragon Riders seem to gain this over time.
Surprise Party: In Brisingr, after Eragon returns to the Varden's camp and gets settled in, he heads off with Nasuada to what he thinks is going to be a boring dinner of political conversation with nobles who want to fawn over him and his dragon Saphira. But when Nasuada opens the flap to the tent, it turns out to be a surprise party arranged by her and Eragon's adoptive brother Roran featuring most of the villagers of his hometown of Carvahall and many other people he knows and likes.
Tempting Fate: Eragon trying to summon the true form of his sword.
Tetris Effect: Happens to Eragon when he's learning to read — he keeps seeing letters in his head even when he closes his eyes.
Think Nothing of It: In Brisingr, Angela the herbalist tells Roran this after he thanks her for healing the injuries on his back from whipping. She then changes her mind and says "Or rather, thank something of it, but do not consider it overly important. Besides, it amuses me to have tended injuries on both your back and Eragon's."
Title Drop: In each book. Eragon is obvious. The climax of Eldest drops both the book's title and the title of the series, when Murtagh takes Za'roc from Eragon as his inheritance from their father. After all, he is the eldest brother.
Tonight Someone Dies: Prior to the release of Brisingr, Christopher Paolini announced that a major character would die at the end of the book. That character was Oromis, the Old Master. Glaedr survives in his Eldunari but is physically dead.
Unmanly Secret: Referenced in the thoughts of the Varden leader Nasuada in Inheritance when she thinks about how certain men within her army have revealed things about themselves to her that would be surprising given that their outward loves seemed to be only "wine, women, and war," such as a tendency to memorize romantic poems.
Sloan: . “You’re nothing but the yellow-bellied offspring of a canker-ridden bunter. You’re a bastard, you are, and an unlicked cub; a dung-splattered, tallowfaced rock-gnasher; a puking villain and a noxious toad, the runty, mewling spawn of a greasy sow. I wouldn’t give you my last crust if you were starving, or a drop of water if you were burning, or a beggar’s grave if you were dead. You have pus for marrow and fungus for brains, and you’re a scugbacked cheek-biter!”
Veganopia: Elven society. Justified somewhat in that it's difficult to eat something when you can hear its thoughts and empathize with it.
We Are as Mayflies: The Elves, in relation to humans. Also, the Riders, if they live long enough.
We Can Rule Together: In Brisingr, Eragon receives this offer from his father Morzan.... but A.) It was only a nightmare (Morzan had long been dead.) and B.) Morzan wasn't really his father; he just thought that he was, until he later learned otherwise.
We Have Reserves: Galbatorix uses the Urgals in the first book to weaken the Varden and the dwarves.
Saphira: Nothing out of the ordinary ever occurs to me when I'm by myself. But you attract duels, ambushes, immortal enemies, obscure creatures such as the Ra'zac, long-lost family members, and mysterious acts of magic as though they were starving weasels and you were a rabbit that wandered into their den.
What the Hell, Hero?: Four examples: Firstly, Murtagh heavily criticizes Eragon's (and the Varden's) moral stance and allegiance at the end of Eldest, going so far as to say that Galbatorix isn't bad enough to earn what Eragon's doing to the Empire. Secondly, Sloan gives Eragon a massive tongue lashing in Brisingr when he encounters him, complete with lots of fantasy swear words. Thirdly, after Eragon attempts to heal Elva of her curse, he makes a mistake and only succeeds in making it painless, leaving Elva still empowered but no longer shackled down with a desire to help others, turning her into an Anti-Hero. Shortly after, he decides that she isn't mature enough to handle such power and tries to take it from her, whereupon she puts him down and tells him he's behaving as Galbatorix would. And fourthly, a soldier in Feinster complains about Eragon "taking glory for himself" by disrupting the peace and slaughtering even those who have been forced to serve the Empire. YMMV, but some people consider such moments a Crowning Moment Of Awesome.
Xanatos Gambit: Galbatorix's magnificent plan at the end of Eragon. He recruits his longtime enemies, the Urgals, and offers them free land if they attack the Beor Mountains and stamp out the dwarves and the Varden. This was a particularly ingenious move, because if the Urgals are victorious, that means that two of Galbatorix's principal enemies have been taken off the map, and the Urgals will be too weakened to challenge Galbatorix or fight back if he wants to get rid of them later, all without a single imperial warrior having to die. If the Urgals lose, then Galbatorix has effectively gotten rid of a race he hated anyway (they killed his original dragon in his backstory) before they have a chance to cause trouble for him. The Varden and dwarves manage to stave off the Urgals, leaving both sides significantly weakened but alive. Durza, who was controlling the Urgals, gets killed, causing the much smaller forces of Urgals still alive turn against Galbatorix shortly afterwards.
Ye Goode Olde Days: Everybody is always rambling about how awesome the days before Galbatorix were.
Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The archaisms in the books are often used incorrectly. An example would be Orik saying "mine King, Hrothgar." "Mine" is only used before vowels. Characters also use "thou" and "you" within the same sentence. This may be a stylistic decision on Paolini's part, though some (especially those who know a bit about old English) feel that it breaks the Willing Suspensionof Disbelief.
Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Elva, being the emotional manipulator that she is, purposefully uses this tactic against Eragon, telling him that Galbatorix would approve of his actions. This leaves him badly shaken and questioning his morals. Why he didn't come to this revelation right after what he did to Sloan is anyone's guess.