Capping the former Inheritance Trilogy, this fourth epic-length episode brings teenage Dragon Rider Eragon at last to a decisive faceoff with his greatest enemy.
Beginning with the capture of the fortress city of Belatona, the rebellious Varden alliance wins multiple hard-fought victories before arriving at last before the iron gates of imperial Urû’baen, “wherein sits Galbatorix, proud, confident, and disdainful, for his is the strength of the dragons.” Meanwhile, Eragon and his scaled companion Saphira fly off to the ruins of Doru Araeba in response to mysteriously delivered hints that something in a hidden “Vault of Souls” will help defeat their clever and overwhelmingly powerful adversary. Tucking in well-developed side plots, elaborate set pieces, internecine squabbles, extraneous characters, piles of corpses and, toward the end, even oblique allusions to sex (dragon sex, anyway), Paolini moves his tale along with all deliberate speed to its properly explosive, massively destructive climax. As in previous volumes, there are so many nods to Tolkien and other fantasists that authorial whiplash must have been a chronic hazard, but battle scenes are satisfyingly dramatic. Moreover, the act that leads to the thoroughly predictable outcome is just one of several ingenious twists, and before sailing off to lands unknown in a boat of Elvish make (sound familiar?), the young warrior/mage actually wages peace while methodically tying up loose ends over the final 90+ pages.
Despite the long, anticlimactic wind-down, it is a strong conclusion to the crowd-pleasing series. (maps, multilingual word list) (Heroic fantasy. 12-15)