Book reviews (January – February 2012)
For good reads our staff writers recommend Inheritance and A Certain Slant of Light.
Reviewed by Aaron Schwartz
16, Gabrielino HS (San Gabriel)
In the ancient language of the elves: Eka elrun ono, Christopher Paolini, wiol förn thornessa. In English: I thank you, Christopher Paolini, for this gift. In this case, the gift I’m referring to is Inheritance, his fourth and final book in the fantasy series known by the same name. The Inheritance cycle started as a trilogy with the first book, Eragon, but after completing Eldest and Brisingr, Paolini needed another book to finish the story. The three-year wait for this 849-page book was definitely worth it.
The series follows Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, as they try to escape the grasp of the evil Galbatorix and learn how to fight and use their magical powers to overthrow him. Inheritance chronicles the final desperate confrontations of the allied rebels of humans (the Varden), elves, dwarves, werecats and Urgals against Galbatorix and his vast army. Eragon and Saphira must fight to survive the countless battles they have with the Imperial armies while trying to find a way to defeat Galbatorix, the most powerful Dragon Rider ever born.
I liked Inheritance because it was fast paced, action packed and suspenseful. The book begins with Eragon and the Varden laying siege to the city of Belatona, which was controlled by Galbatorix. From there the fighting never stops. I also liked the humor. One funny scene was when Angela tells the story of a “raging red-eyed rabbit” that eats flesh. Her audience of Urgals and werecats are natural enemies. However, they get so wrapped up in Angela’s weird and gruesome story that the two groups forget they hate each other, and the werecats are even willing to lie on top of the Urgals as they listen to the story.
Inheritance ends the series in a satisfying way. We learn what happens in the final confrontation between Galbatorix and Eragon, and what happens to the land of Alagaësia afterward. The story also ties up the loose ends of the romance between Eragon and Arya, the elven ambassador who is Eragon’s partner, protector and mentor. However, the resolution does seem too long. It takes 100-plus pages just to wrap up the series after the final battle.
One unresolved storyline was the mystery of Angela’s past, which disappointed me since Angela the witch, who is as wise as she is strange (and she’s really strange), was my favorite character. If Paolini were to write any other book on Alagaësia, Angela’s back story would be a good one.
Inheritance is not as good as the Lord of the Rings series, which also has elves, dwarves and magic, but the story is entertaining. Anyone who likes sword fighting, magic, dragons, elves, mystical languages or just exciting stories should read this series.
Reviewed by Andrea Perez
17, Bravo Medical Magnet HS
I loved reading A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. It’s not long, but it’s beautifully written and a really touching story that deals with powerful themes like death, life, love and forgiveness.
The book is about Helen, a young woman whose spirit has been stuck wandering on Earth 130 years after her death. She cannot remember hardly anything from her life, but believes not being allowed into heaven is punishment for some sin she must have committed. She moves from host to host, forced to stay with each one until they die, even though they never realize she’s there.
After 130 years of no one hearing or seeing her, Helen meets James, a wandering spirit inhabiting the body of a young drug abuser named Billy. He teaches Helen how to occupy a body if the person’s spirit has chosen to leave. Billy’s spirit left after nearly dying, leaving the body hollow but alive and accessible to James. So Helen finds Jenny, whose soul has been driven out of her body by her parents’ oppressiveness.
Helen and James start becoming attached to living in the physical world, but they realize how difficult it is to continue pretending to be Jenny and Billy. They especially struggle with the lack of freedom they have as teenagers. To free themselves from their punishment they do the only thing that seems reasonable. They try to remember what sin they committed that has left them stuck on Earth, hoping the realization of their sins would allow them to be together in heaven.
I felt like Whitcomb was trying to say that we shouldn’t hold on to feelings of guilt nor run away from the pain that accompanies it, because it will hold us back. I think that Whitcomb’s way of conveying this message through the struggles of Helen and James was powerful, because their predicament was extreme and their guilt was literally preventing them from moving on.
I liked the spirituality in the book. I’m not particularly religious so I appreciated that the author didn’t overpower me with God and religion. The novel was exciting to read because it was original and I couldn’t predict anything. The ending was beautiful and full of tender emotion, making it one of the best endings I’ve ever read.