A Closer Look at a Young Author’s Masterpiece – The Inheritance Cycle

The Inheritance Cycle, otherwise known as the Eragon book series, is a fantasy series written by Christopher Paolini. He published four books in total, Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and culminating with Inheritance in November 2011. Paolini has stated that he will eventually write the fifth book in the series, though apparently, it will contain new main characters and a new general plotline. Below, you will find information regarding things like the basic plot, setting, some information on the author, and some information about the overall reception and popularity of The Inheritance Cycle.

Basic Setting:

The Inheritance Cycle is set in the continent of Alagaësia, part of a larger, Earth-sized world that remains unnamed. Alagaësia is home to many fantastical places, like the northern Elven forest of Du Weldenvarden, the treacherous Hadarac Desert, and the awe-inspiring Beor Mountains, home of the dwarves. Eragon’s journeys take him to these places and more, Paolini continually raising the bar as the books progress.


As with most fantasy series, Paolini incorporates multiple sentient races into his story. The main character, Eragon, is a Human. The other main character, Saphira, is a Dragon capable of telepathically speaking to those around her. Other races present in Alagaësia include Elves, Dwarves, Urgals, Ra’zac, Shades, and Werecats. Also mentioned are a couple mythical, ancient races: the Grey Folk and the Giants. While some of these fantasy races are familiar to you, like Elves and Dwarves, most others are likely not.


Urgals are like orcs except considerably less savage and bloodthirsty. They do enjoy a good fight, much more than the other races, but they are more civilized and capable of good than the average orc. They are defined by their grayish skin, yellow eyes, and horned heads. Urgals have a subset amongst them called Kull.

Kull are enormous variants of Urgals, standing at a minimum above eight feet tall. Kull have incredible endurance, rivaling that of elves, and can run faster than a horse. They are incredibly strong and were considered the elite troops of the Urgals. Urgals as a race were capable of using magic, though this fact remained unknown to most other races.

Ra’zac and Lethyrblaka:

The Ra’zac are a foul race, considered evil by all. In the series, they are almost extinct. They are considered one of the best counters to a Dragon Rider due to their complete immunity to mental abilities. The Ra’zac are born from eggs. Their original form is a pupae, and resembles a fully grown human in shape, but not in detail. Ra’zac cover themselves in cloaks so they can move around without their grotesque appearances attracting attention. During this stage, they most enjoy killing and eating humans. Once they turn twenty years old, they shed their outer skin and wings come forth. At this point, they are called Lethyrblaka.

Lethyrblaka are extremely intelligent. They resemble dark, evil-looking dragons and are just as smart. Lethyrblaka are often used as mounts by their children. They will eat anyone and anything. Both variants are powerful, and their breath can paralyze weaker beings, including most humans. The Ra’zac and Lethyrblaka were both incapable of using magic.


Shades are a curious race. Shades can be any race. They are derived from a sorcerer or an unwilling victim that is possessed by summoned spirits. These spirits were summoned by a sorcerer that broke free from their control. Shades are universally evil because only evil spirits wish to possess and subvert another being’s free will. Shades are incredibly strong, among the strongest of all the races. They are also profoundly gifted in magic, the spirits possessing the body made of magic. They are potent adversaries, requiring much caution, power, and effort to kill. Shades can also only be killed by stabbing them through the heart. Otherwise, fatal wounds will cause the Shade to disperse and reform later, causing extreme pain but no long-lasting side effects. Shades are incredibly pale and typically have red hair, no matter their original coloring.


Werecats were a race primarily held in mystery by the other species of Alagaësia. At the time the series takes place, the werecats are thought to be extinct by most. While not necessarily true, there were very few of them left. Werecats possess the ability to shapeshift between a human form and that of a large cat. They are also able to command their more mundane counterparts. It is unknown whether they possess any magical ability beyond these.


Elves in The Inheritance Cycle are like Tolkien elves. Mysterious, powerful, and immortal unless killed, elves are a reclusive race. They are all beautiful, almost supernaturally so, and incredibly gifted in the magical arts. They craft some of the best weapons known to the world. Their pointed ears also help set them apart from humans. Elves have meager birth rates. Elves have supernatural strength, speed, endurance, and senses. They also have a deep affinity with nature, allowing them to bend it to their will. Elves often utilize magic through song, “singing” their spells in a harmonious, organized manner.


Dwarves are a short, powerful race with an affinity for rock and stone, similar to other representations of dwarves in books and movies. They are one of the first races to live in Alagaësia. Their homes are in the Beor Mountains, with vast interconnected networks of tunnels and underground cities. Many dwarves never see the sun, preferring to live underground forever. Dwarves are potent warriors and are incredibly stubborn and set in their ways. In the past, Dwarves and Dragons hated each other, much of which persists when The Inheritance Cycle takes place.


Dragons are the most powerful race in Alagaësia. They are immortal unless killed. They have the most potent magic and physical abilities. Quite obviously, they can fly as well. Dragons communicate via telepathy. Their mental abilities far outstrip other races. Their magic is strange and instinctual, and they have little control over when they use it. Typically, it takes a strong emotional response to use it. But when they do use it, dragons accomplish feats widely viewed as miracles by the other races. Dragons are nearly extinct during the events of The Inheritance Cycle.

Mythical Races:

The Grey Folk:

The Grey Folk are a race of legend. They were some of the original magic users, controlling it with their thoughts. Using only their thoughts was incredibly dangerous because any stray thoughts could change the spell they were casting. This effect would nearly always have detrimental effects on the caster and anyone around them. To combat this, the Grey Folk wove a fantastic spell, binding magic to their language, now called the Ancient Language. This ritual allowed spells to be caused using words, a much more precise method with less chance of backfiring. The spell was so massive that it made their race decline until they eventually died out.


The Giants are even more mythical than the Grey Folk. It is said they lived before nearly every other race. Not much is known about them. It is said they lived in the Starless Days. Their race was destroyed after they rebelled against the Deities, who utterly annihilated them. According to legend, the bones of the giants were used to create the Beor Mountains.

Dragon Riders:

Dragon Riders are a sort of hybrid race. Dragon Riders can be, at the beginning of the series, either Elves or Humans. A member of either species can be chosen by a Dragon Egg to be their rider. The rider and Dragon are then bound together. If the rider is human, they will become immortal unless killed and gain the ability to cast magic if they did not already possess it. Their physical and magical power will grow as they age alongside their Dragon. Riders are also proficient in mental combat, their mental strength receiving a boost. They can also telepathically communicate with their Dragon, and, with some practice, other people.

Magic System:

One of the most integral parts of Alagaësia is the magic woven into the very fiber of its being. This magic has rules that cannot be broken. In The Inheritance Cycle, Paolini designed a system that essentially was the manipulation of energy. Most races could use magic, though not every member can, except for the Elves and Dragons.

Magic is the art of thinking. While most use the Ancient Language to direct their spells, it is not inherently needed. It is noted in the series that it is more the image the caster associates with the words they are saying, and the will and focus backing it up. A good example brought up in the book is casting a spell using the word “water” and creating a gemstone instead. As long as the relationship between the word and the image and intent was clear to the caster, the sound produced did not matter. Thus, in Paolini’s series, a caster’s ability is mainly limited by the inventiveness.

Another limitation imposed on the spellcaster is that of physical stamina. Any action taken by magic would take energy from the caster as if they had done the task themselves. For example, if a spellcaster uses magic to raise a rock from the ground, once the spell is cast, they will use energy as if they lifted the rock themself. One way around this limitation is storing magical power in gems, different gems having different storage capacities.

A spellcaster’s strength also depends on age, experience, and their race. Dragons are by far the strongest spellcasters, their riders coming in second. Shades are near equals to older riders, the possessing spirit’s magical abilities rendering their spell work extremely potent. Elves are next, their magical ability weaker than that of a fully mature rider. Humans, Urgals, and Dwarves are generally weakest, their lesser strength compared to the Elves, a significant limiting factor.

Magic Users:

In The Inheritance Cycle, there are a variety of different types of magic users. The difference between them is how they access magic and how proficient they are in their usage. The most powerful, as stated several times, are Dragons. They hold little to no active control over their abilities, instead instinctively accessing it when experiencing high emotional states.

The next are magicians, otherwise called spellweavers. Elves, Humans, Urgals, and Dwarves and Rider variants, all fall within this category. The ability to manipulate magic is born into these people, with their ability varying wildly. Elves universally have access to magic, while it is rarer among the other races.

Shades could be considered a type of magician due to the method of their access and casting. The reason they are separate, though, is due to the presence of the evil spirits possessing the body. Shades are incredibly strong spellweavers whose method of accessing their power is unfortunate for the host body.

Sorcerers and Sorceresses are magicians who enlist spirits’ help to do magic far beyond their standard capabilities. They summon spirits using elaborate rituals to both bring them to the physical world and bind them to their will. When they lose control of the spirits they summoned, the most common consequence is that they are possessed and turned into a Shade.

Witches and Wizards do not possess any inherent magical ability. Or it is so small that it is nearly inconsequential. They utilize magic through the mixing of potions and elixirs composed of magical materials. Witches also possess the ability to tell someone’s fortune by using Dragon knucklebones saturated with magic.

Spirits, whether benign or not, are the pinnacle of magical power and ability alongside the Dragons. Due to their magical composition, they are capable of incredibly powerful and delicate feats of magic. One example of this in the book is when a spirit turns a regular lily into one of gold and crystal. The genuinely incredible part was that the lily was still alive despite being made out of nonliving material.

Author Bio:

Christopher Paolini was born on November 17, 1983, in Los Angeles, California. He and his family moved to Montana at a young age, where he lives to this day. He was homeschooled as a child and daydreamed of fantasy and worlds of magic.

The Inheritance Cycle began as one of these daydreams. At the age of fifteen, he began writing Eragon as a personal challenge to himself. He wanted to immerse himself in his world. Before writing his first draft, he took the time to plan out his story carefully and even personally experience the things he wanted his characters to go through. Some of this included forging his knives and swords, making chain mail, roughing it in the mountains, making his bows and arrows, learning to track game, and building survival shelters. Many of the experiences of Eragon throughout his series reflect his first-hand knowledge.

Eragon was self-published by Paolini and his family in 2001, a few years after writing the first draft. Eventually, it caught Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers’ eye and was published by them. It exploded around the world. Over the next decade, Paolini wrote the ensuing three books in the series, each one longer than the next. Paolini was awarded the record for the youngest author of a best-selling book series by the Guinness World Records.

Paolini is still writing to this day, his passion undiminished. He is taking a break from pure fantasy writing and focusing on science fiction instead. His first science fiction book, titled To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, will be published on September 15, 2020.

General Plot:

The Inheritance Cycle follows the journey of a young boy named Eragon from a small village called Carvahall. The story kicks off when he finds a Dragon egg in the mountains. It bonds to him and hatches soon after. He becomes a Dragon Rider, a near-mythical race of warriors charged with protecting Alagaësia. Eragon and Saphira, his Dragon, are forced to flee from their home, pursued by hunters desperate to end his life and thus the threat he poses to the King Galbatorix, the evil Dragon Rider king of the Brodding Empire.

Eragon’s mission eventually becomes to take down King Galbatorix, not only so that he and Saphira and can live, but so that peace and freedom can be brought back to Alagaësia. He enlists the help of the Varden, a rebel faction already fighting Galbatorix, and the Elves, Dwarves, Werecats, and Urgals in his quest.

On this fantastical journey, Eragon comes to learn much about himself, Saphira, and the nature of magic itself. He matures and grows as a Dragon Rider and as a leader. Eragon’s goal is a telltale story of standing tall against in the face of overwhelming odds.


Perhaps the most telling example of its popularity is the movie created out of the first book. Fox 2000 released an adaptation of Eragon in 2006. It debuted around the world, bringing Paolini’s mystical world to life on the big screen.

The book series itself received critical acclaim. The first book in the series, widely regarded as the most awkward of the four, was among the most popular books for several years after being corporately published. The subsequent books continued to get better and better, with reviews becoming more favorable over time. A lot of this had to do with Paolini’s immaturity as a writer. Many of the reviews talking about the imperfection present in the first book conceded that it was an incredibly impressive feat considering the author was fifteen years old when he wrote it.

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