Fantasy realm delivers

By Grace Jones | posted on March 17, 2019

Christopher Paolini
The Fork, the Witch and the Worm
Penguin Books

THERE is always a moment in the life of a budding literary fiend that can be traced back to where their passion to read comes from.

For me it was the Inheritance Cycle series written by Christopher Paolini.

From the moment I picked up the first book, Eragon, I was sucked into the fantasy realm of Alagaesia that house elves, dwarves, urgals, dragons, werecats and other mysterious creatures ruled over by the evil king Galbatorix.

One of the most vivid memories I can recall is finally meeting Paolini at a signing in Perth for the final book Inheritance in 2011.

With my book clutched in my hands like a lifeline, I timidly walked up to my idol author and as he was signing my book (which I still have proudly sitting on my overstuffed shelves at home), I asked if he would ever write another book about Alagaesia.

“You’ll just have to wait and see,” he said while handing the book back to me with a smile and a wink.

And near on seven years later, the announcement was made that The Fork, the Witch and the Worm would be published.

Of course every giddy feeling a teenager can feel when ‘fangirling’ over their favourite author resurfaced in one simple social media post.

After finally picking up a copy nearly four months after it hit bookshelves, I managed to spend a few days to sit down and immerse myself back into the world of Dragon Riders.

As with the other Paolini books I have devoured in the past, TFTWTW was just as lyrical and vivid in its descriptions of landscapes, the use of inner monologues to develop depth in character and traces of humour were all nostalgically present.

On second glance at the first short story in the book, the layers of Paolini’s story started to fall into place.

With each chapter Paolini paints the picture of a young hero struggling with the weight of responsibility.

And to give advice on what path Eragon should take or to bring him back to earth, a variety of characters present short stories or snippets of the outside world that impart kernels of wisdom reminiscent of Aesop’s Fables.

The issues presented in TFTWTW are much more complex than the average 13-year-old reader may comprehend, with connotations of acceptance of death and love over the madness of revenge and hatred, and the age old David and Goliath-esque battle of dominance between foes.

Younger readers may be enchanted by the tales weaved by Paolini and just read the surface narrative while a more advanced reader may be able to pick away with strands of colour and texture to come away with a more enlightened reading.

My personal favourite part of the novel was straight after an event that rocked Eragon’s confidence as a leader and described the story of Ilgra, who seeks to avenge her father and her people after a dragon ravages her village for years.

The simplicity in language that represents the urgal language and culture is offset by the depth of pain, anguish and pure anger at her situation that leaves you breathless after every page.

The one minuscule complaint I could make about the book, and it really is small, is that it finishes too abruptly.

The last book in the Inheritance series sat at 860 pages, which was the fattest out of the four, while TFTWTW was a total of 288 pages.

As every good fantasy writer does, there was one hell of a cliffhanger and in the spirit of being spoiler-free, I won’t mention it.

However, the abruptness in which Paolini finishes the book is like your mum ripping the doona off you in the middle of winter to get ready for school.

Cold, disorientating and a bit annoying.

The transition of tale to afterword is not as seamless as he has written in the past and makes me wonder if there was more story to tell that didn’t make the editor’s cut.

Regardless of that small complaint, as ever, I loved the book.

As the elves say during the series, atra du evarinya ono varda.

May the stars watch over you.