I don’t love it when creators turn one good idea into a massive franchise (let alone one bad idea). But I’m also a sucker for a sequel. I especially love sequels that do their own thing rather than trying to repeat a formula. Christopher Paolini’s recent novel Murtagh is one such sequel.

If you’ve read elsewhere on my blog, you’ll know that reading Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle has had a lasting impact on me. I encountered the first two books as a teenager—struggling to finish my own first novel at the time—and eagerly awaited books three and four after that. I read Murtagh (which is flagged as a World of Eragon novel rather than a run of the mill sequel) with similar eagerness and am glad that I did, as I’ll explore in a more review-like structure than I’ve used in this blog before.

Because I’m looking at this very much as a book for people who’ve read The Inheritance Cycle, you’ll find some series spoilers below. I won’t, however, spoil Murtagh itself. Caveats, also: If you didn’t like The Inheritance Cycle, you probably won’t like Murtagh, which might mean this article isn’t for you either. But then again, maybe I can change your mind.

Murtagh shows us a different Alagaesia

Quick summary, for starters: Murtagh takes place after the conclusion of The Inheritance Cycle, when Murtagh (the character) is pretty much an outcast everywhere for his role in Galbatorix’s rule and demise alike. The Varden hate Murtagh and Thorn for fighting them in nearly every major battle. The dwarves hate them for killing their king. And for good measure, loyal citizens of Galbatorix’s empire hate them too—even though their role in bringing Gabatorix down doesn’t seem to be well or widely known.

With this backdrop, Murtagh and Thorn embark on a series of adventures to confront a new threat to Alagaesia. Part of this is about trying to do something good for the people they’ve stymied or outright fought in the past (like Nasuada). The journey is also about Murtagh and Thorn looking for where they belong now, given the huge changes they’ve brought to the world around them.

Despite events from the previous four books having huge bearings on everything about Murtagh, this book does its own thing in a few major ways:

  • New plot and story shape. Murtagh tells its own unique story, rather than recycling previous plot lines (which I would have hated). It also manages to feel like an entire story in one volume—even though much is left open at the end. One of the things that most impressed me about the book was how self-contained it feels, even given the huge amount of story preceding it.
  • New magical goings on. Paolini spent a significant amount of time establishing the magic system in The Inheritance Cycle, and that setup rewards series readers with some dynamic new ways magic can be used. On the one hand, this is cool and interesting. On the other hand, it also helps up the stakes and build character for Murtagh, whose magical training was very different from Eragon’s.
  • New locales. While a chunk of the book is set in places we’ve seen in previous books, Paolini breathes a lot of new life into return locations. He also shows us plenty of new and vibrant settings, all while maintaining a sort of worldbuilding aesthetic that feels fully harmonious with The Inheritance Cycle.
  • New faces and forces at work. New characters like Lyreth, Bachel and Uvek (my favorite of the new faces) go a long way to making Murtagh feel like its own thing. Unsurprisingly, this book also offers a lot more depth and relatability for both Thorn and Murtagh themselves, particularly in their journey from being total loners to learning what it means to play nice with others.
  • A different kind of story for different kinds of characters. The dragon-rider relationship is central to Murtagh much as it is in The Inheritance Cycle. Where Eragon and Saphira enjoy closeness and vulnerability from the start, Murtagh feels like a very different book in large part because of how distinctly different a dragon-rider relationship Murtagh and Thorn share.

Murtagh stays true to the tone and thematic core of The Inheritance Cycle

Murtagh and Thorn, fan art
Art by Apljck

Just as I was really impressed with how Murtagh feels like its own thing, what I loved second most about the novel was revisiting the world of Eragon in a way that felt not just fresh but also true to form.

Paolini has had a lot of new life and writing experience to draw upon since the completion of The Inheritance Cycle. I wondered upfront whether writing his first two Fractalverse novels would shape Murtagh into something less recognizable for fans of the former books. He’s taken a long hiatus from writing novels in Alagaesia, after all. I was delighted, however, to find that Murtagh feels like an organic continuation of the story, both in tone and substance.

There’s a strong thematic connection between previous books and this one. The first four books deal heavily with themes such as: the nature of oaths and promises; the loneliness of being an orphan, a rider, a dragon, the last of something, the first of something; inheritance in all its meanings; identity both based on genealogy and choice. Murtagh takes a unique angle to more or less all of these same themes, showing up as its own while really fleshing out the themes that hold The Inheritance Cycle together. In particular, there’s a lot of more subtle exploration here about what it means, in this world, to be a dragon rider—including both the power and the baggage the role brings.

The setting of Alagaesia itself also felt like a true continuation of the world Paolini began building twenty plus years before he wrote Murtagh. Part of this comes down to the way he sets the scene and the details he chooses to include. But I get the feeling that this world is firmly established in the author’s mind, firmly enough to leave, take the better part of a decade away, and return to the same setting.

Lots of fantasy authors have tried to transport readers back with them after a time away. Some succeed (Tad Williams, Terry Brooks, Robin Hobb). Many others have failed to recreate the magic, though. Thankfully, the effect worked for me in Murtagh. It felt as easy as ever to lose myself in Alagaesia.

Conclusion: Murtagh is a great read for fans of The Inheritance Cycle

The future’s bright for the world of Eragon. Especially given Paolini’s rapid pace over the past few years, I’m excited to explore where he takes readers next.

While I really enjoyed the original conclusion of The Inheritance Cycle, Murtagh made for a captivating reentry to the series.

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Headshot of epic fantasy author Stephen Taylor.

About the Author

Stephen Taylor is the author of The Witherclaw Trilogy as well as short fiction appearing in The Future FireMYTHIC Magazine, The Centropic Oracle, and other publications. His short story “Only an Ocean” won a Silver Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. When he’s not writing, he’s often playing my violin or wandering in the woods.

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