Chapter 69: Death Throes
We open the chapter which much description, little of it useful, about how the elves had healed Roran and how he now sits in the city square overlooking the remains of the battle.
As with every cliched antagonist army, the death of the commander demoralises the soldiers to the point that the few remaining Varden soldiers are able to press the advantage.
There continues to be nothing at all relating to numbers or logistics, so I’ll continue to assume that the empire soldiers still vastly outnumber the Varden soldiers.
And we get another moment where Paolini’s perfect peaceful elves, who do not eat meat
or wear leather because they don’t want to cause pain to animals, who massacred an entire town for the crime of chopping a few trees down, being not so merciful:
“The elves worried Roran;”—Should be a stop or a colon, not a semicolon—“he had seen them kill soldiers who were trying to surrender”—Gee, where have we seen that kind of action before?—“cutting them down without the slightest compunction.”
Wow. So much for the morally superior, mystical peace-loving elves.
Following this, we continue with half a page of summary (instead of, y’know, actual action) about the final clean-up efforts of the battle. Because when Barst died, suddenly the army that vastly outnumbered them has been reduced to a few pockets of resistance while the Varden has surged in number to be able to take control of most of the city.
Oh, and by the way, “soon after Barst fell, King Orrin had taken a bolt to the chest while storming a guardhouse deeper within the city”.
You know, I would really have liked to read about that as it happened. It might have been an opportunity for dramatic tension.
Even though we’re still technically in the middle of a battle, Roran demonstrates the attention span of a crow:
““Yes sir”, said the man, and the knob in his neck bobbed as he swallowed.
Roran stared for a moment, fascinated by the movement.”
Riveting stuff. I’m on the edge of my seat.
There’s more useless padding, including a bit about Roran worrying about whether or not Eragon is still alive. Not because Eragon is the cousin that he grew up with like brothers, but because it would be strategically disadvantageous for Galbatorix to triumph.
There’s a “muffled roar from within the stone hill” that Roran thinks “only Shruikan could have roared that loud”. If it was muffled, why could it only have been the strongest dragon? If it was so impressively loud, why was it muffled?
Then there’s a bit pulled directly from the death(s) of Sauron in the LOTR films: a wave of sound/vibration that deafens everyone, then a massive dust cloud spreading outward, blotting out the sun, earthquakes and flying debris and all the rest. And then there is silence.
No, that’s not the end of the chapter, although I think it might make for a suitably dramatic chapter break. Instead we get a few paragraphs of people picking themselves up, dusting themselves off
and starting all over again and discovering that they’re all deaf. Don’t worry, it’s temporary (unlike in real life, if you’re that close to the epicentre of a massive explosion).
There’s a moment of worry about the massive stone shelf under which the city is built (you remember, the one that isn’t physically possible without at least some supporting pillars?). “It suddenly occurred to [Roran] that the whole city might be in danger”
And the chapter closes with some artificially manufactured emotional tension (I think they grow it in labs, these days):
“And grief clutched his heart. Eragon!”
DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!
This chapter is impressively awful, there are so many moment that could have been reaslly dramatic and tense, that are ruined by the dispassionate summary-style narration that is as devoid of character as it is of emotion. The parts that are supposed to be dramatic are either disproven by earlier actions, or simply insincere. Even worse, it is effectively useless: serving only to show the immediate repercussions of Galbatorix’s suicide spell and little else. It might have words as a five-second cut in a movie or video game, but in a novel it is as worthless as, well, the entire second book of the series.