1 February 2019

REVIEW: The Fork, The Witch and The Worm

I believe some books are meant to be read at a certain time in your life, fortunately Eragon and Saphira came to me just when I needed them the most.
I read the original Inheritance Cycle when I was about 15 or 16 years old. Ever since I finished the last page of Inheritance I have been religiously checking up on Christopher Paolini's twitter for any news about a possible book V.
I completely lost myself in the world of Alagaësia. I have re-read the books several times and still I find myself utterly enthralled in the magical universe that Paolini has created. The fantasy elements are beautifully written but what made the series really stand out for me was the way the author included the Historical, Cultural and Political elements of the different races in the story. We didn't just get to take part in a great adventure: we got to see all the various contingencies that accompany such an event, good and bad alike. Paolini illustrated the complications of war and the unexpected conflicts that naturally follow. The story never sugarcoated anything, it was a realistic approach to a magical and dangerous series of events.

When The Fork, the Witch and The Worm was announced last year, I jumped up and immediately ran around the house shouting the news to my family who also love the books. It was finally happening! After 8 long years, we got to go back to Alagaësia, although maybe not in the way we expected.
This review will only focus on the novella The Fork, The Witch and The Worm. I'll give a general review first before talking about my reaction, wherein I'll announce "spoilers ahead"! If you have not read the original Inheritance Cycle series stop reading now (and go buy them - you won't regret it).

There is a little bit of confusion regarding The Fork, the Witch and the Worm. I think the description concerned a lot of people: it is described as a collection of short tales from Alagaësia. Lots of people were worried that this meant we would not directly hear from our favourite characters. Without giving too much away, I will say that the short stories we discover, we discover at the same time as Eragon does. That means we do follow him but only for a short while. We get to see what he has been up to in the year since Galbatorix's downfall, and join him as he discovers these 'tales'  which provide a little bit of escape from the new challenges he is facing. It also allows us, the reader, to further immerse ourselves in their magical world. As for the other characters, we do hear from some of them but not directly.
This may be a disappointment for some, who were hoping for a full novel and a new set of plot-lines. However I think you'll appreciate The Fork, the Witch and the Worm even more if you shift your perspective. I believe this was a really refreshing approach to reacquaint us with Alagaësia (and remember, this novella is entitled 'volume I: Eragon' so we can may dare to hope that more is to come). We get to see some of the smaller moments often left out of the great stories. Moments that actually hold just as much value, that illustrate the characters and their world. They contribute to the bigger picture. On top of that, the novella drops several hints to future adventures. I do believe The Fork, the Witch and the Worm is setting the scene for something greater. 

Now, some more specific thoughts on the novella! Spoilers ahead! Don't read unless you've read FWW in full!

Eragon was back. I couldn't believe it. I must've spent at least 5 minutes re-reading the first paragraphs, savoring the moment, trying to take it all in. I won't lie, I do wish we could look forward to another larger series. I'd love to go on another adventure with Eragon and Saphira. Growing up, they were my friends and the escapism they provided has yet to be matched by another. Some have come close, but no story has shaped me as much as Inheritance has. I was among the people who felt slightly worried after the novella was announced. After my initial 'freaking out' reaction, I then began to question the title and wondered 'are we even going to see our characters again?'. Thankfully, Christopher Paolini and his sister Angela (who wrote Angela the Herbalist's tale!) answered many fan questions on Twitter, mine included, which put me at ease. I completely accept that this reaction was selfish on my part, I had to remind myself that we were still returning to Alagaësia, and that that was something to be grateful for!

In all honesty, The Fork, the Witch and the Worm did not disappoint. I loved it. The author has my complete trust and I truly stand by what I said: this is the perfect opportunity to return to this magical world and catch-up with some our favourites, without diving into anything too deep. Christopher and Angela Paolini gave us what we didn't know we needed. I was smiling through-out it all just because it was enough to simply be there if only for a short while and participate in Eragon's new day-to-day.

I don't have any negative comments to make, it was a very satisfying read but I do want more. I guess that's the downside to such a great story and world: there will never be enough.

First of all, Paolini perfectly set the scene as always. It felt familiar and comforting, like an embrace from an old friend. Many questions were answered within the first few pages. We have a clear picture of where Eragon is, what he aims to achieve and what challenges he is facing. We are reminded that despite his success, he is still young and still has much to learn. The pressure to establish the new Dragonhold weighs down upon him, of course it does. He has a lot of people counting on him and he is struggling. I think this was such a good way to kick off the book. To illustrate the reality of what Eragon and Saphira are doing. Nothing will be straight-forward and it could be all too easy to just skip to the part where everything is settled. Paolini has always done a wondrous job in including the more complicated moments in his books. It makes it even more satisfying to read as it is realistic- we get to see every single detail, not just the surface.

As for the short tales, I can't decide which one I enjoyed the most. The first 'tale' was an update on Murtagh, who flew to the north with Thorn after Galbatorix was killed. I loved seeing him again, and I found it really interesting to see him through a stranger's eyes. It's amazing how much you can learn from someone in one encounter- an encounter which will no doubt stick with the young girl for her whole life. Although Murtagh's life is still quite unstable this tale proves that he remains empathetic towards others. We know at the end of Inheritance that he believed he would 'never be accepted' after what he did for Galbatorix, I can't help but wonder whether he will ever search to be accepted as Murtagh, or continue to live and enjoy life as he always has under a different name. He doesn't seem to care what others think of him, but we could question what he could possibly do to earn the people's acceptance, if he ever desires to live freely. Whatever the case, he is keeping busy!

Angela was as enticing as always, beautifully penned by Angela Paolini herself- making the tale all the more special! I loved the details about Elva and Nasuada, a little insight into what is going on politics wise and in relation to magic-users. Angela remains just as strange and wonderful as I remembered. 
The Urgal legend felt like the longest tale, it was the only one that offered no direct links to any known characters. This tale helps further establish the Urgals, we did know a fair amount about them but this really took us deeper into their beliefs and values. I really appreciate the message the legend offered: the value of patience, hard-work and determination. Ilgra is awesome. Moreover I love how the tale focused on the Urgals alone, no humans, elves or dwarves involved! The ending kind of took me by surprise but I loved it. Nothing is black or white in the world of Alagaësia and that's what makes it so good!

I cannot wait to see what Volume II will bring (I mean I think it is safe to assume it is happening). Will it focus on Roran? Nasuada? Murtagh? Arya? Will it follow the same format? My imagination is swirling with ideas, this novella only deepened my love for these characters and this world. Again, I truly believe that the Fork, the Witch and the Worm was setting the scene for future installments. I am still buzzing nearly 1 month on. 

Have you read The Fork, the Witch and the Worm? What did you think? What would you like to see in Volume II? 

Holly x


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