Rather distractingly, we're now switching the perspective to somebody we haven't seen since the start of Book 1: Roran. In case you've forgotten who he is, which is easy because he's pretty dull, Roran is Eragon's cousin. He wants to screw Sloan's daughter.

That pretty much sums him up, at least thus far.

Roran trudged up the hill.

Thank God! A break from Ye Olde Prose of Deepest Violet.

In case you've forgotten, Roran is Eragon's mundane cousin, who has a crush on Katrina and inflamed Eragon's sexual jealousy by announcing he wanted to plow her field. Metaphorically speaking.

Wait, the way I describe it makes it sound way more interesting than it is.

Anyway, he's paying a visit to the old homestead, five months after it burned down and his dad died. This is actually a fairly good piece of character development, until of course Paolini starts telling instead of showing.

Just beyond the farm, a thick belt of trees obscured the Anora River.

Wait, why would you have an ordinary farm right next to a river? And did Paolini ever mention this river before?

His father, Garrow, once said, “The land is a special thing. Care for it, and it’ll care for you. Not many things will do that.”

Spoken like a character written by an author who has probably never seen a farm except on hayrides. The land does NOT take care of you. Nature is a cruel, heartless bitch who doesn't care if you live or die, and countless small farmers over the centuries have lost everything because of "the land."

Roran had intended to do exactly that up until the moment his world was ruptured by a quiet message from Baldor.

And then they had to do surgery to remove his ruptured world before he got really sick.

With a groan, he spun away and stalked back toward the road. The shock of that moment still resonated within him.

…. not to be insensitive, but it's been SIX MONTHS.

I understand that nobody ever fully recovers from a parent's death, but Roran is acting like this happened yesterday. It's like that scene in the awful The Quick or the Dead? where the heroine is flinging herself around having hysterics over the death of the husband who died TWO YEARS AGO. Some people have delayed reactions, but not THAT delayed. By six months, most people have dealt with most of the repercussions.

Having everyone he loved torn away in an instant was a soul-changing event from which he would never recover.

"I totally miss the hot cuzzin-love from Eragon!"

It also forced Roran to think more than ever before.

Not saying much, is it?

It was as if bands had been cinched around his mind, and those bands had snapped, allowing him to ponder ideas that were previously unimaginable.

"… so, if A = B and A = C, then B = C? And… maybe you CAN break the sound barrier!"

Such as the fact that he might not become a farmer, or that justice—the greatest standby in songs and legends—had little hold in reality.

  1. So what's he gonna be, then? I wonder if he'll end up a noble or some shit.
  2. I am pretty sure that most medieval farmers were acutely aware that there wasn't much justice in the world - especially if they were atheists like everybody-except-dwarves in Alagaesia, and thus had no hope of God striking the local lord with a lightning bolt. 
  3. Yo, Paolini - songs and legends were a form of entertainment; people rarely actually THOUGHT they were reflections of reality.

At times these thoughts filled his consciousness to the point where he could barely rise in the morning, feeling bloated with their heaviness.

And then Horst told him to get his lazy emo ass out of bed because it's been six freakin' months already.

So he goes wandering back to Carvahall again, and we get a description of how it's springtime and there's a cloud and the mountains still have snow on them…. wait, spring? When Eragon left it was the middle of WINTER. It should be summertime or perhaps early fall, not spring!

Roran ran a hand across his chin, feeling the stubble.

Hooray. He's gone through puberty. Good for him.

Then Roran gripes to himself about how all these problems are Eragon's fault, because obviously no such problems could be caused by anyone or anything other than Eragon and his magic rock. Even thought Roran had pretty much forgotten about the magic rock by the time Garrow was killed, and suddenly he's all superstitious about the Spine despite not having said a thing about it before.

He's also excessively logical about his rage against Eragon. You'd expect someone in the throes of grieving to just randomly blame someone who seems like a likely target - but of course he doesn't actually BLAME Eragon for Garrow's death, just for failing to bury him before sauntering off into the wild.

abandoning his responsibilities to gallop off with the old storyteller on some harebrained journey.

… so he what, forgot to muck out the cowbarn and sweep the floor before galloping off? What responsibilities did he HAVE?

How could Eragon have so little regard for those left behind?

Given that Eragon has displayed a total sociopathic lack of regard for anybody, I can't understand how Roran could think he has ANY regard for those left behind.

. . . I don’t even know if he’s dead or alive right now.

… and I don't really care much either. He doesn't seem terribly worried about it.

Then he gripes to himself about Brom's weird-ass letter, which apparently didn't really say much at all. Cuz Secrets Iz Kool, and Brom's whole schtick is to hurt other people by being mysterious about things they should really know.

Then he randomly notices TWELVE DEER that are conveniently trotting by with no fear of the human meandering by. Oh, and apparently Roran is also a hunter who is currently earning his living at Horst's by hunting God's creatures… which doesn't make much sense since Horst is a BLACKSMITH, not a butcher. Wouldn't it make more sense to learn to be a blacksmith instead, which has more long-term prospects than "I shootz deerz!"?

He made sure to note their location so he could find them tomorrow.

Because deer always stay in one place and NEVER meander around. That is how deer work!

And we then get some insights on Roran's life - he dumped his temp job and got a new job with Horst, and for some reason Roran hasn't made up any decisions about what to do until… now. He also still has the hots for Katrina, but he won't marry her because he doesn't have a house even though he still owns a farm with land and stuff.

Or... maybe he doesn't. Apparently the area was just vacant, and his dad decided to move into the enormous yet mildly derelict house.

But now, without a farm, a home, or means to support her, Roran could not in good conscience ask for Katrina’s hand.

Well, technically he DOES have a farm and means to support her, if he would get off his ass and start plowing and seeding the place. For that matter, I'm not even sure why he came back to Carvahall - he doesn't have a home, a job, anyone at all waiting there. So why?

His pride would not allow it.

…. and I'd question what kind of idiot would marry him if he doesn't have anything.

So he wangsts about how Sloan is a meanie-mean jerkass who would never let him marry Katrina when he's living on Horst's charity.

And it was impossible for Roran to wed Katrina without her father’s consent, not unless they wished to divide her family, anger the village by defying tradition, and, most likely, start a blood feud with Sloan.

  1. Ever heard of elopements?
  2. Her family has two members. It sounds much more dramatic when you put it that way, rather than saying that it'll estrange her from Daddy.
  3. Nah, nobody in the village would be angered, because Roran is a Stu's beloved cousin and Sloan is a MEANIE-MEAN JERKASS.
  4. I don't think Paolini knows what a blood feud is. A blood feud involves violence, dude! It also usually involves more than two people.

So since he hasn't got another option, Roran decides to rebuild his farm, possibly single-handed… yeeeaaaaah, no. It can take dozens of people to do that sort of thing. Dunno how he's going to afford the lumber, tools and everything since he has NO MONEY, but apparently Roran's tiny brain hasn't thought of that yet.

He knew Katrina would wait—for a time, at least.

But after thirty years of waiting for him to finish the house, she finally eloped with Horst's grandson.

He continued at a steady pace until evening, when the village came into view.

… okay, is Carvahall migrating for the year? Suddenly it seems way further away than it was before.

Within the small huddle of buildings, wash hung on lines strung from window to window.

Interesting. I'm not sure why you'd do that in a rural village with lots of trees and open spaces. A city, yes - but not a rural village.

Also, it sure didn't seem "small" in the last book, where everybody had huge houses and there were multiple streets.

Men filed back toward the houses from surrounding fields thick with winter wheat.

Winter wheat? Okay, I think either Paolini forgot when he had Eragon leave, or he later inserted the "Six months later" description and forgot to adjust everything else! EDITOR PLEEEEEEEZ!

Nothing was more comforting than having everything where it should be.

... which makes absolutely sure that the entire village will soon be wrecked.

Leaving the road, he made his way up the rise to where Horst’s house sat with a view of the Spine.

… that must be SOME rise if it has a view of the MOUNTAINS, despite supposedly being surrounded by mile-high cliffs, forests and fields!

So he goes in and sees Horst, his pregnant wife Elain (watch her, because this poor woman is going to be pregnant for the rest of the series) and his grown-up sons. who are having some sort of weird weird discussion about some dude claiming he saw Albriech, king of the dwarves… no wait, sorry, that was Alberich. Albriech is one of Horst's kids.

Anyway, Elain asks Roran how the farm is, and Roran gives her this nonchalant answer about how he'll have to cut random trees for new timber and all that crap. Amazingly, she doesn't burst out laughing. And for a guy who was going all TRAGEDY-EMO one scene ago, he seems awfully calm and composed when the subject comes up.

Also: some guy is missing a scythe and is blaming Albriech, apparently because Albriech is the only blond guy in the whole village. Whatever. Since a lot of them have Scandinavian names, I'd expect more than one blonde man. There's some boring conversation about wagons and deer, and thankfully this really boring scene ends.

Then Roran goes wandering off into the tavern, still not exactly seeming grief-stricken. There's some guy sitting in the tavern talking for what seems like hours about nothing at all.

Sitting on the porch was a middle-aged man draped in a patchwork leather coat.

… because his granny never made him a quilt.

Apparently said guy is a trapper who spent the WHOLE WINTER living in the mountains which seems kind of suicidal to me. Hello, infodump:

“After a few steins of ale—to lubricate my speaking, you understand,"

This guy doesn't seem to have any trouble with that. He talks for FREAKING EVER.

"after a ’alf year with nary a word uttered, except perhaps for blaspheming the world and all beyond"

Blaspheming means insulting something/someone holy. I think he means "cursing the world," which is more about expressing the hope that something bad will happen to the subject - but unless Paolini's humans are into pantheism it isn't "blaspheming." And what is "all beyond" since apparently nobody believes in an afterlife?

"I come to Neil, the froth still fresh on my beard, and start"

… passionately kissing.

"exchanging gossip. As our transaction proceeds, I ask him all gregarious-like, what news of the Empire or the king—may he rot with gangrene and trench mouth."

  1. Why does he need to fake being gregarious when he asks for news?
  2. Again, I'm not sure why he hates the king - or anyone, for that matter. We still haven't heard anything BAD about him.
  3. And I'm not sure why an Empire has a king, instead of an emperor.

"Was anyone born or died or banished that I should know of?"

Probably not. That would be interesting.

"And then guess what? Neil leaned forward, going all serious ’bout the mouth,"

… and snogged the foam right out of my beard.

"and said that word is going around, there is, from Dras-Leona and Gil’ead of strange happenings here, there, and everywhere in Alagaësia."

Like short sharp showers of shrimp, geese walking backwards and two-headed kittens? (Apologies to Sir Terry)

"’Alf the trade in the Empire has dried up as a result of raids and attacks and, from what I heard, it isn’t the work of mere brigands, for the attacks are too widespread, too calculated. No goods are stolen, only burned or soiled."

Presumably this is what the Ebil King is supposed to be doing - sending out Ebil Minions to do Ebil Things to random merchants. Because he's evil and evil people do random evil things just to BE evil. The problem is that this doesn't make sense - Galby has no motivation to wreck the trade of his OWN land (which is kind of like setting your own pants on fire), and it would actually cost him to organize wide-spread raids just to do so. "Because he's evil" is not a good enough excuse.

So I'm gonna assume that the Varden, since they're incredibly stupid, are trying to blame this on Galby. And since they're also inept, they just burned everything instead of actually stealing it.

“There be mutterings of a Shade haunting the northern territories."

This would be slightly more dramatic if this scene had been in the previous book. Since we know he's dead, it's not very suspenseful.

"They say his teeth are filed to points, his eyes are as red as wine, and his hair is as red as the blood he drinks."

The whole "they say" part would be much scarier if

  1. it weren't all true except for the blood-drinking part, and
  2. these things were abnormally scary. I mean, if they said he was ten feet tall, had venomous claws and crushed babies every morning, I might be impressed - but all that means is that he's got some slightly abnormal coloring.

"Worse, something seems to have gotten our fine, mad monarch’s dander up, so it has. Five days past, a juggler from the south stopped in Therinsford on his lonesome way to Ceunon, and he said that troops have been moving and gathering, though forwhat was beyond him.”

And this whole dramatic speech is undermined by Paolini's determination to never have ANYONE ever think ANYTHING even remotely positive or neutral about Galby. A real person might have at least speculated that Galby's army gathering has something to do with the sudden disappearance of the Urgals or the organized attacks on merchants (which could be from another country). But those possibilities are never even entertained, because Galby is EBIL.

“As my pap taught me when I was a suckling babe, where there’s smoke, there’s fire."

Usually when people are suckling babes, they aren't being taught verbal cliches because… well, they're babies. Babies don't tend to absorb that stuff.

Also, in medieval language a "pap" meant a breast. So unless he was able to absorb knowledge directly from boobs... he's talking from his ass.

"Or perhaps Galbatorix finally decided he’s had enough of tolerating Surda. At least he knows where to find it, unlike those rebels.”

So… Galby knows where to find Surda, but the Varden don't? Is Surda invisible? Because if not, then I can only conclude that the Varden are so stupid that they can miss an entire COUNTRY.

Anyway, Roran thinks about it and immediately comes to the conclusion that probably they're about to go to war with Surda. The whole thing is nothing but gossip, rumor, and third-hand anecdotes with half the information missing, but of course nobody actually thinks about that.

If the trapper was right about Galbatorix, then it could mean ugly war crouched in the future, accompanied by the hardships of increased taxes and forced conscription.

A minute ago the trapper said that Galby could effortlessly crush Surda, so why would he need to tax people more (rather than taking his troops' pay from the Surdans) or conscript more soldiers (since apparently the number he has is fine)? And since Surda is in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION of Carvahall from Gil'ead, chances are that it wouldn't affect them at all.

This is another feeble attempt to emphasize that GALBY IS EEEEEEVIL, because apparently the worst things Paolini can imagine a ruler doing are taxing the commonfolk and drafting soldiers.

I would rather live in an age devoid of momentous events. Upheaval makes already difficult lives, such as ours, nigh impossible.

Is this guy actually a rural farmer? He talks like a… well, a pompous high fantasy douchebag.

There's also some rumors floating around about a Dragon Rider, but nobody takes that seriously because there are ALWAYS rumors. Not that it matters anyway, because a single Dragon Rider with no organization to back him up couldn't do squat - oh, he could burn some of the Designated Villain's things and fly around, but I doubt he could overthrow an entire country just because… well, because he has a DRAGON.

Then he notices Katrina and they have a Big Intense Moment before leaving.

garbed in a long russet dress decorated with green ribbon.

Seems rather expensive for a rural butcher's daughter, especially when there isn't a festival or anything.

Here's a more plausible dress:

The heavens were brilliant, shimmering with thousands of celestial fires.

I keep telling the celestial pyromaniacs to stop setting those!

And arching above them, from north to south, was the glorious pearly band that streamed from horizon to horizon, like diamond dust tossed from a pitcher.

I'm pretty sure that pearly bands don't look like diamond dust, since diamond dust tends to be sparkly rather than pearly. Also, how often does diamond dust get thrown out of a pitcher? Does it have to be a pitcher, or can it be any container?

So they have a chitchat about how he went back to the farm and Roran is so sad and emo, even though he was having fun and laughing with the trapper about one page ago.

The scent of her copper hair on his cheek was like an elixir of wine and spice and perfume.

"Teehee, I bought a new shampoo. Didja notice?"

His emo act has the desired effect, since Katrina is now dribbling about how strong he is and kissing him. But not enough to make her treat him nicely - she demands that he go to her dad the VERY NEXT DAY and "make him understand" if he wants to get engaged to her. Frankly she's coming across as a demanding bitch, especially since she asks if Roran is afraid of her dad.

“I love you, Roran, and I want to be with you, but Father has other plans for me. There are far more eligible men than you, and the longer you delay, the more he presses me to consent to a match of which he approves."

…. which is pretty unbelievable since they live in a tiny village in the butt-end of nowhere. It's not like there are dukes and wealthy men living in the area, just salivating to marry a butcher's daughter.

"He fears I will become an old maid, and I fear that too. I have only so much time or choice in Carvahall. . . . If I must take another, I will.”

Which would be a viable response in a pre-feminist society where women basically just married the best they could. But Katrina is still coming across as a bitch - she could have just told Roran to hurry on the whole rebuilding-his-farm thing, or given him a time limit. Instead she butters him up, insults him by implying that he's too scared of her daddy to ask for his blessing, and browbeats him into asking daddy's approval when both of them KNOW he won't get it.

So Katrina goes scampering off with crocodile tears, and Roran goes home and goes to bed hours later. So apparently he just stands there in the street half the night.