Okay, I’ll admit it: I’m trash when it comes to the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. Oh, I’ll rant about how terrible this series can be, but I’ll also admit it has a certain quality to it that enthralls me. (It’s the dragons.) Eragon makes terrible decisions and there are so many words in this book and unnecessary descriptions and ridiculous stuff, but it also had dragons and dragon battles and Angela and just so many other things that make up for all the bad. Plus, I can’t ignore that this series is the reason I love dragon stories and write my own dragon books. Shout out to the kid in middle school who convinced me to read these (and then tried to compare them to Lord of the Rings…)

Because of this love-hate relationship, I apparently told my husband I wanted a copy of the short story collection Paolini published: The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm. Lo and behold, he bought me a copy for my birthday. And color me surprised, it wasn’t too bad!

A year after Eragon left Alagaësia, he is struggling with all the tasks required to build a home for the next generation of Dragon Riders. Three original stories set in Alagaësia provide Eragon with a much-needed distraction and a new perspective. 

“The Fork”

The narrative style of these short stories is a bit odd because each “story” is book-ended by what Eragon is doing post-Inheritance. In “The Fork,” he’s discouraged by all the preparations he has to make for future Dragon Riders and he needs a break. So the weird dragon souls or whatever (seriously, Paolini?) show him what’s happening back in Alagaësia.

And guess who it’s about it? Murtagh. Freaking Murtagh.

If I’m Inheritance Cycle trash, I am also Murtagh trash. I thought I was over this poor, bedraggled, not-as-evil-as-you-think bad boy type character. I am not. I am not! Honestly, I knew it was him from the start because who else would it be, but I love this story anyways. The little girl, Essie, was hilarious, and her interactions with Murtagh/Tornac was adorable. Murtagh just needs a little love in his life, okay? (Don’t touch me.)

But holy dragon souls, the action of this short story was off the charts, and I just need an entire book (or series) about Murtagh post-Inheritance as he wanders around with Thorn (and please, book dragon gods, his potential romance with Nasuada). I just need more Murtagh in my life, please. He deserves so much more. Please, don’t fail me on this, Paolini.

“The Witch”

Okay, we can all agree that Angela is the best character of the entire series (except for maybe Brom). The books should have just been about her (or Brom). And I love when she just shows up randomly with the creepy cursed girl, Elva, at her side. But man, oh, man, this story was freaking weird.

Basically, the story is Eragon reading Angela’s autobiography (penned by Angela Paolini, the inspiration for the character). But it’s not a full manuscript and it jumps around and is kind of confusing. But it does a lot to show Angela’s relationship with Elva and how awesome Angela is in her age. So it’s weird but still cool. I probably just need to reread it a little slower and soak it up.

“The Worm”

Other than the first story being about Murtagh, this one is my favorite of the collection. Because it reads like an actual short story from a collection. Yes, it still starts and end with what Eragon is doing, but the chunk of it really dives into what feels like a legend from Alagaësia’s past. And it also focuses on the Urgals and their culture, which is flipping awesome because it makes them less “mindless monsters” and “typical fantasy enemies” and something more. Like props to you, Chris, for doing something different.

Also, this one has more dragon in it than the rest (aside from Saphira’s snark and the presence of the freaky dragon souls). It’s about a young female Urgal who loses almost everything in a fight against a dragon and sets out to have her revenge. But it’s much more than that. There’s a lot packed into this short story and really makes you think and gives good thoughts about life and purpose. And just wow, I am amazed at Christopher’s ability to write. This story sealed the deal that if he writes any more short story collections, another book series, a book about Murtagh (*cough cough*), I’ll probably read it. Maybe he did become a better writer over time.

Christopher Paolini also included his own original artwork in the book, including a colored map! (It’s super crappy and shows almost nothing, but it’s a colored map.) The art work before each section is actually amazing, though, and fits well with the stories. Color me impressed, Christ.

Anyways, if you’ve read all four of the books in the series, read this collection too. Especially if, like me, you are Inheritance Cycle-Eragon-Murtagh-Angela-Saphira-dragons-in-general trash.

~I own a copy of The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm by Christopher Paolini and chose to write this review of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~