Murtagh was always one of my favourite characters in the original Inheritance Cycle and his was one of the stories I desperately wanted more of. To have this wish finally come true is honestly incredible and I was smitten by the deep dive into Murtagh’s mind right from the opening page.
What makes Murtagh such an interesting and moving character to me is how completely and utterly broken he is. He’s a character who has had one of the most difficult lots in life and he’s forced to deal with the fallout of being enslaved to Galbatorix and all of the horrible deeds he was forced to carry out. This has broken him down even further into a bitter, lonely man which is so heartbreaking to read. His one saving grace is his dragon, Thorn, who I was equally happy to see more of. The trauma that these two have to endure and try to overcome through this book is absolutely heartbreaking and it had me so devastated reading of the horrors that have them struggling to find their ways.
Murtagh and Thorn are searching for information on strange rocks that have appeared in the land, sulfurous and bringing with them something insidious. Though warned away from pursuing this knowledge, Murtagh is obsessed with finding out the origins of them and what could be behind their appearance as it seems to be a brand new threat that has come to Alagaseia. The book sees him and Thorn throughout many adventures as they seek answers and try to find where these strange rocks can be found, and the two are also forced to deal with their status as outcasts in a land that sees them only as traitors.
His journey for more information takes him on a quest to find the mysterious Bachel, a magic user whose name keeps popping up at every turn, and who supplied powerful amulets to people seemingly who follow her, and who attacked Murtagh. The more Murtagh and Thorn found out about this insidious location the unknown stones came from, the more ominous things seemed to grow in the story and I really loved the tone it set and how almost dark it made things feel. It was such a good match of the mindset both dragon and rider are stuck in upon the opening of this story and I felt it was such a well matched journey for these two.
It was both everything I’ve always wanted, and get so brutally hard to read about Murtagh and Thorn’s time enslaved to Galbatorix. They were so abused by the King and it messed with them both physically and mentally, and scars both visible and not are forcefully on display throughout this book. Every second that one or both of them were brought down by their mental injuries just broke my heart, and it happens frequently and painfully. Murtagh’s inner turmoil over feeling he is a bad person for all the bad deeds he was forced into shows how incredibly broken he is from his time enslaved and it’s so tough to read about his self-loathing for something he literally had no control over. And even harder is the fact that everyone who knows of his horrid deeds blames him just as much and condemns him for the horrors he partook in, which made me so sad for both Murtagh and Thorn considering they were quite literally incapable of not following Galbatorix’s orders. Suffice it to say it could be a very emotional read at times. And not just in the memories of the past. The present had its moments too, so basically I was an emotional wreck constantly.
But through all that is the bond between Murtagh and Thorn which is so pure despite everything the two have endured. It’s the most meaningful and beautiful part of this book and I couldn’t get enough of it. Even through the tough, heartbreaking moments they are forced to endure in the present in this book, their bond shines through all. There were multiple moments between them that just knocked the breath out of me with feeling (I’m not crying, you’re crying), particularly a moment at the end that had me more than a little teary. I may never emotionally recover from this book, honestly. I am definitely going to take some time to recover from this read, and it’s going to be on my mind for quite a while. Suffice it to say, if you loved the original series in this world, you absolutely need to read this latest installment. I for one and so incredibly excited to see more of this world going forward and I cannot wait until the next from Christopher Paolini in Alagaesia.