Chapters A Maze of Opposition, Hanging by a Thread
These two chapters by far are the most pointless that I've seen in the book. They're basically setting up Nasuada as the leader of the Varden and showing what she has to deal with. They're supposed to make her look like a leader and able of making decisions as well as the troubles that the Varden are facing.
We begin with Nasuada holding court. Two men are before her. One stole and ate thirteen chickens in four days. She comments about how it's an unlucky number, thirteen is. And I know that thirteen is an unlucky number in our world, but there is no reason why it has to be an unlucky number in Alagesia. This feels like he's using the number thirteen because of the implications that it has on our world, but there hasn't been any sort of indication here that would indicate that it's bad here. But in any case, the guy who has been accused of stealing the chickens does not deny it.
Which then kills any sort of potential tension in the scene. If you're going to be doing a scene between three characters. You need tension, something to keep the reader interested in what's going to happen. But if you have everyone agreeing to everything, the scene becomes dull to read. After all, who wants to read a scene about people agreeing with each other?
"You did something wrong."
"Yes I did."
"Okay then. I'm glad we got that settled."
See? There's no where for the scene to go. It just ends. At least in normal books. Here it kind of drags on. They talk about why the guy stole the chickens. (Because he was hungry and didn't have the money to pay for them.) Which leads Nasuada to think about how poor the Varden is and how everyone is stretched thin for money. She makes him pay for the chickens, but not at the chicken's price but at what the thief can afford. The chicken owner protests that he's not getting paid market value but then when Nasuada says he's lucky he's getting what he's getting, he stops. Though what I what I would do is make the chicken thief pay full price for the chickens and even if he couldn't pay it right away, make him do it anyway. Allowing him to pay within his means isn't a punishment. He stole something. It's against the law, he should pay for it. In fact what should of happened is that he should have paid for the chickens and something more to compensate the chicken owner for his loss. What Paolini is trying to show here is that Nasuada is a fair and just ruler trying to look out for the people and their interests, but instead what she comes off as a ruler who doesn't know how to mete out punishment. What she did wasn't fair at all to the victim.
After the chicken people go away, Nasuada calls her maid/secretary Farica and tells her to have the chicken thief reassigned and make sure he has full rations. Apparently he was a quarry worker and not on full rations. Which is idiotic. If you're going to have people doing heavy labor, they damn well better be on full rations. But apparently such logical things don't work in Eragon land.
Farica then tells her that king Orrin wants to see her. So, they go visit the king. The king is a budding chemist. No really.
Mentally bracing herself, she entered the laboratory with Farica. A maze of tables laden with a fantastic array of alembics, beakers, and retorts confronted them, like a glass thicker waiting to snag their dresses on any one of its myriad fragile branches. The heavy odor of metallic vapors made Nasuada's eyes water. Lifting their hems off the floor, she and Farica wended their way in single file toward the back of the room, past hourglasses and scales, arcane tomes bound with black iron, dwarven astrolabes and piles of phosphorescent crystal prisms that produced fitful blue flashes. (page 315)
Nasuada is apparently on equal rank of a king. I didn't realize that rebel leaders were on equal standing with a king. Apparently Paolini isn't certain as to what sort of organization the Varden is. First they were a group of rebels founded by Brom to fight against Galby. But then they have an inherited leader. There is no basis for her to be on equal ranking, especially since he's sponsoring and helping her group survive.
Orrin shows off some neat tricks... like being able to blow smoke out his ear. Which isn't really a good thing. He's also discovered a vacuum, by using a quicksilver experiment. But apparently the elves already knew about a vacuum. So basically the humans aren't inventing anything really on their own, they're confirming what the elves already know. So the humans aren't even allowed to discover things on their own. Human ingenuity has been thrown out the window. They're just playing catch up to the elves. Though Orrin seem the sort to invent gun powder. He probably will, in the third book.
Nasuada chastises Orrin for playing around with quicksilver and smoke through his ears when he's supposed to be doing important kingly things and isn't there a war with Galby too? And he tells her she needs to relax or she's going to go crazy. They talk some political stuff about how Eragon has thrown everything into chaos. And when is Galby going to attack? And how the Varden need more money. Orrin suggests that they try and earn it. Nasuada doesn't like this idea. God forbid she actually have to support her own people. She seems to have this idea that the Varden should be given what they need because they're fighting against Galby. Which isn't at all fair, after all Sudra is also apparently fighting against Galby as well and Orrin has an entire country to run and finance. Nasuada leaves in a snit fit knocking over a beaker spilling some contents on her dress.
When she gets back to her rooms, her dress is starting to dissolve. She gets it off quickly and they manage to save most of the dress. Nasuada wails about not having a nice dress anymore to wear to court. They take apart the ruined dress and she rips some of the lace.
She then has a brilliant idea. The magic users could make lace (which is very expensive) and they could sell it to people in the Empire cheaply. Thus they would make money. Oh there's some other stuff about how she doesn't like magic and that Galby really needs to die. But she apparently thinks that by selling lots of lace cheaply she'll make a fortune to help fund the Varden. And really that's all there is to this chapter. Oh and they should try and come up with magical ways to help the Varden. Why they weren't doing this before, I don't know.
I almost fell asleep doing these two chapters. Watching paint dry would have been more entertaining. I could have gotten high from the fumes.
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