Updated: Jan 20, 2019
The last release from New York Times-bestselling author of the Inheritance Cycle, Inheritance, was published a staggering seven years ago. Since then, he has been working on and developing his ambitious science fiction piece and the frequently teased fifth installment to the series that made him famous. Updates for both of these projects can be found with the interview we conducted with him here. But with both projects and his previous books seem like major milestones due to their excessive length, many were surprised to learn of The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm, the first volume in what is titled as Tales from Alagaësia, a series of short stories taking place in Paolini’s rich world. After all, short stories have recently developed a bad reputation with certain authors pushing some of their best ideas to the medium. But while this 288-page volume never reaches the heights of Paolini’s full releases, it’s a welcome distraction that whets the appetite of countless readers for the author’s hopefully more ambitious projects.
Consisting of three distinct and original short stories featuring brand-new characters, namely The Fork, The Witch, and the final short story, The Worm, the volume is dense with world-building, primarily from The Worm, which explores the dense culture of Alagaësia in its fairytale-like nature. In addition, brief sequences of Eragon are sprinkled out, serving as a connector between these three mild stories. I use the term “mild,” because the two first stories are an entertaining distraction at best. Paolini has mostly written books that are past 500 pages long, with his last published work, Inheritance, reaching 882 pages. As a result, the ambition of these stories, particularly The Fork, is never reached, simply due to Paolini unable to establish a riveting tone within such a short space.
But The Worm easily makes up for the loose missteps that the other two short stories take. Placing itself as the longest story of the entire volume, The Worm follows a brand-new character in Ilgra, as her insightful and somewhat predictable story is being told to a frustrated and worn Eragon. She is one of the many new characters who is introduced, and fortunately, Paolini handles her story well, establish a grandeur that was missing from the previous two narratives. By the book’s end, it made me forgive both the mistakes of The Fork and The Witch and the shallow final chapter.
However, in the long run, it’s hard to see that this medium volume will be remembered for anything particular. I’m sure that Paolini can accomplish more ambitious goals with his upcoming releases, and The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm proves that he still has it as an excellent fantasy writer, even if there are mistakes with his transition from a meaty novel to a tempered short story. It may not be the release that many fans of the Inheritance Cycle were hoping for, but it is undoubtedly a dubiously enjoyable ride for the legions of readers invested in that world.
Score: 8.1 out of 10
A wanderer and a cursed child. Spells and magic. And dragons, of course. Welcome back to the world of Alagaësia.
It's been a year since Eragon departed Alagaësia in search of the perfect home to train a new generation of Dragon Riders. Now he is struggling with an endless sea of tasks: constructing a vast dragonhold, wrangling with suppliers, guarding dragon eggs, and dealing with belligerent Urgals and haughty elves. Then a vision from the Eldunarí, unexpected visitors, and an exciting Urgal legend offer a much-needed distraction and a new perspective.
This volume features three original stories set in Alagaësia, interspersed with scenes from Eragon's own unfolding adventure. Included is an excerpt from the memoir of the unforgettable witch and fortune-teller Angela the herbalist . . . penned by Angela Paolini, the inspiration for the character, herself!
Relish the incomparable imagination of Christopher Paolini in this thrilling new collection of stories based in the world of the Inheritance Cycle. Includes four new pieces of original art by the author.
THE FORK, THE WITCH, AND THE WORM is available for purchase now.