BIDP: Save Your Breath

For the next round of “Books I Didn’t Pick”, I read Save Your Breath by Melinda Leigh. This is the most recent in Leigh’s Dane series, which revolves around the eponymous attorney, her fiancé, PI Lance Kruger, and his assistant, Lincoln Sharp.

I haven’t read any thriller novels since I was in high school, and I’ve never really liked mystery books. I didn’t think that Save Your Breath would be something that was fun for me to read. But I’m trying to read outside my usual genres, and assured myself that, however bad this got, at least I wasn’t reading another romance novel.

I opened the first page, and finished the entire book in about a two weeks.

I get pegged as a fast reader, but that’s not entirely the truth. I don’t read faster than the average person, I just read a lot. It still can take me several weeks or or a couple months to finish a book. Which is why finishing Save Your Breath within two weeks was a bit of an accomplishment for me, and shows how compelling I found the book.

Though there is one thing I need to point out: when I read Save Your Breath, I was midway through two children’s literature courses. Throughout the semester I would read at least 60 children’s and middle grade books, and it was just so refreshing to read a book intended for an adult audience. Busy as I was with school and work, it would have been easy to let Save Your Breath fall by the wayside. Even so, I kept coming back to it, day after long day.

The writing technique was fine. I know that’s a boring way to put it, but that’s about all I can say. The prose wasn’t anything spectacular, but it wasn’t bad, either. Every sentence said just what it needed to, and got out of the way for the next one. It got the job done – no more, no less.

Though Save Your Breath is part of a series, it worked as a standalone novel. Whenever a main character from the series appeared, they reader got a little bit of background about them. That way, I could understand who everyone was, their role, and their relationship with the other main characters.

I’ve seen this used in other book series, like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, or The Dresden Files. It makes it easy for readers to pick up the newest book without having to know everything that happened in the ones before it. I imagine this could be annoying for readers who have been following the series for a long time, but it was helpful for me.

The downside of novel series where a new reader can jump in at any point is that changes to the status quo often come very slowly. Going back to Janet Evanovich for a moment, the 27th Stephanie Plum novel (not counting side-stories) was released in November 2020. In it, Stephanie Plum is still torn between the same two love interests she’s had since the first book, which came out over twenty years ago.

Not to throw shade on Evanovich or the Stephanie Plum series, of course! I’ve read some of the books and enjoyed them, but this is the only comparable example I have at the moment. Like I said, I don’t read the thriller/mystery genre much.

From Save Your Breath, at least, I did get a feeling that big changes for the characters do happen more frequently. At the beginning, for example, Morgan and Lance are engaged, which is not how they started the series.

I didn’t feel like I got to know the characters very well, especially Lincoln. Morgan, Lance and Lincoln are all intelligent, tenacious people with different skill sets. They care about each other and are protective of the people they love. Looking back on the book now, it’s hard for me to pick out individual character traits beyond that. Morgan is a mother, and Lance is a good step-father to her kids, but I can’t think of any distinct characteristics of them beyond that.

I think the characters would have come across more strongly if I had read the previous books in the series. Save Your Breath also deals with a crime that’s personal to the characters: Lincoln’s girlfriend, Olivia, has been kidnapped. Lincoln is justifiably concerned, and working around the clock to do anything he can to find her. The other characters note that he’s so worried that he’s not acting like himself. This makes sense, but because I haven’t read the other books in the series, I don’t know what he’s really like as a person. So, pros and cons of jumping into a serial series!

Like I said before, I’m not a big fan of mysteries. Even so, I was pretty drawn in by the set-up. True crime writer Olivia Cruz has an ethical dilemma about what information she should put in the book she’s working on. She calls Lincoln to ask him for advice during lunch the next day, and is kidnapped from her home. Morgan, Lance, and Lincoln must learn who took her, why, and most important, how they can bring her home safely.

The more they uncover, the more the mystery deepens. Murder, suicide, and a homegrown militia all come into play. Each moving part offers another clue to the story. If nothing else, this book got me to understand the appeal of mysteries novels better. I liked trying to put the clues together, and I was really interested to see how they all tied together.

This next paragraph is a little spoiler-y, so skip it if you plan on reading this book later.

Unfortunately, the clues did not all tie together. I liked the rouges’ gallery of suspects involved in Olivia’s disappearance, and I was especially intrigued about the para-military survivalist organization that one of them ran. And what was the ethical dilemma that Olivia wasn’t sure if she should put in her book? It was a question that I thought the entire plot hinged on. But it turned out that very little of those details actually mattered. The true culprit and motive for Olivia’s kidnapping had very little to do with those questions. Another reader might have appreciated the subversion of expectations, but it left me feeling disappointed and disgruntled. A lot of interesting plot points had been built up, only to ultimately fall flat. The otherwise exciting events of the book became filler in the wake of the novel’s conclusion.

Despite the above complaints, I liked Save Your Breath for the most part. It was easy to read, and I’d be open to trying out another thriller novel when I need something a bit less dense than what I normally pick out for myself. Maybe during my next semester at school, it’ll be a nice breath of fresh air….

Books I Didn’t Pick: How Fires End

How Fires End by Marco Rafalá is a family drama, following the life of Salvatore Vassallo using three different perspectives.

Salvatore was born in Melilli, Italy, where he lived during World War II. Salvatore’s younger brothers were accidentally killed during the war, and their deaths destroy Salvatore’s faith, and bring ruin to his family. With the help of an Italian soldier with fascist ties, Salvatore and his sister, Nella, leave Italy and immigrate to Connecticut. A generation later, Salvatore’s American-born son, David, seeks to discover his overbearing father’s secrets, with devastating consequences.

Since other “books I didn’t pick” were disappointments for me, I was a little wary coming into this one. I also don’t read a lot historical drama fiction. When I started How Fires End, the only other novel I could think to compare it to was Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides. Both tell a multi-generational story of a family of immigrants. The family heads keep secrets from the next generation, which change their children’s lives forever. There’s a historic fiction element to both, but that’s really where the similarities end. In recent memory, the only family dramas I’ve enjoyed and felt invested in were Downton Abbey and The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver. While I am familiar with the family drama/historical fiction genre, it’s not something I seek out frequently.

Why is why I was pretty surprised at how quickly I got sucked into this novel. A big part of that is just for the way that the book is written. The prose is beautiful, even poetic. The first section of the book, “David”, was a prime example of this. Throughout it, the author uses extended metaphors to show the relationship between David and his father.

Imagine an object so massive that not even light could escape the pull of its gravity. If light could not escape, nothing could. That was how my father loved me.

The metaphors in Part 1 are often related to black holes or planetary orbits, which makes sense, because David has a strong interest in astronomy. I really enjoyed them, mainly because I’m a space nerd. If they had been based on some other topic, I could see the constant metaphors getting annoying, but they worked well for me.

David’s section of the book was easily my favorite, but there was one issue I had with it. The novel is told using first-person perspective, so David is our narrator. He’s thirteen years old, but the narration doesn’t have the voice of a young teenager. Of course, thirteen-year-olds can have deep thoughts and come up with clever metaphors about their lives. But this entire section reads like an old man looking back on his life, not as a kid living it.

This is most obvious when it comes to David’s relationship with his only friend, Sam. Vincenzo says that Sam and David are paisanu.

‘They are saying, the saint is one of them, a paisanu. You know what that word means? It’s like the way you and David fought for each other. You understand? It’s the same thing.’

Sam really likes this, and calls David paisanu as an affectionate nickname. For any thirteen-year-old, especially a lonely one like David, that would be a huge deal. Later, Sam excitedly discusses his summer plans for the two of them. He talks about going to the beach, starting a band, and girls.

Sam had unspooled a thread for me to follow–a way out of the labyrinth–and I held onto it even as I knew our Ray Harryhausen days couldn’t last. Nothing did.

This just drives it home for me that David’s narration is not that of a thirteen-year-old. When you’re at that age, you often feel closer to your friends than you do to your family. No thirteen-year-old would refer to his friend as a brother, but also fully believe that their friendship will come to an end.

It’s a bit paradoxical – the prose is one of the book’s greatest strengths, and also one of its weaknesses. What this novel struggled with most was distinguishing the voices of its characters. The second section of the book is narrated by Salvatore, and the final part is told by Vincenzo. Salvatore’s and Vincenzo’s stories focus on the past: their lives in Italy, and early life in America. Though their life stories are different, the prose doesn’t change to match them. There’s no stylistic difference between David’s, Salvatore’s, or Vincenzo’s narration.

Salvatore’s section was probably the hardest for me to get through. Part of it was the aforementioned issue with voice, but it’s also just kind of a bummer. This makes sense when it comes to the three-act structure commonly used in fiction. Salvatore’s section is the second act, which is usually a downer. There were no light-hearted moments or hope spots, and getting through it was a slog for me.

At that point, I’d also become pretty attached to David. I wanted to know more about what happened after his part in the novel was over. There’s a little bit of an epilogue, but I really wanted to see more than what I got.

My one other complaint might be the dearth of female characters. David, Salvatore, and Vincenzo all have romantic interests, though they aren’t all that well fleshed out. Of them, David’s mother, probably has the most characterization, but she died when David was young. She doesn’t appear “on screen” as much as she appears in David’s faint memories of her. Salvatore’s sister, Nella, does play a significant role in the novel, yet she doesn’t appear to have any sort of life of her own outside of Salvatore and David. Of course, the first-person perspective is limited, and can only tell us how the narrators see her.

On one hand, I would have liked to see the women in this book have a stronger presence. However, the novel doesn’t feel incomplete because of that lack. It’s a very masculine novel, a book about fathers and sons. The writing style and excellent prose help hide this absence. I wouldn’t be surprised if other readers didn’t notice it at all.

While How Fires End did have its flaws, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. This is Marco Rafalá’s first novel, and I’d be interested in reading more from him.

Books I Didn’t Pick: The First Girl Child

Picking out a book for someone else can be a challenging task. Everyone has their personal tastes, and it can be hard to find something that suits that person well. Take me, for example. I love sci-fi, but I couldn’t make it though the sci-fi classic, Dune. Other people love it, but it just wasn’t for me. In this not-so-creatively titled series, “Books I Didn’t Pick”, I’ll be looking at books that were chosen for me, most of which I would probably not pick if left to my own devices. Even so, I try to be open to different writers and genres, hoping to find something new that I enjoy.

For the very first edition of “Books I Didn’t Pick”, we have The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon, which was sent to me as part of a writer’s subscription box.

The First Girl Child was billed as a historical fantasy romance, and I figured that two outta three ain’t bad when it came to genres I was interested in. Reading through it, though, I came to discover that it failed at being any of those things.

Historical fiction isn’t something I got into until I was an adult, but I can appreciate the difficulty of writing it. It needs to feel grounded enough that even if the events and characters never really existed, you believe that they could have happened at some point. As I’m writing this, I recently finished a historical fiction unit for one of my classes, and discovered that I’m very picky about historical fiction that I actually enjoy. It either needs to be from an era I have an interest in, or feature spunky girls going against societal norms. The First Girl Child at least had the former: it’s a story about Vikings!

The First Girl Child takes place on the fictional island of Saylok, home of five fierce Viking tribes. I was here for it: high seas, adventures, shield maidens and fierce warriors. At least, that’s what I wanted to see. I got next to none of that. Viking raids are mentioned in passing, the only female warrior we actually see is almost immediately killed off, and most of the book takes place at the main temple on the island. Instead of seafaring exploits, we get shallow politics that feel like they were lifted from A Song of Ice and Fire without the nuance, or compelling characters to carry it through. Aside from an occasional reference to Odin, there is virtually nothing to separate Saylok’s culture from any other generic Medieval group.

It also bothers me that the author only had the characters pray to Odin or her OC Norse god, Saylok, and completely neglected Freya and the Vanir. The book is centered on the island’s residents being unable to conceive female children, but no one ever has the bright idea to pray to a fertility goddess.

Okay, so the historical fiction element was lacking. Maybe the fantasy aspects would be better? They definitely started out strong. In this world, magic comes from drawing ancient runes, and then activating the runes with blood. In the prologue, Dagmar and his sister Desdemona discover they have “rune blood” after entering a cave with runes carved on the walls. Runes are powerful forms of magic, and Desdemona uses them to curse all of Saylok. She also prophesies that no one but her son will be able to break the curse.

Aside from the set-up, the runes are hardly ever used. Dagmar uses them to pray for protection for Bayr, but they never make a meaningful appearance until the end. Because the runes are underutilized, the resolution felt like a deus ex machina. The book justifies this by saying that rune magic is dangerous, and its secrets are guarded closely. Even so, I’m a bit miffed about the lost potential.

Women were also forbidden from using rune magic. In doing some research for this post, I found that siedh, or a type of Norse magic, was often associated with women rather than men, so there’s another big X in the historical fiction column.

Then last, but not least, comes the romance.

Oh boy, here we go.

I’m not sure how fair it is for me to discuss romance as a genre. I’ve reviewed some romance manga here, but it’s often not something I’ll typically go for. Still, I tried to keep an open mind. Amy Harmon is the author of several romance novels, and she has a following. Thus, I expected the romance between Bayr and Alba to have some of the strongest writing in the book.

The relationship between them just strikes me as rather icky, though. Bayr sees Alba for the first time when she’s an infant and he’s a young child, and immediately says that he loves her. I chose to interpret this as platonic love, because Alba had just been born. It’s not as squicky as, say, Jacob imprinting on Renesmee in Breaking Dawn, but it’s in the same ballpark.

Bayr sees himself as Alba’s protector, and the two have a brother-sister relationship when they’re growing up. Bayr leaves the Temple Mount where they both live when he’s around twelve, and returns years later as and adult man. When he sees Alba again, they are suddenly in love, despite (a) not seeing each other in years and (b) being raised as brother and sister. In fact, Bayr’s lowest point in the book is when he believes Alba to be his biological sister. She isn’t, but it drives the “icky” factor home even more.

Even if I put that aside, I don’t see this as a great romance. There’s no build up; you don’t see them gradually fall in love. They meet, they’re in love, that’s it. Sometimes that’s okay, but we don’t see their relationship grow in any meaningful way. It’s just banal, and what should be the driving force of the book its least interesting aspect.

As far as characters and pacing go…

In my experience, good characters can save a mediocre plot, and vice-versa. I thought the plot itself was fine, though clumsily executed. As far as the characters go…I honestly don’t remember a thing about them. In writing this post, I tried to think of some key traits of each one. Bayr is strong and protective. His uncle, Dagmar, is intelligent and protective. Alba is…demanding of Bayr’s attention? If the only thing I can remember about the heroine of a romance novel is their connection to another character, that’s a problem. Even the antagonist was generically evil in a way that made him neither compelling, nor someone that I loved to hate.

The pacing bugged me. The novel starts with Bayr’s birth, and ends once he (spoiler!) becomes king of Saylok, so it obviously can’t capture every moment of his life in the book’s 400 pages. A lot of Bayr’s life is done in a sort of written montage, with important, specific scenes written out in detail. I think this works well when Bayr’s a kid, but not so much when he’s an adult. Most disappointing for me was when he leaves the Temple Mount where he was raised, and joined his grandfather’s clan. Apart from one scene that depicts his (admittedly badass) initiation into the clan, a lot of his skill and character development during those years is covered in just a few paragraphs. I want to see how he changed from the shy, stammering “Temple Boy” into a leader and warrior, but I never got more than a glance at his journey.

I was obviously pretty disappointed with this book. Even though I have my favorite genres and authors, I like stepping out of my reading comfort zone and trying something new. It can be hit and miss sometimes, and this book was clearly a miss.

I don’t want to end on an entirely negative note, and there were some things I liked about the book. First, despite my complaints, it’s well-written. I may not have cared for the story, but the prose was pretty good. I also think that it started out strong, and the magic system was cool, even if it wasn’t used to its full potential. I also liked the character of Desdemona, despite the fact that she was barely in the story.

In S.R. Ranganathan’s Laws of Library Science, laws 2 and 3 are:

2. Every reader her or his book
3. Every book its reader.

This was not my book, and I was not its reader. But if this sounds like a novel you would enjoy, by all means, check it out! You might be the reader it needs.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Some time ago, I did a review for An Ember in the Ashes, with a one-sentence review for each chapter. I had a lot of fun with it, so I thought I would bring a similar format (with a couple added sentences) back for Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krüeger. Spoilers ahead.

The novel follows Bailey Chen, a recent college graduate ready to flex her new business degree. She’s not exactly taking Chicago by storm, though, instead working as a lowly barback in The Nightshade Lounge, owned by her best friend’s uncle. While closing up the bar one night, she discovers that cocktails, when made exactly right, grant the drinker magical abilities. Bartenders, like her friend Zane, imbibe these drinks to fight off monsters called tremens, demons that prey on drunks. Bailey eventually joins the ranks of the bartenders, mixing magical drinks and fighting demons while navigating her career and the politics of Cupbearer’s Court.

Last Call is a fun romp through Chicago, and there’s plenty of humor throughout the book. There’s some funny and self-aware moments that really made me smile. Some of the jokes do fall flat, particularly the character Bucket’s Canadian pride. The gag goes on so long that “Canadian” becomes Bucket’s one and only character trait, culminating into the reveal that his van has a huge Canadian flag on the side. I wanted to laugh at this, but after 90 or so pages of Canadian jokes, it just got old.

I was a little wary about a female protagonist being written by a male author, because it’s not uncommon for men to write women very poorly. This could be anything from oversexualizing female characters, having goals that only center around men, being a ditzy doormat, or just being a boring badass. (If you really want some entertaining examples, search “describe yourself like a male author would” on Twitter). I was pleased that I didn’t encounter any of these pitfalls. Bailey’s smart, ambitious, and she’s not afraid to take risks to do what she thinks is right. She makes mistakes and has to learn from them. Ultimately, her tenacity is what lets her triumph over her supernatural and mundane adversities.

The love triangle was far more problematic for me. Bailey develops a crush on Zane, who she had hooked up with once shortly after her high school graduation. Zane, however, has already found love with his fellow bartender, Mona. Mona is serious and quiet, and…that’s about it. The problem with this love triangle is that it doesn’t challenge the reader. The story structure is pretty predictable, so we can already guess that Bailey and Zane will end up together. What solidifies this, even before the end of the book, is just how boring Mona is. She’s great at killing demons, but she doesn’t share any of the characters’ excitement, or their interest for making a legendary Long Island Ice Tea. Mona had the potential to be a really intriguing character, but just ends up being flat and dull.

Because Mona is so boring and at times downright unlikable, there’s no reason for the reader to want to see her stay with Zane. The love triangle is cut and dry. We all know how it ends long before Bailey and Zane kiss.

Overall, though, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge is a fun, light read, for anyone who likes cocktails and magic.

Now, the (mostly) one-sentence chapter breakdown!

Prologue: Is the cop going to show up again, or is this just in media res for no reason?

Chapter 1: The writing is actually funny, if a bit predictable.

Chapter 2: Hooray, the main character knows what the audience should have already known just by reading the back of the book.

Chapter 3: It’s moving pretty simply so far: Call to Adventure, Meeting with the Mentor and now answering the Call to Adventure.

Chapter 4: I’m hoping that the love triangle becomes somewhat more interesting, but I’m not holding my breath.

Chapter 5: Finally, we get to see Bailey fail at something!

Chapter 6: I’ll forgive the kiss because adrenaline makes us do crazy things, but I really doubt Bailey hasn’t seen Zane since high school.

Chapter 7: Good, an escape from the love triangle.

Chapter 8: The author does a good job making sure that Bucket being transgender is no big deal, but never stops reminding you that he’s Canadian.

Chapter 9: Okay, this was pretty awesome.

Chapter 10: How does Zane make the leap from “we just fought off an army” to “we need to make the alcoholic version of a philosopher’s stone”?

Chapter 11: The stuff at Bailey’s interview is funny, but could the book yell, “these guys are douchebags” any louder?

Chapter 12: I don’t know if I should complain about Mona’s blandness here, or the obvious foreshadowing that she’s probably immortal.

Chapter 13: Man, it’s awfully convenient that the person trying to brew the McGuffin is giving Bailey a job interview.

Chapter 14: Vincent’s my favorite, but being the mentor character, he’s about to get written off.

Chapter 15: YOU KILLED THE DOG?!

Chapter 16: Curious how Vincent thinks Bailey stabbed Bowie in the back by…using what he taught her to accidentally stumble on a devastating secret that will get people killed if she doesn’t do anything about it?

Chapter 17: I want to appreciate the Sailor Moon reference in this chapter, but Tuxedo Mask doesn’t wear an actual tuxedo. He wears a white dinner suit, which is one of the many reasons why Tuxedo Mask is just the worst.*

Chapter 18: Oh no, whoever thought the boring, stoic, and mysterious Mona would be the bad guy. Gasp.

Chapter 19: After watching Bailey kick ass throughout the book, she needs to get saved by someone at the last minute.

Chapter 20: Oh my God, Bucket. You’re Canadian. We get it.

*This is the most pedantic thing I’ve ever written, but seriously. Get your shit together, Tuxedo Mask.

Eragon 54-55: Stupid is as Stupid Does

Okay, I just need to know–how did the Twins ever get to be part of the Varden?

Just read Orik’s, Eragon’s Dwarf friend, description of them:

Their talents lie in scheming and plotting for power–to everyone else’s detriment. Deynor, Ajihad’s predecessor, allowed them to join the Varden because he needed their support…you can’t oppose the Empire without spellcasters who can hold their own on the field of battle. They’re a nasty pair, but they do have their uses.

How. Can no one. Suspect them.

Everyone knows that they’re evil and sadistic. It’s spelled out right in front of them. And yet no one, no one, even thinks that these two are responsible for the Varden’s information being leaked to the Empire?

This is so frustrating to me, that I’m just going to go ahead and say it: maybe the Varden deserved to get betrayed for being that oblivious.

Apart from that gripe, most of this chapter is nothing but backstory and world building, but it’s at least more interesting than a lot of the stuff in the beginning of the book. Paolini put a lot of thought into what it would be like to have a civilization housed inside a mountain, so props for those details.

I do have to give him credit for what I thought was just a throw-away scene the first time I read Eragon, however.  A woman comes up to Eragon with a baby, saying that the child has no family and asks Eragon to bless her. After some thought, Eragon does so, blessing in the Ancient Language by saying, “Let luck and happiness follow you and may you be shielded from misfortune.”

Pretty good blessing, right? Well, it turns out, Eragon messed up the blessing, and in fact said, “may you be a shield from misfortune”. Being shielded from and being a shield are two very different things, and this “blessing” is really a curse that comes back in a big way in the second book.

I really love how poor grammar leads to a major plot point later on in the story.

The following chapter is blessedly short, where Eragon finds out that Angela and Solembum are with the Varden as well, for some reason. Angela explains that when she realized Eragon was a Dragon Rider, she decided to head to the Varden, because something big was about to happen. Eragon tells her his story since he last saw her, and she’s rather wary when he mentions Murtagh. Apparently, she knows who he is.

Wait, wasn’t his birth kept secret? I guess I can just wave it off as Angela being some kind of witch and knowing plot-related things.

They discuss the Shade, Durza, as well. But there’s something that caught my attention when Angela explains how Shades are created.

Ordinary sorcerers are just that, ordinary–neither better nor worse than the rest of us. They use their magical strength to control spirits and the spirits’ powers. Shades, however, relinquish that control in their search for greater power and allow their bodies to be controlled by spirits.

So…Eragon’s magic, and the magic of the other characters, comes from manipulating spirits? This is the first time spirits have ever been mentioned in this book. It turns out that they’re really freaking important! If they’re the base of magic in this world, and responsible for creating Eragon’s current antagonist, then why is this the first time we’re hearing about them at all?

Even in Eldest, we don’t have an opportunity to learn more about spirits. Eragon asks his new teacher, Oromis, for information about them, and Oromis refuses to tell him anything. I never finished Brisingr, but as far as I read, I don’t recall any more explanations as to what spirits are or how they fit in with the magic of this world.

Yes, this may be a high-fantasy story with dragons and magic, but I want explanations for that magic, dammit!

Angela also mentions something that someone should have done something about before. Explaining how she got into Tronjheim, she tells Eragon that the magic users in the Varden wanted her to join their “secret group”, which is controlled by the Twins.

Wait, what?

Okay, if there’s a secret group (a rebellion within a rebellion?) and they’ve done a good job of hiding it, it would make sense that neither Ajihad nor Orik know about it. Since Angela is largely here for shits’n’giggles and wants her presence to remain hidden, she wouldn’t have any reason to report it.

Eragon and Saphira are here to take refuge and owe the Varden their lives. Ajihad has told them their is a traitor in their midst. That there’s a secret mage group led by the Twins who everyone agrees are bad news is a giant red flag.

Eragon is too stupid to notice this, and asks whether the Twins question her, as they did him.

Then he asks about the architecture of Tronjheim. Not the secret mage group. For all his curiosity, he can’t be bothered to find out anything more about something that is actually interesting and has potentially huge ramifications.

Eragon better be glad he’s fictional, because I want to smack him for that one. I’ll just try to be satisfied knowing that willful ignorance here comes back to bite him in the ass.