The Washington Post

Should 10-year-olds read Christopher Paolini’s ‘Inheritance’?

A reader wrote to us this morning, asking whether we thought the fourth and final volume of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon books would be appropriate for her 10-year-old son. Not having read the novel, I passed the note on to our reviewer, Yvonne Zipp, who wrote this thoughtful reply. I’m posting it here (with her permission) in hopes that other parents might find it helpful:

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini (Knopf)

Dear Reader,

My son turns 10 in January, and honestly, I would not give him “Inheritance.” But every child can handle different levels of violence, and you know your own son best.

Forgive me for being detailed, but I wanted you to be able to make the most informed decision possible for your son. Murtagh, who is in love with Nasuada, kidnaps her and brings her to Galbatorix. She’s chained to a slab and Galbatorix forces Murtagh to torture her with hot irons. (This goes on for several sessions.) When Nasuada briefly escapes, Galbatorix gets enraged and has green centipedes burrow into her arms and the soles of her feet, causing her horrible pain until she passes out. Frankly, I found those pages disturbing to read as an adult. She escapes alive and goes on to be queen, but it’s definitely more graphic than the usual swordplay of the rest of the series. (Murtagh and she do not live happily ever after — I would have blasted the book if Paolini had gone that route.)

There’s another scene near the beginning where Arya and Eragon are chained up as food for the Ra’Zac and Arya pulls the skin off her wrist “like a glove” to escape, and of course, the Helgrind priests have always been icky. But it’s the torture of Nasuada that put it over the top for me.

With my son, if he just can’t bear to wait to find out how a series ends, I’ll read the book to him and tell him that there are going to be pages I’m skipping, because I don’t think they’re okay for children. (I do the same thing with DVDs he’s dying to see.) I think that approach might work here, if you’ve got someone who’s just desperate to know how it all turns out.

Knopf labels the book “12 and up.” I’d say that’s probably dead on. (Even a squeamish 12 might be too young.)

Please let me know if I can answer any further questions. I know it can get tough when you’ve got a tween who’s an advanced reader.

Best regards,


Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.


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