So we jump right into the plot. I'll admit it - this is way better than Twishite. We don't get fifty chapters of whining about the weather before the so-called plot starts.
Wind howled through the night, carrying a scent that would change the world.
That must be some smell, since ordinarily smells aren't sufficient to change much, except the minds of people considering what restaurant to eat at. What does it mean, that someone released a smell that kills people?
So we're introduced to the secondary villain of this story:
A tall Shade lifted his head and sniffed the air. He looked human except for his crimson hair and maroon eyes.
In other words, dude looked like an anime character. Seriously, why would crimson hair and maroon eyes make him look NOT-human, as opposed to looking like a human who has red hair and eyes?
Anyway, the dude says, “Spread out; hide behind trees and bushes. Stop whoever is coming . . . or die.” See, that whole sentence actually was working pretty well until the "or die" part. I suppose this is Paolini's subtle way of indicating that the Shade is Evilly Evil even on his nicer days. But if you're really a fearsome evil being, presumably your minions KNOW that to fail is to become Minion Flambe, so it just seems superfluous to point out that they'll die if they don't stop the whoevers. It undermines your aura of evilness.
I'd be more impressed if he had written, then said icily, “Spread out; hide behind trees and bushes. Stop whoever is coming. If they resist, kill them." See? Doesn't that work so much better?
And since no Evil Person of Evilness is complete without some minions, we have.... THE URGALS!
Er, not exactly.
They resembled men with bowed legs and thick, brutish arms made for crushing. A pair of twisted horns grew above their small ears. The monsters hurried into the brush, grunting as they hid.
DING! We have our first LOTR ripoff! Take a candy. And I'm pretty sure that no bipedal creature has "arms made for crushing." Crushing with your arms is pretty difficult and not a normal action - for hands, yes, but not arms.
He remained unnaturally quiet, a long pale sword in his hand. A wire-thin scratch curved down the blade. The weapon was thin enough to slip between a pair of ribs, yet stout enough to hack through the hardest armor.
Wanna bet we are NEVER going to hear about the sword again? And why would it have a SCRATCH on the blade? Etching yes, but not a scratch. A scratch on your sword probably means it's... easily damaged.
And I'm pretty sure that to hack through the hardest armor, you'd need a pretty stout (read: thick) sword, not a little thin one. "Sharp" or "strong" would have worked better than "stout."
The Urgals could not see as well as the Shade; they groped like blind beggars, fumbling with their weapons.
This seems to be poor planning on the Shade's part. If you're gonna attack people in the middle of the night, it might help to bring somebody who A) has good night vision and B) walks slightly less loudly than an insomniac mammoth.
An owl screeched, cutting through the silence. No one relaxed until the bird flew past.
We're the minions of darkness! We're scared of owls!
He suppressed his distaste—they smelled like fetid meat—and turned away. They were tools, nothing more.
Okay, we get it. Our secondary villain is amoral and evil. Got it. Whatever. On with the plot!
The scent must have wafted far ahead of its owners.
These are officially the smelliest elves in the universe. If you can smell them coming hours and miles in advance, then these elves need some deodorant.
Excited, he lifted a thin lip in a snarl.
Do people normally snarl when they're excited? I personally haven't seen that many. Grin, smirk, hop up and down... but not snarl.
“Get ready,” he whispered, his whole body vibrating. The tip of his sword moved in small circles. It had taken many plots and much pain to bring himself to this moment. It would not do to lose control now.
Everyone stand to attention, because we have the first hilariously and unintentionally sexual moment in the series! One of many, many such moments. And this is probably the least sexual and homoerotic of them all.
Faint smudges emerged from the darkness and advanced down the trail.
"Smudges" is a weird way to describe them, since in the next paragraph they're described in extreme detail, and clearly well-lit if they are covered in moonlight.
Three white horses with riders cantered toward the ambush, their heads held high and proud, their coats rippling in the moonlight like liquid silver.
I hope he's describing the horses, not the riders. And is anyone else getting a big fat Asfaloth vibe here?
Noro lim, Asfaloth! Run away from the bad bad derivative fantasy!
On the first horse was an elf with pointed ears and elegantly slanted eyebrows.
Did he also make the Vulcan hand sign and say "Fascinating" a lot?
His build was slim but strong, like a rapier.
For the record, rapiers were invented in the 1500s, which is usually beyond the generic fantasy medieval. Not impossible, but it's something to note.
A sword pressed against his side
That sounds painful.
The last rider had the same fair face and angled features as the other. He carried a long spear in his right hand and a white dagger at his belt.
Isn't it a bit inconvenient to carry a long spear during a long-distance ride, especially one-handed? Wouldn't a slightly less large and more easily stored weapon be a good idea?
Between these two rode a raven-haired elven lady, who surveyed her surroundings with poise.
They're supposed to be cantering. You can't really survey your surroundings if your horse is moving at a fairly moderate pace, no matter how much poise you have.
Her clothes were unadorned, yet her beauty was undiminished.
Wow, shallow much? So normally wearing plain clothes diminishes your looks. Got it.
She carried in her lap a pouch that she frequently looked at, as if to reassure herself that it was still there.
Whoa whoa whoa. Isn't she supposed to be riding a horse? Unless riding sidesaddle (unlikely) you don't have a lap when you're riding a horse, because when your legs are spread you don't have a lap.
So the stinky elves suddenly smell the Urgals, and their horses immediately run away. Oh, sorry, the WOMAN'S horse runs ahead. The two male elves get left behind. What's the point of having guards if, during a crisis, you go dashing off by yourself?
The Shade jumped out from behind the tree, raised his right hand, and shouted, “Garjzla!”
Then he thumped himself on the chest, coughed, and said, "Sorry, something went down the wrong pipe."
So he magically zaps her horse, and the horse toppled with a high-pitched squeal, plowing into the ground chest-first. But Elf Girl is totally unharmed, because she immediately jumps off. Well, this Shade is a pretty good shot if he can do precision shooting at a galloping horse in the dark. And I suppose it's an Elves Are Awesomer Than Anyone Else moment that Elf Chickie is able to stay on the horse as it falls over, but not get pinned, and then bounce off.
And I openly admit to little experience with horses, but wouldn't it be rather hard for it to "plow into the ground chest-first"? Wouldn't it have to bend its legs back and smack its face into the ground? Wouldn't it be more likely to collapse on its side?
And the Urgals immediately shoot the other two Elves. These guys are seriously the worst guards ever. Why were they even armed if they just get mowed down? And why didn't they use their damn bows?
the Shade screamed, “After her! She is the one I want!"
"I haven't gotten laid in centuries!"
So the Urgals bumble around in random directions, reinforcing that they are the worst henchmen in all of the fantasy genre. And the Shade starts burning shit up. No, literally.
and a quarter-mile section of the forest exploded into flames. Grimly he burned one section after another until there was a ring of fire, a half-league across, around the ambush site.
This section is poorly written because it's very difficult to visualize - "a quarter-mile section" sounds a lot like a square quarter-mile or something of the sort. Yet it turns out that he means a square-mile-long line of trees, and a "section" of the finished circle. Fail fail faility fail.
And why the hell did the Shade bring the Urgals at all? If he can do this flashy little display, and trap the elf chickie singlehanded? Is it that no bad guy seems bad enough unless he has dumb minions?
She fled toward the craggy piece of granite at a tremendous speed. The Shade examined the ground twenty feet below, then jumped and landed nimbly in front of her. She skidded around and sped back to the trail.
Elf Chickie is not very good at locating her enemies unless they are even stinkier than she is. I mean, wouldn't a maroon-haired guy standing up on top of a giant piece of granite be a bit noticeable?
Black Urgal blood dripped from her sword, staining the pouch in her hand.
It seems like a bad tactic to carry both of them in the same hand.
Her head whipped around as she tried to find a way out. Seeing none, she drew herself up with regal disdain.
Somehow this doesn't seem like a good tactic when you're surrounding. "Regal disdain" will just make people want to kick your ass even more, whereass sword-swinging badass is a bit more intimidating. Then again, she's an elf and Elves Crap Gold And Fart Perfume.
So since the Shade is evil and all evil people are sadists (it's in the rules), he decides to gloat.
As the Urgals surged forward, the elf pulled open the pouch, reached into it, and then let it drop to the ground.
Apparently Elves not only Crap Gold, but they also are butterfingers. Or did she drop the pouch and not its contents? It would be clearer if Paolini had mentioned her pulling something out.
In her hands was a large sapphire stone that reflected the angry light of the fires.
So is it a sapphire? Or is it just the color of sapphires? Because I'm pretty sure that dragons don't hatch out of sapphires...
... whoops, was that a spoiler?
Desperate, the Shade barked, “Garjzla!”
And then he threw up from all the gurgling.
The Shade howled in rage and stalked forward, flinging his sword at a tree. It passed halfway through the trunk, where it stuck, quivering. He shot nine bolts of energy from his palm—which killed the Urgals instantly—then ripped his sword free and strode to the elf.
As Evil Dudes go, this guy seems pretty ineffectual. I'm not sure why he killed the Urgals except as stress relief, and it doesn't make much sense since she might not have teleported the stone or egg or whatever very far. I'm also not sure why he stuck his sword in a tree for no reason, because that's a great way to damage it. Maybe that's why it's scratched.
Plus you'll go through minions at a ridiculous rate. "ARG! I totally got blown off by my date last night! DIE MINIONS!"
Prophecies of revenge, spoken in a wretched language only he knew, rolled from his tongue.
Ah... what the hell? Does Paolini mean that he's "prophesying" that he'll get revenge on Chickie Elf, or is he reciting someone else's prophesy about revenge on someone else? The latter seems a bit pointless.
And he's talking in a language only he knows? Is this like some fantasy version of Pig Latin, which our dear Shade made up when he was just a little Shade and wanted a wretched language to threaten people with? Because generally more than one person speaks a language no matter how wretched it is - even dead languages.
Her beauty, which would have entranced any mortal man, held no charm for him.
And with this we get the cliche of the Evil Gay Dude. Because elf chickie is super-ultra-mega-HAWT and only the Evil Gay Dude wouldn't notice.
So Evil Dude kicks Elf Chickie's butt, and leaves the fires burning. Remember kids: Evil People - They're all careless pyromaniacs, and they don't listen to Smokey! They also kick small animals and fail to be attracted to the love interest.