The Fork, the witch, and the Worm is not worth reading. It has no real story line. Angela holds a main part and even her story isn’t explained. I wouldn’t waste money buying it. It’s a real shame because the other books in the Eragon series have been thoughtfully written, full of intrigue.
The Inheritance Cycle ended with a number of loose threads left flapping in the breeze, and the door wide open for more adventures in Alagaesia.
And Christopher Paolini has started telling those adventures in “The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm,” a trio of short stories nested in early stories about Eragon’s new home. While it likely won’t grip fans of the series the way the original books did — these are basically stories within a fairly sedate framework — Paolini’s writing has matured somewhat, and he tells the tales here with more steadiness and assuredness than in his past works.
A year has passed, and Eragon is living in a new mountain fortress being created for a new generation of Dragon-Riders. The problems and new responsibilities are weighing on him, so at Saphira’s insistence, he spends some time with the Eldunari. The dragons’ hearts show him events unfolding elsewhere in Alagaesia — a small girl encounters a mysterious (yet familiar) traveler who advises her on how to deal with bullies… right before they both find themselves in a deadly confrontation. It involves a fork.
Then that winter, Angela the herbalist arrives at Eragon’s new home, bringing with her Elva the accursed witch-child — and her autobiography (written by the author’s sister, Angela Paolini), which reveals her experiences with Elva. Finally, a tragic accident at Mount Arngor leaves Eragon unhappy and tired, which leads to him being told a story by the Urgals — the tale of an Urgal girl’s quest for revenge against the vicious dragon that killed her father.
“The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm” seems to be Paolini preparing to expand his fictional universe, perhaps only through short stories or perhaps through more full-length novels. Through these stories, he not only catches up with the characters left from the previous four books — Eragon, Murtagh, Angela and Elva — but he also hints at new and terrible villains to be explored later.
But fans are unlikely to be satisfied by this, because Eragon's role is mostly just to sit around and listen to other people tell him things. He doesn't even interact much with Saphira. Also, about half the book is taken up by the Urgal story, which has limited appeal.
Paolini’s writing is decent here — while not entirely mature, his writing has some nice turns of phrase (“Black as charred bone, with a polished gleam to his fitted scales and a throat packed with fire”) as well as some that could have used an editor’s pen (“A slight twinge of heartsickness formed in his chest”). His sister’s writing, alas, is not as good; I found myself skimming through most of it.
Eragon is fairly steady and a little more mature in this volume, although he’s still ridiculously overpowered (he manages to not only lift a collapsed tunnel’s broken rocks, but instantly reassembles them). Saphira is a fairly small presence here, compared to characters like Ilgra the sorcerous Urgal, and a small girl named Essie who has been bullied and blackmailed by a popular girl, only to find out how nasty and frightening other people can truly be.
The trio of stories in “The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm” are reasonably readable little tales that return readers to Alagaesia — seemingly just as the warm-up for some new adventures for Eragon and his allies. Fluffy, but not too bad.