Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

By Ekta R. Garg

June 2, 2010

Rated: Borrow it (for YA/tween readers)

Christopher Paolini’s Brisingr, the latest installment in his “Inheritance Cycle” series, is diametrically opposed in style and structure to his first two books, Eragon and Eldest.  The first two books were chock full of action and amazing revelations regarding the main characters, but the third book meanders through the first 600 or so pages.  It isn’t until the last 150 pages that we get the “big reveal” and the meat of the action.

For anyone who has yet to hear of the “Inheritance Cycle,” Christopher Paolini (something of a child prodigy) released the first book in this series, Eragon, when he was just 19 years old.  Eragon tells the story of the title character who finds a baby dragon and discovers he is a Dragon Rider, a hero of old folklore.  The series follows his journey as he strives to protect his dragon from the king of the land and others who fight the destiny of the Dragon Riders.

Paolini began writing the series when he was in high school, and his first book, Eragon, exhibits clear examples of a high schooler’s efforts.  Eldest, the second book, showed quite a bit of improvement over Eragon.  So it was refreshing to see the progression of his writing in the third book, Brisingr.  But where Brisingr succeeds in writing style, it fails in structure.

The book begins with a dramatic rescue and there are plenty of skirmishes between the Varden (the rebels fighting against the king) and the Empire’s soldiers.  But despite the presence of the small battles, the book’s first 600 pages seem to drag.  Those pages emanate inactivity, with long conversations and descriptions that are completely unnecessary.

For example, at one point Eragon is talking to his mentor, Oromis, and a bird flies by.  Paolini describes the bird’s movements and Eragon and Oromis’ reactions.  There are several instances in Brisingr like this.  Paolini has gotten better in his craft, and compared to the first book Brisingr exhibits the fact that the writer is growing up.  But he has yet to achieve that level of maturity in his writing  where he can make a bird fly by and still make it seem like a natural extension of his story.

The narrative meanders, and several times I was tempted to give the book up.  But going by the previous two books, I knew Paolini would be saving something good for the end of this one and I wasn’t disappointed.  The story has its share of big moments beginning at about page 600 (in the paperback) and continues to build from there.

Originally touted to be a trilogy, the series now is projected to be finished in the fourth book but with some extensive editing in Brisingr Paolini could have, in fact, most likely finished the series in three books.  The first two books had too much action.  Eragon gets into fights and is knocked unconscious so many times in Eragon and Eldest that the event loses its dramatic punch after the fourth or fifth time.  The third book turns this entire structure on its head; the result is a slow story that resumes speed towards the end.  With the right pacing throughout all three books, Paolini could have kept the adventure and all the fights and finished his story.

The series is a fine attempt, but Paolini needs to polish his plotting if he wants to continue writing for audiences long-term.  Young adults and tween readers might will enjoy this tale of a boy, his dragon, and their quest to save those they love and those who can’t defend themselves.  For those readers alone I rate this “Borrow it,” but adult readers can skip the series altogether.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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