Saturday, October 25, 2008

Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini

(hb; 2008: third book in The Inheritance series)

From the inside flap:

"It's been only months since Eragon first uttered 'brisingr,' an ancient language term for fire. Since then, he's not only learned to create magic with words -- he's been challenged to his very core. Following the colossal battle against the Empire's warriors on the Burning Plains, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have narrowly escaped with their lives. Still, there is more adventure at hand for the Rider and his dragon, as Eragon finds himself bound by a tangle of promises he may not be able to keep.

"First is Eragon's oath to his cousin, Roran: to help rescue Roran's beloved from King Galbatorix's clutches. But Eragon owes his loyalty to others, too. The Varden are in desperate need of his talents and strength -- as are the elves and dwarves. When unrest claims the rebels and danger strikes from every corner, Eragon must make choices -- choices that will take him across the Empire and beyond, choices that may lead to unimagined sacrifice.

"Eragon is the greatest hope to rid the land of tyranny. Can this once simple farm boy unite the rebel forces and defeat the king?"


Brisingr all the strengths and one notable weakness of the previous two.

Strengthwise, there's the exemplary character development, making for root-worthy heroes and hiss-worthy characters, many of whom have complex relationships. Not only that, there's Paolini's well-written epic scenarios and landscapes, and fully-realized cultures (Paolini doesn't skimp on revealing the historical and cultural roots of each race, whether they're dwarf, human, elf or otherwise.)

The aforementioned weakness: most of the twists are by-the-numbers. Anybody who's read an ongoing fantasy series will see the twists coming long before they happen. Still, this is a minor bi**h, as this weakness isn't entirely Paolini's fault -- it's inherent in the "epic" fantasy structure, as defined by J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series. (And, to Paolini's credit, he does manage to slip in a few unexpected subplots and a couple of unforeseen twists.)

Rousing, action-oriented read, this. Worth your time, despite the mostly-predictable twists and the increasingly religious overtones of the storyline. (Some of the religious plugs, disguised as character dialogue, are clearly meant to promote Christianity.)

The ending, once again, is such that this reader was left wishing the fourth Inheritance Cycle novel, title unknown, were already published.

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