October 1, 2008

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

I have been anxiously awaiting Brisingr, the third book in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance series. I find these books very interesting, because they really make me think about what is more important: writing or story.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Eragon, the first book, was written when the author was only fifteen years old. To be honest, the book is not particularly well-written, and the story itself is somewhat derivative, borrowing heavily from other books of high fantasy. But it still captured me almost immediately, and held my attention throughout. Eragon tells the story of a farm boy who find a dragon egg, and the adventures that result.

When I finished Eragon, I rushed out to buy the second book in the series, Eldest, which had just come out in hardcover. So despite the many weaknesses of Eragon, I was still willing to shell-out to buy the next book in hardcover. And I didn't regret it. Eldest continues with Eragon's story as he learns more about dragonriders and his own role. He joins with the Varden, a group dedicated to overthrowing the evil ruler, Galbatorix, an insane dragonrider who has nearly wiped out all the other dragons. It was a better book than Eragon, still a bit weak in the writing, but with an engaging story.

Then came the long wait. Three years passed. But finally, Brisingr, the third book in the series, was released a few weeks ago. The book continues the story of the battle of the rebels against the evil empire. Eragon is forced into another fight with a dragonrider inexplicably stronger than he is, and barely escapes. He has to deal with the political side of being the most obvious spearhead of the resistance, pulled in different directions, trying to do what is right for everyone while on a strict timetable, with the constant fear of knowing that he is less powerful than his enemies.

The story jumps between the viewpoints of some of the main characters, including Roran, Eragon's cousin, and Nasuada, the leader of the Varden. Paolini did a fine job with this structure. I always stayed balanced on that razor's edge between being annoyed by leaving a storyline I was enjoying, but glad to be revisiting a different storyline. In fact, I found Roran's sections the most engaging in this novel as they contained a lot more action than the sections about Eragon.

All that said, the writing in this novel still leaves much to be desired. However, at least for me, these books are saved by the story, which while still derivative, is also engaging. But would I recommend these? Only to existing fans of high fantasy, who already enjoy the genre and will probably be amused by the obvious "borrowing" of plot points from other fantasy novels and movies. To new readers of high fantasy: no way would I recommend this series. Start with George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, or Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Pyrdain, or Roger Zelazny's Amber series, or Anne McCaffrey's Pern series, or any number of other high fantasy novels that contain both an engaging story as well as better writing that what is to be found in the Inheritance novels.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a fantasy fan, but when the Eragon movie came out, my dad tried to convince me to go see it with him. How did he try to convince me? "The author wrote it when he was 15." I told him I didn't know why that would convince me to watch the movie version of it!


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