Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Christopher Paolini


Christopher Paolini should learn some restraint. The third book in the Inheritance cycle begins with a flurry of purple prose that reads as though the author has discovered metaphors and similes for the first time. Take this passage:

"Roran was watching him with the expression of a starving wolf. His gray eyes burned with a mixture of anger, hope, and despair that was so great, it seemed as if his emotions might burst forth and incinerate everything in sight in a blaze of unimaginable intensity, melting the very rocks themselves."

Faced with that kind of thing on page 7, most readers could be forgiven for making their own blazes of unimaginable intensity. Reading the first few chapters of this novel is like wading through treacle, whilst Paolini goes to town with some ridiculously overblown descriptions.

Luckily things do improve. Around a quarter of the way in the writing gets tighter and the pace quickens somewhat, making it easier to concentrate on the story.

Eragon and Saphira are reunited with Roran, and the three of them set off to rescue Katrina, Roran's betrothed, from Helgrind. In the course of Eragon's adventures both he and Saphira have accumulated a lot of unfinished business, and they made promises to right various wrongs. Brisingr is concerned with their efforts to set these matters straight. Galbatorix and Murtagh are an ever-present threat, and as the war rages it looks increasingly likely that Eragon and Saphira will not get another chance to keep their word.

These tasks that Eragon and Saphira undertake may not always result in fierce battles, but that's not to say that Brisingr lacks for action. As the conflict with Galbatorix escalates Eragon and Roran grow increasingly troubled by the body count they leave behind. They may both be battle-hardened warriors by this stage, but that doesn't prevent them from feeling guilty about it. It might have been endearing, if the battles weren't so very over the top. Characters do things like battle it out over hills of slain enemies, hacking their way through hundreds of opponents. It's that matter of restraint once more.

Although he was born human and looks like an elf, Eragon nevertheless has strong ties to the dwarves. As they begin the tortuous process of appointing a new leader he struggles to persuade them to select someone who is friendly towards the Varden. The alliance of free people opposed to Galbatorix is on the verge of breaking up, unless Eragon can master dwarven politics. But his problems don't end there. He must return to the lands of the elves in order to complete his training if he's ever going to find out more about the source of Galbatorix's vast power.

With every journey Paolini introduces newer and stranger elements into the world of Analgesia Alagaesia. Sometimes he goes too far, reducing the tension by adding freaky yet apparently irrelevant characters and getting sidetracked with their subplots. This is one of the reasons Brisingr is so long, and at times the pace is pretty slow. However the novel isn't a total failure, and if you can tolerate its faults you'll be rewarded with some reasonably absorbing high points of escapist adventure. It's just a shame the writing is so flabby and undisciplined. Brisingr could have been a far better book had the author reined in his imagination and concentrated on delivering a tighter plot and a few less rock-melting stares.

Book Details

Year: 2008

Categories: Books

  Male Protagonist  

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Christopher Paolini


Max     12th June, 2009 21:32pm

I couldn't finish this one. Eragon and Eldest were okay, but you could tell they were written by someone young. I thought I'd give Paolini the benefit of the doubt in case he improved as he got older, but I was expecting more. For a start, I hoped he'd learn to write.

What a waste of paper.