Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

But wait! There’s more!

Brisingr CoverI just finished reading the book Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. It’s the third book in The Inheritance Cycle (which was originally intended to be a trilogy but will continue in a fourth book). It took me a long time to read, mostly because I only read it a few nights a week after going to bed, but also because it didn’t pull me in the way the previous two books did.

Brisingr continues the story of Eragon, a dragon-rider, and Saphira, his dragon. Secondary characters include Rowan,¬† Eragon’s step-brother, and Nasuada, the queen of the Varden, a group united to overthrow Galbatorix, the evil ruler of Alagaesia. The story progresses with threads following each one’s adventures as they struggle with issues surrounding the war, its effect on their lives, and the puzzle of how to defeat Galbatorix, a seemingly undefeatable foe.

The trouble is that the story doesn’t advance very far, especially given the 750 pages of the book. Things happen, of course, but Paolini tended to draw them out into long stretches of debatably articulate prose. The 200 or so pages dedicated to a tediously staged delving into dwarven politics come to mind, with the teeth-grindingly annoying use of “mine” instead of “my” to characterize dwarven speech (This is mine house. This is mine brother. These are mine annoying speech habits). No doubt, some of the events that laboriously unfolded will be of some importance in the last (?) book of the series, but forcing the reader to trudge through 200 pages to explain those events tests the limits of fan loyalty.

Once free from dwarven politics, we are then set upon by the nuances of internal dragon monologues where dragons seem to lose their ability to speak in English as they do for the rest of the book. Instead of writing “humans,” Paolini decides that Saphira calls them “two-legs-round-ears.” He replaces similar common words (somewhat randomly, it seems) with other hyphenated-description-words. Perhaps it was an attempt to show that dragons think differently that we do, but it comes across as annoying and stilted, especially given how dragons are developed in the books as extremely intelligent and even eloquent up to that point.

There were, however, many interesting parts and wonderful tidbits scattered throughout the pages of the book and overall, it was a pleasant read. Dragons and elves, magic and swordplay… they are the things fantasy readers adore, and Brisingr is filled with them. The return to the elven city of Ellesm√©ra was a delight (for me, anyway) since it signaled a continuation of Eragon and Saphira’s training with their elders. The revelations which unfolded there probably laid the key groundwork for the conclusion of the series.

But those revelations occurred in the final 150 pages (or less) of the book. Up to that point, there were 500+ pages of narrative that really didn’t do much in the way of character development or plot development. There were points here and there, but nothing that couldn’t have been accomplished in 100 pages or less. The entire book should have been contained within 250 pages at the most. Why it wasn’t, I’m not sure. Whether to blame it on Paolini or his editors or a money-grubbing publisher who wanted to extend the series… I don’t know. Nor does it really matter.

I am disappointed that Brisingr didn’t complete the epic. I am disappointed that I now have to wait an indeterminate amount of time for Paolini to finish the fourth (and hopefully final) book in the series.

And, worst of all, I’m apprehensive that the fourth book will force me to wade through a bog of tedium in order to gather the worthwhile parts of what started out a delightful story.

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