October 23, 2008

Brisingr

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If you read my articles on a regular basis you may have noticed a common theme: I’m a nerd. I play the trombone; I watch anime; I devour science-fiction and the shelves of my book-case are littered with fantasy novels (and every Little House on the Prairie book ever written). And now, the most recent edition is Brisingr (or The Seven Promises of Eragon Shadeslayer and Saphira Bjartskular), the third installment of Christopher Paolini’s four-book Inheritance Cycle.
Although the 22-year-old author’s book is probably not the most technically superior novel you’ve ever read, it’s nevertheless highly enjoyable. I bought it the day it came out (again, yes, me = nerd), and spent several days abominably behind on work because I was unable to stop reading the damn thing. First of all, with every book he writes, Paolini’s writing improves. Though I loved the first installment of the series, Eragon, the writing style was reminiscentof J.K. Rowling’s first Potter installment. Not that sophisticated, not that developed. In Brisingr, Paolini writes much more eloquently.
That said, Paolini’s eyes may be a little bit bigger than his tummy, or pen. This book spends a lot of time moralizing and politicking (in a I-wish-I-was-J.R.R.-Tolkein kind of way), and, quite frankly, the protagonist’s moral dilemma over killing people weaker than him is never really resolved. At the same time, the discussions of the ins-and-outs of politics in Alagaesia (the world the novel takes place in) add tangibility to an otherwise fantastical story. It makes the world feel much more developed and the characters consequently more real.
Some have criticized Paolini for his imitation of fantasy classics, most notably The Lord of the Rings, but I’m not one to hold it against him. J.R.R. Tolkein wrote some great things, so using his ideas as a jumping-off point is totally legit, and the direction that Paolini takes is quite different. Yes, there’s an ultimate evil bastard that must eventually be brought down, but please, name me one fantasy book that doesn’t have a really bad guy (or eye). Yes, he created his own world and language, as did Tolkein, but this adds to the story, making it more engaging and believable.
I don’t want to seem like I’m bashing too much on the book, because I really couldn’t put it down, and I eagerly await the arrival of the fourth and final book (unfortunately, probably several years from now). Let’s talk about the title for a sec: love it! For you non-dorks out there, “brisingr” means fire in the ancient language. The ancient language is used by elves and for spell-casting, and, if you truly understand a person or a thing, you can discover their “true name” in the ancient language, which, of course, gives you total power over them. I won’t give it away, but when the reason for the title was finally revealed near the end, I was just like, “that’s badass.” You’ll see.
Long story short, read this book. It’s good. It’s fun. Paolini’s storytelling ability is rich, his characters are varied and diverse, and his world compelling. And it’s still fun. The reader, suspended disbelief and all, roots for Eragon and Saphira whole-heartedly. And, really, it’s just a lot of fun to read.