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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Brisingr: Good Story, Overall Disappointment

Hello Evereaders! So, you may (or may not) have noticed that I haven't posted in a while. I could say it was basically to build up a suspense, or create a need, or simply to be shrouded in mystery--because who doesn't want to be shrouded in mystery?--but the simple and sad truth is I've been sick recently and super-busy with my impending student teaching and last semester as a real college student. But of course, this hasn't completely impeded my reading life. After all, one can't just drop reading like a heavy rock in a river; the splash would make you all wet and uncomfortable and then you'd be missing your heavy rock, and who doesn't want to hold on to a heavy rock... Okay, bad analogy, but you get what I mean.
Anyway, of course one of the most recent hot-ticket items on the YA book market is Christopher Paolini's long-awaited three-quel, Brisingr. Now, it's been a few years since I read the first two books in the Inheritance Trilogy (oops! I mean "Cycle"...can you sense I'm a little bitter about that switch?), but I brushed up on the storyline by referring to ever-so-useful Wikipedia and it all started coming back to me. I got sufficiently excited for Brisingr to come out as the midnight release party advertisements went up and the major hoopla set in. But then I actually started reading the book.
Now, the plotline is engaging, the characters are memorable and interesting, the beginning and the ending are satisfying, and in short, most of the elements of a great story are there. Unfortunately there are a few more elements too...like super extensive descriptions that appear to have no other function except a fulfillment of the author's apparent obsession with swords and dwarf politics. Overall, the story was too long-winded to be satisfying. It's like Paolini's editors decided not to make him cut anything or trim the novel down. Perhaps they're trying to one-up Harry Potter's book lengths? Well, I have news for you friends: not every YA novel in the fantasy category has to be a bajillion pages long to be popular!!! Do us all a favor and cut some of the superfluous nonsense. Tolkien can get away with superfluous, but he wasn't writing for ADD teenagers, and he gets away with it because his stuff is classic (arguably). Tolkien tries my patience, Paolini tries my sanity.
My other main complaint about Brisingr is the obligatory nature of the romance. Paolini can go on for pages and pages about the minor and insignificant details of sword-forgery, but he doesn't seem to have room to develop a genuine romance in Brisingr. Clearly we can see where his priorities lie. I'm not saying that the book should be taken over by romance--it's a fantasy, not a fairy tale. But still, he dots the book with an occasional mention of Arya and a fleeting thought thrown her way now and then by Eragon. But these slight romantic touches mostly just appear as afterthoughts. There's only one sequence in the book in which Arya and Eragon have an extended conversation, and it's interrupted by a magical phenomenon that takes on the real importance in the sequence. Go figure. Maybe Paolini broke up with a girlfriend just before he started drafting Brisingr which caused him to swear off romance...or maybe he just doesn't care to develop that side of his story anymore. He's the author and it's his story, but I'm just sayin': I don't appreciate the lack of romance. I don't remember being upset about this with Eragon or Eldest, so what happened with the romantic elements of the story in Brisingr?
Many criticize Paolini for unoriginal ideas. Some say he just pulls from all the basic elements of fantasy set forth by notables such as J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas. To them I say: what did you expect? I love when critics moan and gripe when fantasy novels don't include one or more of the "basic elements" of fantasy, but then they moan and gripe about mindless plot-copying when authors do follow use the "basic elements." I think Paolini's put together a very engaging story with great twists and turns. In my opinion, some of his twists are more predictable than others, and actually Brisingr erred a little more on the unpredictable side. Yes, many of the set-ups are not uncommon in famous works of fantasy, but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable.
Bottom line: Paolini and his editors probably could/should have cut out a lot of long-winded waste-of-time stuff and kept it to three books instead of four, but who wants to do that when you can build up anticipation and make a lot more money?

2 comments:

  1. May I just point out that while Tolkien wasn't writing for ADD teenagers, but yet is still read by ADD teenagers today. Even if they're not ADD, a LOT of teens--and younger--have read LotR (and are shocked when I say I haven't).

    I personally like the discriptions Paolini adds to his writing, and it makes sense for Eragon to be so aware of nature (which is probably the thing most described) having been raised on a farm and hunting for his family. That is most likely a major part of Paolini's personality also, but it fits Eragon.

    I wasn't that thrilled with Brisingr, either, because of Arya's sudden decision to be open instead of snippy with Eragon, and during Eragon's time in Tronjheim I was ready to scream because the pace of the book was so slow.
    Overall the thing lacked zing of some sort, and I thought the writing style had changed somehow, but I did not find it overly descriptive.

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  2. Yay for a review from Laura! Loved hearing your opinions on this one.

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