As I’ve said before when reviewing the first two books of the Inheritance Cycle, this series is basically Star Wars (and a mish-mash of other books and movies). I’ve also said before that where the storytelling really falls on its ass is when Paolini goes off-script. While there are a few Star Wars-esque moments that hearken back to Return of the Jedi, they’re scattered and out of order and don’t carry the same narrative impact. In other words, Brisingr goes almost entirely off-script, and boy does the storytelling really fall on its ass.
This book is terribly boring. Buried under entire mountain ranges of purple prose and unnecessary filler are a few significant events that advance the plot, but they didn’t need a whole 763-page book devoted to them. Entire subplots and side quests could have been cut down or cut out completely without affecting the overall plot. Entire characters we’re asked to believe are essential could also have been sidelined without affecting the overall plot. (I’m looking at you, Roran Stronghammer. You and your cardboard cutout girlfriend.) This poor book is not a self-contained novel. It’s a plodding set-up for book four, and it is so bloated I’m afraid it’ll explode if I poke it too hard.
Having said that, there is at least one thing I think Paolini did well: He didn’t make Eragon a full-on Gary Stu. Because everyone in this series from the uneducated hicks to the royals speaks like 80-year-old English Lit professors, it’s easy to forget that Eragon is still a teenager fresh off a tiny farm in a tiny isolated village with very little worldly experience. We’re reminded of that fact when he acts impulsively or irrationally and screws up in spectacular fashion. Because of his position, his adolescent screw-ups have far-reaching and sometimes dire consequences, and the way Paolini shows him struggling under the weight of that immense responsibility feels authentic. (I still think our super special boy dragon rider is a total self-insert, though.)
One more book to go, and then I can clear this series off my shelf and it can stop staring accusingly at me for collecting then neglecting it. I hope Inheritance returns to its Star Wars rip-off roots. Otherwise it’s probably going to be one hell of a slog.