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Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

cover image Doubleday, 2008.
Brisingr is the third book of the Inheritance Cycle, the fourth will bring the cycle to a close. I was apprehensive when beginning this book because I hadn't read the other two. There is a useful synopsis of Eragon and Eldest which helps to bring you up to date with the story so far. It goes without saying, however that having read the other books is an advantage especially early on in the narrative. In many ways Brisingr brings many of the threads of the story into a cohesive path ready for the finale which is yet to come. At almost 750 pages there are a considerable number of questions to which we find answers.
Eragon and his dragon Saphira are again the star characters, with Roran, Eragon's cousin the other action hero. The Empire, and Galbatorix at its head, are still powerful and becoming even stronger. Despite The Varden, Elves and Urgals joining forces and with the aid of a dragon rider victory appears a remote possibility. Galbatorix seems to gain in strength, and without knowing how, the forces ranged against him are at a great disadvantage.
The Varden find that some soldiers of the empire have extraordinary power, in that they feel no pain and fight on despite horrific injuries. The Empire's dragon rider and very young dragon seem to be drawing on a source of power unknown to any of the magicians. Their power and strength may soon be too strong for Eragon and Saphira to conquer.
Eragon no longer has the sword given him by Brom and needs another. When he seeks to enlist the help of the Dwarfs he also takes time to visit Ellesmera and the Elf Oromis. He needs to know the secret of Galbatorix' power and see if Solemnbum's prophecy about his new sword is true.
There is plenty of action interspersed throughout the narrative, with Roran's heroics featuring heavily in his battles with the Empire's armies. But it's not all brute force and swords there is also intrigue aplenty with plots and schemes among the diverse allied forces that are more used to fighting one another than being comrades in arms.
This is a fantasy of the Lord of the Rings genre. It has many of the hallmarks of Tolkien; humans, elves, dwarves, dragons, magic and most of all the fight between good and evil. Eragon is a heroic figure but he is racked with guilt and pain at the death and destruction he causes. He is also bound by oaths he has sworn to various individuals, not least the one he swore at the Menoa tree, one he doesn't even know the terms of. Fans of Paolini will enjoy this latest episode but fantasy readers in general will appreciate the scope and depth of Paolini's imagination.
Mark Knight


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