The English cover of Brisingr, featuring the golden dragon Glaedr
|Illustrator||John Jude Palencar|
|Cover artist||John Jude Palencar|
|Genre||Young adult literature, high fantasy|
|Publisher||Alfred A. Knopf|
|September 20, 2008|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover and Paperback) and audio-CD|
|Pages||Normal: 749 Deluxe: 800|
Brisingr is the third book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. It was released on September 20, 2008. Originally, Paolini intended to conclude the then Inheritance Trilogy in three books, but during writing the third book he decided that the series was too complex to conclude in one book. A deluxe edition of Brisingr, which includes removed scenes and previously unseen art, was released on October 13, 2009
Brisingr focuses on the story of Eragon and his dragon Saphira as they continue their quest to overthrow the corrupt ruler of the Empire, Galbatorix. Eragon is one of the last remaining Dragon Riders, a group that governed the fictional nation of Alagaësia, where the series takes place. Brisingr begins almost immediately after the preceding novel Eldest concludes.
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, the book sold 550,000 copies on its first day of sale, a record for a Random House children's book. The novel debuted at number one on USA Today's top 150 bestsellers list. Reviewers criticized the book for its length, while commenting on Paolini's growing maturity in his treatment of characters.
Setting and characters
Brisingr begins about three days after the events in Eldest conclude. It continues the story of the Inheritance Cycle and takes place on the fictional continent of Alagaësia during a struggle for power as the small country Surda and a rebel group called the Varden attempts to overthrow the larger Empire. They are supported mainly by elves, dwarves, and Urgals, but the Empire is populated with large numbers of humans, who far outnumber Surda and its allies. The Inheritance Cycle focuses on the story of a teenage boy named Eragon and his dragon Saphira. Eragon is one of the few remaining Dragon Riders, a group that governed Alagaësia in past times but were almost destroyed by a Rider named Galbatorix, who took control of the land. Galbatorix's greatest fear is that a new Rider will rise up and usurp his position as king of the Empire, so when he finds out about Eragon and his dragon, he sends his servants after them in an effort to capture them. Eragon and Saphira are forced to flee from their home, and decide to join the Varden.
Brisingr is told in third-person from the perspectives of multiple primary protagonists. These characters include the humans Eragon, Roran, Nasuada, the dragon Saphira, and the dragon Glaedr. The humans Galbatorix and Murtagh return as antagonists, along with Murtagh's dragon, Thorn. The Ra'zac return for a minor antagonist role, and Varaug, a Shade, also appears for a main antagonist role. Many minor characters reprise their roles in Brisingr from previous installments of the Inheritance Cycle, including the elves Arya, Islanzadí, and Oromis; the dwarf Orik; the humans Angela, Katrina and Elva; and the dragon Glaedr.
Brisingr begins as Eragon, Saphira, and Roran travel to Helgrind, the home of the Ra'zac, the creatures that had killed Eragon's uncle, Garrow. There they rescue Roran's betrothed, Katrina, who was being held prisoner, and kill one of the Ra'zac. Saphira, Roran, and Katrina return to the Varden, while Eragon stays behind to kill the remaining Ra'zac. While he is fighting the Ra'zac, it mentions that Galbatorix has discovered the name of all names. Eragon doesn't understand, and ignores the Ra'zac, and kills him. Once he returns to the Varden, Eragon discovers that Katrina is pregnant with Roran's child and a wedding is arranged, which Eragon is to conduct. Just before it begins, a small force of enchanted troops attack alongside Murtagh and his dragon, Thorn. The enchanted soldiers had spells cast by Galbatorix that couldn't allow them to feel pain. King Orrin, King of Surda, discovers a method to kill the soldiers, behead them. Elven spell-casters aid Eragon and Saphira and cause Murtagh and Thorn to flee back to the Empire, winning the battle. After the fight, Roran marries Katrina. The leader of the Varden, Nasuada, then orders Eragon to attend the election of the new dwarf king in the Beor Mountains. Once among the dwarves, Eragon is the target of a failed assassination, found to be the work of the dwarf clan Az Sweldn rak Anhûin, whom the dwarf Orik then forces into exile. Having earned the sympathies of the dwarves, Orik is elected the new king.
After Orik's coronation, Eragon and Saphira return to the elven capital Ellesméra to train. There, Saphira revealed from a memory that Eragon's deceased mentor, Brom, is Eragon's father; which Brom asked her to show him when the time was right. Glaedr also reveals the source of Galbatorix's power: Eldunari, or heart of hearts. An Eldunarí allows the holder to communicate with or draw energy from the dragon it belongs to, even if the dragon is deceased. Galbatorix spent years collecting Eldunari, and forcing the deceased dragons to channel their energy to him through their Eldunari. After training, Eragon visits Rhunön, the elven blacksmith who forges swords for Riders. But Rhunön wouldn't create a weapon for him because long ago she swore an oath never to create a weapon again after the Fall of the Riders. But after Eragon's repeated requests, she creates a weapon by controlling Eragon's body. Eragon gives a name to the sword,"Brisingr." Before Eragon and Saphira depart for the Varden, Oromis says that the time has come for him and Glaedr to openly oppose the Empire in combat alongside the Queen of the Elves, Islanzadí. Thus, Glaedr gives his own Eldunari to Eragon. If anything should happen to Glaedr, Eragon would still be able to get advice from him. Then Glaedr and Oromis fly to Gil'ead, while Eragon and Saphira fly to Feinster, the city that the Varden are laying siege to.
Meanwhile, Roran is sent on various missions as part of the military force of the Varden. One of the targets is a convoy of supply wagons guarded by enchanted soldiers that can't feel pain. The unit suffers extreme casualties, and the commander is replaced after losing his hand. During a mission to attack a large enemy force raiding a village, plans made by the new commander almost cause the operation to fail, but Roran gives new orders and kills one hundred and ninety-three enemy soldiers, leading the Varden to victory. Despite saving the mission, Roran is charged with insubordination and is flogged as a punishment. After the public whipping, Nasuada promotes Roran to commander and sends his unit on a mission. He leaves in command of a group of both men and Urgals to enforce the idea of men and Urgals working together. When an Urgal, Yarbog, challenges Roran for leadership of the unit, he wrestles the Urgal and forces him to submit. After returning to the Varden, his squad joins the siege of Feinster, a city in the Empire. As the siege begins, Eragon rescues the elf Arya and departs to find the leader of the city, but discovers that three magicians are attempting to create a Shade. While racing to kill the magicians, Eragon has a vision through Glaedr's Eldunarí showing Oromis and Murtagh fighting. Murtagh is using power of several Eldunari, and Glaedr and Thorn fight in the sky. Soon Glaedr is badly wounded. In the midst of the fighting, Galbatorix possesses Murtagh and tries to lure Oromis to his side: when he fails, and after Oromis suffers a seizure, Galbatorix uses Murtagh to kill him and Glaedr is killed shortly after. After the vision, the magicians have managed to create the Shade Varaug. Eragon and Arya fight desperately to slay Varaug. Eragon then distracts Varaug by battling him through the mind. Arya then stabs Varaug in the heart. After the successful siege, Nasuada tells Eragon the Varden's plans for invading the Empire. Arya and Eragon are now both known as Shadeslayers.
The first two books in the Inheritance Cycle, Eragon and Eldest, sold over 15 million copies worldwide together. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children's Books and the publisher of the books, prepared Brisingr's release by printing 2.5 million copies in advance, Random House's biggest initial print run of a children's book. Paolini said he tried not to let the expectations surrounding Brisingr affect him, stating that "As an author, I found that I can't really allow myself to think about those things. I actually fell into that trap with the first part of Brisingr. I sat there and I started obsessing about every single word." He turned away from his computer and began writing on parchment paper instead. The pages were rewritten on a computer document afterwards by his mother.
Unlike Eragon, Brisingr features multiple points of view. Parts of the book are written in Saphira's perspective for the first time in the series. Paolini based the dragon's behavior and attitude on the pets and animals he grew up around, particularly his pet cats: "I thought a dragon would be like a cat in some ways, that same sort of self-satisfied attitude." He added that it was challenging to depict scenes from the standpoint of a dragon, but he enjoyed doing it because Saphira "has so many interesting thoughts and opinions."
The Ancient Language used by the elves in the Inheritance Cycle is partly based on Old Norse. The word brisingr is an ancient Old Norse word meaning "fire", which Paolini found while reading through a dictionary of word origins. Paolini said he "loved it so much, he decided to base the rest of [the Ancient Language] on Old Norse. To find more words, I went online and dug up dictionaries and guides to the language. I invented more words based on what I learned and then formed a system of grammar and a pronunciation guide to fit my world. Developing this has probably been the most difficult part of writing the books." The languages used by the dwarves and Urgals in the book were created from scratch by Paolini.
When asked by Sci Fi Wire what kind of challenges he faced while writing the book, Paolini said it was trying to avoid any references to modern items or actions. Brisingr takes place long before the industrial revolution, which Paolini said "limits not only the things my characters use and do, but it also informs their worldview. This constraint extends to more recent words and phrases as well. For example, in Brisingr, I was going to use the description short-order. When I researched its origins, however, I discovered that it was coined to describe modern cooking: a short-order cook."
Split and editing
According to its author, Brisingr features a complex story with "weighty moral dilemmas" and "a sheer number of events that gives it a rich narrative." Halfway through the writing of the book, Paolini realized the story was so complex that it was going to end up being 2,000 pages. He decided to split it into two books, and thus the Inheritance Trilogy became the Inheritance Cycle. Paolini revealed this decision in an October 2007 press release, and stated that his development as a writer since Eragon is what caused the book to become so complex.
The decision to bring in and then kill a Shade at the end of the book was made when Paolini realized he needed a new ending for the book after it was split up. He was in need of plot points that were strong enough to keep the reader interested through the ending of the book. The point of view of Glaedr and Oromis' confrontation with Thorn and Murtagh was combined with the Shade battle to further keep the reader interested.
The first draft of the book was finished in April 2008. In a newsletter sent out that month, Paolini said he was busy "chewing [his] way through the editing, which has been a surprisingly enjoyable experience this time around." The hardest part of editing was having to excise material that he spent days and weeks working on. "However, as most any writer will tell you, just because you spent ten days slaving over a certain scene is no reason to keep it in the final manuscript. The only question that matters is whether the scene contributes to the book as a whole," he said. Michelle Frey, executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf who worked with Paolini on Eragon and Eldest, assisted Paolini as the editor of Brisingr.
Title, cover, and audio book
Paolini said "Brisingr" was one of the first words he thought of for the book's title, as it was the first Ancient Language word that Eragon learned in the series, and it holds a particular significance for him. Unlike the first two books in the series, Brisingr has a subtitle: The Seven Promises of Eragon Shadeslayer and Saphira Bjartskular. Paolini revealed it in a newsletter at his official website, in which he said that it was added "because I felt it suited the story, and also because, in a way, I still view Brisingr and Book Four as two halves of the same volume; the subtitle is merely the name of the first of these two sections."
John Jude Palencar illustrated the English cover featuring the golden dragon Glaedr. The content of the cover was one of the few things initially confirmed by Paolini before he wrote the book. He had originally planned for it to feature a green dragon, but later indicated that this was affected by the expansion of the series to a four-book cycle. Paolini liked the cover because it reflects that Brisingr is the longest and "most intense entry in the series so far." The Japanese translation of Brisingr was so large that the publisher split it into two volumes. Since the Japanese did not want the same cover on two volumes, they commissioned Palencar to paint one of the Lethrblaka for the second volume. The Lethrblaka are the Ra'zac's steeds and parents. Paolini made drawings based on the book for the deluxe edition of Brisingr, including one with Eragon's arm and hand holding the sword he receives in the book. The sword, named Brisingr, has flames around its blade.
Gerard Doyle provided the voice for the English audio book of Brisingr. In order to help Doyle with this, Paolini recorded the pronunciation of every invented name and word in Brisingr from a list over nine pages long. It was tricky even for Paolini to do this because he cannot "roll [his] r's" properly. Doyle said he prepared for narrating Brisingr by going "largely by physical description. If there are specific details about the voices, I latch onto those as best I can. But if a creature’s anatomical features are described, I try to imagine, for example, how the jaw might work...and then try and adapt that and attach it to something that sounds okay to the ear and is still slightly stranger than normal."
Promotion and release
In March 2008, a spoiler about the book was released on the Inheritance Cycle's official website, stating that "In Brisingr, Eragon will meet a god." In May 2008, Paolini posted a video message on his website stating that in the book, Eragon will meet "a new, rather terrifying enemy" that "likes to laugh, but not in a good way." A third and final spoiler was released by Paolini in July 2008, stating that one of the characters will become pregnant in the book. Excerpts from Brisingr were released both on the official Inheritance Cycle website and on MSNBC, which held an interview with Paolini the day before the release of the book. Paolini toured across ten cities in the North America to promote the book; his first visit was to New York City on September 19, 2008, and his last was to Bozeman on November 22, 2008.
Brisingr was released in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom on September 20, 2008, though it was originally supposed to be released on September 23, 2008. Nancy Hinkel, publishing director of Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, said the company received "an outpouring of requests from booksellers hoping to host midnight launch parties. We have responded to their enthusiasm by advancing the date, and we know fans will welcome the opportunity to celebrate the publication together." More than 2,500 midnight party events were held in the United States for the September 20 release. A deluxe edition of Brisingr was released on October 13, 2009, including deleted scenes, foldout posters, never-before-seen art by the author, and a guide to dwarf runes.
Brisingr sold 550,000 copies in North America on its first day of an initial print run of 2.5 million copies. Both the initial print run and first-day sales were the largest ever for the Random House Children's Book division. Brisingr sold 45,000 copies on its first day in the United Kingdom and was the fastest-selling children's book in the country in 2008. In Australia, the book sold 141,000 copies in 2008, making it one of the country's top ten best-selling books of the year. Brisingr debuted at number one on USA Today's top 150 bestsellers list. It stayed on the list for 25 consecutive weeks until March 3, 2009.
Brisingr received mixed to positive reviews, with critical reviewers commenting on the book's length and Paolini's growing maturity in his treatment of characters. David Durham of the Washington Post gave the novel a moderately negative review, praising Paolini for his streamlined prose, but said the novel loses focus in the middle. He added, though, that Brisingr "reconnects with the core elements that animate Eragon's tale" toward the end of the book, and Paolini shows growing maturity during some "quiet" moments in Brisingr, although Durham noted these parts could bore younger readers. Durham also found that Paolini's new characters are original, and that Paolini added depth to some characters from the previous novels in the Inheritance Cycle. In contrast, Sheena McFarland of The Salt Lake Tribune said that Paolini "hasn't learned how to create characters that readers can relate to," although she praised him for strong female characters in Brisingr such as Arya and Nasuada. McFarland calls the last fifty pages "riveting", but says they are a "paltry reward for trudging through the 700 preceding pages."
Publishers Weekly gave Brisingr a negative review, criticizing the novel for relying on "classic fantasy tropes", and noting that Brisingr might appeal to younger readers, but older readers might be unimpressed. Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) reviewer Kathleen Beck criticized the length of the book, accusing Paolini of "plainly [enjoying] wandering around in his fantasy world" and urging him to provide a cleaner finish to the series. She further criticized the content of the book, asserting that "there is a lot of action in [Brisingr] but paradoxically not much forward motion." Haley Keeley of The Buffalo News, however, commented that with alternating points of views every few chapters, Paolini "manages to convey the complexity of the situation while offering refreshing new perspectives." Children's Literature writer Jamie Hain gave the book a positive review, praising the action scenes, as well as the appeal to both male and female readers. She asserts that it is a "long read", but it is "worth it for those who reach the end."
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