Let me start by saying that I'm not a Paolini-hater. I quite liked
"Eragon" the first time I read it, and "Eldest" only really dragged on
my nerves in the very elf-heavy chapters. But "Brisingr" has been a
long, hard, seven-month slog. If I hadn't promised to review it, I'm
not sure I would ever have finished.
Paolini's prose is sometimes hard to read a lot of at a stretch, but
I've realized that this is not the reason I had so much trouble
finishing. The real problem is that Eragon is far from the most
interesting character in the book. I always enjoy the chapters told
from Roran or Nasuada's perspective, and I can think of a few other
characters who are far more entertaining to read about than Eragon.
When I was reading Eldest I thought it was just because he was
spending so much time with the elves, because Inheritance Trilogy
elves are exactly the kind that most annoy me: aloof and ethereal and
somehow convinced they're superior to everyone else. But even when
there was nary an elf in sight, it was Eragon's chapters that tended
to bog me down. And since, as the protagonist, he gets far more
chapters than anyone else, I had to force myself through his sections
to get to the parts I actually found worth reading.
I think that part of the reason Eragon is one of the least interesting
characters is that he's a little ridiculously overpowered. The
characters with no magical powers at all have to solve their problems
in other ways, whether in battle or in politics. Eragon can do just
about anything he likes with magic, so the only real challenge he
faces is fighting equally powerful opponents. Unfortunately, the only
really powerful enemies he has are Murtagh and Galbatorix, one of whom
is sadly underused in "Brisingr" and the other of whom has yet to
appear at all. No one else even comes close to being a threat.
But there's an even bigger problem here, which is that nearly
everything in this book is filler. Near the beginning, Eragon spends
about five chapters on a detour that makes no sense, is a completely
stupid thing to do, and doesn't really matter in the long run. The
chapters about the election of the new dwarf king were somewhat
interesting but unnecessary. And unless Elva turns out to be
incredibly important in Book 4, she could have been entirely cut from
the series. If Paolini had been willing to make a few judicious cuts
to "Eldest" as well, he could have stuck with his original plan for a
trilogy without harming the story arc at all. Here's hoping that the
fourth book will finally get down to business.