In what was originally touted as the final book in the trilogy, Brisingr neither disappoints nor impresses and serves primarily as a place-holder in the series. There are some significant plot moments and a plethora of new characters, but all-in-all the novel serves only to highlight the atrocities the Empire has committed and is willing to commit to remain in power.
It is in Brisingr more so than any of the other novels that readers see what Paolini is trying to do (whether he is successful or not I will leave to each reader). He has created a world and he now has to fill it. Not only is he writing the story of what is happening in the world, but he is attempting to enumerate the myths, legends, and histories of the various inhabitants of Alagaësia. Whereas in Eldest we learn of the elves, in Brisingr we learn of the Dwarves and Urgals (bipedal creatures with huge horns growing out of their heads, think minotaur, but less bull like).
If this series is about anything, it is about overcoming insurmountable odds and this is what makes me overlook a lot of the issues other people whinge about. From the onset Eragon, Roran, Arya, Nasuada, the Varden, Surda, etc. have faced a better equipped army, a more powerful (magically speaking) leader, and established cities/defenses. And that is one of the things which makes this story fun, everyone loves the story of an underdog. I’m a sucker for underdog stories, from sports competitions to taking on the man, there is something universal (archetypical even) about them which speaks to me.
In this novel the reader begins to see Paolini stretching his writing muscles and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The biggest problem I had with this novel/series came from this and although I didn’t like it, I could appreciate the attempt. Roughly half way through the novel, Paolini begins to write from the perspective of Saphira occasionally and although I found it interesting at first, it quickly became gimmicky and I felt it detracted from all the dragons’ personalities and somewhat reduced their intelligence. He attempted to portray their thought process and patterns in writing and it just didn’t work, although he was on the right track because I clearly knew what he was attempting.
Recommendation: Read it. It’s stronger than Eragon and Eldest, but still has some minor drawbacks. It would’ve been interesting if all four books were completed at the same time and then a heavy editor went in and cut it down to three.