Friday, February 06, 2009

Kudos to the Fire of Brisingr

I’ve just finished reading the third book of the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini – Brisingr. In Paolini’s world, Brisingr means “Fire”. In some ways, the book does evoke a fire from within the reader. But for my part, I didn’t like the book as much as I had liked its predecessors.

But that’s not the point of this post.

I took precisely two days to read the book. And I formed my opinion of the book within two minutes of finishing it, perhaps. What struck me was, the author had spent three years to write this huge thing. And I have to admit, it is brilliant in its own way. But I (and many other readers like me), who have read almost all of the famous magical sequences (like the epic
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, the exceptional Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud) lose no time whatsoever in comparing the work of Paolini to the already established ones.

I did so myself when I said to myself, “well, I think Bartimaeus Trilogy was better than this…” and a moment later, I hated myself for it.

You may well ask, what’s wrong with the comparison? To that I would answer, would you compare a duck to a hen, or a cat to a dog? Just like these belong to different species altogether, so is the Inheritance Cycle different from all other works! There can’t be, and shouldn’t be, any comparison among them.

There are different genres of literature – tragedy & comedy, fiction & non-fiction, prose & poetry. In the same way, different genres can be detected even in the writings of what appears to be upon the same subject. The magical worlds highlighted in each of the works I’ve mentioned differ from each other quite starkly. There is some overlapping, surely, but that is only to be expected! After all, dwarves and elves and djinnis and spirits and spells are all, in our opinion, residents of the magical world! How can any magical world be complete without them? It is akin to asking two chemists to prepare the same drug using different compositions, when we all know that any change in the composition would change the drug itself!

This post is an official apology to Cristopher Paolini, for comparing his work to the works of others, even though it was just the once, only to myself. I think it is an insult to an author, who spends so much of his time, energy and skills in writing something so beautiful, to unthinkingly dismiss the work since it is, in someone’s opinion, “not as good as so-and-so book”.

I think Paolini has done brilliantly. I might like LotR or Harry Potter more, but I think Eragon and the Inheritance Cycle also deserve a special position among the literatures of magical worlds. Kudos to you, Christopher Paolini!