Michelle Levigne

A recovering Trekker and Cleveland Indians fan, Michelle Levigne works full-time as a freelance editor. Current projects include the upcoming print version of her SF series, “The Chorillan Cycle,” from OakTara, Arthurian fantasy, “The Zygradon Chronicles,” at Uncial Press, and the YA fantasy series “The Hunt,” at Writers Exchange, Australia. Heavy influences in her life include Bill Cosby, Isaac Airfreight, and Marvel Comics. Website: www.Mlevigne.com.

The Third Time isn’t the Charm

by Christopher Paolini

Admit it, many “undiscovered” writers hate—err—are intensely jealous of Paolini. As a high school kid, he self-published his first book, Eragon, and with his parents drove around the country, selling his book by hand until he got picked up by a New York publisher. Just how often does someone with the right publishing connections pick up a self-pubbed book, and in a moment of high fever fall in love and badger that publishing connection with “You gotta buy this book NOW!”?

So, do I feel vindicated when I picked up the latest book, Brisingr, and after about ten screens on my Palm, my growing reaction was “Ummm, why exactly did I like the first two books?” (This job is not easy. I want to like books when I read them. Irritate me and fail my expectations, and I get really cranky. Of course, being the perceptive readers you are, you already figured that out a long time ago, right?)

Way too much talking and pretty language. As Sam C. said online recently, (I paraphrase) the problem is that an uneducated, sixteen-year-old farm boy talks like Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. Hmm, Eragon . . . Aragorn . . . a coincidence? Nothing new under the sun? (Sam and others said they couldn’t finish the book. Are you proud of me because I did?)

The flowery, fifty-dollar words and wordiness slowed the action. This is about war. It’s action not philosophy. It’s desperation and self-sacrifice. The last two books have been building up to world-in-peril battle. Don’t give me “litra-chah” when I open up a book and expect battling dragons and dwarves lopping you off at the knees and action.

Remember those too-pretty lines in Star Wars? Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke sit on the cliff (in a heroic pose) looking out over Anchorhead, and Obi-Wan says something like, “A more wretched hive of scum and villainy . . .” But he gets away with it because, hey, he’s British, and that kind of language just sounds more natural with a British accent! (Why do filmmakers assume fantasy has British accents? Ancient Rome? British accents. Bronze Age Greek? British accents. The leaders in the X-Men movies? British accents. Feel like filing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of other accents?)

Yeah, have Arnold or Vin Deisel or Hugh say, “A more wretched hive of . . .” and they’d get laughed out of the theater!

There’s too much of the exceedingly pretty language:

“Eragon stared at the dark tower of stone wherein hid the monsters who had murdered his uncle, Garrow.” Who, except Bible teachers stuck in King James, uses “wherein”?

“The normally inaudible flow of air seemed preternaturally loud to

Eragon with his heightened sense of hearing, one of many such changes wrought by his experience during the Agaeti Blodhren, the elves’ Blood-oath Celebration.” Wrought? Blatant info dump/exposition.

“I dare not explore Helgrind with my mind until they leave, for if any are magicians, they will sense my touch, however light, and our presence will be revealed.”

Okay, he’s been studying with the elves, but would his vocabulary change? You can almost hear his snooty British accent, and see his cousin scratching his head, wondering if those new pointy ears did something to Eragon’s brain. The only problem is good old Roran Stronghammer sounds like he’s channeling Admiral Nelson.

Or how about this one: “Half of the young men gave their frames a vigorous shake when they stepped forward with their right foot, producing a dolorous cacophony of notes, while the other half shook their frames when they advanced upon the left foot, causing iron tongues to crash against iron throats and emit a mournful clamor that echoed over the hills.”

Eragon and Roran are spying on a self-mutilation worship ritual, and I’m thinking, Umm, aren’t they in a hurry to rescue Katrina from durance vile? (Sorry, it’s contagious!)

Funny thing—I pulled out Eragon to check if the opening of the book was that elegant and sloooooow. There was also a waiting scene in the opening. At least there was a sense of tension and menace in that opening. You knew the Shade was trouble without being slapped by a lavender-scented handkerchief to make you pay attention.

Writers, don’t listen to the literary snobs who want you to believe that pretty words and convoluted language are more important than plot and stories that go somewhere.

Who’s to blame? The literary snobs who convinced the author to make his language “more mature and intellectual”? Or the editor who should have slathered red ink all over this manuscript and made the language easier to read, invisible, so the reader fell into the story instead of tripping over “wherein” and “dolorous”?


There’s a fourth book—I thought Brisingr was supposed to be the last—and I honestly don’t know if I want to spend even my Buywise points at Fictionwise to get it.

The title, Brisingr, is “ancient tongue” for “fire.” There were times during the reading when I thought, “Yeah, come on baby, light my fire—please!”