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Book Review

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the "Inheritance Cycle" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Eragon and his cousin, Roran, are hiding outside Helgrind, the mountain stronghold of two evil creatures that are Ra'zac. Eragon has promised to help free Roran's fiancée, Katrina, from the Ra'zac, and he, Roran and Saphira (his dragon) fight their way into the mountain. Roran kills one of the Ra'zac and rescues Katrina. Eragon discovers Katrina's cruel father, Sloan, in one of Helgrind's cells and decides not to kill him. Roran and Katrina ride on Saphira's back to the country of Surda. Eragon chooses to stay behind in Helgrind to fight the remaining Ra'zac.

Eragon kills the second Ra'zac and carries Sloan away from Helgrind. Eragon searches Sloan's mind and accidentally learns Sloan's true name, which he uses to magically control Sloan. Eragon orders Sloan to walk to Ellesmera where he will be cared for by the elves, but he will never see his daughter again. Now that the Ra'zac are dead, Eragon realizes that he has avenged his family. He can focus on being a Dragon Rider and opposing the tyrant Galbatorix, who rules the land of Alagaesia.

In the country of Surda, Nasuada, the leader of the Varden freedom fighters, is hearing petitions from factions among her people. A discontent cousin of Nasuada challenges her to an endurance ritual called the Trial of the Long Knives. Nasuada wins the trial and gains more respect from her people. Roran, Katrina and Saphira land in Surda without Eragon. Arya, the elf princess, leaves Surda to find Eragon and protect him.

Eragon travels through the desert, hiding from King Galbatorix's soldiers. Eragon meets Arya in a village tavern, and the two of them travel together toward Surda.

In Surda, Roran is helping the villagers from his hometown of Carvahall as they train for battle. Nasuada summons Roran and discusses his future role with the Varden. Roran says that he is prepared to serve the Varden, but he would rather not leave on any patrols until Eragon returns to Surda. Because Katrina is pregnant, Roran wants to marry her immediately and wants Eragon to perform the ceremony. Nasuada gives Roran permission to wait for Eragon, and she donates some of her own wealth for Katrina's dowry.

Twelve spellcaster elves arrive in Surda to protect Eragon. Nasuada meets with them and their leader, Blodhgarm.

Arya and Eragon fight and kill a group of Galbatorix's soldiers and encounter some friendly glowing spirits before returning to Surda. Eragon is welcomed back to the Varden, and he tells Nasuada he is ready to remove the curse on Elva, a child who magically protects others from harm. Eragon is able to partially undo the curse so that Elva is not in constant pain. Elva decides to leave her post with the Varden, and she implies that she will use her powers to harm anyone who interferes with her future.

Galbatorix's soldiers attack the Varden, accompanied by Eragon's former friend Murtagh, who recently revealed that he is Eragon's brother. Murtagh and his red dragon, Thorn, fight Eragon and Saphira before retreating. Meanwhile, the Varden discover that Galbatorix's soldiers are impervious to pain and will not stop fighting until they are beheaded. The Varden win but sustain heavy losses. After the battle, Eragon performs Roran and Katrina's marriage ceremony.

Katrina and Roran decide that Katrina must leave the Varden for safety reasons after their baby is born. Nasuada sends Eragon to Farthen Dur to help the dwarves decide who their next king will be. Saphira remains in Surda to protect the Varden.

In Farthen Dur, Eragon listens to many council meetings of the dwarves. When he leaves one meeting out of boredom, he is attacked by several dwarves and nearly killed. Orik, the candidate Eragon supports for the kingship, gains power when he exposes the traitors who attacked Eragon. Orik is crowned king of the dwarves. Saphira flies to Farthen Dur to reunite with Eragon.

Nasuada has Roran publically whipped for disobeying an order from a superior officer. After the whipping, she has a magician heal Roran so he can take command of a troop of humans and Urgals.

Eragon and Saphira fly to Ellesmera to see their respective mentors, Oromis the elf and Glaedr the dragon. Oromis reveals that Eragon is not the son of Morzan the Forsworn Dragon Rider. Eragon's father was Brom, a mentor who died in the first book in the series.

Glaedr tells Eragon that Galbatorix is so unimaginably powerful because he takes his power from the magical hearts of dead dragons. These hearts, called Eldunari, give Galbatorix his strength. Eragon must separate Galbatorix from the Eldunari in order to defeat him. With the help of an elvish smith, Eragon forges a new sword named Brisingr to replace the sword Murtagh stole from him.

Roran and the Varden lay siege to a town called Feinster. In Ellesmera, Eragon visits Sloan, but does not reveal his identity. Eragon is disappointed to find Sloan unchanged and unrepentant for his past crimes. Eragon's elvish mentor, Oromis, prepares to leave Ellesmera and fight against Galbatorix's army in Gil'ead. Glaedr gives Eragon his own Eldunari heart for safekeeping. Eragon and Saphira fly to Feinster to help the Varden.

In Feinster, Eragon helps Arya and the other warriors. Eragon also uses Glaedr's Eldunari to see flashes of Oromis and Glaedr fighting against Murtagh and Thorn in Gil'ead. Galbatorix overtakes Murtagh's consciousness and kills Oromis through Murtagh. Thorn kills Glaedr, but Glaedr's spirit lives on in his Eldunari, which is with Eragon.

Eragon battles with Varaug, a Shade created by magicians in Feinster. Arya kills the Shade. After winning the battle at Feinster, Nasuada makes plans to attack Dras-Leona and then Uru'baen, Galbatorix's fortress.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The devotees of Helgrind are a violent cult. They amputate their limbs as an act of worship, and their high priest has no arms or legs. In their rituals, the high priest's blood is given to the worshipers to drink. Eragon believes that all living creatures are equal and he refuses to eat meat because he does not want to take the lives of animals. Instead of starving, he kills and eats meat but feels guilty for doing so. Eragon can use magic, most often in the form of spoken spells. He uses the magic words of the ancient language to heal, kill and do numerous other tasks. Eragon places a lifelong blessing spell on two women who ask him for help.

Elva is called a witch-child. Chronologically, Elva is a baby but she has magically aged to look about 6 years old. Elva talks like an adult, can see the future and is cursed to protect everyone around her.

A group of nomads worship a god they call the Old One. Nasuada admits to worshiping the nomadic gods and prays to a goddess before she faces the Trial of the Long Knives.

Angela, an herbalist, is also called a witch. Angela works magic through potions, not spells. Solembum is her werecat, and it can predict the future.

In the wilderness, Eragon and Arya encounter a group of sentient-colored lights called Spirits. The Spirits make Eragon feel happy, but Arya warns him that they may be trying to deceive him.

The Urgals have their own gods. Their chief Garzhvog tells Eragon a story about an Urgal goddess.

The dwarves worship their own pantheon of gods. A dwarf woman tells Eragon that she knows her deceased son is feasting with the gods. Guntera, one of the gods of the dwarves, actually manifests during Orik's coronation to bless the new monarch. Eragon thinks the unfathomable creature he sees might be a true godlike being, but Saphira doubts Guntera's legitimacy. When he is in need, Eragon prays to Guntera and asks him to stop the wind. The wind stops blowing after Eragon prays.

After seeing the absolute faith of the dwarves, Eragon decides that perhaps all religions have an element of truth in them and that it is up to each person to decide which parts are valuable. In Ellesmera, Eragon mentally speaks to a tree. The Menoa tree was once an elf and has a type of consciousness. In Feinster, some magicians summon spirits and entrap them to make a Shade, an abomination created when spirits possess a human.

Authority Roles

Katrina's father, Sloan, betrays everyone in his village to the Ra'zac because he is angry at Roran for proposing to Katrina. He is presented as a father whose obsessive love for his child causes more harm than good.

Nasuada is respected as the leader of the Varden. Nasuada does not waste the Varden's resources and is careful to avoid showing favoritism to any of the factions of the Varden. Nasuada is concerned that her capable leadership may make the Varden forget her father, Ajihad. Arya says that children's actions reveal their upbringing and that the best way for Nasuada to honor Ajihad is to be an excellent ruler.

Eragon is considered a formidable leader among all the races of Alagaesia. He tries to amend any wrongs he has done to his friends and allies. He partially undoes the curse he accidentally placed on Elva. Eragon once stole some ox hides from a man in Carvahall. He pays the man for the hides. At the siege of Feinster, Eragon offers mercy to the men he fights and asks them to surrender. Eragon visits Sloan in Ellesmera so that he does not forget his duty to the man he sentenced to a harsh fate, even though Sloan deserved to be punished.

Murtagh hates his deceased father, Morzan, Galbatorix's second in command. Morzan abused Murtagh when he was a child. Eragon is horrified by the knowledge that he and Murtagh are brothers because it means he is the son of an evil man. Eragon chooses to view his uncle Garrow as his actual father because Garrow raised him and treated him kindly.

After it is revealed that Brom is Eragon's father, Saphira sends Eragon a magical memory of Brom. In the memory, Brom addresses Eragon as his son and says that he is proud of him. Brom encourages Eragon and advises him to protect his loved ones at all costs. Eragon is upset at learning his father's identity so late in life, but he loved Brom and is ultimately glad to accept the new information.

Oromis and Glaedr are kind and helpful mentors to Eragon and Saphira.


The word b--tard is used, as is the British swear word bloody.

In a gory scene, the worshipers of Helgrind cut themselves and drink their high priest's blood. Eragon and Roran secretly observe a ceremony where a young man joyfully cuts off his own hand as a gesture of his devotion.

Roran vividly remembers the men he has killed. He has nightmares about them and discusses their deaths with Eragon. Roran kills many enemy soldiers throughout the novel, most notably killing 193 men in a single battle. When Eragon discovers Katrina's father, Sloan, in Helgrind, the man's eyes have been pecked out and eaten by the Ra'zac. During the Trial of the Long Knives, Nasuada and Fadawar make deep cuts on their arms. Both competitors bleed heavily, but Nasuada wins the trial because she cuts herself more times than Fadawar.

In a fight, Eragon punches an enemy soldier with all his might, puncturing the man's chest and breaking his ribs. Eragon and Arya mutilate the bodies of dead soldiers so Galbatorix will not discover that the soldiers were killed with magic.

Galbatorix's new soldiers are guarded by spells that keep them from feeling pain and allow them to fight even with gruesome wounds. The soldiers can only be stopped if they are beheaded. After beheading the soldiers, the Varden place their heads on pikes to show that they have truly died.

Roran is publically flogged for insubordination, and the 50 whiplashes he receives cause him to faint from the pain and blood loss. When Urgals under his command begin to torture an enemy soldier, Roran puts the man out of his misery by crushing his skull with a hammer.


Saphira jokes that Eragon's attraction for Arya is so extreme, it almost makes Saphira want to kiss Arya. Roran jokes that even married women would be happy to be chosen as Eragon's love interest. Roran and Katrina kiss several times. They are engaged to marry, and it is revealed that they had sex during the previous book, Eldest, because Katrina is now pregnant. After their marriage, Roran and Katrina wake up together in bed a few times.

When some drunken farmers meet Arya in a tavern, they crowd around her and assume she is a prostitute. Nasuada is deeply attracted to Blodhgarm, an elf who has magically changed his appearance until he has claws and short blue fur. Blodhgarm has a scent that only women can smell, like a pheromone, which draws them to him. Eragon's unmarried mother gave birth to two children, Murtagh and Eragon, by two different fathers, Morzan and Brom.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: When Eragon is sad over killing some animals, he reaches for a container of alcohol. Saphira knocks his hand away. Nasuada is careful about not overindulging in alcohol because it can affect her ability to make decisions. Mead, wine or some other form of alcohol is served at almost every meal mentioned in the book. Saphira drinks a barrel full of mead.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Christopher Paolini






Record Label



Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Books


On Video

Year Published



Amazon's Best Books of 2008; International Reading Association's Young Adult Choices, 2010


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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