"Brisingr" is here!

Booksellers throughout the US and UK are gearing up today. At 12:01 tomorrow morning, "Brisingr," the third book of Christopher Paolini's fantasy series about a boy and his brilliant blue dragon, Saphira, who live in the kingdom of Alagaesia and must save the world from an evil king, will be released. It's not quite "Harry Potter" (400 million copies sold worldwide) but at 15 million and climbing, it's not bad, either.

Stores in both the US and the UK where the book will be released (the rest of the world has to wait) are planning late-night parties. Borders alone is planning more than 700 in-store parties scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. tonight and lasting until the books appear at 12:01 a.m..

"Brisingr" (which means "fire" in the fictional ancient language of Alagaesia) was originally intended to be the last book in the Inheritance cycle ("Eragon" and "Eldest" are the first two), but Paolini announced to readers last year that the third book was becoming too lengthy and would have to be split in two.

Paolini is truly one of the wonders of the publishing world. The home-schooled son of a former Montessori teacher, he grew up in Montana's Paradise Valley and wrote the first book of the series at the age of 15 as a personal challenge to himself. He and his parents self-published the book and tried to promote it until it was discovered in a Montana bookstore by the stepson of author Carl Hiaasen. Hiaasen passed it on to his own publisher (Knopf) who picked it up and published it in 2003, only to see it debut at the number three spot on the New York Times children's bestseller list. Paolini was 19 at the time.

Today Paolini is 24. He describes himself as a guy obsessed with dragons. "I have visions of them all the time," he has said, "whether in the shower, sitting on the couch, or riding in the car." The problem, he says, with seeing dragons is that "they tend to take over your mind."

Given the stir in the book world today, it seems that many of his readers would agree.

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