by Joshua Packard, Fullness of Happy
Finally, I have finished reading the original Sword of Shannara Trilogy and the followup quadrilogy, “The Heritage of Shannara”. There is a story behind how I was introduced to these novels by Terry Brooks. When I was in 4th grade or so, I was really into the Goosebumps books. I would read really fast, often reading a whole book in a single night. My aunt noticed I read really fast and recommended I read the Shannara books, of which she had the first 7 volumes. At this time, these were the largest books I had ever tried to read, with the first book “The Sword of Shannara” being over 700 pages. It took me a long time to read the first book, and I found that I often would read 20 pages and not remember anything that had happened in them, and have to backtrack to concentrate on them. My reading comprehension skills were very poor for a long time. But these books challenged me, excited, and inspired me. I read the first three books, doing a book report on the second one, and my favorite of the series, “The Elfstones of Shannara” for an 8th grade English paper. Years later, about a few years ago, I decided to read them again and try to break into the followup four book series “The Heritage of Shannara”. I got into the second volume of this series “The Druid of Shannara” and put it down, having lots of other reading to do. Once again, a year or so later, I picked them back up, rereading from the beginning and finally tonight, finishing the last book of those I am reviewing here.
The Shannara series is a fantasy series, being something like Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings”, including elves, dwarves, magic, demons, and sword-fighting. While I enjoy Terry Brooks fantasy world, I find that Tolkien is far better. But Brooks is very good to read, in my view. I know some people who do not like his writing, but I enjoy it. The plot is essentially about the powers of magic, and the use or misuse of magic. That is the theme that runs throughout the series. Essentially, an order of Druids who practice and develop magical powers, is split, where one druid seeks to much power and is corrupted with the power they use and try to destroy the world and rule it. It is somewhat like the Darth Vader and Sith storyline from Star Wars, but this is not an interstellar galactic empire, but a world-bound army where there is no advanced technology, mostly medieval level society and there is magic.
But the series follows the adventures of members of a certain family, the Ohmsfords, who are partially descended from the race of Elves which has power of magic. Each volume find the Four Lands of Shannara threatened by some kind of evil, demonic, destructive force or character, and the druid Allanon charges a certain descendant of the Ohmsford, to go on a quest to stop this danger. Often the characters bounce all over the world, of which there is a map at the beginning of each novel, kind of like Lord of the Rings, but totally new, seeking out magical items and weapons and recruiting help along the way as the ever doubtful protagonists seek to bring peace and harmony back into the threatened land of Shannara.
Terry Brooks is someone whom I find to be very eloquent in his descriptions of setting, characters, and action. Especially in “The Elfstones of Shannara”, his portrayal and descriptions of battle scenes are very exciting, fast paced and visually imaginative. Whenever he described the setting or scenery or action sequences, I have a very vivid idea in my mind of what the scene looks like, what the characters are doing, and the psychological state of the characters are. The characters are all believable. There is a great variety of characters, and they are easily recognizable and distinguishable. Many of the characters are very likable, and there were feelings of devastation in my soul when certain very important characters are suddenly slain or die, sacrificing themselves to save others and keep the quest going until it is finished. There are some interesting plot twists, and the lore and background story behind the state of the world and the battle between the good magic and lust for power through destructive magic is intriguing.
One thing I would like to gladly note is that there is a “Shannara” TV series in production, which will be aired on MTV. The first season is going to cover the second book “The Elfstones of Shannara”, which I mentioned before, is my favorite in the series. I expect this will be very good, and I hope you obtain copies of these books, and enjoy them very much. I liked it, and I hope you like it as much as I did. You might not, but at least give the first book a try, and you'll get a good idea soon of whether you like the book or the author or not. The list below this review is the order in which the books should be read, just so you know.
“The Sword of Shannara”
“The Elfstones of Shannara”
“The Wishsong of Shannara”
The Heritage of Shannara:
“The Scions of Shannara”
“The Druid of Shannara”
“The Elf Queen of Shannara”
“The Talismans of Shannara”