The Word Series

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Running with the Demon By Terry Brooks

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A major departure from the previous novels that Brooks has written.  Although still a fantasy novel, this book takes place in present day America.  Brooks has created a new vision of good vs. evil.  The Word (good), which created the world, is constantly struggling to maintain its balance against the Void (evil).  Demons, evil servants of the Void (who once were human beings), are trying to subvert humanity and tip the scales in favor of the Void, thereby leading to a cataclysmic destruction of the world as we know it.  John Ross is a Knight of the Word.  John is a man who pledged his life in service of the Word and while he sleeps, he dreams of the nightmare that the world will become if he fails to prevent certain events from occurring when he awakes.

John Ross and a Demon both converge on the sleepy town of Hopewell, Illinois one fourth of July weekend.  The town is in the midst of a lengthy and bitter steel strike.  The demon hopes to use the anger and frustration eating at the community to achieve a secret goal.  John has tracked the Demon to Hopewell to attempt to destroy him.  Somehow, linked to both of these men is a 14 year old girl named Nest Freemark.  Nest possesses a unique form of magic that could be used for the good of the Word or for the evil ends of the Void.  On Independence Day, the fate of all humanity may be decided, depending upon the actions of Nest.

Brooks develops his new vision of good vs. evil in an effective manner.  You feel like the story could actually be happening in the next town over.  It is a refreshing twist to have a fantasy novel, replete with magic and magical creatures, set in the modern world as opposed to some fantasy kingdom.  There is something for everyone in this novel: hidden family secrets, magic wielded against magical monsters, human weaknesses turned towards evil ends, fairy creatures, etc.  This is a very good start on a new series.  Although I figured out some elements of the ending about halfway through the book, I was still surprised by the conclusion.  Brooks fans will not be disappointed by this book.

Reviewed by: Alan

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A Knight of the Word By Terry Brooks

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John Ross was enlisted by the Lady (a servant of the Word) to fight the demonic servants of the Void. After serving the Word faithfully for decades, a terrible act of violence shatters his faith and he abandons his charge as a Knight of the Word. He attempts to settle down in a normal life, forgetting about his nightmares and the demons of the Void.

However, the servants of the Void covet the magic that John Ross possesses and will attempt to turn him to their own evil ends. Ross has ignored warnings sent by other servants of the Word, so finally, the Lady sends a messenger to Nest Freemark. Five years earlier, Ross had helped her when she was making her own monumental decision between the Word and the Void. Now Nest must help John to regain his faith, or his life-and possibly her own-will be lost.

In my opinion, this sequel to Running With The Demon is inferior for three major reasons. First, this book fails to build the suspense generated by Running even though it utilizes the same formula of compressing all the events of the novel into four days. Second, Brooks spends too much time describing physical places in Seattle instead of writing dialog that advances the story. Although his descriptions are well written (Iíve been to Seattle several times), they would be more appropriately found in a travel book than a fantasy novel. Finally, the main story idea was a good one, but I figured out the ending one-third of the way through the book. Brooksí other novels often have twists at the end that are hard to spot while reading the book. This book would have been better served had he remembered this formula.

There are a few bright spots. The book does reveal additional background information about John Ross becoming a Knight of the Word. Also, the idea for the plot is plausible. It is conceivable that a fallen Knight would be a target for the servants of the Void.

The next book in the series is called Angel Fire East and is due out in October 1999. I will be reviewing that novel here because I have not given up on this series. Terry Brooks is a fine author and everyone is allowed to stub his toe once in a while. There could be many reasons why Knight of the Word was not up to his usual standards (time pressure from his publisher, other writing commitments such as the Star Wars novel, lack of a good idea in time to meet his deadline, etc.). However, Iím confident that Brooks will once again hit his stride in the next installment. This series has an interesting premise and the teaser for Angel Fire (at the end of Knight) looks promising.

Reviewed by: Alan

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Angel Fire East By Terry Brooks

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John Ross, a Knight of the Word, has continued his struggle against the demons that serve for Void for another ten years. But now he faces his greatest challenge. He has been charged by the Word to capture and protect a Gypsy Morph. The Morph is a rare blending of magics that occurs spontaneously. If developed properly, the Morph can become a powerful tool in the fight against the Void. Unfortunately, for Ross, the Void is painfully aware of these facts and has dispatched legions of demons to destroy Ross and turn the Morph to their own evil purposes. Lead by Findo Gask, the oldest and strongest of all of the Voidís minions, the demons hound Ross relentlessly.

Ross turns once again to Nest Freemark, inheritor of a strange magic passed down for generations in her family. Nest last saw Ross ten years before in Seattle when she helped him recover his faith when he attempted to quit being a Knight of the Word. Now Nest must help Ross discover the secrets of the Morph while holding the demons at bay. Nest and Ross continue to make extremely painful personal sacrifices to achieve the goals of the Word. However, since the entire fate of humanity hangs in the balance, is any price paid too high?

Brooks adopts the same style that he did in the first two novels in this series. All the events are compressed into a few days of real time while details are filled in through flashbacks. Brooks keeps the action moving fairly well and comes up with an offbeat ending which I did not see coming. All in all, this is superior to A Knight of the Word but still inferior to Running With the Demon. Brooks just was unable to recapture the feeling of suspense that he expertly developed in Running. Still, it is a satisfying conclusion (for now) to this series.

Brooks is allegedly done with this series for now and will be developing another five books in the Shannara series. However, the ending of this book left plenty of room for sequels, so donít be too surprised if he continues this series at a later date.

Reviewed by: Alan

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