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First King of Shannara By Terry Brooks

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This is a prequel to the Sword of Shannara that Terry wrote many years after the first three Shannara novels.  It takes place 500 years before the Sword of Shannara.  The book does an excellent job of fleshing out details of the early years of Allanon, the Druid who is a main character in the Shannara series and his father Bremen.  It details the rise to power of the evil ex-druid Brona and his destruction of the druids at the druids' keep (Paranor).  The book chronicles the efforts of Bremen and two other surviving druids to defeat Brona.  It details the making of the Sword of Shannara, the origins of the elfstones, and chronicles Jerle Shannara's struggles against his own fears and the forces of evil.  Although it is not necessary to read this book before reading the other Shannara novels, if you are the type of person who likes complete background, I would suggest reading this book first.  It is an engaging story that is a worthy prequel to the Sword of Shannara.  The book has a similar plot to the other Shannara novels, however, there were enough twists to fuel my interest.  I couldn't put the book down once I started reading it.  I believe this book even surpassed The Sword of Shannara, probably due to the fact that Brooks has 20 years of writing experience to his credit since he wrote the Sword.

Reviewed by: Alan

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The Sword of Shannara By Terry Brooks

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Terry's first novel that really sets the standard for mass market fantasy novels.  It is very reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien.  A mysterious stranger, the druid Allanon, approaches Shea Ohmsford, the son of a humble innkeeper.  Revealing to him that he is the last of the bloodline of Jerle Shannara, he tells Shea that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord (ex-Druid Brona) is again plotting the downfall of the world.  The only weapon that can stop the Warlock Lord is the Sword of Shannara which can only be wielded by a true heir of Shannara.  Naturally, Shea is skeptical, but the appearance of a Skull Bearer (dread minion of the Warlock Lord) convinces Shea to proceed on the quest to recover the sword and save the world.

Although very reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings, this is a very enjoyable, easy to read novel.  I actually felt sorry for poor Shea, son of a humble innkeeper, who was forced by his heritage to save the world from the dread forces of evil.  All the familiar races from other fantasy novels are present: elves, dwarves, trolls.  I see nothing wrong with using the standard plot established by Tolkien of good vs. evil as long as interesting characters and a new plot line can be woven around it.  Brooks does this very effectively.  The Druid Allanon is very secretive and mysterious.  Druids often possess vast amounts of information, but only reveal as much as they see fit to drive people toward the necessary goals.  This characteristic of the Druids is used very effectively throughout the Shannara series.

This novel is a must read for all fantasy fans.  It is also a great novel to introduce a young reader into the world of fantasy novels.

Reviewed by: Alan

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The Eflstones of Shannara By Terry Brooks

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I believe this is one of the best examples of a sequel surpassing the original book. Brooks grabs you in the first 13 pages and never lets go. You won't be able to put this book down (not that you would want to do so).

Brooks avoids the trap that some authors fall into of just rehashing the same basic plot from their original book in the sequel. It is 50 years after the events of The Sword of Shannara. The elves are threatened by an ancient evil. Thousands of years before, hordes of demons, who were defeated in a war with the races of men, were imprisoned in a void outside the world. This was accomplished by the creation of the Ellcrys, a magical tree in the care of the elves.  The tree maintains the Spell of Forbidding which prevents the demons from crossing back into the world.  But the Ellcrys is dying, and the Spell of Forbidding is weakening as the tree dies. Allanon seeks out Wil Ohmsford, grandson of Shea, to accompany the Elven girl Amberle on a perilous quest. Amberle must carry a seed from the Ellcrys to the mysterious Bloodfire. Once immersed in the Bloodfire, the seed can be used to create a new Ellcrys and maintain the Spell of Forbidding. However, a few demons have already returned to the world and are bent on keeping Wil and Amberle from fulfilling their quest. Wil's only weapons against the demons are the Elfstones of Shannara, whose magic Wil is struggling to control.

There is action and adventure in almost every chapter of this book. Brooks builds suspense very effectively and does a superb job of character development. The characters have very believable human frailties and I ended up empathizing with the plight of the main characters. A surprise twist to the ending just made an enjoyable read even more rewarding. Although the plot is very different from the Sword of Shannara, Brooks continues to use themes he established in the Sword very effectively (such as Allanon's tendency not to reveal everything all at once).  Brooks also switches the action between Wil's quest and the elves' battle against the demons in a way that builds suspense without losing track of either plot line.

Although I read this book three times previously, I just couldn't resist reading it a fourth time before writing this review.  I enjoyed it as much during this read as I did the first time I read it.

Reviewed by: Alan

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The Wishsong of Shannara By Terry Brooks

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Brooks returns to his original plot line but without repeating himself. Fresh ideas help make this book an enjoyable continuation to this series.

It is 15 or 20 years after Wil Ohmsford completed his quest and the demons were once again banished from the world of men. Wil is married and his two children, Brin and Jair, have been born with innate elven magic due to changes made to Wilís body through the use of the Elfstones. They both have the power of the Wishsong, but in varying degrees. For Brin, the Wishsong is a powerful weapon that can change the course of nature around her. For Jair, the Wishsong merely generates illusions. Allanon comes to Brin and urges her to go on a quest with him. The Ildatch, a book of unsurpassed evil magic, has enslaved men and made them over into Mord Wraiths Ė evil black walkers that possess powerful magic. The walkers are behind the war between the goblins and dwarves that the dwarves are currently losing. The Ildatch is deep within the Eastland in a swamp comprised of living foliage. Allanon is convinced that only Brin (a descendant of Jerle Shannara), by wielding the Wishsong, can penetrate the swamp and destroy the evil tome once and for all.

Brin reluctantly goes with Allanon; meanwhile Jair learns that without his help, Brinís quest is destined to fail. Jair and an unlikely group of heroes must penetrate the perilous Eastland - stronghold of the Mord Wraiths - to reach her in time to avoid the trap the Ildatch has set for her.

Brooks again splits the action very effectively between Brinís quest and Jairís attempts to help her. There is plenty of action and the plot fits well with the plot of the Sword. We learn more about the history of the races and their conflicts with the Warlock Lord, although not as much as we learned in the First King of Shannara. The ending is very satisfying and there are no loose ends or awkwardly resolved plot lines. Brooks tells a masterful story once again. Despite the ending not really leaving room for a sequel, Brooks does an excellent job of resurrecting the Shannara series in the Heritage of Shannara (the next cycle of Shannara novels).

Reviewed by: Alan

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