The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara

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The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch Terry Brooks

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Terry Brooks triumphantly returns to his best-known (and best-loved) Shannara series for another fast-paced romp through the Four Lands. Once again, Brooks shows us how to write an entertaining, suspenseful, professional novel and deliver it in fewer than 460 pages!

One hundred and thirty years have passed in the Four Lands since the Scions of Shannara defeated the evil Shadowen and their minions. In the true Druid tradition, Walker Boh has continued to watch over the fate of the races of the Four Lands. But Walker has failed to rekindle the respect for the Druids that was present in centuries past. Therefore, Walker lives as a virtual outcast from the races, both hated and feared by many. Still, he struggles to reconvene a Druid council with members from all the races to continue the work started by his Druid ancestors.

Then the body of an elf washes up on the shore of the Blue Divide (the massive ocean in the Westland). Out of his mind and barely alive, the elf possesses a map that could lead to a vast storehouse of magic… deadly magic dating back to before the Great Wars almost destroyed the races. In the wrong hands, this magic could spell the destruction of the people of the Four Lands. But the map is written in a strange, lost language… a language that only a Druid is able to decipher. So once again, Walker must take up the Druid mantle and lead a quest to discover this lost magic and claim it on behalf of all the races.

But there are others who would kill for such power and knowledge. Therefore, his mortal enemy, the Ilse Witch, pursues Walker on his quest. Armed with magic as powerful as Walker’s, she will stop at nothing to see the Druid defeated. But Quentin Leah, a descendant of Morgan Leah who helped Walker defeat the Shadowen, accompanies Walker. Still possessing the magic blade created by Allanon, Quentin and his cousin Bek Rowe have sworn to aid the Druid in his quest.

But is Bek really who he seems to be? Bek is only now discovering the hidden secrets of his past. Unsure at first if he will be of value to the quest, Bek must come to terms with the secrets behind his life and steel himself for the trials ahead in strange and distant lands. For unknown to Bek, the hope of all mankind rests upon his shoulders.

This is the usual Brooks tour de force. Excellently plotted, the book breezes through 450 pages as though it was only 100 pages long. Brooks is truly a pleasure to read because his books never get bogged down in overly intricate plots that drag on for 1000 pages and innumerable sequels. Brooks can tell a clever story, with unexpected plot twists, without having to resort to creating a weighty tome. The book had a rather unusual ending for a Brooks’ novel… a cliffhanger! Brooks novels are normally fairly self contained even when part of series (such as the Scions of Shannara). But the ending was not a disappointment. It just left me pining for more.

I also liked Brook’s treatment of Walker (the only character still left from the last series). Despite his vow to not become secretive and manipulative like the other Druids before him, Walker now struggles with his role as protector for humanity. Walker is learning how difficult it is not to reveal vital information too soon even when it would spare your companions a great deal of pain. I’m sure Walker will continue to wrestle with this dilemma in future volumes.

I can’t wait for the next volume, but I know it will probably be at least a year off. Sigh… that’s always the toughest part of reading a series… waiting for the next volume. Even a writer of Brooks’s caliber can only write so fast. Hurry up Terry, the Four Lands need saving and we want to be there!

Reviewed by: Alan

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