For a little over a month now, I have been reading the third book in the Chronicles of Shannara series called The Elfstones of Shannara. Unlike back in the day, I was able to read from the prequel all the way through. Originally a trilogy, it because a tetraology with the addition of The First King of Shannara which was actually written as the last book but was the prequel.
I started reading this book for a couple reasons. One was because I was taking a break from my prolific reading of superhero prose novels (count ’em. I have 113 of those novels alone and counting). Second was that I was gearing up to play a fantasy RPG with some friends as we try to work out our busy schedules to play once a month. I wanted to get into the mindset and had enjoyed the other two books in this series.
When I began reading, I noticed something familiar and realized that the MTV series of the Chronicles of Shannara was taken from this book. I saw that series and it was much better than I thought it would be. However, after reading the book, there really was no comparison. The book blew the live action series out of the water.
The story is of Wil Ohmsford, grandson to Shea Omsford from The Sword of Shannara who is called upon by the enigmatic druid Allanon to protect a young elven girl named Amberle from a danger that threatens all of the Four Lands. She is their only hope as they must bear the seed of the Ellcrys, the only thing holding back the dark hordes— who is dying—to Safehold where the seed will be brought to life through the Bloodfire and begin a rebirth of the waning Ellcrys. However, their survival is threatened at every turn as the enemies pursue them relentlessly as well as press upon the elven capital city of Arborlon as the force that held them back, the wondrous Ellcrys tree, hangs onto life by a thread in its midst.
I found myself lost in this world and there was a definite building of tension that wasn’t forced but at a great pace. I really enjoyed this book tremendously. Brooks nailed the genre and the story was truly captivating. Plus, the twist at the end you’ll either love or hate. I loved it.
However, the writer in me noted some things as I read along. The first was the weather and landscape descriptions. This is particular to me and purely subjective. I’m not fond of long descriptions of weather and landscapes. This is what I don’t enjoy about epic fantasy though I understand that it is a part of the genre and accept it.
The other thing was the extraneous and often repetitive use of words and phrases. One of them was the word “wordlessly” which Brooks used a copious amount of times for no reason. The word could have been deleted and still got the same sense of what was going on in the scene. For some reason, this particular saw an uptick in use toward the end of the book. It was as if Brooks was running out of words to say but wanted to keep the story going. Omission would have been a better move. Sometimes less is more, even in epic fantasy.
Peppered throughout this edition were drawings. Though the drawings themselves were good work, I’m not sure the style fit with the tone of the book. I just couldn’t find myself picturing the characters as they were even after seeing their likenesses in black and white. Something was too soft about them, too infantile. Just didn’t fit the book.
Despite the faux pas, this book was truly enjoyable. I was happily engrossed from beginning to end. All 564 pages and found myself satisfied but sad at the book’s ending which has not happened to me in quite some time. This is a definite must read. The whole series is. Truly enjoyable for the fantasy inclined.