Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life - until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world…and rewrite his destiny.
When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him - and within his ancestors' ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.
But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.
©2014 Terry Brooks (P)20114 Random House Audio
“The Sword of Shannara is an unforgettable and wildly entertaining epic, animated by Terry Brooks’ cosmically generative imagination and storytelling joy.” (Karen Russell, New York Times bestselling author of Swamplandia!)
“If Tolkien is the grandfather of modern fantasy, Terry Brooks is its favorite uncle.” (Peter V. Brett, New York Times bestselling author of The Desert Spear)
“I can’t even begin to count how many of Terry Brooks’ books I’ve read (and reread) over the years. From Shannara to Landover, his work was a huge part of my childhood.” (Patrick Rothfuss, New York Times bestselling author of The Name of the Wind)
“Terry Brooks is a master of the craft and a trailblazer who established fantasy as a viable genre. He is required reading.” (Brent Weeks, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Angel Trilogy)
“The Shannara books were among the first to really capture my imagination. My daydreams and therefore my stories will always owe a debt to Terry Brooks.” (Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beyonders and Fablehaven series)
A couple of spoilers in this review (4th paragraph)- You have been warned!
First, I have to say that overall I am a Brooks fan. Next to the Hobbit, Brooks was my introduction into the Fantasy genre at a pretty early age with the Sword of Shannara, and I've read everything he's put out since. So the medicare star rating should be a heads up.
Most of the Shanarra series has been somewhat, "formulaic", in the overall plot line, and I do want to give props to the author for exploring new ground (though in this book it's not really a good departure in my opinion).
This story centers once again around the Ohmsford family (though now it's the Leah name as the bloodlines merged at the end of the last trilogy, Witch Wraith). Its pretty obvious that this book is much more about setting the pieces in place politically and contextually for a much larger grand story down the road.
What we get in this book is relatively mundane in terms of the plot. There is no grand "end of the world" threat taking place (at least overtly) in this story- instead a bar fight escalates into a kidnapping and a rescue that sets some things in motion, that on the surface are, (for the Shannara world), rather "dull", especially given the bloodbath the previous trilogy was.
Contrasting that dynamic, the other main criticism is that the story gets quite dark in places. One of the main characters is a 15 year old girl (her age mentioned several times in the text), the offspring of the Railing Ohmsford and Mariah Leah line. At one point she is kidnapped and brutally tortured- I hate to give that away, but at the same timeI feel one should be aware of this going in.
I don't think the description of the torture is specific enough to technically be considered graphic, though it does get the idea of what is being done across well enough through implication. Most of the Shannara characters historically are quite young and always threatened with awful deaths- this brings a grittier detail to the character's trial that may be off-putting to some, given the age of the person being tortured. While there is a sexual tension to the torture (that component is threatened a few times), it doesn't cross the line into that thankfully. For added tension though, her capture always seems to wind up with her clothing removed at the end. It's effective, if a bit disturbing.
Where in pervious stories, the tension comes from the nature of the evil protagonist of the story attempting to destroy or conquer the world (and subsequently kill the hero of the story who is trying to prevent this), this is a much more direct assault against the main characters for personal gain by the protagonist (though agendas are hinted at).
Brooks is obviously trying to go a bit deeper here in the perceived threat to the heroes and raising the tension in a different way than he has done in the past. I can't say it isn't successful, even if it does leave you feeling a little dirty at the end (though I have read much worse by other authors- it's just somewhat unexpected here).
Another flaw is that the main protagonist, while diabolical in his casual brutality, doesn't seem to have any solid direct plans to gain power, but seems to let things develop at times and be along for the ride. He comes across less as an "arch villain" and more as a sadistic opportunist.
Despite all this, I'll keep with the story and see where it goes. Brooks has said in interviews that the Shannara series is headed to a major (world changing) confrontation between the Magic and Science spheres of the world, and there are some obvious hints being set up in this story for that to play out in the future. But ultimately this 1st book of this trilogy doesn't really communicate any cliff hanging, nail biting drama that makes you want to dive right into the next book. But I remain hopeful.
Terry Brooks, one of my favorite authors has been slipping for the last few series including this one. He is over 70 after all. I am a bit sad that we may never get the novel about Galaphile and the first druid council or worse we will get it and it will be a short 300 page rushed novel like the stuff he has been putting out lately.
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