In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a moderator at the Official Terry Brooks Forums, a role which I take seriously and indicates my level of fandom for Brooks, but which has not coloured the following review.
In my review of Bearers of the Black Staff, the first volume of Brooks’ The Legends of Shannara duology, his most recent published work, I wrote:
[T]he real meat of Bearers of the Black Staff is in the familiar elements that begin to rear their heads. The Trolls, a race that’s played a maligned roll in many of Brooks other novels, are the stars of the show here, and much of their history is revealed to the reader, for the first time in the series. Their origin story, involving characters from The Genesis of Shannara is heavy-handed and would have been better left hinted at, but this is something Brooks fans should be used to by now. Astute readers will also begin piecing together hints of the Knights of the Word and their eventual transformation into the Druids that manipulate the world in later Shannara novels.
Ultimately, though, these familiar elements are also the novel’s (and Brooks’) weakest link. Terry Brooks has a vocabulary that he’s built up through his career. Not a vocabulary in the sense that you’d find it in a dictionary (though his prose isn’t exactly a bastion of variety, it’s serviceable and easy to read), but rather in elements, archetypes and plot devices that he uses to construct his stories. There’s next to nothing in Bearers of the Black Staff that we haven’t seen before in any of Brooks’ previous novel.
This dissatisfaction extended into the sequel, The Measure of Magic, and grew, leaving me with a bitter taste in my mouth as a longtime Shannara fan. I didn’t review The Measure of Magic, for fear of just repeating the exact same points I made in the first, with only a small measure of irony. Fast forward a year and I approached the release of Wards of Faerie with no little amount of trepidation. Since Brooks concluded The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara 10 years ago, with the exception of Armageddon’s Children, I felt disappointment with each of his novels, from mild to severe. Where was the Brooks I fell in love with as a boy, first discovering Fantasy? Was he gone? Or was I simply grown up, better read and unable to appreciate the type of fiction that Brooks writes? Continue reading