Sonar Entertainment has acquired the rights to author Terry Brooks’ bestselling fantasy series “Shannara” and is partnering with Farah Films to produce a television series based on the books.
“Terry has created a rich world of characters and stories that have entertained millions of readers all around the world for a quarter of a century,” Farah said. “He has a built-in fanbase that is bigger than those for even the most recent hit book series, like ‘The Hunger Games.’ We’re very excited and proud to have the opportunity to partner with Terry in adapting his great work for the smallscreen.”
“Terry Brooks appeals to a huge and diverse cross-section of audiences throughout the world,” Till added. “There is an enormous desire to see ‘Shannara’ brought to life for television. We know this is going to be a terrific series that will both delight longtime fans and attract legions of new devotees.”
As always, I advise rampant skepticism and sheltered expectations at announcements like this. The Elfstones of Shannara has been optioned before, with a script written by Eldon Thompson, a Fantasy writer himself, and that turned into nothing but vapor and hot air. Still, Shawn Speakman, webmaster and friend of Brooks, expands with more details and some of his own thoughts on the news, which are encouraging:
There are some great things about this. In this situation, Terry is a partner, given a level of creative control that assures any adaptation is done to his vision. We also have Game of Thrones on our side. The show has been wildly popular in the episodic television format and we hope other networks might be interested in Shannara for the same reasons Thrones works. Not to mention giving eight or ten episodes to tell the grandness of Elfstones will ensure a faithful adaptation of one of the masterpieces of fantasy literature.
Terry also feels Elfstones is the right place to start. Sword mimics LOTR for the first third of the book whereas Elfstones is originally riveting from the start and also has the strong female characters Sword entirely lacks. If this gets greenlit into production and becomes a hit, the next likely place for Season 2 would be The Wishsong of Shannara.
The success of Game of Thrones is an easy reference point to point to, and has likely opened the doors for other Fantasy adaptations, like Brooks work, but I think there are a few key differences that make the comparison unfair towards The Elfstones of Shannara.
First: Sonar Entertainment is not HBO. They’re the folks behind Merlin and Dinotopia, which, while fine enough shows in their own right, can’t touch the quality and polish of Game of Thrones, or even sidle up next to HBO’s budget and ask her for a dance during the local mixer.
Second: The type of story is completely different. I believe that a lot of Game of Thrones success with mainstream audiences comes from the fact that the fantastical elements, magic, for one, are kept light and mysterious from the outset of the show/novels. There are hints here and there, but it’s a character drama from the get-go, finding its strength in the politicking and personal relationships of the characters. The Elfstones of Shannara has great characters, and nicely nuanced relationships, but it will be overshadowed by the Fantasy macguffins that litter the book: magical dying trees, demons escaping from another dimension, fire slinging druids, stones that shoot magic, elves with prosthetic ears. I worry that the mainstream audience that loves Game of Thrones would be turned off by some of the generic Fantasy tropes, to their loss.
I agree with Speakman about both an episodic format being the right choice for The Elfstones of Shannara and that it’s a natural launching off point for screen adaptations of the Shannara series. It’s still my favourite of Brooks’ novels, and tells a nicely wrapped, but not overly complicated, story from beginning to end. Brooks being attached as a partner on the project is a good sign, but, really, only time will tell. These things have a habit of causing a lot of fluff when they’re announced, and then slowly disappearing, hoping no one will notice.
It’s also interesting to note that it appears that Sonar Entertainment has acquired the rights to the entire Shannara series, rather than the individual rights to The Elfstones of Shannara, suggesting that the production company has plans for the series beyond this single adaptation.
The entire Sonar Entertainment press release can be read on Terry Brooks’ official website.