In recent years, Brooks has seen several revisions to the look and feel of his novels, even switching styles midway through a series because the first volume didn’t sell as well as expected (Armageddon’s Children to The Elves of Cintra). His most recent trilogy, The Dark Heritage of Shannara, used a bold, emblematic approach that I found quite appealing, so it’s interesting to see Del Rey shifting focus again to this new style. On first glance, I think it’s great all around. The typography and composition of the various cover elements is good, and the illustration is striking. It is sort of weird that the series title is larger than the book’s title and the two aren’t distinguished from one another, but that’s a small complaint. It’s funny, and somewhat telling, to see Terry Brooks all-of-a-sudden mimicing the look of Brent Weeks’ novels.
And I say all this despite the hooded man striking again. Even the big guys can’t get away from him. Who’s his agent, anyway?
Released alongside the cover is the first official blurb from the novel:
Paxon Leah never thought of the old family sword hanging above his living room hearth as anything other than an intriguing ornament—until his sister is kidnapped by a sorceror. Following the dark mage with nothing but this piece of steel to protect him, Paxon stumbles into a plot to remake the world . . . and accidentally unlocks the powers of the ancient blade.
In the most recent edition of ‘Ask Terry’ (a monthly feature where Brooks answers fan questions), Brooks revealed specifics about the plot that, when paired alongside this official description, paint a fairly clear image of the books’ plot:
The High Druid’s Blade is a stand-alone story, complete unto itself. But it is linked by a handful of common characters to two more stand-alones that will immediately follow. The principle link is complex and very dangerous sorcerer named Arcannen and a shared history of magic with Leahs and Ohmsfords. It will tie up a few loose ends from Witch Wraith, and it will further expand the growing conflict between magic and science. For the first time, the Druids and the Federation are mostly allies. The title to the book refers to a position created by the Ard Rhys of the Fourth Druid Order for a Druid protector.
In addition, Brooks’ official website reveals that The High Druid’s Blade, “features a Leah rather than an Ohmsford. It takes place about 100 years after the events of Witch Wraith. And it takes place largely in the Southland.”
Putting two-and-two together, it doesn’t take much to figure out that young Paxon is wielding the mythic Sword of Leah, imbued with the power of the druid’s, and likely fills the position referred to in Brooks’ answer. The book has been described to me as more character-focussed, with only two point-of-view characters (against Brooks more recent novels, most of which contained several POV characters), and less complex than usually expected.
I’m looking forward to this novel tremendously. After a few years of disappointment, Brooks had me grinning with his latest trilogy, which, if you ask me, is the best thing he’s written in a decade. Seriously, it’s that good.