Shea Ohmsford has had quite enough of quests. A year after surviving a harrowing odyssey, he is still plagued by troubling memories and dreams. A mysterious trafficker in spells and potions provides a restorative nostrum for the stricken Shea . . . along with a warning: Shea will break his vow to never again leave Shady Vale. And then the potion-maker’s prophecy comes to pass.
A thief, adventurer, and notoriously charismatic rogue, Panamon Creel unexpectedly appears in the Vale with a request for his long-time friend, Shea—journey into the untamed Northland, infiltrate the stronghold of a sinister dealer in stolen goods, and capture a precious artifact: the sacred Black Irix. Creel wishes to return this treasure to its rightful owners. Shea cannot refuse such a just cause. But what lies behind the black castle walls they must breach? And will this quest truly be their last?
This sounds kind of fun. Especially for Brooks fans who have stuck it out with his novels, through all the ups-and-downs, since his 35-year-old debut, The Sword of Shannara, which ‘The Black Irix’ is a direct sequel to. As Brooks returns to fan-favourites to tell a series of short stories set in his Shannara world, the Four Lands, it has been an enjoyable opportunity to rejoin old characters who Brooks hasn’t written of in years. Panamon Creel is one of the high points of The Sword of Shannara, and revisiting him on a crazy adventure is something fans have looked forward to for years. And this adventure seems kinda crazy. I mean, Creel’s decision to enlist Shea Ohmsford who, even after the end of The Sword of Shannara, is still a fairly typical and inexperienced inn-keeper’s son, is questionable, but the dynamic between Creel and Ohmsford has always been fun.
It’s also interesting to see that Brooks is exploring an area that is often left untouched by Fantasy writers: the repercussions, especially emotional, of untrained civilians (esentially) being thrust into dangerous, traumatic experiences. Myke Cole recently wrote a terrific essay on PTSD, and I think it’s encouraging to see someone like Brooks set a story in the uncomfortable aftermath of his hero’s ‘victory.’ It’s also somewhat amusing to see, after all the criticisms of Brooks’ first novel, that post-Sword of Shannara Shea Ohmsford suffers from something of the same ailment that eventually led Frodo Baggins to seek the Undying Lands at the end of Lord of the Rings. I guess Brooks just can’t get away from that story, no matter how hard he tries.
In all, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the first two volumes in Brooks’ Paladins of Shannara collection, particularly ‘The Weapon Master’s Choice,’ and look to ‘The Black Irix’ with some excitement and disappointment. I’ll be sorry to see Brooks leave this concept behind. It’s been nice to revisit old friends from my youth.
On Suvudu, Shawn Speakman, webmaster for Terry Brooks, reports on the first details about The High Druid’s Blade, the Shannara novel recently completed by Brooks and set for a 2014 release. Speakman says:
The High Druid’s Blade takes place a century after Witch Wraith. It is the first Shannara stand alone novel since 1996’s First King of Shannara. Terry has long been entrenched in long epic series. Instead, with Blade, he is telling a very different tale. Fewer characters being scattered to the winds of the Four Lands. Instead, Terry has crafted a more personal journey, of a hero unable to protect his family unless he unleashes the power of his ancestors.
Brooks also revealed on the tour that the main protagonist of The High Druid’s Blade will be a Leah, a family that has been integral to many novels in the series since The Sword of Shannara. This will, however, mark the first time that a protagonist of a (chronologically) post-The Sword of Shannara novel will feature a sole protagonist that isn’t of Ohmsford blood. The Leah family, thanks to events in The Wishsong of Shannara, are in possession of the Sword of Leah, a sword imbued with the magic of the Druids. Is there a connection here between the High Druid (who’s identity I know, but for fear of spoiling Witch Wraith, Brooks’ upcoming novel, I won’t reveal), and the Leah family? Additionally, Brooks said that the novel will take place in areas of the Southland that have not been explored in previous novels.
It’s social science fiction, experimenting with questions of power, compromise, dependence and independence, identity and self-determination.
When I started thinking about how to describe The Best of All Possible Worlds, I decided not to call it a romance for two reasons. First, I didn’t think it was a romance. I have a certain admiration for romance writers because they possess a skill set that I don’t have, not yet. I knew that what I’d written lacked the tension and angst and passion I associate with the traditional romance template. Calling it a romance, then doing a bait and switch into Science Fiction, felt dishonest. Second, I couldn’t guarantee there would be any romantic subplots in the sequel (though I also can’t guarantee there won’t be).
Don’t think I’m being polite when I say I admire romance writers. Remember that Sturgeon’s Law applies to all genres. A good, well-written romance is as beautiful and rare as a good, well-written science fiction novel. Even better than both is a blend of genre, a book that can give you a little bit of this and a little bit of that and somehow bring it all together in a very satisfactory, holistic and human way. People fall in love in the future, they encounter mysteries both mundane and uncanny, have adventures, make bad career decisions, experience personal crises and grow – sometimes all at the same time. I don’t mean to suggest this should be all packed in haphazardly like a soap opera, drama piled upon drama for no good reason. There must be order: minor subplots tweaked to reinforce the main plot, characters and situations juxtaposed in ways that create resonance, themes and motifs orchestrated to please and satisfy the subconscious. Continue reading
Seems alright. Inoffensive, at least. The trilogy (Wards of Faerie (REVIEW), Bloodfire Quest) as a whole has a nice continuous look, including the screaming red I’m-not-a-sticker sticker. Still, we all know it’s the big, juicy name of the author that will sell these books, not the cover. In all, I’d say it’s a wash with the US cover.
There has long raged a debate about the quality of UK vs. US cover art and the different ideals behind design aesthetics in the two regions. In general, fans seem to consider the UK to be the stronger market, and for a long time they were, but it’s my feeling that in the past couple of years, thanks to publishers like Tor, Night Shade Books, Pyr Books and Orbit Books, that the US has eclipsed the UK and is generating much more interesting cover art in general. Hurley herself said, “I am told the UK market is way more stuck-up about their covers. I adore my Conan covers, but $1 says the more mainstreamy-cover sells more books.”
If this is a ‘mainstreamy’ cover, I’m not sure I like where Del Rey UK is taking the series. Still, It’s nice to see Hurley seeing a release from a major publisher. What some people might not know is that Del Rey was originally meant to publish Hurley in the US, first picking up her novel, God’s War, before, for a variety of reasons that I’m not clear on, deciding to let Hurley and the series go. It, and its edits, were then picked up by Night Shade Books. Continue reading