The Elves of Cintra – Terry Brooks
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: August 28, 2007
Last year’s Armageddonâ€™s Children was a pleasant surprise from veteran fantasy author Terry Brooks. It was a break from the norm, a grim look at a post-apocalyptic world in which the men and women of the world (those that are left, at the very least) fight violently for the survival of the human race against the equally grim and violent Demons and Once-men.
Armageddonâ€™s Children was a departure from Brooksâ€™ usual foray into fantasy tropes and it was exactly what the author needed to revitalize his storytelling methods. While the set of books before Armageddonâ€™s Children (The High Druid of Shannara trilogy) felt a little stagnant and underdeveloped, Armageddonâ€™s Children felt fresh and exciting. It was clear that this was a story that Brooks wanted to tell for a long time and was just waiting for the right time.
Armageddonâ€™s Children was fantastic, easily the best book Terry Brooks had written in several years.
And so it is with great pleasure that I can say that The Elves of Cintra, the sequel to Armageddonâ€™s Children, is even better, a rare accomplishment for a middle book of a trilogy. Generally, middle novels end up not really having a beginning (for the story began in the first book) and donâ€™t have particularly strong endings (for the trilogyâ€™s climax comes in the third book), but this is where the greatest strength of The Elves of the Cintra actually lies. Brooks has managed to eschew the usual pitfalls of a middle novel and create a book that not only moves the overall plot of the trilogy forward, but also contains its own story-arc which Brooks ties up satisfyingly by the end of the book, leaving readers with a sense of satisfaction that is usually missing from middle books. This style of storytelling will be familiar territory to anyone who has read Brooksâ€™ previous quartet, The Heritage of Shannara, and I must say itâ€™s a welcome return to form!
The Elves of Cintra really kicks it into high gear with Chapter Four; in fact the first three chapters very well could have been added to the end of Armageddonâ€™s Children to give that book just a little more kick at its climax. Brooks has created a compelling and frightening look at the future in Armageddonâ€™s Children and continues to build upon this with The Elves of Cintra.
The big thing about The Genesis of Shannara (the overall title of the trilogy) is to link Brooksâ€™ previous works, The Word and Void trilogy and the Shannara series, together in an organic fashion. Where Armageddonâ€™s Children had both feet firmly planted in Word and Void with only a smattering of Shannara, The Elves of Cintra straddles that line much more loosely, bringing a lot of Shannara elements into the mix and using a tone more in line with the high fantasy series. We even get some answers to some of the series’ long standing questions in The Elves of Cintra, something that will be sure to set message boards and fans alight.
This isnâ€™t to say the book is perfect, though, as I do have one complaint about these connections. Itâ€™s hard to articulate my problem without spoiling anything, but I felt that Brooksâ€™ could have handled these mysteries and connections to the Shannara series a bit more subtly. Instead the way Brooksâ€™ handles them, while satisfying, is about a subtle as a frying pan to the back of the head. Itâ€™s a minor complaint, though, and one that Iâ€™m sure not many people will notice or be bothered by.
One small habit that Brooksâ€™ seems to have stepped in to in recent years is to create interesting and compelling characters… and then kill them off well before they reach their potential. This unfortunately is the case for several characters in The Elves of Cintra. It almost feels as though Brooks had an idea in mind for the characters, but changed his mind too late into the game and decided just to kill them off. It really is a shame, considering the characters who are given the proper screen time really shine.
One of these characters who really shines is Angel Perez, a female Knight of the Word whom we first met in Armageddonâ€™s Children. Whatâ€™s interesting about this is that I was rather apathetic towards Angel during the first novel. While reading Armageddonâ€™s Children I was much more interested in the exploits of Hawk and Logan Tom, the other two main protagonists of the trilogy. But something funny happened almost immediately with The Elves of Cintra: all of a sudden I cared deeply about Angel Perez and her plight, even moreso than I did about Logan and Hawk. I blame this on two things. First, we spend a lot more time with Angel in this book than we did in the previous one. Secondly, and I think this is the most important aspect, we see her through the eyes of another character, which gives her another level of depth that we didnâ€™t see while we watched the world through her eyes. Only when seen through the eyes of another did I realize how young, powerful and resilient she was. I really began to admire her at that point.
In the end the pros far outweigh any minor concerns I have about The Elves of Cintra. What Terry Brooks has put together is easily his most complete and entertaining book since 2000â€™s Ilse Witch. For the first time in years it really seems like Brooks is having fun writing again, and, if the follow up is as good as The Elves of Cintra, Brooks fans will be looking at his best trilogy since the original Word and Void trilogy.
Final Verdict: Thumbs Up