“I Will Grow Up to be Like My Mother…”
Best known for his expansive SHANNARA series set in a typical fantasy-realm of swords and sorcery, Terry Brooks is also the author of the WORD AND THE VOID trilogy, an urban-fantasy concerning the entropy of our world fought against by Knights of the Word. Although both series seemed unconnected (despite a few hints that the world of SHANNARA was set thousands of years into the future, a world built on the foundations of our own, and the common use of the phrase “the Word” in both series) this new trilogy builds a bridge between the two of them. Aptly called THE GENESIS OF SHANNARA, the trilogy purports to act as a sequel to Angel Fire East (the final book in the WORD AND THE VOID trilogy) and the prequel to the first book in the SHANNARA series: First King of Shannara — which is in itself a prequel to the first SHANNARA book ever written: The Sword of Shannara. Confused yet?
Combining elements from both series, in Armageddon’s Children the world as we know it is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The Knights of the Word (as they appeared in the original trilogy) have failed in their mission to halt the demons’ mission of chaos and entropy. Now demons roam the landscape, feeding off humans caught in concentration camps or still holding out in fortified compounds. Strange mutant creatures known as Lizards, Moles and Spiders (which will no doubt evolve into the various species of the SHANNARA series) lurk in the cities, and humanity seems destined for extinction. Certainly, there is no salvaging this world.
Brooks juggles four separate storylines (that will no doubt meet up as the trilogy goes on) as the Armageddon bears down on all of humanity, and the survivors prepare to cut their losses, gather together, and embark into a ‘brave new world.’ Like the Star Wars prequels, the best part of this trilogy is seeing the two series link up: because this trilogy is in the unique position of being both a sequel and a prequel, there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in recognizing familiar elements of both series, and Brooks takes great pleasure in building up his already-extensive history and mythology of the SHANNARA world.
Logan Tom is a Knight of the Word, his family murdered by a demon, and led by dreams to Hopewell, the setting of Running With the Demon (WORD AND THE VOID, book 1). He is given the task to find the legendary gypsy morph (a concept introduced in Angel Fire East) in which Nest Freemark — the protagonist of the previous trilogy — found herself impregnated by magic) who is destined to lead the people into the new world. Of course, he is not the only one hunting the gypsy morph, as Findo Gask (the demon who had hunted it in Angel Fire East) has once again taken up the quest to eliminate the morph — or to turn it to evil. The only problem is — no one knows who the child of Nest Freemark actually is.
Hawk is the leader of the Ghosts, a group of feral children who has strange visions of leading his people out of the darkness and into a strange new world. He lives with several others in an abandoned building, and the only thing holding him back from following his visions is his girlfriend Tessa, who lives in one of the compounds and is reluctant to leave her family.
Meanwhile, the third sub-plot is one directly lifted from SHANNARA, involving the Elves and the Ellcrys — a magical tree created from the life of an Elf who keeps the Elven people safe. Kirisin is a young Elf who helps keep the tree healthy, but is distraught when he begins receiving messages from the tree warning him of impending doom and the need for the Elves to relocate to a new land. The problem is trying to convince his fellow-Elves of the legitimacy of his claims. The presence of the Elves is a little off-putting, simply because there was no mention of them in the WORD AND THE VOID trilogy. One would assume that they were there in the world all along, hiding away, but it’s still a little strange to have them inserted so suddenly into the narrative.
Finally, a second Knight of the Word named Angel Perez is given the task to find an Elfstone known as the Loden (used extensively many books later in The Elf Queen of Shannara) in order to keep the Elves safe during their exodus.
As you can see, it’s a fairly big set-up, and I guess it’s fairly obvious that you can’t begin reading Terry Brooks with this installment! You’ll either have to start with the very first published book The Sword of Shannara or Running With the Demon. If you’re serious about embarking on Brooks’s work, I suggest the former, and following the rest of the series in publishing order.
As usual, Brooks‘ writing suffers from his usual long-windedness of sentence structure (he’s of the opinion that nothing is properly understood by the reader unless it’s been stated at least three times in slightly differing ways), but the story itself is reasonably fast-paced. There are a few needless flashbacks, and it does ultimately feel like one big introduction to the rest of the trilogy, but on the whole the story flows well.
Brooks manages to include a wide range of familiar faces and places from the rest of his work, including Owain Glyndower, Two Bears, Findo Gask, the Lady, tatterdemalions, the Elfstones, the Ellcrys, and even finds an intriguing — if somewhat grisly — way to include Nest Freemark. I’m looking forward to what else Brooks will incorporate in the coming books (I’ve got my fingers crossed for back-story on the Druid Council and the Ildatch from The Wishsong of Shannara). The story picks up again in The Elves of Cintra.
THE HERITAGE OF SHANNARA — (1990-1993) Publisher: Since the death of Allanon, life in the Four Lands has drastically changed. Yet Par Ohmsford still has some power of the Wishsong. And when a message from the ancient Druid, Allanon, reaches them, Par is ordered to recover the long-lost Sword of Shannara, and the glory that once was the Four Lands…
THE VOYAGE OF THE JERLE SHANNARA — (2000-2002) Publisher: When a half-drowned elf is found floating in the seas of the Blue Divide, an old mystery resurfaces. Thirty years ago, an elven prince led an expedition in search of a legendary magic said to be more powerful than any in the world. Of all those who set out on that ill-fated voyage, not one has ever returned. Until now. The rescued elf carries a map covered with mysterious symbols–and Walker Boh, the last of the Druids, has the skill to decipher them. But someone else understands the map’s significance: the Ilse Witch, a ruthless young woman who wields a magic as potent as his own. She will stop at nothing to possess the map — and the magic it leads to.
HIGH DRUID OF SHANNARA — (2003-2005) Publisher: Twenty years have passed since Grianne Ohmsford denounced her former life as the dreaded Ilse Witch — saved by the love of her brother, the magic of the Sword of Shannara, and the destruction of her evil mentor, the Morgawr. Now, fulfilling the destiny predicted for her, she has established the Third Druid Council, and dedicated herself to its goals of peace, harmony among the races, and defense of the Four Lands. But the political intrigue, secret treachery, and sinister deeds that have haunted Druid history for generations continue to thrive. And despite her devotion to the greater good as Ard Rhys — the High Druid of Paranor, Grianne still has bitter enemies. Among the highest ranks of the Council she leads lurk those who cannot forget her reign of terror as the Ilse Witch, who covet her seat of power, and who will stop at nothing to see her deposed… or destroyed. Even Grianne’s few allies — chief among them her trusted servant Tagwen — know of the plots against her. But they could never anticipate the sudden, ominous disappearance of the Ard Rhys, in the dead of night and without a trace. Now, barely a step ahead of the dark forces bent on stopping him, Tagwen joins Grianne’s brave young nephew, Pen Ohmsford, and the wise, powerful elf Ahren Elessedil on a desperate and dangerous mission of search and rescue — to deliver the High Druid of Shannara from an unspeakable fate.
GENESIS OF SHANNARA — (2006-2008) Mr Brooks is planning one more stand-alone novel in this series and he plans another Shannara trilogy. Publisher: Extrapolating from current world events, Brooks projects a worst-case scenario in which the steady destruction of all humankind is a reality. Plagues have killed half a billion, weapons of mass destruction have decimated entire populations, and the few survivors have retreated into a siege mentality, turning city stadiums into walled compounds and shutting out the “freaks” — those who have mutated from breathing the polluted air and drinking the badly fouled water. A variety of principals propel the transfixing yarn Brooks spins in this setting: Logan Tom and Angel Perez, both Knights of the Word committed to keeping the magic that binds all things together in balance; Hawk, a street kid who leads a group of other young people in Seattle; Kirisin, a young elf who is one of the Chosen safeguarding the Ellcrys, a magnificent tree upon whose existence the lives of the elves depend and whose safety is now threatened; and the demons and their minions, the once-men, who have been subverted by false promises and lies. Everything and everyone moves inexorably toward a deadly confrontation in the Northwest. Characterizations are dynamic and multidimensional, the descriptions of the land as well as the ruined cities and small towns are compelling, the action and battles are mesmerizing, and, as is Brooks’ wont, the ending is a cliff-hanger that leaves readers salivating for the sequel.
LEGENDS OF SHANNARA — (2010-2011) Publisher: The Genesis of Shannara trilogy — Armageddon’s Children, The Elves of Cintra, and The Gypsy Morph — charted the fall of our own world into the hands of once-men and demons… and the escape of a few humans, Elves, and others into a remote mountain valley walled in by impenetrable magic. For five-hundred years the survivors have lived peacefully, learning to coexist and to build a new world with the limited resources and skills available to them. Now the magic that kept them safe for so many centuries is wearing down. Frightening creatures are penetrating the barriers and wreaking havoc on the valley within. It is time for the four peoples to stand together and create the new world of Shannara.
SHANNARA’S DARK LEGACY — (2012-2013) Publisher: Seven years after the conclusion of the High Druid of Shannara trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks at last revisits one of the most popular eras in the legendary epic fantasy series that has spellbound readers for more than three decades. When the world was young, and its name was Faerie, the power of magic ruled — and the Elfstones warded the race of Elves and their lands, keeping evil at bay. But when an Elven girl fell hopelessly in love with a Darkling boy of the Void, he carried away more than her heart. Thousands of years later, tumultuous times are upon the world now known as the Four Lands. Users of magic are in conflict with proponents of science. Elves have distanced their society from the other races. The dwindling Druid order and its teachings are threatened with extinction. A sinister politician has used treachery and murder to rise as prime minister of the mighty Federation. Meanwhile, poring through a long-forgotten diary, the young Druid Aphenglow Elessedil has stumbled upon the secret account of an Elven girl’s heartbreak and the shocking truth about the vanished Elfstones. But never has a little knowledge been so very dangerous — as Aphenglow quickly learns when she’s set upon by assassins. Yet there can be no turning back from the road to which fate has steered her. For whoever captures the Elfstones and their untold powers will surely hold the advantage in the devastating clash to come. But Aphenglow and her allies — Druids, Elves, and humans alike — remember the monstrous history of the Demon War, and they know that the Four Lands will never survive another reign of darkness. But whether they themselves can survive the attempt to stem that tide is another question entirely.
DEFENDERS OF SHANNARA — (2014- ) Publisher: From New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks comes the first stand-alone novel in his legendary Shannara series in almost twenty years—the perfect place for new readers to begin. 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.
PALADINS OF SHANNARA — (2012-2013) Stand-alone short stories.
THE FALL OF SHANNARA — (2017- ) The triumphant and epic four-part conclusion to the Shannara series, from one of the all-time masters of fantasy. Across the Four Lands, peace has reigned for generations. But now, in the far north, an unknown enemy is massing. More troubling than the carnage is the strange and wondrous power wielded by the attackers—a breed of magic unfamiliar even to the Druid order. Fearing the worst, the High Druid dispatches a diplomatic party under the protection of the order’s sworn guardian, Dar Leah, to confront the mysterious, encroaching force and discover its purpose.
Related SHANNARA books:
Prequel: First King of Shannara — (1996) Publisher: Horrified by the misuse of magic they had witnessed during the First War of the Races, the Druids at Paranor devoted themselves to the study of the old sciences, from the period before the collapse of civilization a thousand years before. Only the Bremen and a few trusted associates still studied the arcane arts. And for his persistence, Bremen found himself outcast, avoided by all but the few free-thinkers among the Druids. But his removal from Paranor was not altogether a terrible thing, for Bremen learned that dark forces were on the move from the Northlands. That seemingly invincible armies of trolls were fast conquering all that lay to their south. That the scouts for the army — and its principal assassins — were Skull Bearers, disfigured and transformed Druids who had fallen prey to the seductions of the magic arts. And that at the heart of the evil tide was an archmage and former Druid named Brona! Using the special skills he had acquired through his own study of Magic, Bremen was able to penetrate the huge camp of the Troll army and learn many of its secrets. And he immediately understood that if the peoples of the Four Lands were to escape eternal subjugation they would need to unite. But, even united, they would need a weapon, something so powerful that the evil magic of Brona, the Warlock Lord, would fail before its might…
Indomitable — (2011) Publisher: Master fantasist Terry Brooks first conjured the unforgettable world of the magic-wracked Four Lands more than three decades ago, and its boundaries continue to expand into new territory. With Indomitable, Brooks provides an essential epilogue to the beloved Shannara trilogy that started it all. Two years have passed since Jair Ohmsford aided his sister Brin in her quest to destroy the evil living tome known as the Ildatch. When word comes that a single page of the book, covered in lines pulsing with dark energy, survived Brin’s magic, Jair must take up the fight alone. But Jair’s gift is not the equal of his sister’s, and as he steals into the prison fortress of Dun Fee Aran — where he almost died in his first foray against the Ildatch — he has nothing to rely upon but the power of illusion. Illusion, and the memory of an ally who died to defend him.