Straken: Disappointment

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Shannara StrakenStraken by Terry Brooks

“Hate That Everything We Do is Dictated by These Secret Keepers…”

What was shaping up to be the best SHANNARA-based serial since THE HERITAGE OF SHANNARA stumbles on the finish line. Despite a promising start and a strong middle, THE HIGH DRUID OF SHANNARA goes out more with a whimper than a bang, due to several pointless chapters, unbelievable coincidences, the undermining of previously established plot-points and too much stupid behavior on the part of its antagonists.

Grianne Ohmsford was banished into the world of the Forbidding by her treacherous fellow Druids, under the leadership of Shadea a’Ru. What they failed to understand is that they themselves were being played, as by sending Grianne into the Forbidding, they unknowingly released a demon into their own world who has since been manipulating events in order to secure the destruction of the Ellcrys — the magical tree that stands as a barrier between this world and the demons of the Forbidding.

The only thing that could stop such a thing from happening was Grianne’s young nephew Penderrin “Pen” Ohmsford, who was sent by the King of the Silver River to fetch a talisman that could send him into the Forbidding and return with his aunt, before using it again to send back the demon. Gaining possession of the talisman (called a darkwand) cost Pen something he loved dearly, but before he’s even had a chance to grieve properly, he finds himself surrounded by an airship fleet of Druids. Discovering that his parents Bek and Rue are held captive at the Druid Keep of Paranor, (and knowing he has to get there anyway if he’s to use the darkwand correctly), Pen agrees to accompany them.

Meanwhile, as the self-declared Ard Rhys of the Druid Council, Shadea attempts to maintain her control over the order whilst negotiating arrangements with Prime Minister Sen Dunsidan of the Federation, as the threads of intrigue and manipulation around her gradually become clear. So far so good, up until this point. But after re-establishing the central plot-points of the two previous installments (Jarka Ruus and Tanequil), Brooks begins to pick them apart.

Throughout the course of the story, no less than five captives manage to escape from imprisonment, despite being outnumbered, exhausted, overwhelmed and under heavy guard. In other words, the heroes continuously benefit from utterly inept security as the antagonists fall to the villain cliché of putting their captives into the hands of useless minions rather than overseeing the dirty work themselves. Later, a group of the heroes manage to dismantle a trap designed to capture the returning Grianne; an easy enough task considering the antagonists neglected to set up any sort of guard around the room that they knew she’d be returning in! Such rampant stupidity severely lessons any sort of respect or fear we might have once held toward the antagonists, who here simply become cartoon baddies.

A character called Pied Sanderling, introduced in Tanequil continues to add absolutely nothing to the progression of the book. He and his associates never even meet the main cast of characters much less help them out in any way, so then why does Brooks insist on making him the focus of a pointless and cheesy romantic triangle? Why does he continue to dwell on Sanderling’s point of view of the Federation/Free-born War when it no longer matters to the central plot of the story? Why focus on skirmishes over the Prekkendorran plain when it is Arborlon and the Ellcrys that are crucial to everyone’s well-being?

As the story draws to a close, it gets even more muddled. I was disappointed in the final confrontation between Pen and the demon, which is so anti-climactic that it beggars belief. I was let down by the return of a character who had sacrificed themselves for the greater good, considering that this destroys all the poignancy that surrounded their original decision. I was irritated at the lengthy interaction between Pen and a dragon that ultimately served no purpose except as a final end-joke. I was confused at the abrupt disappearance of the character of Weka Dart, one of Brook’s more intriguing creations whom I thought would still have an ace up his sleeve. I was annoyed that one of Shadea’s more interesting cohorts was killed off without a second thought.

And I was incredibly disappointed with Grianne’s final decision to step down from the Druid Council and leave the work for others, making not only this trilogy, but the previous one THE VOYAGE OF THE JERLE SHANNARA (which was based around her conversion from Ilse Witch to force for good) rather pointless. Why go to all the trouble of rescuing her if she’s simply going to give up her responsibilities and retire from nothing less than life itself?

So although the first two installments in this trilogy had me excited and intrigued, I was sadly disappointed by this final book.

THE SWORD OF SHANNARA — (1977-1985) Most of the Shannara books are available in audiobook or audio download format. Publisher: Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world. Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revealed that the supposedly dead Warlock ord was plotting to destory the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara — Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him…

Terry Brooks The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, THe Wishsong of ShannaraTerry Brooks The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, THe Wishsong of ShannaraTerry Brooks The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, THe Wishsong of Shannara

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 Heritage of Shannara: The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The Elf Queen of Shannara, THe Talismans of ShannaraTHe Heritage of Shannara: The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The Elf Queen of Shannara, THe Talismans of ShannaraTHe Heritage of Shannara: The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The Elf Queen of Shannara, THe Talismans of ShannaraTHe Heritage of Shannara: The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The Elf Queen of Shannara, THe Talismans of Shannara

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.

The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, Ilse Witch, Antrax, MorgawrThe Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, Ilse Witch, Antrax, MorgawrThe Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, Ilse Witch, Antrax, Morgawr

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.

High Druid: Jarka Ruus, Tanequil, StrakenHigh Druid: Jarka Ruus, Tanequil, StrakenHigh Druid: Jarka Ruus, Tanequil, Straken

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.

The Genesis of Shannara: Armageddon's Children, The Elves of CintraThe Genesis of Shannara: Armageddon's Children, The Elves of CintraTerry Broooks The Genesis of Shannara The Gypsy Morph

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.

Terry Brooks Legends of Shannara 1. Bearers of the Black StaffTerry Brooks Legends of Shannara 1. Bearers of the Black Staff, The Measure of the Magic

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.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

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.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

PALADINS OF SHANNARA — (2012-2013) Stand-alone short stories.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

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.

The Fall of Shannara (4 Book Series) by Terry BrooksThe Fall of Shannara (4 Book Series) by Terry BrooksThe Stiehl Assassin (The Fall of Shannara) Hardcover – May 28, 2019 by Terry Brooks  (Author)


Related SHANNARA books:

Terry Brooks First King of Shannarafantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPrequel: 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…


Terry Brooks IndomitableIndomitable — (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.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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