“You Believe We Are the Ones for Whom the Trust was Intended…”
Whether you love or hate Terry Brooks’s books, one thing is certain: that the four-part HERITAGE OF SHANNARA is the best of his fantasy series (though Running With the Demon is his best singular novel). Of course, when I say “best” I do not mean that it is profound, life-changing stuff. Like all of his work it contains long-winded sentences, awful dialogue, too much sentimentality, borrows heavily from Tolkien and tends to tell rather than show. But for all of that something keeps me coming back to the Four Lands, and The Scions of Shannara is the beginning of a tightly-structured, fast-paced adventure that will sustain the interest of anyone who’s not too picky.
It has been over a thousand years since the events of the original SHANNARA trilogy; magic has been severely depleted from the world and in its place a military-based government called the Federation has filled the power vacuum. But here and there little pockets of magic emerge, and Par Ohmsford is one such example. Possessing the power of the wishsong, Par needs only to sing of something in order to form images in the air, visions which compliment his brother Coll’s storytelling as they travel about the land in order to spread tales about the old days.
But Par’s magic has drawn attention from three very different factions: first is Rimmer Dall, the leader of the Seekers, a group formed by the Federation in order to find and eliminate anyone who possesses magical abilities. Second are the mysterious creatures known as Shadowen, sinister and dangerous beings of magic that seem to be parasitic in nature. Third is the ancient man known as Cogline, last seen in The Wishsong of Shannara, still very much alive (though completely different from his wild and erratic persona in the previous book) who is gathering together the Children of Shannara so that they might answer the summons of the Druid Allanon.
The famous Druid Allanon has been dead for centuries, but his shade is calling out from the realm of the dead in order to gather together the scions he needs in order to save the Four Lands from its latest threat: the Shadowen. Par, his cousin Wren Ohmsford and his uncle Walker Boh are the three champions that the land needs, each with the appropriate gifts that will help them achieve the missions that Allanon assigns them: Walker must restore the Druid Keep of Paranor, Wren must find the lost race of Elves, and Par must discover the hiding place of the legendary Sword of Shannara. With these three world-changing tasks completed, the entropy and chaos that the Shadowen are causing will be halted.
It takes a while for the book to get up to this point, with Brooks taking the time to establish his wide range of characters and their allies, the condition that the Four Lands finds itself in, the threat that both the Federation and the Shadowen pose and the tasks that each Scion is appointed to. From this midpoint, the characters disperse, and Brooks focuses his attention on Par and his attempt to locate the Sword of Shannara (the following books will concentrate on Walker and Wren respectively, before combining all three in the concluding volume The Talismans of Shannara).
Par, Coll and their long-time friend Morgan Leah travel to Tyrsis in search of the sword, allying themselves with two dwarfs and the leader of the secret Movement against the Federation along the way. It would be wrong to divulge anymore about a plot that is surprisingly twisty and turny when considering Brooks’s earlier novels were straightforward quest narratives, but anyone who was frustrated with the predictability of his previous trilogy may want to consider giving him another go.
Par is a nice enough young hero — idealistic and brave, but also practical and compassionate, behaving as we ourselves would expect to behave if we were in his circumstances. He’s backed up nicely by brother Coll and friend Morgan (who soon becomes the protagonist of his own adventure; a nice change from the sidekick role that Brooks almost always relegates the Leah family to), but Par’s romance with the beautiful Damson Rhee is cringe-inducing. Between neck-smelling opportunities, gazes of adoration and declarations of love after two days of knowing each other, I would advise Brooks to seriously lay off the romances in future.
But Brooks excels in terms of the story; having a master plan in place for all four books surely helps (tucking away Walker and Wren for later installments), with dense plotting and character intrigue helping The Scions of Shannara along considerably. Brooks has some brilliant ideas at work, with enough enigmas and mysteries to sustain both this and the next three books. Some readers may lament the long passage of time that exists between this and the last trilogy, which renders Shea, Wil, Brin and Jair long-distant memories, but Brooks is considerate enough to mention past characters and adventures frequently, making their lives and legacies just as relevant to this story as they were to their own (probably the reason why this quartet is called THE HERITAGE OF SHANNARA). Brooks is especially satisfying in incorporating components of the last SHANNARA book into this one; namely the blood-trust that Allanon bestowed on Brin and the magical abilities of the Leah sword. It brings an interesting depth and weight to the series.
Despite some sloppy writing techniques, Scions is surprisingly good stuff, even for those who’ve disliked The Sword / Elfstones / Wishsong of Shannara. As for the diehard fans, I think most would agree that this series is the best he has to offer, hitting just the right note between the Tolkien rewrites of earlier books, and the predictability of his later ones. Give it a try.
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.