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Abnett, Dan
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Reviewing Literature
The Books of Terry Brooks

In 1977 Terrence D. Brooks did almost as much for fantasy lovers worldwide as a certain film about a Galaxy Far, Far Away, with the release of his first novel 'The Sword of Shannara' which would become the basis of one of the most beloved fantasy series' around today.  He later also got to have a play in that aforementioned distant Galaxy, when George Lucas returned to writing the Star Wars prequels.  He and his wife, Judine, now live in America's Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.
Average Review Score: 3.9 out of 5 (15 books)

First King Of Shannara
This is the prequel to the Shannara series but nevertheless manages to stand on it's own and (at least in my opinion) it is largely superior in quality to 'The Sword of Shannara' and 'The Wishsong of Shannara'.  The story follows the Druid Bremen as he desperately tried to warn the peoples of the Four Lands about the undead return of the Warlock Lord.  It encompasses such events as the destruction of the Druid Council, the forging of the Sword of Shannara and the training of the young Druid Allanon.  As far as I'm concerned, this is the book that Brooks should have begun with in the first place.  I've always felt that 'The Sword of Shannara' was just too much like LotR for it's own good, but in this book, Brooks shows that he is entirely capable of creating a fantasy of depth and wonder without having to follow the footsteps of another author.  Plus there's lots of little treats hidden in the book for those who've read the others in the series, things like the Warlock Lord using the Ildatch or the wonderfully eccentric ex-Druid Cogline.  One of the finest aspects of this novel, however, is the balance of the central group of characters.  Most fantasies have a varied fellowship of heroes, but here they share a common root (being Druids) and are instead different facets of the same basic template.  Tay is the emotional and spiritual one, Bremen is the wise one who takes all responsibility upon himself, Risca is the martial one, Mareth the one who is struggling with her origins and (suprisingly, to someone who read the other books first) Allanon is the eager youth.  All in all this is a well balanced and exciting fantasy that would suit both fans of the series and those just looking for a one-off read.
5 out of 5
'The old man just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.'
The Sword Of Shannara
This book was a real disappointment to me.  It's not because it isn't well written; in fact the writing is very evocative.  It's not because Brooks lacks original ideas; many of the characters are ingeniously original, especially that lovable but deadly rogue Panamon Creel.  No, the problem with this book is that Brooks, who clearly has a remarkable talent, felt the need to steal from a certain Professor Tolkien.  There are a pair of characters from an isolated community, a sturdy down-to-earth one and the emotional one upon whom the quest falls.  There is a wizard, an heir-to-the-throne and elves and dwarfs round out the little 'fellowship'.  The evil Dark Lord was believed killed long ago, but survived to reattempt to conquer the world and he has a group of wraith-like followers who are bound to his life-force.  For God's sake, there's even a scene where they have to travel through an underground cavern populated by dead men.  Please, don't get me wrong; this is an enjoyable read that truly takes you on a journey through Brooks' fantasy world and some of the scenes, particularly the siege of Tyrsis, are so well written that you'll be there ducking arrows.  However, despite how good a read this book is, it'll leave you feeling like you've just re-read LotR, but that it wasn't quite as good this time around.  If you haven't read that timeless tale of Hobbits and Rings, then 'The Sword of Shannara' will definitely be worth your while.
3 out of 5
'The sun was already sinking into the deep green of the hills to the west of the valley, the red and gray-pink of its shadows touching the corners of the land, when Flick Ohmsford began his descent.'
The Elfstones Of Shannara
Of the entire Shannara series, this is my personal favourite.  It dispenses with most of the cliches that dogged 'The Sword of Shannara' and sets out to tell a similar, but far more compelling, tale.  Brooks' creative talent becomes clear in the set-up of the story; the demons have been held imprisoned by elvish magic since before history began, now however, with the death of the Ellcrys, they are about to break free.  The Druid Allanon sets reluctant Wil Ohmsford and Amberle Elessedil on a quest to find the Ellcrys' seed with only the Elfstones for protection.  I really enjoyed the fact that the Elfstones are perhaps the most powerful magical weapon there is and yet Wil must use them sparingly because of the unknown price the magic will extract from him.  The Rovers are an interesting new edition to the series, giving us characters whose moral imperatives are never really certain.  Amberle's fate will leave you very shocked as it comes (or at least it did for me) as a complete surprise.  You expect the book to end with Wil and Amberle exploring their feelings for one another, but Brooks chooses to take you quite far from that all-too-obvious course.  The strongest element of this book, however, lies in Brooks unerring ability (shown even in the rather disappointing first book of the series) to write stirring, exciting and evocative battle scenes.  The war between the elves and the demons is a true marvel of fantasy writing with innovative tactics, tragic defeats and finally, although not least excitingly, Allanon unleashing his full power against the near-victorious demons.  If anyone was thinking of dipping into the Shannara books, then here is where you should start without a doubt.
5 out of 5
'The night sky brightened faintly in the east with the approach of dawn as the Chosen entered the Gardens of Life.'
The Wishsong Of Shannara
I'd been disappointed by the first book of the series, I then read the second book and the prequel and my faith in Brooks' work was renewed.  'The Wishsong of Shannara' dashed my hopes once more.  There is nothing overtly wrong with the book, nothing you can point at and say "There, that bit's rubbish!", but nonetheless it was another disappointment.  I think my problems with the book lay in the fact that, not only does it largely just rehash ideas from 'The Sword of Shannara', but it does so with all the boring and pointless ideas.  The quest is nothing new and you've seen the dark wraiths in many other books.  The wishsong itself might have been a good idea if it wasn't so ridiculous; the heroes sing at their enemies, I mean, how stirring or exciting is that.  On the whole Jair's quest is much better than Brin's and the weapons master Garet Jax is a good character, but it still feels slightly lacklustre.  As for Brin's fall to the dark side; it was pathetic and thoroughly unbelievable.  This book does have one redeeming feature in that Brin encounters a seemingly senile old man named Cogline.  Cogline is by far and away my favourite of Brooks' characters and his humorous rantings here give you something to want to read on for.
2 out of 5
'A change of seasons was upon the Four Lands as late summer faded slowly into autumn.'
The Scions Of Shannara
This book has very little particularly original about it.  But do not despair!  This is not a bad thing.  Confused?  Let me explain:  With this book Brooks has pinched a large number of the ideas from his previous works and rejumbled them.  He has taken his best elements (dynamic battle scenes, reluctant heroes) and improved on some of his other previous ideas (the wishsong no longer seems quite so pants).  He has then mixed these elements together into a book that holds all the best ideas of the Shannara series.  He has effectively rewritten 'The Sword of Shannara' but with all of Tolkien's ideas replaced with his own.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I would warn you that you may well not like it because of it's repetition of ideas in the other books.  I would like to particularly applaud Mr. Brooks for the creation of Walker Boh, who is a masterful mixture of Allanon, Cogline and the Ohmsfords.  It was nice to see a character sure of his own power and himself (even if he isn't sure about his destiny).  Finally, once again, Brooks has included my favourite of his characters, Cogline.  Cogline has all the elements that made Allanon and Bremen imposing, but also has a certain reluctance to getting involved.  He also introduces some welcome comic relief at times.
4 out of 5
'The old man sat alone in the shadow of the Dragon's Teeth and watched the coming darkness chase the daylight west.'
The Druid Of Shannara
The original Shannara trilogy consisted of three entirely separate stories, but with the Heritage of Shannara series Brooks shows that he has the talent to create a story told across several books that can also stand alone, a rare gift.  Brooks' talent as an author continues to grow and I still feel that the Heritage series is the one he wished he'd written in the first place.  With 'The Druid of Shannara' we are introduced to a new group of characters and a new quest whilst continuing the stories of the major characters of the previous novel.  The new faces are varied and interesting; Quickening, the daughter of the King of the Silver River, an elemental girl who is torn between her predetermined purpose and her human emotions; Pe Ell, an assassin of unparalleled skill whose dark desires and temper put him at odds with those he is forced to travel with; Horner Dees, the quintessential grizzled veteran whose rugged charm outshines the cliches.  Walker Boh begins to explore his destiny and his link to the magic and Morgan Leah matures through courage, suffering, love and despair.  We also get brief updates on the fortunes of the Ohmsfords, Par, Coll and Wren.  The Stone King is a formidable and highly original new villain who is both tragic and sinister.  My one real gripe with the book is the character Carisman, whose idiocy and constantly poor rhyming really got on my nerves and left me wishing that Pe Ell would do him in!
5 out of 5
'The king of the Silver River stood at the edge of the Gardens that had been his domain since the dawn of the age of faerie and looked out over the world of mortal men.'
The Elf Queen Of Shannara
The third book of the Heritage of Shannara series.  Wren Ohmsford's quest leads her and her companion Garth to the island of Morrowindl, which is overrun with demons, in search of the elves.  The elves, always looking down on destructive humans in other fantasy stories, are given a much more realistic nature here, as they prove as susceptible to vanity and corruption as anyone else.  I thought it a really clever idea that, rather than being the last line of defence against some dark threat, the elves are caught in a hell of their own making.  I was impressed that Brooks managed to resist the urge to make this book an endless series of battles against different types of demons, actually keeping these encounters to a minimum and concentrating with Wren's interaction with the new characters in her life.  I was equally glad that we didn't get a rehash of Brooks' earlier use of the Elfstones, with Wren managing to use them too easily (as opposed to them failing when needed as in previous books), which in itself causes interesting problems.  In general I thought this was a very good continuation of the series, featuring updates of how Par, Coll and Walker are getting on, but I was a bit unimpressed by Brooks' using the name Drakuls to refer to demons that are clearly vampires.  I mean, 'Drakuls', as if we wouldn't notice...
5 out of 5
The Talismans Of Shannara
The fourth and final book of the Heritage of Shannara series.  I was fairly disappointed by this book, having really enjoyed the previous two.  As with the books, Walker Boh proves to be an excellent character, here just beginning to come into his true power and accept the mantle of the Druids that has been layed upon him.  Cogline also continues to be a great character and his interactions with Walker, particularly their last, make for good reading.  Well, that's the good stuff...  The plotlines involving Morgan, Par and Coll are horribly boring and repetetive involving countless pages about the sewers of Tyrsis (which I was sick of by the end of the first book), ridiculous switching around of roles (one minute Padishar's rescuing Damson, then Damson's rescuing him; or where Par's tracking Coll to free him from the Shadowen and then Coll has to free Par from the Shadowen etc) and no less than five scenes in which a main character has to be rescued from imprisonment!  The battle scenes are pretty much just rehashes of ones Brooks has written previously, Par is so stupid a character it hurts (believe the evil murderer or not, hmmm? Dificult decision) and the end of the book is far too rushed, as if the author had reached his deadline and wrote the last chapter on the bus to the publishers.
3 out of 5
'Dusk settled down about the Four Lands, a slow graying of the light, a gradual lengthening of shadows.'
Ilse Witch
The first book of the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy.  Brooks manages to revitalise the Shannara series here, avoiding most of the tired cliches and overly-familiar battle scenes that had begun to stagnate the series.  The premise combines the classic quest-style storyline, in which Walker Boh assembles a group of people with various talents and magics for a journey into the unknown, with the equally classic adventure stories wherein a small group of people set sail to explore a distant land.  This combination, although not entirely original, makes for a good story that is essentially fun to read.  As well as continuing Walker's development, Brooks also creates some of his best ever new characters.  Truls Rohlk and the Ilse Witch are excellent examples of these new characters, both having a great dichotomy to them, and even the standard Shea/Wil/Par clone, Bek, manages to be somewhat less irritating that his predecessors.  Sadly, the latest Leah, Quentin, is woefully generic.  Ultimately, the combination of interesting new characters and a storyline beyond some new Dark Lord or other makes this one of Brooks' most enjoyable books.
5 out of 5
The second book of the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy.  The crew of the Jerle Shannara are scattered and each group attempts to find the others as they face the automated monstrosities of Castledown and the implacable wrath of the Ilse Witch.  With this book Brooks mixes fantasy and science fiction as the supercomputer beneath Castledown, Antrax, unleashes robots and cyborgs in it's programmed need to defend it's memory banks.  Antrax even creates a Matrix-style computer reality so that it can trick it's captives into thinking they're free and into using their magic.  Now, this mixture of genres isn't a new thing, but Brooks manages to present it in a fairly original way as the sci-fi elements are described to us in the fantasy context of the characters (ie lasers become fire threads and robots are the dreaded creepers).  It is in the mixing of genres that this book gets it's greatest moment (in my opinion, at least); where Walker realises that all his efforts are rendered pointless by the discovery that the books of Old World history are recorded on discs that he has no possible way to read.  I liked the fact that both Walker and the Ilse Witch knew more about Antrax's plans than the author revealed in the first book, a fact that helps us to empathise with the followers who have been kept in the dark.  A very good continuation of the story begun in 'Ilse Witch', even if that character continues to be unbelievably dense.
5 out of 5
The final part of the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy.  The Ilse Witch has been defeated, put into a waking coma by the power of the Sword of Shannara, and slowly the survivors of Walker Boh's team are reunited, changed by their various ordeals.  However, a new threat appears on the horizon; a fleet of airships under the command of the warlock known as the Morgawr.  This book has much in common with the first one, using a similar set up as that in which the Jerle Shannara attempts to escape the Ilse Witch.  However, the Morgawr is by far a more sinister enemy, both for his awesome power and for his subtle cunning (and that's not even mentioning the whole sticking his hand into people's brains thing!).  We know that ultimately Grianne Ohmsford must awaken and defeat her former mentor, but Brooks keeps us guessing as to how that confrontation will come about and, of the few heroes left, who will survive to the end of the journey.  All in all a great conclusion to Brooks' best series so far.  Now I'm looking forward to getting to grips with the High Druid of Shannara series!
5 out of 5
Jarka Ruus
The first book of the High Druid of Shannara series, wherein Brooks returns us once more to the Four Lands, twenty years after the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy.  Grianne Ohmsford is at the centre of a nest of plotting and intrigue as she attempts to hold the new Druid Council together and escape her past as the Ilse Witch.  When she disappears, it falls on her nephew, Pen Ohmsford, to set out in search of her.  Pen is this book's worst failing, being yet another Shea/Wil/Par/Bek knock-off who is indecisive and lacks self-confidence but who will (presumably) find his inner strength in the end.  Whilst Brooks has proven himself capable of creating some great characters (Truls Rohlk remains a favourite) he seems unable to break free of the mould he created for his core characters nearly thirty years ago.  He can't even leave the Ohmsford family out of it, for Christ's sake.  I don't see that there's anywhere left for him to take Pen that the previous incarnations haven't been before (emotionally speaking, that is), so I don't see this element improving in the subsequent books.  However, there are good things on offer here too.  I enjoyed the premise of the new Druid Council, having grown a little tired of the 'just one Druid' scenario and wanting more of what I'd liked in 'First King Of Shannara'.  It's also great that the Forbidding has been expanded upon, with the author revealing that rather than just being another world, it is a dark mirror of the Four Lands.  It is this alternate world that provides the book's best moment when Grianne tries to summon a Druid shade in the mirror Hadeshorn and finds herself confronted by Brona, aka the Warlock Lord.  Ultimately, this is another entertaining read, but is overly familiar at times.
4 out of 5
The second book of the High Druid of Shannara trilogy.  This book took me an unusual amount of time to read and whenever I thought about sitting down to crack on with it, I ended up finding something else to do instead.  I found myself wondering why this was, and the answer I came up with?  I just didn't care what happened.  Only one of the characters in this trilogy really interested me, Grianne, and she spends most of the book in a cell feeling sorry for herself.  At no time did I feel any connection to the other characters in the book, being as they are merely reproductions of characters from Brooks' earlier works, whose stories I've read already.  This goes double for Pen and Bek.  Brooks isn't content to bash his own head against the unchanging tedium of the Ohmsford family, but feels he has to bash ours against it too.  It seems the author has finally completely run out of new ideas.  I have been a fond follower of the Shannara series, but after finishing this book I felt that the only reason I'll go on to read 'Straken' is the fact that I already own it.
2 out of 5
The conclusion of the High Druid of Shannara trilogy, brings a welcome end to a very disappointing series.  This book took me no less than 22 days to read (when I usually get through books of this length in about 4 days) which gives you some idea of how gripped I was by the story.  'Tanequil' had completely destroyed any interest I had in the fates of the latest batch of Ohmsfords and this book did very little to revive my interest.  In terms of the main storyline, the only positive thing I can say is that I was pleased to finally see it end.  'Straken' did have one redeeming feature, however.  The adventures of Pied Sanderling as he attempts to rally the broken elven army and then leads a suicide mission to destroy the Federation's deadly new weapon (a laser by any other name...).  These interludes were filled with tension and that marvelous feeling of do-or-die heroics, which were the only bits of the book I couldn't put down.  Ultimately, this book serves to prove that Brooks has done Shannara to death, draining any interest or originality out of the series.  I've heard that he plans to write prequels set in the time of the Great War, but I'm not sure I'll be inclined to read them.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace
I've heard it said that the mason is only as good as the stone he works with, such is the case here.  George Lucas wrote a fairly insipid and shallow beginning to his Star Wars prequels and poor Terry Brooks obviously doesn't get much leeway when it comes to writing the novelisation.  The book is very much like the film it's based on in that, whilst being an enjoyable story, it lacks any real depth either of plot or emotion.  Where Brooks has been allowed to add his own touches is where you find this books best scenes, particularly of note are several scenes involving Anakin before he meets the Jedi, the best of which involves him saving an injured Tusken Raider (not quite what he does to them in Episode II eh?).  Also added is a little bit of insight into the structure of the Sith Order, telling of how the Sith Lord Darth Bane created the rule that there could only ever be two Sith in the shadows at one time.  However, the fact that the book has things not in the film swings the other way.  Only the most talented of authors and imaginative of readers could recreate the wonderful visual element of the film and I'm afraid that this isn't really the case here.  The film's biggest pro factor was it's special effects, be it the awesomely dynamic podrace or the wonderful spectacle of twirling lightsabers in the final duel.  Obviously, being a book, this novel has none of this eye candy and suffers for that fact.
3 out of 5

If you liked Brooks:
As with most epic fantasy, I'd definitely recommend 'The Lord of the Rings' to fans of the Shannara series, but I would also say that fans of Brooks may well enjoy David Eddings' Belgariad and Mallorean series'.

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