Title: The Sword of Shannara
Author: Terry Brooks
Edition/Pages: Kindle Edition
Short & Sweet Synopsis: Two brothers get caught up in an epic quest to regain the legendary Sword of Shannara from an Druid-turned-bad known as the Warlock Lord.
The last review I wrote was of a book called Heirs of Prophecy, and in my review, I noted that while the story was a bit easy and simplistic, the book more than made up for this in the fact that it broke out of the typical fantasy mold. The book I’m reviewing today, The Sword of Shannara, is exactly the opposite. While in many ways it exactly follows the standard formula for a fantasy epic, its complex story, well-developed characters, and intriguing world all make it impossible to put down.
Legends and myths that did not exist in yesterday’s world will exist in tomorrow’s. Things of evil, ruthless and cunning, after lying dormant for centuries, will now awaken. The shadow of the Warlock Lord begins to fall across the four lands.
I first read The Sword of Shannara when I was young, elementary school-aged. I read the first several books in this series (though at this point I couldn’t really say how far in I got), and became rather obsessed with the fantastical world which Terry Brooks had created. Years later, numerous more books have been published in the series (around 25 at this point), and I wanted to go back and finish reading them, but really didn’t remember enough details of the early saga to make it worth reading the later ones. So, back I went to square one, and oh, was it worth it!
Band of Brothers
The Sword of Shannara tells the story of Shea Ohmsford, a half-elf adopted by a human family, who learns that the elvish blood running through his veins could shape the future of the world he lives in. Along with his step-brother Flick, he is thrown into a dangerous journey of epic proportions, based on stories and legends that had been read to him as fairytales as a child. The mysterious historian Allanon, two human princes in the form of the ever-flippant Menion Leah and reliable Balinor, elf brothers Dayel and Durin, and dwarf Hendel, all join the Ohmsford brothers on a quest to regain the legendary Sword of Shannara from the evil Warlock Lord Brona, and save the four kingdoms from a war that would destroy them all.
The past has become a blurred memory, and just as well perhaps; for the history of man has not been particularly glorious in the last two thousand years. Men today have forgotten the past; they know little of the present and less of the future.
Lord of the…Sword?
I think that for me, what makes this book stand apart from all the other fantasy novels on the shelves, is the amount of work that Brooks has put into creating the history of the world. In no other series, save Lord of the Rings, have I seen such effort put into explaining not only the conflict immediately apparent in the story, but also the cultural and historical factors that brought that conflict into being, which for me is extremely fascinating, and a major mark in favor of the Shannara Books. On second thought, maybe the Inheritance Trilogy by Christopher Paolini also makes a good attempt at this, though I think it still pales in comparison to Brooks or Tolkien.
Speaking of Tolkien: While reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of the fellowship in the Lord of the Rings (among other things which would give away plot points), and wonder if Brooks had the series in mind when formulating this novel. Though the worlds and their internal conflicts are different enough, to me, there are striking similarities between the two books that are impossible to ignore. Don’t take that as a strike against the book though – Lord of the Rings is considered a classic for a reason, and that this book follows in its footsteps is not a negative thing! If my admittedly vague memories of Shannara is correct, the series deviates away from its counterpart after this novel.
My conclusion: If you are even a superficial fan of fantasy, go read this book, right now. Even if you’re not normally a fantasy buff, you should still check it out. It’s phenomenal, I’m re-obssessed!