Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reviews From an HBN (First King of Shannara - Terry Brooks)

Stepping away from editing for a second to bring you this little ole thing. You know me, I gotta yammer about a book the instant I'm done with it!

Dark forces are on the move from the Northlands, and Bremen, an outcast Druid, learns of the huge Troll armies on the march and the Skull Bearers who act as their spies. To save the Druids, Bremen must convince the people of the Four Lands that their only hope lies in uniting -- and in using the magic they fear above all else.


So there's the summary and the rating, and here's the review:

Well, now that I've gotten my behind in gear and sat down to write a blasted review...

Right off the bat, this had J.R.R. Tolkien all over it. Terry Brooks's Four Lands are like Middle-earth on a diet. There's an evil overlord rising back to power, an even more evil object of magic he can't be allowed to lay hands on, a small bunch of ragtags committed to stopping him, and a special sword meant to rally the troops and destroy the bad guy. There's even a Gandalf, an Aragorn, a Legolas, a Gimli, and a mix of Arwen, Galadriel, and Eowyn! I spent some time half-convinced I would see a few orcs or hobbits; negative on the latter, and trolls and gnomes instead of the former...close enough.

Glaring similarities aside, I enjoyed this. It was far less wordy than The Lord of the Rings and it had its more stirring moments as well (but I'll be honest, LOTR hit me harder). I get the feeling that a lot more effort has gone into this as opposed to, say, the Landover series, which I found charming enough to keep reading. Therefore, I'm going to stick with Shannara for awhile. A good bit of it felt derivative (wow, I'm using that word a lot in conjunction with a lot of fantasy epics! It just goes to show how Tolkien set the standard for the genre, doesn't it?) but it was good enough to keep me interested. I did think that the constant battles and skirmishes developed a lot of drag in the narrative and it all but killed the suspense to have the characters' lives in perpetual danger they always just managed to evade, and since this was a prequel, I pretty much knew how it was going to end, but I feel on solid ground for the main body of the series.

The characters themselves weren't as three-dimensional as I would have liked (development is key!) but I got very attached to Tay Trefenwyd, the Legolas in this equation. My first impression of him was of a happy-go-lucky chap I felt certain was going to annoy the pants off me, but it's to Mr. Brooks's credit that Tay became my uncontested favorite, with more depth and dimension to him than I had initially expected. His was the one subplot I felt didn't detract from the main conflict, and in fact supplemented and strengthened it as every good subplot should. I honestly felt for him, and it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears in the middle of McDonald's when his part in the story ended the way it did. I just wish I felt the same about the other characters, and while I see the logic in not expending so much effort on people who won't have any further screen time beyond this installment, I still would have appreciated it even more if I'd gotten to know them half so well.

Let's see, what else...There's not much else, except to say that if you don't feel like devoting yourself to LOTR, you could do much worse than to pick this up. Oh, wait! Almost forgot! After doing some research on the subject myself a few years ago, I can applaud Mr. Brooks's efforts in detailing the art of blacksmithing. But one tiny nitpick: steel isn't cast when forging a sword. Just a minor irritant that gets me whenever I come across it.

Anyway, there were times when it felt like this was a hodge podge of unrelated quests and whatnot, but it all came together pretty neatly in the end. It's definitely one I don't regret reading, unlike other fantasy novels I could name. *coughBrisingr!cough* I look forward to the rest of the series!

There you have it, and now I have to get back to work!

Your humble book nerd,

1 comment:

  1. Ha, the blacksmithing mistake about forged blades, shows the importance of research when writing fiction, to make it seamlessly believable. Sweetly Intoxicated


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