Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks
Review by Ryan Lawler
Bearers of the Black Staff is the first book in Terry Brooks' Legends of Shannara series, published by Del Rey in August 2010. This book follows on from the Genesis of Shannara series and continues to explore the post-apocalyptic evolution of our world, connecting the events from the Word/Void series with the fantasy world of Shannara. While this book can be read and enjoyed without any prior knowledge of Word/Void and Shannara, this is the 22nd novel to explore this universe and as such, avid readers will find and be enriched by the many references and connections to previous books.
At the end of the Genesis of Shannara series the young boy Hawk lead the remnants of Humans, Elves, Lizards and Spiders into an isolated valley, casting over them the protective magic of the Gypsy Morph while the rest of the world was devastated by the launch of all nuclear weapons. Bearers of the Black Staff picks up the story 500 years later, inside the valley where the people have developed their own culture full of political and religious intrigue, based on the belief that their valley will be protected forever.
The story follows Sider Ament, the last remaining Knight of the Word, who is tracking two demonic creatures that have breached the boundary. Two young trackers, Panterra Qu and Prue Liss, stumble upon these creatures while investigating the brutal killing of two of their colleagues and with the help of Ament they are able to escape. After confirming that the boundary has come down, it falls upon the two young trackers to spread the word among the rest of the valley while Sider Ament explores the outside world in an attempt to determine the sorts of dangers that may be lurking nearby.
I really enjoyed this book, much more than I thought I would. While the basic characters, setting, and plot all seem very familiar, as is usually the case with a Shannara novel, what makes this book more than just another Shannara novel is all the moving parts working in operation outside of the main storyline. Some quick examples; there is Panterra and Prue trying to convince people that the boundary has come down invalidating the religous beliefs of the majority of valley inhabitants which has unpredictable and far reaching ramifications, there are religious and governing organisations who are more concerned with trying to make the most of the situation in a play for power and control, and there is still the fracticious relationship between all the races that has a large influence over the decisions made by those in power.
This is a well written novel designed to be easy to read and hard to put down. Being easy to read means that there is not a lot of complexity in the writing and this did have a slightly detrimental affect when exploring the complex nature of the religous and political scenarios mentioned above. There are some pacing issues early on and you do get the feeling that you are reading a lot of pages and learning a lot about the world without much actually happening to progress the story. These are relatively small issues and they do not take anything away from what is the strongest piece of work produced by Terry Brooks in some time.
Tom from Withernsea
9.2/10 is laughably generous. Admittedly, the book is enjoyable, but it demonstrates all too often how repetitive Brooks can be as creator of characters and narrative situations. Anyone who has read previous Shannara books will be able to see how formulaic and self-derivative The Bearers of the Black Staff is. As a necessary part of a larger chronology it is adequate and regularly entertaining, within the context of the fantasy genre it is far from remarkable. Brooks relies excessively upon character archetypes who are not only aged and tediously familiar but also inadequately and sometimes unsuitably portrayed within their respective circumstances. The book is interesting as a part of the Shannara pre-history, however there is nothing to be found with regards to originality even with a view to Brooks's own work, regardless of the whole genre.
Joshua from Slough
I find it hard to read books because I'm not really a big fan of it but I have completly fallen in love with it, absolutely brilliant The. best book that I have ever read.
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