The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks

Rating 7.0/10
A strong opening book, could be a very strong series too.

Over the last three years Brooks has written, well, let’s face it, a very tepid trilogy called The Defenders of Shannara. The tone was largely young adult and the scope of the story was vastly limited and unimaginative when compared to some of his earlier books. It felt like he was just trying to squeeze another trilogy out in a fantasy world that was already starting to become a little stale. All in all, it wasn’t the author at his best.

This, however, ushers in a return to the old Brooks, a Brooks who wrote vast fantasy novels with complex plots and interesting bad guys. He didn’t force themes into the writing, themes only used to make his writing seem more attractive to viewers of the television adaptation of The Elfstones of Shannara in a failed effort to keep up with modern times. He wrote decent books, entertaining books about magic and warring factions. Some of them may have seemed a little samey (and this book is no exception) but for his fans that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

People like to get lost in a good fantasy novel and they relish taking another journey to another realm, but Brooks has written (perhaps overwritten?) so many books in his world. I, for one, am truly glad to see it come to an end with this final series. I look forward to seeing what kind of ending he provides. Will it be open ended? Will we be left with the impression that this world could go on or will it be a real ending? A final line, a stop, a finish: a strong place to finally finish this story. I don’t think it will be. I think he’ll go with the former, but I’d like to see something dramatic happen by the end of this series.

It could go either way at the moment as The Four Lands face a new threat; it is something they haven’t quite seen before or perhaps something they no longer quite understand. It is a mysterious enemy with the ability to change its location allowing them to slaughter thousands with little resistance. Nobody knows what it is, and the only people that have a chance at stopping them (the Druids) suffer under weak leadership and division. The order has become corrupted, more concerned with acquiring power for personal profit rather than the protection of it.

The former Ard Rhys, a man called Drisker Arc, is being hunted by assassins. The enemy understand his power; he is the only one intelligent enough to fully perceive this threat, and the only one with the foresight to actually consider doing anything productive about it. His character is highly reminiscent of the druid Allanon (almost a regurgitated version of him really) but I am willing to overlook that here because this is coming to an end, an end it so sorely needs to reach before it loses all sense of worth. So this was a strong opening book, and if the narrative follows the plot line here rather than jumping around, as it did in The Defenders of Shannara, it could be a very strong series too.

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