The Measure of Magic by Terry Brooks
Terry Brooks’ follow up to his first in the Legends of Shannara duology possesses a somewhat different feel from its predecessor. With the final bearer of the black staff Sider Ament out of the picture, the responsibility of protecting the people of the valley falls to young tracker Panterra Qu. But with the demonic ‘ragpicker’ hunting him down, unstable Elven politics rapidly escalating and the people of Glensk Wood in more peril than they realise, there’s little room left to examine the story of a young man burdened by new responsibility.
To some this will come as a pleasant change of scene, as Brooks’ is well-known for the predominance of his coming-of-age plotlines. Here however, it leaves a gap needing to be filled, as although we’re frequently reminded of Pan’s new burden, we’re not offered enough opportunities to feel the weight of what he now has to bear. By the time the ultimate showdown arrives (which is a strangely rushed affair) the fight feels largely unconvincing as a result.
There are some great characters developments in this instalment that include some real and unexpected surprises, but it is Brooks’ bad guy the ‘ragpicker’ who steals the show. Malicious, cruel and harbouring a severe loathing for all other life forms, this demon is as creepy as they come.
Panterra’s friendship with long-time tracker companion Prue Liss, though initially touching, frustrates somewhat here as it fails to evolve (for better or worse) into anything more believable. His later dalliance promises something more substantial before disappointingly fizzling out shortly afterwards.
Unlike Bearers of the Black Staff but much like The Gypsy Morph, The Measure of Magic doesn’t possess the addictive quality Brooks’ books so often generate and therefore proves quite a disappointing finale to this duology.
That said, it’s a pleasant enough read that will satisfy fans’ curiosity, and the author unsurprisingly leaves plenty of loose ends open to monopolise on later, allowing for the possibility that his sequential books will bring the magic of Shannara back to life.
Alice Wybrew, 6.8/10
I have always been a big fan of Terry Brooks. The Shannara novels were amongst the first fantasy books that I read, and I have always turned up to the book store every August to purchase the latest offering from Brooks. There has been plenty of reason for optimism over the past 5 years - the new Landover novel and the Genesis of Shannara novels have been some of Brooks' best work, and my expectations for concluding novel in The Legends of Shannara series were very high. Unfortunately The Measure of Magic was a massive let down, a boring and uninspired conclusion to a series that failed to cash in on the superb foundations that had been laid previously.
Sider Ament has been killed. The magical veil protecting the valley has fallen, trolls have amassed outside the valley waiting for a chance to strike, and the responsibility for leading the inhabitants of the valley back into the wider world has fallen to young tracker, and newly appointed Knight of the Word, Panterra Qu. While this premise has the makings of a very exciting story, we were promised by Brooks that this series would clearly define the transition from the world of the Word/Void to the world of Shannara. It was a very bold promise that was not adequately fulfilled, and having invested so much of my time into these five transitional Shannara books, I feel like the series was cheated out of the ending it deserved.
Not only did we not get the story we wanted but the story we did get was well below par, something made more apparent given the quality Brooks has produced over the past five years. To put it a bit more bluntly I became very bored reading The Measure of Magic, which is quite concerning as I don't think I have ever been bored reading a Brooks story. We get a generic coming of age story as Panterra Qu accepts the Knight of the Word mantle. We get a generic coming of age story as Prue Liss is called upon to make a personal sacrifice for the greater good. We get a generic coming of age story as Phryne Amarantyne accepts responsibility for the Elfstones. We get a generic coming of age story as Xac Wen strives to prove himself to his peers and his heroes. After playing with some heavy and controversial themes in the previous book, to see this book populated by such generic character arcs is a massive let down. The one redeeming feature of this book is it's villain, the Ragpicker. He is a cold, calculating and vile demon who hunts down Knights of the Word just for fun. His scenes are by far the most interesting in the book - he exudes an air made up of equal parts malevolence, power, and competence, and it is fascinating to watch how easily he can manipulate entire villages just by playing on their hopes and fears. In just one book Brooks established the Ragpicker as one of the most capable villains in the Shannara universe and it would have been nice to see how he would have developed over the course of an entire series rather than just the one book.
The writing here is pretty good, a style that has become well refined after twenty five years of Shannara. The world building is as strong as ever and the action scenes continue to be both vivid and exciting. The pacing is good, the story is easy to read, but it feels like there is far too much unnecessary prose here. This is a book that is twice as long as needed to be, which is a shame because there were so many sub-plots from the first book that were left untouched, and many more from this book that were left unresolved.
The Measure of Magic an uncharacteristically mediocre attempt at a novel by Terry Brooks. While there are some great scenes with some epic action sequences, they are interspersed by boring character development and relationships that refuse to evolve. It's not a bad read by any stretch of the imagination, and I have read much worse, but I expected more from Brooks on this outing. If you are looking for resolution of the various plot threads established over the past five years, you will end up feeling disappointed. However, if you can go into this story without expecting the overall genesis of Shannara to be resolved then I think you can glean quite a bit of enjoyment out of this book.
Ryan Lawler, 5.8/10
All reviews for: Legends of Shannara
Bearers of the Black Staff
Legends of Shannara: Book 1
Five hundred years have passed since the devastating demon-led war that almost exterminated humankind. Those who escaped the carnage were led to sanctuary by the boy saviou...
The Measure of Magic
Legends of Shannara: Book 2
For five hundred years, the survivors of the Great Wars lived peacefully in a valley sanctuary shielded by powerful magic from the blighted and dangerous outside world. But...
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