Maybe in an attempt to separate his work from comparisons to Lord of the Rings, Terry Brooks took a step I have rarely seen in a fantasy series in his second installment of the Shannara series, by letting time pass. More often than not, when a second book in a fantasy series is released, it is a direct continuation of book one. For Brooks, his story is generations long and will, eventually, span millennia.
Book two was definitely my favorite of the original trilogy, in that while it was measurably predictable at points, it was predictable in a way that entertained me. Additionally, when I picked up book two I had no idea that we would be jumping down a generation. So in both respects, I was pleasantly surprised.
Furthermore, this book takes on a different style of “quest” from book one, and splits the cast so well that even when Brooks does jump perspective, you are just as happy to continue on while still hoping to be returned soon.
Allanon once again enters the Four Lands in an attempt to save it from imminent destruction. The magical Ellcrys tree is dying, and thus an ancient spell which was kept in check by this tree will soon break, allowing demons once banished return to the Four Lands.
This time Wil Ohmsford, grandson to Shea Ohmsford, is recruited by Allanon to protect Amberle Elessedil, King Eventine's granddaughter. Their mission is to bring healing to the Ellcrys so that the Forbidden will once again hold the demons. The pair set out, accompanied by elves who are nothing short of cannon fodder to get Wil and Amberle to safety. They meet those who will help them, and those who will hinder them, and a few in between.
However we are not entirely left at the mercy of a trek through the wilderness. Prince Ander Elessedil becomes our second protagonist, as he readies his people to rebuff the advancing demons from their city of Arborlon. However not only does young Prince Ander have to face up to a father who looked more to his now lost older brother, as well as to an unstoppable force of demons lusting for elven blood, but he's got a demon or two running around inside Arborlon as well.
When I was younger I used to find jumping between storylines frustrating. I thought it was nothing more than a plot device used to irritate me (I was nothing if not self-absorbed). However I have come to respect the use of it now, and it serves Brooks well here. Learning from the fact that not everyone loved reading the trek made by the Fellowship of the Ring from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Brooks diverts us from Wil and Amberle's own trek through the wilderness by interposing the ever approaching doom of the lands. In this, Wil and Amberle's trek is nail biting, as you watch them run slowly out of time.
As you would expect, book two is much better than book one. His characters draw you in and make you care, and even the elvish cannon fodder elicits sadness upon their demise. The siege of Arborlon is magnificent to read, especially as you pull for Ander to rise to the occasion and watch Stee Jans make a mockery of the demons.
This book also suffers less of the Tolkien-esque comparisons, and so if you are intent upon not reading Sword of Shannara, you do not lose much in jumping straight into the fray with the Elfstones of Shannara.
One word of warning: if you are a romantic be prepared for a shock somewhere in the book. It literally had me on the verge of tears, and bumped Brooks up in my estimation for the courage it took to do it. A few weeks away from the book have provided me with the ability to look fondly on the decision, but it still hurt when I read it for the first time.
Review by Joshua S Hill
1 positive reader review(s) for The Elfstones of Shannara
Robin from United States
I would not have read this book, but I had bought it as part of a trilogy bundle on my Nook. I would not have read it because the "Sword of Shannara" was such a terribly-written knock off of LotR. However, Terry Brooks wrote the original SoS, then a second book, and then was forced to rewrite the second novel. All that practice evidently paid off. The dialogue was more natural in "Elfstones," as were character descriptions. In the first book, huge chunks of exposition were done in awkward and inappropriate storytime scenarios. In this book, exposition is more natural and flows better within the action. Overall, the plot is good, the characters believable, and the conclusion satisfying. My one and only problem. When Wil asks if he is to take up the Sword of Shannara, Allanon tells him it would be of no use, since it only reveals truth. I thought this strange, after all, if the entire world is at risk, why not use every tool available? This became extremely frustrating later in the book, as one of the key plot points is a shape-shifting demon who first murders all the Chosen, then spies on the elven court for most of the book. No need to pierce deception here, folks! So lame when the characters do needlessly stupid stuff. The heir to Shannara ignores the Sword of Shannara because, hey, who needs truth revealed? That almost never matters!!!
Chase from Nashville
Honestly this book was one of my favorites of Brooks. I find him a good, albeit predictable writer, yet he tells a good story and mangaes too keep the characters good enough to keep your attention. Brook's biggest shortcoming is his romance writing, the Sword of Shannara and Magic Kingdom for Sale being great examples. So it suprised me that Amberle and Wil's romance was actually pretty good. No it wasn't top ten all time, but it was solid. But Terry couldn't leave it at that. He had Amberle turned into a tree and Wil grieves then decides to get over it and run off with a Shallow brat of a girl, forgetting about Amberle.
7.5/10 from 3 reviews