One of the more frustrating assertions to come from the so called “literary critics” are claims that “so and so author” is copying “so and so.” They use this derogatory critique as a way to deprive the author of any originality in their storytelling. And while I can't speak for every book that has received this “critique,” I can speak for Terry Brooks' Shannara Trilogy.
Written across a span of 8 years crossing the end of the 70's and early 80's, Terry Brooks first leap into the realm of Shannara was impressive, to say the least. However, sadly, Brooks' work has oftentimes been unfairly called a pale imitation of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
Whether this is because there is a wizard, a quest, or a variety of races, I'm not sure. But it is a layman's comment and one that, in Shannara's case, is definitely not on the mark.
The simple fact of the matter is Tolkien was not the original master that everyone claims: he simply reinvented the genre. He would be the first to tell you that he borrowed, begged and stole from other mythologies and – for the invention of his languages – past and present languages.
But putting aside this unfair criticism of the Shannara series, let us look specifically at the first of the original trilogy. The Sword of Shannara introduces us to the Four Lands and their people. We follow the adventures of Shea Ohmsford, resident of Shady Vale, but half-Elven. He soon finds himself the unwitting pawn of the druid Allanon in a quest to find the Sword of Shannara in an attempt to defeat the Warlock Lord.
Brooks manages to weave in and out of the story characters that may later become important, or are simply there to move the story along for a little while. Some characters you will love others you will hate. Characters like Allanon will provide you with a never ending source of unease, while characters like Flick will at times annoy and at times make you laugh.
In its truest sense, this book is a fantasy adventure. Gnomes, elves, dwarves and “men” all appear, along with magic, warriors and magic swords. The fate of the world is at hand, but similarly, Brooks manages to begin eliciting the question “where is all this happening.” He also manages to wonderfully keep a lineage of characters continually appearing in the following two books, and on. The Sword of Shannara is not only the beginning to a trilogy, but an entire world that will amaze you and enthrall you if you let it.
The book is not perfect, however. It does not have the same gripping and enthralling dialogue that Lord of the Rings has, and is not as well written as books by Hobb or Erikson. There are times where you will find the need to put it down and read something else, simply to take a break and recharge. Not that it is a bad read, but more that it sometimes becomes heavy handed and measurably boring.
Spending any time in Wikipedia is sometimes a hazard. In this instance, you will find many references to critiques from authors and reviewers alike. However it is nothing short of amusing to see how intent some of these people are to degrade Brooks' work. They draw tenuous and tedious links between characters and places in an attempt to say that Brooks “ripped off” Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
And while I will agree that Brooks draws inspiration from Tolkien, he doesn't copy him.
The reason I linger on this is to hopefully, impress upon you an open mind to reading this book. Do not cross this book off your “to read” list because you've heard people knock it. Similarly, do not go into reading this book attempting to cross reference everything back to some other work. This is a book that deserves being critiqued on its own merit.
Review by Joshua S Hill
6 positive reader review(s) for The Sword of Shannara
Olden from US
Great book, read book in early 80's. It kinda mimic's "Lord of the rings". Favorite character is Allanon (the druid), whose powers come from the age of men...long ago. Men who were unlocking the secrets of God... by way of science, which also gave him the ability of long life or immortality. Gave others an unnatural fear of him... something dangerous!
James from United States
Easy to read.
Peter from England
Very good, do not compare this to Tolkien. Many have imitated him and why not he was a genius. This book and the two others in this series are great reads and stand in their own right. There is a lot of snobbery in the fantasy readers world of course there are similarities to Lord of the Rings as there are with many others. This book is well worth reading...
Michael from US
Though I am now 44 this book is one I always read again every so many years. The entire series is excellent however the Sword of Shannara is what originally roped me in. It will unlock your imagination and you feel for the characters. You feel as though you are in the story. I know Terry Brooks himself has said the Lord of the Rings influenced him however I find his books more entertaining and easier to read.
Troy from USA
I'm not really a reader but, once I started reading it I couldn't put it down. I read it straight through, I was addicted, I will definitely buy it and every Shannara book I can get my hands on. If I could give it more than a 10 rating I would.
Hannah from U.S.A.
Thank you so much for finally writing a fair review of this book. This was the first book I ever read out of this genre, and I am probably biased as far as this particular book is concerned, but I find it unfair and somewhat distressing to see so many people bashing it. The dialogue is a little cumbersome sometimes, but you have to remember that this is Terry Brooks' first novel, so you can't expect it to be perfect. Having read almost all of his books, and being an aspiring writer myself, I can appreciate Brooks' growth over his writing career. This book will always have a special place in my heart, even though it isn't perfect by any means. I highly recommend it.
Justin from Australia
A top read. Easy and fun characters that you quickly begin to bond with as you read. The story has a nice flow and you are never left reading for chapter after charter with no action. Highly recommended.
8.7/10 from 8 reviews