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The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks

The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks
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Book Name: The Measure of the Magic
Author: Terry Brooks
Publisher(s): Orbit
Formatt: Hardback / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: August 23, 2011

Editor’s Note: This review contains some spoilers for the first book. If you haven’t finished the first book in the series, read with caution.

The Measure of the Magic is the second in the Legends of Shannara duology. I began reading with perhaps not as much enthusiasm as one should, given this author’s standing amongst the classic fantasy genre. Book one, Bearers of the Black Staff, although being full of Brooks’ hallmarks and having all the recipes of a great fantasy narrative, left me with many unanswered questions and I waited for book two in the hope that it would fill in the gaps and alleviate my confusion.

As soon as I started reading, my hope came alive. A new character, the ragpicker, strolls along humming to himself, looking quite the picture of innocence, and he promises for a new layer of interest in this story.

Ragpicker, ragpicker, you’re all alone.
The hunters that are hunting want to pick your bones.
Ragpicker, ragpicker, just walk on.
If you wait them out they will soon be gone.

He comes across as a scavenger, but harmless at that, and he carries on his merry way. Soon he meets two bandits who threaten the ragpicker and for a moment, we fear for this new chap’s safety.

But there is more to his purpose than meets the eye. He quickly removes anything in his path and continues his quest: to find the bearer of the black staff. As soon as we learn this, the calm comfort of the book’s opening is dispelled and we will discover that this new antagonist proves to be a bigger danger than even the Troll army or the monsters creeping across the valley.

Apart from this new addition, book two begins with the familiar characters exactly where they were at the end of part one. The young tracker girl Prue Liss is running for her life with the evil Trolls and their Skaith Hounds in ready pursuit. But it might be ok, she is after all carrying an automatic weapon and as long as she aims fast enough they should be taken care of.

That was something that didn’t quite sit well with me in book one. Amongst this landscape of monsters, magic, elves and roaming landscapes that are populated by simple village folk rather than being made up of technologically developed cities, we have the addition of heavy artillery and bulletproof vehicles. Each to his own, but this was a step too modern for me even if it is 500 years since the demon-led war.

As it happens, Prue runs from one danger straight into another. The ragpicker chases her in the style of an old horror movie – you know the ones where the baddie walks menacingly slowly and still manages to catch up with the victim even though they are running – but help presents itself and she gets a respite, although it ends up costing her dearly.

Back in a more classic dilemma, Panterra Qu finds himself in possession of the black staff but knows nothing of its secrets or how to use the power for himself. Adrift from best friend Prue, his only option is to head home to Glensk Wood to break the news of what has happened now the protective wards have failed. He vows to set out to find Prue and his journey begins anew, this time with the staff as his companion.

The elf princess, Phryne Amarantyne, has been accused of murder and imprisoned by her stepmother. Just when everything looks bleak, help presents itself in an unlikely shape. But Phryne finds out that her grandmother has vanished along with the Elfstones and we are plunged into Shannara’s past on a quest to fetch them back and save the valley.

Meanwhile the Seraphic, Skeal Eile, is still plotting and readily dispatches his assassin to take care of a little problem. Aislinne Kray learns of Sider Ament’s fate while she too is accused of betrayal and is imprisoned. The Troll army is still moving against the valley, Arik Siq continues the hunt for Panterra, and now the ragpicker follows in the staff bearer’s footsteps also.

As you would expect, the journeys of Panterra, Prue and Phryne collide and converge to a climax that leaves them all with the bittersweet taste of victory. Each undergoes several trials and is forced by circumstance to sacrifice something of great importance, and the decisions don’t rest easily.

Fans of Terry Brooks will enjoy this series because, as the title suggests, it is infused with details of Shannara’s legends. This is another opportunity to meet some old characters like the King of the Silver River and to reminisce as far back as the first Shannara book. It is rich with the author’s signature and delivers everything you would expect, from the pairing of characters, ancient magics, demons and race wars, to young love and the bonds of friendship.

This series is blanketed with characters and they really are the strength of Brooks’ writing. The omniscient narrative style means that we get a sense of all of the characters’ desires and intentions throughout the story, even the bad ones. This adds to the reader’s experience, making a fully rounded world that we can empathise with on a human level and it does add an extra layer of interest when one can see inside a demon’s head.

However, the end of book two did leave me feeling much of the same as I did with book one in that there were still parts of the story that I felt were unfinished – I had unanswered questions that left me confused and needing more. If this is a two-part series then perhaps I am meant to never know the answers. Or perhaps they are hidden in some more of Shannara’s legends and I will have to read back over Brooks’ career to find what I’ve missed. It certainly begs for loyalty to the Shannara histories, but the ease at which the story plays out makes up for this.

The Measure of the Magic is nonetheless classic Terry Brooks, with perhaps a hint of modernism that reflects Shannara’s growth over time, both in terms of the imagined world itself developing through its history and the writing reflecting more contemporary concerns.

Whether an established Brooks reader or a newcomer, I would recommend this series despite the drawbacks I felt with it, because it delivers what it promises – escapism through fantasy – and if that is what you are looking for you will find it here.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)
The Measure of the Magic by Terry Brooks, 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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One Comment

  1. Russell says:

    Thanks Elloise for the review. I read The Sword of Shannara in the late 70’s and loved it but didn’t follow up on Terry’s follow up novels – although The Sword… did get me hooked on fantasy. As it happens I have just reread The Sword and loved it again and have started in The Elfstones… It might be some time until I work my way through the series to Legends of Shannara.

    Russell

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