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The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks

The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks
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Book Name: The Scions of Shannara
Author: Terry Brooks
Publisher(s): Del Ray
Formatt: Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: February 13, 1991

We interrupt my regular schedule of reviews to bring up a matter that has caused me to give pause and reflect on things of late. This January (as in the very January we were so ensconced in when I wrote this review) marks my Silver Anniversary alive and kicking on this globe we call our home. And as I prepare to celebrate this milestone with friends, family, and a night of gaming and movies, I find myself looking back at all the people, events, and other things that have helped shape me into the person I am today…for better or worse. I would like to think that being on this site has contributed to my growth as an aspiring writer, although I still have yet to overcome the “aspire” part of that title. I’d like to celebrate the chance that this site and all of its members have given me with a series of reflective reviews on another major aspect of my development: the Shannara series.

In my very first review on Fantasy-Faction, I had already discussed in length the personal connection I have to the Shannara series and how it has been both the foundation and mainstay influence for my desire to write fantasy. While the first three novels; Sword, Elfstones and Wishsong are all considered to be part of the original trilogy (with the prequel First King rounding it out to a quadrilogy), they are all stand-alone adventures with self-contained plots, each taking place many years apart from the others. With the Heritage of Shannara series, the story was spread across four novels: Scions, Druid, Elf Queen and Talismans. Today’s review – as one might expect – is the first in the series: The Scions of Shannara.

Scions-CoverWhen the story kicks off, three hundred years have passed since the events of Wishsong, which saw Allanon sending Paranor to another dimension and then our favorite Gandalf-the-Black is killed in combat. And in this new world, there is good news and bad news to be had in the Four Lands. The good news is that the race of Man has decided to stop burying their heads in the sand, unite under a common banner of the Federation (sounds more politically friendly than Dominion of Man?), and play a more active role in events shaping the land. The bad news is that along the way to this goal, they have established a totalitarian regime, enslaved the entire Dwarven race, conquered every territory just shy of the Northlands, and as a way to maintain control, the Federation has outlawed magic and instituted a secret police known as Seekers to root out magic-users. And if you’re wondering at this point when the Elves are going to ride in and give Man the slap it needs… the Elves and all their cities vanished over a hundred years before the series. To lay even more misery, a race of mysterious creatures called Shadowen have begun corrupting the world, seeking life and magic to consume.

So nice to see how the races are doing without the Druids around.

But of course, Allanon is not going to let a minor inconvenience like being dead stand in the way of him calling forth the mightiest group of heroes to free the Four Lands from oppression, tyranny, and magic-eating zombies. And so he sends forth dreams, and the self-exiled former druid Cogline, to gather the champions they need: Harry Potter, Drizzt Do’Urden, Azoth of the Night Angel Trilogy, the Dovahkiin, and Twilight Sparkle. Oh wait…no that’s my fan fiction. What I mean to say is he calls for the latest generation of Ohmsfords to take on a series of tasks. With so much to do, Allanon sees fit to not only call on a single Ohmsford, but rather on three of them (with another just happening to follow). Each of the people called is given their own tasks; which they take in stride:

Par (and by extension Coll) Ohmsford – Tasked with reclaiming the Sword of Shannara, which has been lost to the ages following Tyrsis falling to the Federation.

Walker Boh – Ordered to bring back Paranor and reestablish the line of Druids; probably because Allanon realized that having Paranor vanish for so long and not electing a true successor when he died was probably the worst move he did.

Wren Ohmsford – Charged with finding the Elves and bringing them back to the Four Lands.

While the story follows Wren and Walker at select moments, the protagonists for Scions are Par and Coll, who are not only brothers but also rather gifted storytellers who relate the events of the first three novels for all to hear. While Coll is blessed with a great gift for narrative and is the more level-headed – making him the Flick for this pair, Par is the more impulsive version of Shea and much more willing to go do something if only because it sounds interesting. Par is also born with the power of the Wishsong, and during performances he uses his innate skill to ensnare senses and make people feel like they’re at the battles being described. While Par spends much time complaining about his power being useless when compared to other magics, he does find some use for it. During their travels, Par and Coll find and enlist of the aid of Morgan Leah; descendent of Menion and Rone Leah. Whereas Morgan initially has the same mischievous streak as Menion, this is soon overshadowed by his desire to see the Federation destroyed as we see that he pities and tries to aid the oppressed Dwarves. Another face that they stumble upon is Padishar Creel; supposed scion to the line of Panama Creel who goes so far as to even dress like his famed ancestor, to say nothing of sharing his gift for charm and lying through his teeth.

In keeping with the themes of characters who feel like refined reflections of previous characters, Wren finds herself in a predicament very much like Wil back in Elfstones; tasked with the charge of finding something that has been lost for centuries regarding his (or her) Elven heritage and allied with a Rover. Even Walker Boh, for his entire griping and foul attitude, acts very much like the Druids he so despises. To best sum up Walker Boh, all one must do is imagine someone who makes Hunter S. Thompson, J.D. Salinger, and the Gringe look like pleasant hosts who hold regular parties by comparison. Walker spends most of his page-time complaining about how the Druids have manipulated the Ohmsfords throughout history and how magic – the very magic he practices in seclusion and sought an instructor on – is a dangerous tool that no one should ever use.

In keeping with this issue, the theme of magic and its nature once more crops up. Throughout the original trilogy, magic has been described as a natural force as chaotic as fire: when controlled it can be a powerful tool that can make wonders occur, but should it become abused or if the caster loses control, then terrible things can occur. Magic is a strange relic to this world; born with the making of the earth and yet alien at the same time when one considers how long it had been since most people practiced it. It is this power that allows the Elfstones and Sword of Shannara to be weapons against the darkness; but creatures like the Skull Bearers, Demons, and now the Shadowen were the results of magic. While this would seem like a simple lesson – don’t use too much magic or delve into its secrets for too long – magic also has an addicting quality that makes people want to use it even more. For being Shannara villains, the Shadowen are on par for the course at this point. All that is known is that they are creatures of magic who inhabit the bodies of mortals and use them to seek out sources of magic. While some can look normal until the last moment, others take on the forms of grisly monsters or even zombies. To make a bad situation even worse, the Shadowen corrupt the world just by existing, and they are indestructible save for being slain by magic weapons like the Sword of Leah. The Federation serves as a new threat for the people of the Four Lands, and it was nice to see a threat that may or may not be operating with another great threat. The Federation Seeker of Rimmer Dall is another good character, but I will explore him more in later installments.

With a great cast of diverse characters set in a dark, foreboding world that evokes Terry Brooks’ style in the Word & Void series, The Scions of Shannara is a great establishing point that has plenty of things going on with the promise of even more. It has been a while since I’ve last picked up this series, and while it may not be as amazing as I used to think it was, I still enjoyed my read-through.

Here ends part one of the Heritage of Shannara reviews. Part two, The Druid of Shannara, will reveal more of former druid Cogline, the internal struggle of Walker Boh (complete with an AFI playlist), and the further troubles for the children of Shannara.

Scores

Heroes: While some may be put off with the idea that most of the characters are rehashed and refined versions of heroes from the original trilogy, this band of Ohmsfords, Leahs, Boh and Creel are a real treat to read. Except maybe for Walker. – 3/5

Villains: Between the Federation, the Shadowen, and Rimmer Dall, the cast of threats for the heroes to conquer is quite daunting. – 4/5

Plot: The Four Lands have fallen into darkness and only the Ohmsfords and company can save the day? While it may seem like once more a par for the course, the twists and turns feel more real and refined than in the other books. – 4/5

Narrative: I can’t help but feel like I’m reading another of the Word and Void novels, despite the fact they came out after this series. – 4/5

World: The Four Lands have become a much less pleasant place to live, but at least it’s begun to shake off the stigma of being a rip-off of Middle Earth. – 3/5

Magic: Magic’s evolution is the strongest aspect in the work. – 5/5

Overall: 4/5

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Rating: 10.0/10 (4 votes cast)
The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks, 10.0 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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3 Comments

  1. My goodness, I haven’t read this book in ages. I remember fragments from this series, a good one to build from. Makes me feel far too old to not remember everything, but gives me a good feeling from my youth. 4 of 5 sounds about right, from what I recall.

    I will have to curl back up with this series once more and see how it has aged. Thanks for stirring up memories!

  2. JC Benes says:

    Brings back memories!! Although not as complex as Robert Jordan’s work or Tolkien himself, still a wonderful read nonetheless. This is the book that made me want to be a writer so it holds a very special place in my heart.

  3. Jim Cormier says:

    I too have a personal connection to Brooks’s work. Though I often feel that I’ve outgrown it, it was the first fantasy series I read after reading the Lord of the Rings. While Tolkien got me into fantasy, Brooks kept me there.

    The Heritage of Shannara tetralogy was always my favorite. I think it’s where Brooks really hits his stride, pulling away from his influences and created a world in his own right. Having the first three novels to rely on as source material also helps him with his worldbuilding, and we see the characters in Scions, Druid, Elf Queen, and Talismans dealing with very real concerns about their past, their legacy, and their own influence on the world around them.

    I’d be interested to know what you think about Brooks’s more recent work as a whole — do you like that he brought the Word and Void stories into the Shannara world? Do you think that telling the story of how the Four Lands became what they are out of the ashes of our world was a good way to go? It certainly has a very different, more sci-fi feel than the epic fantasy of the original books.

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