Thousands of years after the destruction of the age of man and science, new races and magic now rule the world, but an imminent danger threatens. A horde of evil Demons is beginning to escape and bring death upon the land. Only Wil Ohmsford, the last of the Shannara bloodline, has the power to guard the Elven Princess Amberle on a perilous quest to save the world, while the leader of the Demon force aims to stop their mission at any cost.
Series: The Shannara Chronicles (Book 2)
Genre: MG Fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey (October 10, 2000)
Page Count: 576 pages
The Plot: The plot is very basic fantasy. Chosen one has to go find thing to save the world from bad things. Honestly, this nearly 600-page book could probably be 200 pages shorter because a lot of the book is rambling for pages long about world-history, back story, long battle plans, character description, every single freaking detail of traveling, and generally lots of telling--which I skipped (and normally I never skip in books) because some character was bound to repeat all of that information in a consolidated form shortly after. So I feel like I've heard the same information at least four times. Basically, the pacing was really really bad because of excess information and description. I ended up reading mostly the dialogue because I was getting bored.
The Setting: This world had so much potential to be super cool, but again squandered, because this is supposed to be set on earth, but way in the future, saying that elves have been around throughout earth's history but invisible. But nothing was ever done with this cool concept. This story could have been set in its own world and there wouldn't have been a difference.
Epic Things: The most interesting groups of people were the Rovers and the Wingriders. Besides the fact that the Rovers are misogynists, I like having gypsies in a fantasy world. I also like seeing Rocs in a fantasy novel cause they're really neat. I liked the enchanted minions made of sticks. That was kinda neat. I also liked when the Elcrys gave Allanon one of her branches as a staff.
The Theme: I don’t really know.
Content Cautions: There is some violence since we're dealing with demons and battles here such as a massacre where people are mentioned to have been torn apart, someone is found with a broken neck, a cloak covered in blood, general battle violence that I don't know the details of because I skipped most of it cause I was bored, there's a bloody battle between an elf and a demon, mangled corpses are mentioned, a surprising amount of named characters die mostly off-screen, and general battle violence. I don't remember all of it since I skipped around so much. Also Wil gets a little drunk.
What We Can Take Away For Our Writing:
1.) Just refer to characters by name - Throughout the book, Wil and Amberle are frequently referenced to as the Valeman and the Elven Girl respectfully. Though the book is written in omniscient, this especially depersonalized them. It’s like there’s a million Elven Girls but only one Amberle. Call her what makes her stand out.
How this can be applied to writing: This sort of writing style is often used so it doesn’t feel repetitive, but honestly it’s not needed most of the time. Calling a character by an alternative name is fine but make it more natural such as “her friend,” “my sister,” or “the doctor.” The reader wants to feel close to the characters.
2.) Main Character Coming in Late - At first I was really confused about who the main character was because according to the back of the book it’s Wil, but he doesn’t come in until page 61.
How this can be applied to writing: It’s possible pull off a short prologue with a character who isn’t main character but rule of thumb you want to start your book with the main character. It’s less confusing and you want your reader to bond with them as soon as possible.
3.) Be So Careful with Good Coincidences - Wil and Amberle were time and time again saved by coincidences. There happens to be a boy flying on a giant eagle whom they never heard of before but who is willing to help them. There happens to be a cursed elf who’s willing to help them escape from a witch. Or the worst offender, when Wil and co were escaping from a witch’s castle, the witches twin sister happens to show up and they get into a cat fight and kill each other. .... WHAT!?
4.) Be Careful with the Time Between POV Switches - Most of the book is in Wil’s POV, but among other POVs it goes into this elf prince’s. It actually goes into the prince’s before Wil’s. Well Wil is in a tense situation and then the book switches to the prince’s POV for chapters upon chapters of him going through this battle and it’s the most boring battle ever. And I’m just like I don’t CARE!
How this can be applied to writing: Multiple POVs are difficult. One of those challenges is making sure characters have just the right amount of page time. But it’s never good to have one character have chapters of page time when another character is an equal amount of peril and frankly their story is more interesting. Readers get bored.
5.) Even Action Sequences Can Be Boring - Going back to the Prince’s might battles with the demons. Honestly they were the most boring battle scenes I’ve ever read. I got all of these pages of detail about battle strategy and it was like I was watching it all from a helicopter with the occasional splash of blood. I didn’t feel in the scene. I felt like a spectator and that’s just not what I want as a reader in a book.
How this can be applied to writing: Readers pick up books to really immerse themselves into a story. You want them to feel something with all five senses. Sometimes you don’t want to do that all the time but I’ve written extensively about that. Anyway, you can also go the opposite direction and make the reader feel far too distant. When writing scenes especially intense ones make sure to make your reader feel like they are there.
Conclusion: I hate bashing a book so bad especially one that’s revered, but there was just so little I liked about it that it shocked me a little bit. This book gets the lowest score I’ve given out in a while.
Terry Brooks is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including the Genesis of Shannara novels Armageddon's Children and The Elves of Cintra; The Sword of Shannara; the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy: Ilse Witch, Antrax, and Morgawr; the High Druid of Shannara trilogy: Jarka Ruus, Tanequil, and Straken; the nonfiction book Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life; and the novel based upon the screenplay and story by George Lucas, Star Wars(R): Episode I The Phantom Menace. His novels Running with the Demon and A Knight of the Word were selected by the Rocky Mountain News as two of the best science fiction/fantasy novels of the twentieth century. The author was a practicing attorney for many years but now writes full-time. He lives with his wife, Judine, in the Pacific Northwest.