November 15, 2014

Book: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 4:57 pm

imagesThis is the first book in a trilogy which are arguably the best known books of Terry Brooks. Let us get to the story first and then my impressions later. The interesting thing is that the three stories were never written as a part of trilogy but became so later, when republished as a trilogy.

The story says that there are five races, Man being only one of these. The others are Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, and Trolls).

Flick Ohmsford is travelling. He travels to far flung communities to trade with the farmers. He meets a fearsome stranger on the way in a lonely forest and, ascertaining that he was not dangerous, accompanies him to his father’s inn. On the way, the stranger saves Flick from a dangerous overhead shadow in the sky. The mystery only deepens when they discover that the stranger is the well known wizard Allanon and he has come specifically to find Flick’s brother Shea. He learns to his consternation that his brother Shea Ohmsford is of royal Elven blood and has descended from Shannara, the great Elven king who had a sword that was invincible and which was given to him by a Master Druid during the Second War of Races (As an aside we learn that no part was played by Man in this war but Elves and Dwarves on one side vs Gnomes and Trolls on the other)

Allanon has to leave in a hurry but leaves a letter for Shea and leaves him some elfstones to guide him if there is danger. Also he asks them to flee if they see the sign of skull any time. Another stranger comes to meet them, referring Allanon, later. When they site a wolf-like human sniffing around one night (with a skull pendant) they know they have to get out and fast. They enlist the help of Prince Menion who is a friend of Shea.

I find it endearing how in a magical fantasy world everyone behaves like Westerners, drinking wine etc. It is not just a comment on this one but in general, any fantasy story written in the West, especially at earlier times. In this one, all the fantasy characters act British.

They get lost on the way to the Oaks and almost caught by the winged, wolf-faced searchers but escape. Now we learn that the wolf-like creatures can fly too. The elfstones show them the way when they are desperately lost.  They cross the dismal dying forest and get to the Mist area. Pure adventure in the style of old style, reminding one of Tolkien stories. A lot of fun to read.

They are saved from a huge mist-beast with tentacles by the stones and manage to lose Menion. When the Skull bearing searcher comes next, they are helpless but saved by a doughty and irascible wizard called Hendel.

They all meet in Anar which is under protection of Balinor and Allanon brings news of a new War of the Races. Gnomes and Giants are getting restless. The Sword was captured by the Dark Lord and they make a daring plan to retrieve it in a small party raid.

The history is interesting, in that mankind, after the scientific revolution destroyed itself but the knowledge was kept with oral tradition by survivors who became druids. The druid group that split and went into sorcery was led by a very talented wizard who went to the evil side. His name was Brona and he became the Dark Lord.

They escape a trap set by Gnomes on the way. They face the serpent-like monster, the banshees and the strange things that turn them to stones. After winning through all, Shea falls off the mountain into a river and they are forced to go without him.

The story has a kind of cute tone throughout. They face a Skull Carrier and both Allanon and the evil thing fall into fire. Flick, who stayed back from the rest to “ensure” that Allanon is OK loses his way and the others get dragged into a trap where a fake Sword of Shannara lures them into a prison atop the tower. The adventure, of course ends well.

Now, what do I think about the book? The behaviour of the crowd is a bit childish. Even when Allanon has proven his power beyond any dispute umpteen times, they keep arguing with him and saying that he is making the wrong decision. You want to shout “What does he have to do before they will start believing him? “.

Back to the story. What happened to Shea? A rock troll called Keltset and a man with a spike for one arm called Panamon Creel save Shea from Gnomes who captured and bound him. When Shea destroys a Skull Bearer, Panamon becomes his friend.

A gnome called Orl Fane who was captured at the scene of a battle of Elves vs Gnomes is let go and too late they discover they let the Sword escape from their grasp, as he had it all along in his posession. Allanon collects everyone else together and goes back to stop the army and find Shea as well as the Elven king who lost the battle. The friends are shipped off to defend the army, and just Menion, Flick and Allanon remain to search for Shea and the sword.

When they find the extent of the Gnome army massed at the borders by Brona, Shea is also sent back to warn the others. Meanwhile, Balinor finds out that his brother has usurped the throne from the father and is planning to kill him when he returns. He knowingly walks into a trap with the two elves and is imprisoned in the Dungeon. In the meanwhile, Menion Leah rescues Shirl of royal blood and saves the city from Gnome attack by transporting the entire population out by boat under cover of darkness and rain.

While Hendel goes to rescue Balinor, he seems to be trapped as well. Shea, Panamon and Keltset decide to pursue the mad and evil gnome who took away the Sword. A cute tale if you do not look for depth or thinking. This is no Game of Thrones series!

Finally Menion Leah reaches Tyris and releases Palance, brother of Balinor, from the evil clutches of his advisor Stenmin but not before  Palance is fatally wounded. The old King, Balinor’s dad was also found dead, poisoned by Stenmin.

Keltset, Panamon and Shea are all captured by Trolls, and in his trial, Keltset reveals himself to be a man of very high honour who had been awarded the Black Irix. They go into the Skull Kingdom pretending to be the Dark Lord’s trolls taking the three prisoner, and Shea gets hold of the Sword of Shannara from Orl Fane, the same troll who dodged them before, and confronts not just the Dark Lord but his true self too, which is the real power of the sword.

All ends well.

A spectacular read. I will not judge it in comparison with something like the Game of Thrones, but by itself and based on what it aims to do. If you look at it from that vantage point, this book does it very well indeed.


I would give this one a 8/10


  • – Krishna

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