Title: The Sword of Shannara
Author: Terry Brooks
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: #1 in The Shannara Chronicles trilogy
Length: 726 pages
Format: Print Paperback
Acquired: V-Stock, on sale $3
First Chapter Challenge (18pgs):
The novel begins with an exceptional amount of detail, describing both the scenery and the young character, Flick. Flick is traveling back home under the moonlight after helping his community with a variety of jobs. But as he traverses through the woods, a huge, shadowed figure blocks his path.
So far, the exquisite detail and flow of the story have kept me entertained and wanting to read more. But as this next scene progresses, it seems a bit forced and unnatural to me: In the scene, the dark man calls to Flick, announcing that he is a friend, not an enemy. But as Flick hesitates, the man grabs Flick and holds him up, stating how he could kill Flick with ease at this very moment. A few lines down, the man releases Flick, stating, “Enough of this, boy!” Why would the man threaten Flick when he was attempting to gain his trust? The dark man seems even to be irritated by the wasted time. But even with this slight hiccup in the story (this scene threw me out of the book and back into real life), I continued reading, hoping that it was a strange idiosyncrasy of the dark man’s character.
As Flick grudgingly accepts the dark man’s admission of friendship and request to direct him towards food and lodging in Flick’s hometown, the two continue on the way back to Flick’s home. Almost to the town (Shady Vale), a menacing black shape flies overhead, and both men fling themselves to the ground under brush after the dark man’s powerful urgings. This is when the story begins to get interesting, and I can feel the beginnings of suspense and curiosity caressing my emotions. After the black shape veers away from their hiding spot and the town, Flick escorts his dark companion to the town’s inn, which just so happens to be Flick’s home. Long chapter short, the dark man, revealed to be named Allanon, sits down to dinner with Flick and his father, waiting for Flick’s adopted brother Shea to return to the inn. As the chapter closes and Shea joins the three men, Allanon finally divulges his reason for venturing to the town… He has been searching for Shea.
Overall, I really enjoyed this first chapter. The detail and storytelling were amazingly written, and I could picture every character (each unique) as well as their respective settings. The narration has proven to be third-person omniscient, and while I prefer the third-person limited style, Brooks seems to have complete mastery over his narration. Throughout the chapter, excepting the one scene described above, I was sufficiently compelled to continue reading and I remained immersed in the land of the story. So far so good!
TL;DR: Great first chapter, with only one minor hiccup in the form of maintaining believability. World-building and characterizations seem to be complete, with an abundance of details. Narration is third-person omniscient. Suspense and curiosity generated. End of chapter contains an excellent hook.
Final Judgment: 4.5 Stars out of 5
Wow! What a ride. The first half of this book aligns almost perfectly with the classic Lord of the Rings quest: an unlikely band of comrades (in this case two young Valemen, two princes, two elfs, and a taciturn dwarf) travels across perilous country, led by a mysterious and close-mouthed magical human–who also likes to leave them at seemingly desultory times–in order to slay the evil being attempting to destroy the world as we know it. But the second half of the novel breaks away from this tradition entirely, and it is here that things start to get interesting.
As the party is broken up for various reasons (will not spoil!), we start to get more acquainted with the characters. No longer does the narration tell us the average thoughts and feelings of the group, but instead we get to glimpse the precise thoughts of each main character. Up to now, I had felt very detached from the characters and apathetic to their cause. But with this second half, individual thoughts and feelings rose up to the surface, and I was able to relate and feel with each character.
As the timeline progresses, Brooks continues his amazing worldbuilding, creating new landscapes that are stark contrasts to the previous ones we encountered. Just as the characters revel in the majesty of their world, so too do we take a moment and enjoy the ever-changing view. With Brooks specific attention to detail, we readers do not just dip our toe into this fantasy world, but are instead thrown into the deep end, and we come up swimming. As I read through the novel, my reality ceased to exist and I was instead completely immersed in the Southland and Northland of the book.
One small issue I had with Brook’s writing, however, was that he sometimes used a little too many adjectives. Unthinkable, right? But the way that he would describe the characters, especially during pivotal scenes where I needed more motion than description, tended to break this visage of melding into the storyline. His narration and characters also seemed to over-explain the situation and their actions, rather than allowing us readers to make sense of the subtleties and find the answer ourselves. This over-explanation made the entire first half of the novel seem too easy and predictable, but fortunately, the second-half (though still had too many explanations) was much better in this aspect.
Overall, this book is a must-read. If you can get through the occasionally frustrating first half, you will be astounded by your engagement in the second. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, or to watch the TV show based off of the books! Hopefully the next novel will include more female roles (the first and only female in this book showed up 2/3rds of the way through), and perhaps go more into detail the unique aspects of the different races; and of Allanon. I want to know more!
His dark figure passed through the silent forest with the quickness of a fleeting shadow, touching the land only momentarily, then hastening on. His form seemed substanceless, passing over the lives of little beings that saw him briefly and forgot, his indelible print fixed in their uncomprehending minds.