Book Review: The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks
“For evil left to itself, Valeman, does not simply perish; it thrives. Evil contained is not evil destroyed.”
Series: The Original Shannara Trilogy #2
Original Publication Date: 1982
Author Info: terrybrooks.net
Wendy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this specifically because I wanted to compare it to the television series, The Chronicles of Shannara, which I recently watched (and which we recently discussed in the Sanctum Sanctorum). Otherwise, I really had no intention of returning to Shannara. I read LOTR 2.0 — I mean, The Sword of Shannara, and was bored. Were it not for the fact that I was actually watching paint dry at the time (repainting my kitchen) and being entertained by my co-blogger, Tiara, who had recently undertaken the same journey, I am not sure how I would have survived the trip. But what actually turned out to be a respectable show, despite being housed on MTV, was enough to inspire me to revisit this post-apocalyptic world to, well, see what new apocalypse was on the way.
This time, Shay Ohmsford’s grandson is doing Allanon’s manipulative bidding to save the world from evil. The Ellcrys, the great tree that holds back the demon hordes, is dying. To save it, its seed must be replanted by a chosen one. But conveniently, the demons have slaughtered the chosen ones–save for the young elven princess, Amberle, with whose care Allanon charges Wil Ohmsford, the current bearer of the elfstones. Can Wil and Amberle make it to Safehold and figure out what to do with the seed and the bloodfire? Will the elf army be able to hold off the demon horde until they do?
I’m not going to lie. Watching the show greatly enhanced what is otherwise an interesting, but still pretty dull journey. It’s like playing an RPG video game and slogging through all those grind-y moments with characters I just didn’t care about. Amberle and Wil are just plain dull, no matter how much life and emotion Brooks tries to infuse into them and their growing relationship with each other. Thankfully, the Rover girl Eretria adds some much needed fire to the threesome, which the show plays up for good reason. Wil and Amberle alone fizzle, but with Eretria in their midst, there’s a bit more potential which the show takes advantage of by aging up the characters and letting them have of the sex, and, more importantly, allows them to form a strong bond of friendship between the three of them.
It also helps that the show gives me lovely visuals of Allanon to work with, in the form of Manu Bennett. I was pleasantly surprised to meet the eleven prince, Ander Elessedil as well. Many characters get more face time in The Chronicles of Shannara in order to express themselves (including the bad guy, the Dagda Mor, who is little more than a named end boss in the book). I didn’t expect, when watching the show, that Ander would play such a prominent role in terms of screen time, but I am glad this focus on his character remained true to its source as Ander struggles with his potential as heir to the throne, and leader of the elven army against the demons threatening to destroy everything.
Did Brooks’ writing improve in the second book? His prose is a bit tighter, though he still relies on Allanon to divulge large chunks of backstory that are usually prefaced with the equivalent of “I bet you don’t want to know what went down before right? Well let me tell you.” Brooks’ plotting also still relies on letting his main characters plod along with their journey frequently interrupted by the monster of the week. This is, of course, what plays nicely into the hands of a television station that needs to entertain an audience on a weekly basis. I think though, I prefer his later books, the ones that actually take place prior to these events. I’ll rely on the show to take me through its interpretation of The Wishsong of Shannara in season two, but I think I will finally get back to reading The Gypsy Morph, the final book in his Genesis of Shannara series to see how this once earth comes to be–because, boring or not, I actually have come to love the world that Brooks has created here. And maybe, by the end of all this, I will finally remember how to spell
Shanarra Shannara properly.