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.”
The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks
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.
It was cute when I read it in the olden days
I don’t think I knew about this one I confess
I reread Elfstones a couple of years ago, grinding my teeth the whole way through (no show visuals to make it bearable!)
It made me sad, because this was my favourite as a teen. I had terrible taste and a high threshold for monster of the week and everyday sexism, clearly 😉
Haha, same here! I really side-eye my younger self when I re-examine my former faves like this and the David Eddings books…
LikeLiked by 1 person
Oooh I’ve not dared revisit David Eddings!
LikeLiked by 1 person
For your own sanity, I advise against it! I tried a few years back and was scarred, lol. I bought the whole Elenium trilogy out of a fit of nostalgia, but the 2nd and 3rd books are destined never to be cracked open, alas!
LikeLiked by 1 person
The sexism wasn’t as bad as I’ve seen in other books, but they certainly did much better in the show — except for the attempted rape part… sigh.
I was bored when I tried to read Shannara too (glad I’m not the only one who can’t spell it) I haven’t seen the show yet because I wanted to try the book again, but maybe I won’t bother haha.
After my disastrous encounter with “The Sword of Shannara” some 35 years ago, I swore I would never touch anything Shannara-related ever again, but the recent tv show – despite some flaws – was enough to awaken my curiosity, so I tried the first book of the “genesis” trilogy. Boring indeed, and weighted down with too much info-dump and a penchant for lecturing: I’m afraid that Mr. Brook’s writing is not for me, which is a pity because the premises are more than worthy…
Anyway I will follow your progress through the series with interest: after all, you’re the one who’s doing the heavy lifting! 😀 😀
To be quite honest, I don’t think I could have handled one book, much less four, if it had not been for audiobooks. Audiobooks make things so much bearable than they should be. But I am happy to take you along on the journey with me 😀
I haven’t read anything by this author – I know I’ve bought a couple of books in the past but I’ve never felt compelled to pick them up. Not sure if that’s set to ever change.
I wish I could say “yes, yes you should read them!” but that would be mean. Go with your gut and avoid them. They are pretty dull. But the show is fun 😀
Brooks was never my favorite fantasy author (even back during my teens in the 80s), but Elfstones was my favorite. I think it was the elves more than anything though. Having read his newest Shannara series (The Defenders of Shannara), I really don’t see where Brooks writing has changed much at all, which is good or bad according to your viewpoint.