Top critical review
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Far too short and yet another copy of earlier books in the series
on 9 July 2014
From the moment the box from Amazon landed on my desk this morning my disappointment began with this book and sadly my expectations never really got any higher from that moment on.
The parcel was far smaller than I had expected considering I had ordered a hard back edition of the latest Shannarah work, so with fingers crossed I opened it hoping to find some ingenious new economical style of book that would cram a lot of words into a small number of pages. Sadly I was only part right, there was indeed only a small number of pages.
It seems that Mr Brooks' works are getting shorter and shorter with every novel and this story might just be the shortest yet coming in at a very brief 306 pages. Assuming an average of 300-350 words to a page that leaves us with a novel that is at best 107,000 words and more likely closer to the bottom end 92,000 words. With that kind of word count I wonder what there is to justify the RRP of £20 for this book as it clearly isn't quantity. Hopefully then the quality would make up for it...
Sadly this isn't the case either.
I have been of the opinion that the Shannarah series has been struggling since the Gennesis of Shannarah trilogy. Since then the stories seem to have been vague (and sometimes a little more blatant) copies of earlier novels in this great series. After the events of the very last book I was hoping that this story would really raise the bar and bring something new to this series, progress the overall story and develop the world a little bit more as the older books did with every new trilogy/sub series.
Putting aside the fact the writing was a little stilted to start with and the problem that the characters were not nearly so well rounded or instantly likeable as is usually the case with Mr Brooks' writing, initially my hopes began to raise a little at the start of this story. There are a couple of chapters right at the beginning that seem to act as a long prologue that are both the usual summation of everything that has happened in the Shannarah series before as well as serve as an introduction to the title character.
I was a little surprised when these chapters, that felt very much like the start of the stereotypical quest to save a loved one, reaches a conclusion only one or two chapters later. In fact it happened so fast it seemed a little clumsy but that could be forgiven as the direction the novel went at this point was genuinely quite new for this series.
After learning about his magic the protagonist goes to Paranor and there he finds employment in what I could only describe as an almost policing position. For a few chapters I almost felt as though this was going to turn into some kind of detective procedural based in the Shannarah world and I was excited simply because it was something new to sink my teeth into. Again it was all unfolding really quickly and the story was kind of stumbling over itself but it was a new direction and it was interesting... but not to last.
As you hit the half way point of the novel (which is only 150 pages in!!) suddenly this story falls back to old story lines.
What happens from here is pretty much the same as what you've seen before. People race around on air ships, there are a few fights, people are saved and we are left with a bit of an uncertain ending that will lead into the next book.
So, all in all this is another disappointing outing for Shannarah. The writing is not nearly to the standard it used to be, the story is similar to what has gone before and the characters are very one dimensional.
By far my biggest gripe is still the length of this book. When an author is only putting out one to two books a year and expecting their readers to pay £20+ for their works then they need to reward us with at least something we can sink our teeth into. What is worse is that probably a quarter of this book is characters explaining what just happened to other characters, or pages of self reflection where characters explain what just happened to themselves which we already know because we had just read it. At one point there were actually three full pages that was nothing more than a summation of the novel up to that point... three pages!!
A sub par effort on this one and though it pains me to say it as Shannarah has long been one of my favourite series and on my "must read on the day of release" list, this is the last of the Shannarah books that I will pay full price for a hardcover edition. From now on its back to the less expensive risk of buying paperbacks or maybe even an ebook. Why waste the money on what I have read time and again before?