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on 18 September 2005
Words probably can't describe my disappointment with this book. A fan of Terry Brooks now for at least 15 years, i've followed the series with great interest, fron the best (Elfstones of Shannara) to now the worst. With the Jerle Shannara series, Brooks took the series somewhere different with new ideas and concepts and although flawed in places it was a story with heart and one that i really was sad to finish.
Sadly then, a great premise (the Druid order back to it's former glory and Grianne consigned to the Abyss by infighting druids) is turned into what can only be described as the most disappointing Brooks book i've ever read (i liked book one and even held up hope after book two that book three would finish up on a high). The ending is seriously rushed (i mean it all happens in about 30 pages whereas normally Brooks would take half a book to finish up!), nothing seems to get tied up (what happened to the Straken Lord?, Weka Dart just disappears). On top of this (Allanon would turn in his grave) the druid order is a joke. I mean they capture someone they escape, they capture someone they escape... repeat until finished. The Forbidding is about as scary as Shady Vale.... Brooks only need to look at his writing in Elf Queen of Shannara (Morrowindl) to construct a claustrophobic & scary environment. I mean where are all the demons anyway - there was 1000's upon 1000's in Elfstones now there only seems to be about 20! Bizarre explanations keep the plot moving along (i won't give them away but you will find yourself saying 'why don't they just do this' 'well that kinda makes sense in an illogical roundabout kinda way' ).
This is the first time i've felt strongly enough to write a bad review as I never thought i'd hear myself having something bad to say about Brooks' writing - but I only hope that if Brooks does return to the series that he has given it a great deal of thought and his heart is truly back in it. His thoughts are obviously elsewhere.... maybe on the next word and the void trilogy.
Finally, he is of course forgiven though for writing so many great books in his time. But if you are thinking of buying this series (even if you are a Brooks fan) then i would reconsider as it puts a slight tarnish on an otherwise brilliant 25 years of Shannara.
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on 13 October 2005
And so, another Terry Brooks trilogy has come to an end. With Straken, Brooks has now ended his High Druid of Shannara series, and he does it on a pretty good note. This has certainly been his strongest series for quite a while now, but even so, the last book has some major faults that keep it from being wonderful. According to his web site, he is writing a "Pre-Shannara" trilogy next, which is supposedly about the fall of the civilization that led to the way the Four Lands are today. It seems different enough, and I hope that it stays that way, as Straken (not to mention this entire series) shows that he really needs a break from it. Maybe completely changing the focus will help.
When we last left our heroes, Grianne Ohmsford, the High Druid (or "Ard Rhys") had been captured in the Forbidding (an alternate plane where the druids had imprisoned all of the demons of the world) by a demon with ambitions beyond the Forbidding. In fact, they were plans to destroy it and unleash the imprisoned demonic hordes on Shannara itself. Grianne's rival druids had imprisoned her there, ostensibly because of her evil past, but mostly because they are hungry for the power she wields. But they don't know about the demon's plans, and they are unwittingly helping him. Meanwhile, Pen Ohmsford, Grianne's nephew, has sacrificed the woman he loves and a part of his body in order to forge the Darkwand, a way into the Forbidding so he can rescue his aunt. Pen's parents have been captured by the druids and must escape themselves, while Pen's friends fight desperately to come to his aid. But even if Pen succeeds in freeing his aunt, he finds he must still face the demon that has escaped the Forbidding, before it destroys the only thing that stands in the way of waves of demonic invaders.
I have to say that Straken was certainly more interesting than Tanequil was. While the book contains the normal brooding of all of Brooks' characters, it's not as noticeable as it usually is, making for a much more engrossing book. Brooks avoids some of the predictable pitfalls, but he falls into others. The ending is telegraphed a mile away, as Brooks just can't seem to allow a tragic ending, especially where romance is concerned. With Grianne going on and on about how much she fears using her magic after some of her encounters in the Forbidding (where she had to unleash some of the magic she used to wield when she was a villain), you know how she'll end up. Granted, I didn't realize how Brooks would tie things together, but those are just the details. The overarching plot was very obvious.
That being said, the trip was mostly interesting. There's a good deal of action, and Brooks usually excels at those scenes. Some of it is a tad unbelievable (some characters go a very long time with almost mortal injuries that never seem to end up killing them), but it's well-done for the most part. The final confrontation between Grianne and her fellow druids is actually quite good, with just the right amount of power, skill, and luck involved. Two of the more interesting secondary characters, Kermadec and his brother (both Trolls loyal to Grianne) are heavily involved, and that makes for a riveting scene. In fact, the final fifty or so pages, making up the attack on the druid castle and the ultimate battle really gripped me.
Unfortunately, the book continues on from there for a bit, and gets dull and thoroughly superfluous again. The plot that's been hiding behind everything, of the demon wanting to destroy the gate to the Forbidding, is ended almost perfunctorily, with little of interest in it. I'd almost say it was an afterthought, if the characters hadn't been talking about it for two books already. It does give us a reason why Brooks shows so much of the war between the Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes against the Federation, which seemed completely pointless throughout the last two books, but that doesn't help with the ending. Not only that, but again Brooks, who hasn't been afraid to kill characters before, thoroughly invalidates one of the more tragic and touching scenes he's written by bringing the characters back to life (oh, I'm sorry...I mean that they were never dead). I can say no more without spoilers, but you'll probably recognize it when you get there.
Up to this point, this review has been mostly a rant, and you must be thinking "four stars? How does he give it four stars?" There are some (unfortunately long) dull passages in Straken, but Brooks makes up for it by providing us with a lot of interesting characters, even if their actions don't seem to lead anywhere at times. I've always enjoyed Bed and Rue, Pen's parents, and they are on good display again here. They show determination, courage, and loyalty to each other that make them extremely interesting. They throw themselves into the action despite Bek's vow not to use his magic ever again, and Rue's horror when she discovers that Pen has magic similar to his father's is quickly set aside in order to continue the mission. Rue's love for Bek shows in how desperate she fights for what will turn out to be the rescue of a woman she has never really liked since she caused the deaths of a number of her companions all those years ago.
Add to these any number of minor characters, most of whom Brooks also characterizes very well, and you get one heck of an interesting read for the most part. The strains of the continuing Shannara saga are showing, and Brooks really needs the change that it seems is coming, because this series is running on fumes. Thankfully, some of those fumes are quite powerful in themselves, and make what should be a thoroughly pedestrian read a lot better than the sum of its parts.
David Roy
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on 19 May 2006
Personally I didn't find the book as bad as some of the other reviewers but I can understand their many criticisms. I had expected more to the conclusion of the trilogy and by the time you get halfway through you do get the sense of the story being rushed to a conclusion. Pen possesses an incredible amount of luck and his trip into the forbidding is little more than a wlak in the park with his biggest obstacle being a dragon that is drawn to the darkwand.

The ending was predictable and I doubt that I will be rereading the book again any time soon and I was disapointed in the revelation that the Forbidding was little more than a mirror image of the world in general. Like others I had expected it to be wall to wall with blood hungry demons and yet most were strangely absent as was the Demon Lord who had such high plans for Grianne. The story had a lot of potential that I feel was not developed enough and like others I agree that it is perhaps time for Terry to move away from the Shannara series and concentrate on something else.
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on 13 September 2005
Ive been a massive fan of Terry Brooks ever since i was a teenager. The man creates legendary characters who i wont forget - Allanon, Quickening, The Leah's, The Ohmsfords, Ohmsford, Cogline and many more. He has also given us majestic battles such as that of the demon attack on Arborlon, and the troll/gnome invasion of Tyrsis. However the genius seems to have lost his momentum and now would appear as though he cannot really be bothered.
In Straken, the conclusion to the High Druid of Shannara trilogy, Brooks takes you through the demonic plane of the banished ones - sealed away within the Forbidden. A world I was at first excited to be getting the chance to explore. However for a world which (in the Elfstones of Shanara) was over ran with demons, they encounter very little and cross this horrific world pretty much unscathed. As does Pen when he gains entry to the Forbidding - he pretty much walks to find his sister - albeit with a few encounters. The island of Morrowindl was more dangerous than the Forbidding and its been around since the dawn of the Faerie - spawning demon after demon. I was a little dismayed at the lack of detail put into the denizens of the forbidding. It should not have been a place for a human to walk through with any great ease.
The Straken lord too barely gets a mention and in fact plays no part of this third book. Why? His grand scheme for Grianne is foiled and he just sits on his demon buttocks and lets them go? Indeed it would see that he really does not care about his scheme - just as the author seems not to either.
The druid council has also been transformed from a powerful, noble and wise circle of powerful men into a coven old fools. Not able to agree on anything,or in fact do anything at all to help or hinder the destruction and treachery going on around it - the majestic druid order of the four lands in ages past has degenerated into shambolic dormitory for useless old men.
Why was this all done? It had taken such effort to rebuild the druid order and Brooks with one sweep of his pen, shatters it and reduces them to nothing once more. There should have been a lot more effort here.
In fact this theme runs throughout the book. Its like he is not really interested in creating anymore; just destroying things he has made in the past.
More effort should have been placed within the Forbidding - make it more into the demonic hell its always been portrayed as. Not just a walk down the park. The straken lord should have had a far more important part to play, more effort should have been placed on him trying to get Grianne back. A grand battle between the straken lord and Grianne, unleashed from her prison with the need for revenge. I mean this evil creature needed to be destroyed and an encounter with Grianne should have ensued and would have been fantastic. His forcing of Grianne to become the Ils Witch for a short period of time should have been his undoing. Her powers seemingly 100 times more powerful and evolving as a result of this should have been used to wipe the floor with the staken lord. But again it would appear Brooks could not be bothered.
More effort should also have been placed in the development of the mighty druid order. Instead of them appearing like a bunch of geriatrics. The most powerful order of the four lands would not have been swept away by the will of one rebel leader.
These flaws in the story i found to be difficult to over come. So much more could have been done in this trilogy. The legends he created before and the remarkable battles and struggles which you find throughout all the shannara novels are missing from this trilogy.
All in all - a mediocre conclusion to a mediocre trilogy.
I do hope he will be able to re-capture the Shannara essence if he choses to pursue another trilogy.
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on 31 October 2005
I was eagerly anticipating the concluding book of this trilogy. Unfortunately I was a little disappointed how quickly this book was finished. It really seemed like Terry Brooks had a deadline that was coming too soon.
Penderrin seems to have an easy way through everything once he has got his Darkwand from Tanequil and Grianne has an easy escape from the High Lord.
The best part is that of the Elves and their quest for survival.....
Its time to move on for Terry and leave the Wishsong, Druid Council and the world of Shannara good bye..
Do not get me wrong I still think Terry Brooks is one of the best!
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on 18 March 2007
This book i will agree wasnt as good as i expected. I had an imadge of the forboding being more - hostile, violent and dangerous place and i wish there was more exploration there.

I liked the war with the freeborn and the federation but I did get the feeling the ending was rushed although a little bit funny for the demon at the end.

Still I would recommend
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VINE VOICEon 19 July 2006
Straken has me undecided about it's qualities. It has all the required elements of a magical Terry Brooks read, but it does fail to entrap you in the world of Shannara. It has less of the typical intrigue and emotion and more action and pace. Is that a good thing? There's my dilemma. I love Brooks for the former, and he rarely employs the latter. So, about two thirds through, caught up in terrific pace, you'll not want it to end, pleading that there'll be another book - there seems so much to come, yet so few pages left. I feel that the final third was rushed, there was plenty of scope for more, but this isn't plotted like previous books. Brooks has found a new gusto and it's good, but not expected. So be warned - a well crafted story, but written with a different style. Well wrapped up, but the characters weren't strong enough to pull on your heartstrings as in previous Shannara books. Hopefully you'll still be caught up in a little of the magic.
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on 18 August 2014
Terry gets a lot of flak (as you can see in his other reviews), but this trilogy is actually very good. Having read all his books in succession up to the latest release over the past few months, it's easier to see the arc he's created, however in isolation I can see it can be a little frustrating. The plot-lines can be samey (as anyone familiar to his other work can attest to) but then with Terry you know what to expect and I genuinely enjoy his work.
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on 1 October 2005
As so many others have thought I do believe Straken falls short of my expectations...I love Terry Brook's Book, they are absolutely magical unfortunetly i couldn't say the same for the last book in the Shannary trilogy. The plot seems flawed as other have mentionned, the demon in the Forebodding does not seem to play a significant role. What disapointed me the most was the way Pen defeated his enemy. It did not leave me satisfied or pleased, more empty than anything else. I just couldn't get hooked to the thread of the story. Moreover the ending, though original, seems inadequate...what was the point of the Druid council then, this is the destruction of all that Brooks created. I've been reading his books since I was 13 and enjoyed them every since (bordering on obsessive) but I feel rather sad that Straken did not complete the trilogy, which started well, in a satisfying way. I really hope you have something in store for us... indeed maybe another Void triolgy ?
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on 29 April 2013
This series of book s are absolutely enthralling , the characters follow through the seies in a well thought out manner but even if you miss out on a book its is easy enough mto pick up on ht progress of the series.
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