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A shame this is the debut novel
on 7 August 2013
It is a shame that the start of what is in my opinion is one of the greatest fantasy series ever written begins with The Sword of Shannara.
The complaints have always been aimed at the similarities between this novel and The Lord of the Rings and it is impossible not to see those similarities. In fact in some cases there are times when it almost seems that whole chapters and scenes have been lifted from one book and put into this one. This is a shame because that is what a lot of people always think of when they hear someone talk of Shannara and they know nothing of the great works that would follow this one.
There are however good things to be said about this book beyond this major criticism. For a start, as good as Tolkein's vision was it can't be denied that as a story, the Lord of the Rings could be lacking at times. Tolkein's every sentence was a line of poetry and the detail of his books lean away from literary fiction towards the writing of some previously undiscovered text book. It is no secret that in order to make the movies the brilliant stories that they were they had to borrow heavily from the appendices. Where Terry Brooks moves ahead is that I think his writing style is better suited to a novel than Tolkein's was.
Now, before all you die hard Tolkein fan's instantly revolt against this notion think about it. Tolkein was a fantastic writer but reading the lord of the rings is hard work. It is not unenjoyable but it is an effort. Terry Brooks' writing has more pace and is much easier to read which allows you to become more engrossed in the story itself.
That being said there are a lot of signs of a debut novel in this book. There is a great deal of repetition and hammering the audience over the head with certain points. One of the major writing lessons that needed to be applied to this novel was 'Show, don't tell.' I think some careful editing and a strict diet could take two hundred pages from this book and the leaner meaner version would be something that could easily raise this story another star in the rating.
Overall I just want to say that please don't judge a whole series by the debut novel. Yes there are a great deal of similarities between this book and The Lord of the Rings but it is only in this novel. In the rest Brooks takes his original elements and expands on them to create one of the most complete and interesting fantasy series in recent times.
At the very least give the next novel, The Elfstones of Shannara, a try. It is one of the best stories, if not the best, that Mr Brooks has ever written so if you still don't like the series then, at least you will have been able to make a properly informed decision.