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3.8 out of 5 stars180
3.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 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.
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on 11 February 2007
To most people they will see resemblences to Lord of the Rings it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that.

If you can see past the theme and see what Terry Brooks has managed to do with it im sure you will enjoy it.

I will agree this isn't Terry Brooks best book but it still is an excellent read and will set you up for an amazing saga that is well worth reading up to 13 books now and i love all of them.

Terry Brooks shows a strong imagination and his story telling ability is consistantly good through out.

Give it a good go and you wont be disappointed.
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on 10 June 1999
I read this book when I was 21 and I thought it was brilliant. Okay, so it pilfers like hell from Tolkein without any of the latter's scholarly depth, but it's still a thumping good read. But it is better read before your tastes mature and your sense of literary criticism develops. Now aged 42 I am reading it aloud to my 12 year old son, and I cannot believe that I raved over this book 21 years ago. The sentences are so torturously written that if I was Terry Brooks' editor, I would have gone through the story with a blue pencil like a dose of salts! The adventure story line zings along. The characters are well drawn and likeable, but Terry Brooks writes like an amateur. The Sword of Shannara could be cut by half and the only difference would be the improvement!
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Intellectually, I should hate "The Sword of Shannara." Authors like Dennis McKiernan, Terry Goodkind and Christopher Paolini throw me into a white-hot rage.

But for some reason, I simply can't bring myself to dislike Terry Brooks and his debut novel, "The Sword of Shannara." Perhaps it's because he's worked so hard SINCE this book to create a distinct fantasy world, or perhaps it's because of the novel's wide-eyed earnestness. But as Tolkien knockoffs go, this is one of the more innocuous ones.

In a future medieval/postapocalyptic time, the mysterious druid Allanon comes to the town of Shady Vale, and warns young half-elven Shea Ohmsford that Sauron... I mean, the Warlock Lord will soon be trying to find him. Shea is the last descendent of Jerle Shannara, and as such is the only person in the whole world who can use the Sword of Shannara. He also gives Shea some magic Elfstones.

Faster than you can say "Shire... Baggins," minions of evil arrive at Shady Vale. Shea and his adoptive brother Flick escape their town, and meet up with Shea's friend Menion and a little gang of the expected tropes (a prince, a dwarf, and two elves). Now they must save a kingdom, wage war against the Warlock Lord, and recover the Sword before it's too late.

"The Sword of Shannara" is pretty shameless in knocking off "Lord of the Rings" -- the basic plot, the giant mutant robot spider, the characters, even the "death" of the wizardly mentor all reek of J.R.R. Tolkien. It reads like the first fantasy that a 15-year-old Tolkien fanboy would write while he's still working out the kinks of how to actually make a story.

And yet... it isn't that bad.

There's something very simple and earnest about the book. Part of this is because of Terry Brooks' prose, which is solid and unpretentious -- lots of strong descriptions, decent enough dialogue, and a genuine sense of atmosphere in scenes like the Skull Bearer's arrival in Shady Vale (if you can stop quoting lines from "Lord of the Rings").

Similarly, the characters are totally derivative -- Shea is Frodo, Allanon is Gandalf, Flick is Sam, Menion is Merry and Pippin, Balinor is Aragorn and Boromir, Hendel is Gimli, Dayel and Durin are Legolas, and so on. But honestly, they have the same earnest, pleasant-but-not original quality as Brooks' writing style, making them likeable even though they're wholly unoriginal.

"The Sword of Shannara" isn't very good, but it isn't horrible (especially as Tolkien knockoffs go). But it's a decent fluff read, and Brooks spent a lot of effort making his later books much more original.
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on 3 October 2008
I have to confess I read this book when I was twelve and up to that point it was the best book I'd ever read. I managed it in less than a week and was gripped by it from start to finish. The sequels were okay but this one was definitely the best.
However, upon just looking up the book on amazon I can see that a lot of other reviewers are pointing out that it's a LOTR rip off. Well, I guess they're probably right, but I hadn't read LOTR when I stumbled across The Sword of Shannara and therefore I enjoyed the book without making the comparisons. And in reality most books are copying some sort of formula. Let's face it 90% of crime thrillers involve a dead body at the start and then a detective / investigator tracking down the killer for the rest of the book. It's therefore inevitable that most fantasy books have dwarves, elves etc all hunting for some magical item that mustn't fall in to the hands of evil. So if you like fantasy there is no reason why you shouldn't like this book. It is formulaic but it's well written and I found it very entertaining.
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on 16 August 1999
I thought that Sword was a pretty good book and I won't compare it to LOTR because it's been so long since I've read it. However, the following book, the Elfstones is much better, and the third book as well, the Wishsong. My main complaint: the characters weren't developed to the point where you wanted to read more about them.
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on 26 June 2016
I am a big fan of fantasy but had somehow managed to never read any Terry Brooks. I recently watched the Shannara chronicles on tv and really enjoyed it. Working on the premise the books are usually better than their screen adaptations due to there being so much detail and quite often more story in the books I decided to give the series ago. The tv series was based on the elfstones of Shannara book 2 of the chronicles. I however wanted to start at the beginning of the series. I am so glad I did. This is a rich and full bodied epic fantasy. I was really impressed with the story telling, character development and detail. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series. I think I have been introduced to an author and series of books which is going to happily occupy my time for the foreseeable future.
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on 30 June 2016
I don't normally write reviews but I thought this book was so bad I had to. I am an avid fantasy reader and have been looking forward to reading the Terry Brooks series for some time... However reading this first installment I was utterly uninspired. There is absolutely no character development and found myself not caring if the main characters live or die - even though it was abundantly clear that they would. I found it written in the same sort of style my 8 year old writes... This happened, then this and now this... just too fast and not building up the world you're reading about. There are some seriously good series out there now, it would be my sincere recommendation to to try some of them and leave this well alone
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on 23 June 2016
A long time ago, my brother introduced me to a whole new world of intrigue and wonder by gifting me The Sword of Shannara - the first of the chronicles... It has been an incredible love affair ever since. I'm now twice the age I was at that first introduction and Mr Brooks storytelling power defies aging. The characters, lands, plots and intrigues are as fresh today as they were, the first time I read them. I won't spoil the story by revealing details here but would encourage any potential reader to suspend any preconceptions, read with an open mind and as much magic and imagination as you can muster, then you surely won't be disappointed.
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on 9 March 2016
One of the best things since Lord of the Rings. Terry Brooks is a fantastic author and you should really read the whole series.
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