on 1 September 2007
(This review also includes the prequel, Armageddon's Children--I read both books back to back and the story flows so well that it's hard to distinguish where one book ends and the other begins, so no spoilers for either!)
I didn't rush out to buy Armageddon's Children when it first came out for the simple reason that I wanted to wait until the entire trilogy was released. There aren't many books I will do this for, but Terry Brooks' "The Word and the Void" series is one of them.
For those of you who may not be aware yet, the "Genesis of Shannara" is a trilogy written to link two of Terry's best series together. Set after the events "Angel Fire East" and before the world of the Four Lands, Armageddon's Children and Elves of Cintra follow the journeys undertaken by two Knights of the Word in a post-apocalyptic world.
To some the premise of linking the two series together (rather than writing a straight sequel to the original Word and Void) may seem like a bit of a contradiction for an author who usually prefers to let his readers fill in the blanks.
However, any misgivings are sure to disappear just a few pages into Armageddon's Children. Any worries or disappointments at Terry's latest works like Straken are sure to fade, as it is soon delightfully obvious that he is back on top form.
Despite Brooks' entertaining Shannara and Landover series, Word and Void is where he really shines. This new series is a lot bleaker than the original trilogy, as the future foreseen in them has come to pass. Arthurian themes have diminished considerably, replaced instead with Messianic themes and references to Exodus (which were quite painful to read, I must admit)--not particularly disappointing, but not exactly subtle.
Subtlety is also lacking with just about any reference to things relating to Shannara. Small things that could easily be picked up by regular Brooks readers seemed to have been signposted in huge fluorescent letters. Don't expect Lynch-like subtlety from Elves of Cintra or Armageddon's Children.
Most of the characters aren't generally likeable, but they are interesting in their own ways. Every character has an event in their background that has shaped them dramatically, and breaks are often taken to explore relevant characters' backgrounds through passages bearing some resemblance to "dream sequences" the Knights of the Word experience.
But it's not even the characterization that places this book above par. It's the action and the tension--there's a constant "all or nothing" approach to the situations all the characters are facing. Things I've been wondering in my fanboy-like of moments are acted out; questions that have been tossed about by fans for years have been addressed and at times it feels like an adrenaline shot.
It was very hard to pinpoint exact things that made Elves of Cintra and its predecessor such a great read, but that is probably because even as a reviewer my mind was drawn away from the artifice and into the story.
on 18 October 2007
Terry Brooks strikes again.
As an eager (to say at least) reader of the former book "Armageddon Children", I could not wait to start reading the instalment of the series.
Let me start by saying that if you enjoyed the first book of the trilogy you will not be disappointed by this one, as the story continues with no solution of continuity between the two books.
What else to say? The fast-paced action, the plot twists, the great narrative style of Mr. Brooks, the focus on every single character, the thrilling setting suspended between two worlds we know are still all there.
Do I have to find a flaw? All right. I'll tell you two:
1) The last page arrives suddenly and unexpectedly, and you will find yourself very upset by reading the words "...to be continued";
2) as usually the case with Terry Brooks' books you will probably skip a few dinners and neglect some of your hobbies once you start reading ;)
on 17 September 2007
The Elves of Cintra
This is Terry Brook's latest offering, sequel to the New York Times Bestselling Armageddon's children. The story continues following the stories of Hawk and the band of street kids known as the Ghosts, the elvin boy Kirisin and the two knights of the word, Logan Tom and Angel Parez.
The story has all the trademarks that Terry Brook's fans have come to associate with him: a character driven plot, a fast pace that carries the reader along and unexpected developments that keep the reader on their toes.
As always, Terry Brooks allows the reader to engage fully and sympathise with his characters. A couple of interesting new characters are added in to the mix and the relationships and unexpected bondings grow and strengthen over the course of the book. All of Terry's novels are gripping, but this book I found literally impossible to put down once begun and am already champing at the bit for the final instalment.
The audio book is read by Phil Geganti, a narrator I had not previously heard of. He does a great job, but once again the narrator has been altered mid series. I've never seen this happen more than with Terry's novels. It's lucky that the narrators for this series were both good, but there is always the risk that the narrator for book three won't be. Why can't publishers just settle for one narrator per series and be done with it? At least listeners would know what to expect.
However, this is no reflection on Terry Brooks. As usual, The Elves Of Cintra did not disappoint, and if he continues churning out novels of the same quality, he'll be bringing enjoyment to his fans for years to come.
I was lucky enough to meet Terry Brooks recently at a book signing for The Elves of Cintra, and get my copy signed. He's a really nice guy and it was an honour to talk to him.
His latest offering is up and down - up in the first half and down in the second half. Half way into this book, I was gripped and absolutely loving it. If it had carried on that way, it would have been Brooks' best book in years. But then it began to drag. The main culprit of this is all the scenes starring Logan Tom and the street kids. They were dull and tedious, and a couple of new characters are introduced in this thread that did little for me.
The main plot follows Angel Perez and the Elves of Cintra as they attempt to find the Elfstones which are needed to protect the Ellcrys against an imminent threat. This part of the story is much more entertaining, generally, although once again towards the end it gets bogged down when Brooks introduces a new character for one chapter just to build the characters a boat.
EoC rushes to something of a predictable ending, and none of the cliffhangers are exactly amazing. But there are plenty of easter eggs and clues here about how the world of the Genesis series is going to connect with and become the Four Lands, which is very interesting. And there is some good intrigue and excitement along the way. That makes it worth reading. Unfortunately, the second half of the book is a let-down, though, and didn't match up to the page-turning quality of the first.
As always, though, it is perhaps best to judge any book once you have read all the volumes in the series to which it belongs. That means that this review isn't really valid until this time next year, but these are my initial thoughts.
Before reading this review ensure you have already read Armageddon's Children, the excellent start to this trilogy.
There's a warm glow to be had even before a single page is turned - the subtitle, 'The Genesis of Shannara' is now revealed. It's a great concept - the merging of both of Brooks' most famous fantasy worlds, revealed to us during the mystique and enthalling twists of the first book. The story in this second book continues straight from the cliffhanger ending in the previous installment. The story then continues to expand the two journeys of the Knights of the Word. One thread continues with Logan Tom and the Ghosts as they seek to be reunited with their leader Hawk. The other strand follows Angel Perez in the to Cintra, the home of the Elves. In true Brooks style there is no predicting who will join the companies, or indeed who will fall from them. There is a great deal of closure in this chapter, the finale very different from the myriad of cliffhanges that Armageddon's Children produced. That said, there is no less eagerness for the next part, the main story arc is left wide open as the twin journeys continue. The feeling of The Elves of Cintra is one of character building and plot progression. There are some great hints at old world events which later influence Shannara as we know it and there are plenty of fresh elements at work too. However, it lacks the mystery of the first part and cannot contain the endgame excitement that the final part will deliver - the hallmarks of a middle chapter. It's unpredictable and a real page-turner. Certainly a recommended read.
The second tale in Terry's new series based in the Shanarra world and continues from the first so seamlessly that it would surprise many to see it as a separate tale. Wonderfully written and demonstrates that Terry's writing really does get better with each and every tale he tells hooking you in within a few pages. To a modern reader although similar to Tolkien in a number of ways, his gift to graft and create a tale that the fans really cant put down seems to say a hell of a lot for his talent. Watch out for Terry on tour shortly in the Southern Regions of the UK. I eagerly await his next novel as I suspect some awful truths will finally be revealed and the reader will be in for one hell of a white knuckle ride. Excellent work Terry.
I'm going to start out by saying the only reason I gave this four stars instead of five is that it's a part of a larger tale rather than an entire story in its own right. On that basis reading it in isolation would make much less sense than reading it in the context of the previous book, Armageddon's Children.
As with much of Brooks' writing the reader who has kept up to date with all the books will get much more out of it than one who has not - although the trilogy does form a story in its own right the Word and Void trilogy sets the scene with some history and the early Shannara books (Sword, Elfstones, Wishsong etc) give an idea of where the story is ultimately heading.
This, the second book in the Genesis trilogy, neatly follows on from the first. All the while the story is evolving there are enough aspects left uncertain to maintain interest and, unlike some of his other work, the reader is not expected to accept inconceivably good luck time after time, nor are they presented with weak explanations that boil down to little more than "remarkably nobody was hurt".
The only real concern the book leaves me with is that the final part of the trilogy may come to a rushed conclusion. From the point at which this book closes it is hard to see how the mission can be completed within the confines of a single extra book without corners being cut quite badly. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see - despite this concern I greatly enjoyed the read, and curiously finished the book on the day it was officially released.
Following on from Armageddon's Children this, like many fantasies is a tale of travel and quests! One element of the story is set in the post apocolypse scenario, while the other is more traditional stuff with Elves and magic stones. But it does work and while not ground breaking did keep me entertained and turning the page. Yes it is predictable and you can see where it is going, but the journey is entertaining enough to forgive this and look forward to the next one in the series
The next in the prequel to the original Shannara series, this book picks up precisely where Armageddon's Children left off. To be honest, these prequels have not been gripping me as much as the original Shannara series did when they came out; so I hope that they will get better as they progress. And indeed, this one show great promise - we finally have the Elves taking a larger part in the story; and it feels, when they are involved, more like a "classic" Shannara novel, the ones I enjoyed and wanted more of. I really just find it difficult to enjoy the parts of the book which involve Logan Tom and the children. The Elves, Angel Perez, and the demons are all great and well-drawn characters; the others, not so much. It feels, in this book, like the story is actually now heading somewhere "familiar" to Shannara fans. Looking forward to the next one.
The story breaks off again in a cliffhanger, leaving us to follow the action in The Gypsy Morph, Book 3 of the Genesis of Shannara series.
on 6 February 2015
Terry Brooks will always be associated with Shannara, in the same way as David Eddings will probably never escape the lands of the Belgariad and Raymond Feist and Riftworld will always go together. All of them have branched off and written other series, but they cannot escape the stories they are best known for. However, what Brooks is trying to do with the "Genesis of Shannara Trilogy" is combine his Shannara and "Word and Void" trilogies into something that his website claims will appeal to new readers of his books, which is exactly what I am.
Starting with the second part in a trilogy is not wise, however, as "The Elves of Cintra" immediately assumes you've previously read "Armageddon's Children" and drops you straight into the action without preamble and without introducing you to any of the characters. You're supposed to know who Logan Tom is and how and why a Knight of the Word should be associating himself with a group of children known as the Ghosts.
Once things settle down, it does become a little clearer. Logan Tom has rescued a group of street kids and is determined to lead them to safety, wherever that may be. One of these street kids, Hawk, is more than he seems and he appears to have found that safety with the King of Silver River. Logan Tom, having lost Hawk, is keen to find him as well as keep the others safe.
At the same time, another Knight of the Word, Angel Perez, has been called to The Cintra, to help the elves find a magical elfstone which will keep them safe. Two of the elves, Kirisin and Erisha, have already been warned of the impending danger to The Cintra and are already trying to find the stone. Both Angel Perez and the elves are hampered in their searches by demons looking to kill them and disrupt their plans.
This is a fairly gripping story, mixing a familiar world, albeit several years in the future and having been largely destroyed and abandoned, with the traditional fantasy elements of heroes and magic and elves. The two don't quite fit together entirely comfortably, although the two story arcs are largely separate, so there is no clash of cultures. The main problem is that this book is a middle part of a trilogy and is written as such. This means that there is plenty of reference to past acts which I was not familiar with. Whilst this left me curious enough as to what had happened to want to read the first part of the trilogy, it was a distraction, as the frequency of these references made me feel like an outsider.
Whilst this book makes the past sound as if it were full of excitement, the future doesn't look so bright. The middle part of a trilogy should be taking events on from the opening part and building up to a big finish. This time, however, there doesn't appear to be any big finish. We get a vague introduction to someone who could ultimately turn out to be the bad guy, but he is given so little attention he doesn't seem threatening. The occasional foe is dispatched here, but they aren't made to feel like a build up to a major enemy, which suggests a damp squib of a final part.
That said, this book isn't entirely welcoming, either. The segments of back-story that annoyed in the first part are again present and again not entirely appropriate. There are also new characters who appear from nowhere and serve only as cannon fodder or as an obvious plot device to introduce something or someone more important. For what is actually quite a short book, it seems strange to be feeling that parts of it could be cut out, but much feels dragged out or entirely unnecessary.
It's not that it's unreadable, as Brooks writes well. I did find myself caring about the characters and feeling upset when things didn't go their way. Admittedly, this level of involvement isn't in keeping with the rest of the book, as I couldn't cheer them onto success, as it was never clear how to count success, with no real aim ever in sight. In the end, I was simply happy when someone didn't die, as it was the only clearly positive outcome. This really sums up the whole book; it is not a collection of positive things, but more an absence of negative ones.
Maybe this is why Brooks' website suggests this would be a good trilogy for new readers of his work. Long standing fans will know that he has written better than this, which he must have done to have had a career spanning three decades. Newcomers such as me won't realise this and may therefore get more enjoyment out of the writing, even if the story is a little weak. Certainly, I have found myself keen to read the previous book in the trilogy for clarification and because this books makes it sound worthwhile, but I wouldn't want to read this again and I'm not enthused by the closing part of the trilogy, as this doesn't set it up at all well.
I would only recommend a purchase if you're a completist who has followed Brooks for his full thirty year career and can't bear to let any of his work pass you by.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk