Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks--New Book Now Available!

Pre-order this book now from your local
book vendor. Release Date: 07-08-14! [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     I remember during the first two weeks of school, I had headaches and, I had them often. I was being forced to think in ways I wasn't use to thinking and reading case books hour upon hour, day after day. I hung in there, though, and after a few weeks the number of headaches tapered off and, eventually, went completely away. But the reading of cases continued over the course of my law school education--I read cases morning, noon, and night and after I read the cases I analyzed them to within an inch of their life. I had to, after all, to be prepared for the questions that would inevitably follow in class the next day when the teacher would begin his "Socratic" questioning. After graduation, I couldn't even bare to look at a book--I was quite literally "burned out" on reading. To make matters worse, I had to start wearing glasses to read--yup, my vision just wasn't what it had been. Six years went by without reading anything that wasn't necessary for work, not one novel or even magazine...and this from someone who had been a voracious reader before law school.

The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara, and
The Wish Song of Shannara by Terry Brooks. These are
my copies of books one, two, and three of the original
series. You can see they look a little the worse for wear,
because of the heavy use they've gotten. I've probably
read these three books four or five times, each. [2]
     One afternoon my husband and I stopped at a local bookstore to pick up a book for him that he needed for work. We quickly found the title and picked it up, but for some reason we continued to look around the book store. We stopped in front of a section labeled, sci-fi and fantasy, where he pointed out a book that he suggested I get and read, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I told him, "no." But he persisted. I reminded him that I didn't read any books lately, let alone a fantasy or sci-fi book. You see, before law school, I had been a fan of the historical fiction and non-fiction genres.

I used to think that fantasy and sci-
fi wasn't as good as other genres.
I was a genre snob--up until I read
The Sword of Shannara. [3]
     He picked it up off the shelf and handed it to me...knowing he wasn't going to let it go, I acquiesced and he bought the book for me. Over that weekend, I read the book. That was all it took. I ran back to the book store and bought the other two books in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara, and The Wish Song of Shannara, and finished those two books off as quickly as the first. Also, I found that my snobbery at not wanting to read fantasy books evaporated into thin air. Now, I don't limit myself to any genre; I read them all. Life lesson learned--no more genre snobbery.

     I went on to read the entire set of each series relating to the Shannara Series, having fallen in love with all the characters as they came and went, and of course, the Four Lands (Shannara). Now, Terry Brooks has a new book out from the world of Shannara: The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara, Book 1. 

From The Wish-
song of Shannara:

it was carried by Rone
Leah; it was made
magical after  Rone
dipped the blade in-
to the Hadeshorn
and Allanon imbued
it with his magic. [4]
     Paxon Leah and his sister, Chrysallin, are descendents of two families important in the fight against evil in the land of Shannara, the Ohmsford's and the Leah's. The Ohmsford's lineage is one that used to pass down the magical abilities of the "Wishsong," while the Leah's used to be Kings and Queens, wealthy and powerful and guardians of a magical sword. Now, living a modest life with his mother and sister, Paxon dreams of doing something more important with his life than running a freight business and keeping his wild sister from getting into trouble, yet again.

     Paxon is propelled from his idyllic and pastoral life when his sister is kidnapped by a mysterious and sinister man named Arcannen; Paxon gives chase. In the midst of saving Chrysallin, Paxon unlocks the power of the strange black sword he wields--just what the mysterious and evil Arcannen wants him to do. The question is, "Why?" In a stroke of luck, Paxon barely escapes with his life (and Chrysallin) to return home to the Valley of Leah. Then a black-robbed Druid appears on his doorstep and Paxon must decide whether to leave all he knows behind to learn how to control the magic of the black sword and become a protector of the druids, or to stay and wait for the mysterious Arcannen to show up, possibly kill his family, and take the sword away from him. What Paxon doesn't know is that on his choice rests not only the safety of his mother, sister and himself, but also, the future of the Four Lands and the Druids ability to keep evil at bay.

Let's take a look at what I think about
The High Druid's Blade.... [5]
     (1) The High Druid's Blade is quintessential Terry Brooks. It is so much so that even if you didn't know what book you were handed, you could probably figure it out by just reading a portion of the book. That can be both good and bad. Good, in that readers who love Terry Brooks' writing will get exactly what they are looking for; it is a known entity. Bad, in that it may not be as fresh and exciting as some of his earlier works.

     (2) The High Druid's Blade is a quick read, and enjoyable. Brooks keeps the action moving throughout the story, only leaving sufficient space between the action scenes to draw a breath before moving the plot forward, again. And Brooks' writing style lends itself to a comfortable familiarity with the characters such that they feel like someone you know or should know. I don't necessarily mean that you identify with the evil characters in the book, just that you are comfortable with who they and everyone else are.

The First King of Shannara, by
Terry Brooks. [6]
     (3) The book really works as a stand alone book. Brooks fills in the reader sufficiently with the basic history that you aren't left scratching your head in perplexity. For example, Brooks tells us of the Ohmsfords and how they had the magic of "Wishsong," and the Leahs had the care of the Sword of Leah. Brooks takes the reader back only through the great grand parents (Railing Ohmsford and Mirai Leah), so as not to burden us overmuch with genealogy. He explains how the Sword of Leah came into being and who carried it, and how Druid Sleep permitted Aphenglow Elessedil, the Ard Rhys of the Druids, to stay alive so long, and how her sister, Arling, became the magical Elcrys Tree. This information is certainly sufficient for the reader to get a feeling for Shannara and the Four Lands.

     (4) In this book, a "Defender" is someone skilled in the use of sword and who accompanies one or more of the Druids to various locations while acting as a type of body guard. My favorite Defender (in the book, The First King of Shannara) was Kinson Ravenlock--I just loved him. In any event, I'm thinking that if The Defenders of Shannara are these body guards for the Druids, and there are more books coming in this "loose trilogy of stand alone novels," we will get to see more sword-play and action along the lines that Paxon experienced in this book. I would certainly like to read a couple more stories akin to this one.

The Darkling Child: The Defenders
of Shannara
 by Terry Brooks is due
to be released August 2015 (as of the
date of this blog post). [7]
     On his website (click here for link) Terry Brooks indicates that two more books are in the works for The Defenders of Shannara. Book 1, The High Druid's Blade will be released on July 15, 2014; Book 2, The Darkling Child, as of the date of this post, is scheduled for August 2015, and Book 3, Untitled Shannara Book, also, as of the date of this post, is scheduled for 2016.

     In epic fantasy, you usually get to see an ever increasing cast of characters. Along with the, sometimes, epic number of characters, we get very complex plots. One story thread, becomes two, then four, then eight, ever increasing in complexity and interest as the threads begin weaving themselves into other threads. Some threads are begun, but we don't discover how they are connected until some kind of resolution is made with another story thread. Sometimes these threads continue throughout the whole of the trilogy or set of books.

     While the High Druid's Blade is enjoyable, it isn't anywhere as complex or colored or textured as some of Brooks' other books. Typically, in a trilogy (or longer series), many story threads are interwoven from one book into the next. For example, one method Brooks uses is the family lineage and the Ard Rhys (High Druid) of Paranor. Here, in this book, we see The Ohmsfords and Leahs, their story going back to the beginning of the series in, The Sword of Shannara, where we had Shea and Flick Ohmsford and Menion Leah.

     In High Druid's Blade, a mere handful of characters fill out the roster and, it seems, the bad guys' dastardly deeds are either quickly foiled by the good guys, or they are made to pay for their greed and drive for power. I would like to have seen a few more complications for both the good guys and bad guys to handle, maybe a few more failures or defeats--really give them something almost impossible to overcome.

     And definitely, I would like to have seen the Druids more involved in the book--given something more instrumental to do or accomplish. For example, when Oost Mondara is sent to Wayford, why not have let him do battle with the evil forces and save a few people, in the process?

     Brooks really can write a great battle scene when he wants to, and it would have been a wonderful way to involve the Druids. We could get some active sword play into the story and then Brooks could have still, pretty much, wound up the closing pages the way he did.

     It is a little peculiar because this book is actually a stand alone book connected only "loosely" to two more planned books. Even as a stand alone book, the complexity and texture is a little lacking. The First King of Shannara can and does stand by itself, and it doesn't lack texture or complexity, so I think this is a fair criticism of High Druid's Blade.

     In this genre, evil and evil forces or monsters, swordplay, blood, death, and sometimes torture can be found. This is the case with this book, so, as always, I caution people who are sensitive to these kinds of scenes to consider before they read. Most of us adults who love fantasy will not have a problem with this book, so I have no qualms about recommending it to the intended audience.

4 Stars out of 5. [8]
     My rating for this enjoyable book is 4.0 stars out of 5. The good review is given for all the above-listed reasons, including my enjoyment of the story. I look forward to reading Terry Brooks's next book, The Darkling Child.  

     Thank you for joining me this week as we considered Terry Brooks's upcoming new book, The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara, again, to be released July 8, 2014. Please join me next week as we look at another new book. Until then, please pick up a book and read a little bit this week. You will, undoubtedly, be the happier for it. My love to you all.

Until next time....
"The choices we make dictate the life we lead. To thine
own self be true." --William Shakespeare [9]

...many happy pages of reading!

Don't forget to read a little this week!


[1] "High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara." amazon.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[2] "Original Shannara Trilogy...." amazon.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[3]  "Actually I'm Kind of Jealous of Tom Gauld's 'Jetpak.'" robot6.comicbookresources.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[4] "The Four Lands: The Sword of Leah." angelfire.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[5] "Smugglers' Ponderings: On Reader's Entitlement." thebooksmugglers.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[6] "The First King of Shannara." amazon.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[7] "Cover Art for The Darkling Child by Terry Brooks." aidanmoher.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[8] "asiakkaat." adensy.com. Retrieved 05-12-14.
[9] "Top 28 White Roses Pictures For Free Download." funstock.com. Retrieved 05-12-14. 
[About the Author] "Goodreads Author: Terry Brooks." Retrieved 05-12-14.

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