Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Darkling Child: Defenders of Shannara, Released by Shannara Series Author, Terry Brooks! New Book Available!

Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     I have looked forward to reading Terry Brooks,' second book of the Defenders of Shannara trilogy, The Darkling Child. The trilogy books, while they are considered to be stand alone books, nonetheless, are very closely connected with each other. They are connected, not through the use of a storyline, but through the exploits of a particular character, Arcanan, The Sorcerer.

     "A sorcerer, you say?" "Yes." And not only that, but Arcanan is the main character of the book and appears in each book of the trilogy. Arcanan, The Sorcerer, is the antagonist. Wow! While it is not unheard of, it is a bit unusual. But, that is exactly what Terry Brooks was going for!

    While making an appearance in Montreal to promote the first book of the Defenders series, The High Druid's Blade, Brooks shared with the audience the news that Arcanan, the Sorcerer, would make his appearance known in all three of the series' books. Brooks punctuated those comments by saying of Arcanan, "He is big trouble." [2] 

The trilogy is really just "one long story about
what happens to Arcanan." Importantly, these
books about Arcanan, are the perfect setup for
the last trilogy of the entire Shannara Saga[2]
     Brooks further explained that the trilogy was set, chronologically, sometime after the Dark Legacy of Shannara [1. Wards of Faerie (2012); 2. Bloodfire Que- st (2013); and 3. Witch Wraith (2013)]. Of the Defenders of Shannara series, Brooks said that the Defenders series is a "pre-conclusion trilogy." That is, since he intends to end The Shannara Saga, Brooks chose to make The Defenders Trilogy the last trilogy before he releases the final three books that will decisively end the sojourn. [2]


     Paxon Leah, the High Druid's Blade, is sent on a mission with Druid Avelene to find the source of the wishsong magic, detected through the scrying waters in the towers of the Druid stronghold of Paranor. Paxon and Druid Avelene travel towards the Village of Portlow to find whoever is wielding the wishsong magic, to ensure it is not being wielded by the wrong person.

This is my very well-used paperback of
Terry Brooks,' 
The Wishsong of  Shannara.
The story 
introduced the magic of the wish-
song into the land of 
Shannara and for-
ever changed the face of fantasy 
The Wishsong of Shannara is the 3rd
 book in the 
original Shannara Series. [3]
     Meanwhile, in Portlow, Reyn Frosch, makes his living by being a traveling minstrel. The popular singer is so very popular because he possesses the magic and the curse of the wishsong. Unfortunately, his popularity and abilities with the wishsong, have drawn the attention of the powerful, dark sorcerer, Arcanan. It seems Arcanan wants to make use of the young man's magic to exact vengeance on the sorcerer's enemies. 

     Arcanan wished vengeance on the Federation's elite fighting force on the warship, The Red Slash, commanded by Dallen Usurient. Going beyond his orders, Usurient ordered the destruction of the City of Arbrox; it wasn't long, and the city was no more. Every man, woman, and child died in a bloodbath designed by Usurient to kill the Sorcerer. Arcanan.   

     Will Paxon and Druid Avelina be able to rescue the boy, Reyn, from the clutches of Arcanan? And will they be able to sort through all the politics sufficiently to be able to know who to trust? In the faceoff that is coming, who will survive? And just who exactly will show up for the faceoff in this dangerous game of "Tag, you're Dead"?

     The main character is the antagonist? Really? Actually,  some of our most interesting characters in literature have held that position. Take for example, Amadeus, the main character is Salieri, an an- tagonist, and Mozart is the protagonist.

    Brooks' selection of Arcanan, The Sorcerer, as the main character for the book is at once delicious and juicy and provocative. Most every- one knows that the usual choice for the main character is the protagonist. 

     We also know from Brooks' Montreal appearance late last year, that he intended to stretch his writing muscles and give himself flexibility and interest in doing something a little different than he had been doing with the other Shannara books. So, Brooks wanted to do something different, but why this particular choice?

     Janice Hardy of Janice Hardy's Fiction University, tells us that a great antagonist is more than "just a cardboard cutout[] of [an] "evil" pe[rson]." Hardy makes the argument that we might even like that dastardly antagonist. To help us understand what makes a truly great antagonist, she gives us ten traits of a strong antagonist[4]

  • The strong antagonist will try to accomplish something. In The Darkling Child, Arcanan wants to control Reyn and his wishsong; his real endgame, though, is to take over Paranor and mold the Druid order to his desires.
  • The strong antagonist is acting on personal desires. Arcanan is described as having a cold, flinty gaze; but when it comes to his burning desire to kill the commander and crew of The Red Slash, he is motivated by vengeance. . . "for Arbrox and her people." We are privy to his passion for the people--to vindicate them and himself.
  • A strong antagonist is highly motivated to act. Arcanan's acting on his personal desires also serves to show just how highly motivated he was to act. We also get to see in the novel, Arcanan's extreme patience and planning (years) to achieve his goals.


  • A strong antagonist is trying to avoid something. Avoiding the Federation is, for Arcanan, avoiding death. Avoiding the druid order is avoiding, possibly, death; at the very least imprisonment and the withholding of his magical powers.
  • A strong antagonist is trying to gain something. Arcanan believes if he has control of the druid order and Paranor, he will execute better control over the magic in the land. He believes his control is the right one. Also, another gain Arcanan looks for is, in his eyes, "retribution" for wrongs done against an innocent and helpless people.
  • A strong antagonist is willing to adapt. Arcanan adapts many of his plans as he goes through the story; the most sensational one, however, is his taking on a person as a student when that was not what he wanted. He bargained, and changed his plans--adapting to the situation.
  • A compelling antagonist. [7]
  • strong antagonist is compelling in some way. Arcanan is strong, not only in his determination to accomplish his goals; we've seen many people with these attributes. Arcanan saves Reyn from the thugs, but he is gentle with him and makes sure he is warm and rests. We see him continue to learn as he reads and studies his books. We even cheer him as he defeats the Federation elite troops--another rather evil group of men who murdered in the most bloody and heinous way, men, women and children.
  • A strong antagonist is flawed in relatable ways. This is one of the more amusing human failings Arcanan reveals: after he left the Village of Portlow on business, he spoke with another character and mused that he had not even gotten "the boy's name"  before leaving Portlow. Another time, Arcanan chastises Reyn and Lariana for talking--and interrupting his concentration over his reading.

  • A strong antagonist is hiding things. Oh, my gosh. Looking in the dictionary, I could almost believe that the definition of secretive is, "Arcanan." He withholds all manner of information from Reyn and even Lariana. Arcanan hides the fact that he has special wards up to guard against intrusion by the Federation--he hides this from everyone. 
  • A strong antagonist is in the path of the protagonist's goal. Early on in the book, Paxon Leah and Druid Avelene go searching for the source of the wishsong. Upon arriving at Portlow, they briefly encounter the boy, Reyn, and lose him. Arcanan foils the plans of the protagonist by making off with the prize. Later, he again foils their plans when he allows the Federation to close in around him (Can you say, "Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly"?); yet, another delay for the protagonist to confront Arcanan (not now, but eventually, the antagonist and protagonist do battle). [4]

According to Shell Harris of TopTenz,
Wolverine is #8 on the "Top Ten Comic
Book Anti-Heroes (Marvel & DC)."[9]
     The ANTIHERO, on the other hand, is simpler to describe. 
  • The antihero takes part in criminal conduct to be able to do his or her heroic duties;
  • The antihero can be a villain recast as a hero;
  • The antihero generally suffers from a struggle with the moral ambiguity of his or her actions;
  • The reading audience can identify with an antihero because of his or her struggles;
  • The antihero generally experiences some event that is similar to the "turning point" for the ordinary hero. It can be because he/she uses death as a motivation to force the antihero to use violence (or threaten with financial ruin). [10]
     In Terry Brooks' The Darkling Child, the clear choice for antihero would be Reyn. He does take part in criminal conduct and from the beginning struggles with the weight of using the wishsong improperly. We tend to feel sorry for Reyn because he is forced into a situation he cannot seem to escape. And, Reyn does have that "turning point," but I won't say what that turning point is, here. I don't want to spoil that for you. The conclusion seems to be that Arcanan is not the antihero, but the antagonist.

     I really love how Brooks places the antagonist and the anti hero so close in proximity. Equally as delightful is how well Brooks makes it work that the antagonist's interference, thwarts the plans of the druid order (namely, Paxon and Avelene). I find that Terry Brooks' choice of antagonist to be the most  interesting choice he made in setting up his characters and novel.

     Brooks spins a great yarn in this book; indeed, it is so throughout the entire Shannara Saga. I know this because I have read every book (many of them multiple times). But, everyone writes about Brooks' winning writing style and character development. While those things are true of Brooks' writing, with this novel, I love getting to explore a little examined topic. 

Since the cover for The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Defenders of
Shannara, Book 3
, has not, yet, been released, I give you this
graphic of the Disney version of The Sorcerer's Apprentice.[12]
     Today, by examining the choices made for these char- acters and their place in the Shannara world, you get to see just exactly, how very talented and skilled Terry Brooks really is. I won't hide the fact that I love all of Brooks' works, their com- plexity and interest, char- acter development (many of his characters are oh, so memorable), and the easy and readable style of writing that he has used in this, and other, books. But even more, I love his unusual choice for this book in making the main character, Arcanan, The Sorcerer. I can hardly wait for next year to read part three of The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Defenders of Shannara, Book 3, and see if that book has any surprise elements in it for us. (Currently Scheduled Release Date: July 2016).

Doesn't this cup of tea look beau-
tiful? The color is just amazing.
Writing about having a cup of tea
with you, I went and brewed a pot
and poured myself a tall cup of
India's Assam Black Tea. It is so
smooth and wonderful! I'm back to
finish writing my blog post, now...
and sip my tea while I continue.
     If we were sitting together, enjoying a nice cup of tea or a cold drink, now that summer is upon us, I could blather on about innumerable things that bring joy to me from my reading experience with Terry Brooks' novels. Just think, we haven't even touched topics like his world building, suspense and tension building, why writing a great conclusion is so important (Brooks does), and how his bridge book (that is, the middle book of a trilogy) isn't flat or staid; indeed, this book was more exciting and had more of a "page turning" quality than did The High Druid's Blade: Defenders of Shannara, Book 1. So, yes, I can't wait for Book 3--it's a whole year from now!

     Terry Brooks' book, The Darkling Child: Defenders of Shannara, captured me from the very first page. Self-defense, murder, a manic chase scene filled with anxiety, and tension, made me breathlessness as I turned the pages. What will happen to the boy with magic in him, the magic of the "wishsong"? Brooks put the boy's magic on the page and it entranced me and held me captive until the very end. 


Five notes, instead of stars, for
Terry Brooks' novel, The Darkling
Child: Defenders of Shannara. 
  Given all the reasons stated, above, I am very pleased to award a five star rating, out of five (OK. Musical notes instead of stars in honor of "the wishsong.") to Terry Brooks,' The Darkling Child: Defenders of Shannara, Book 2. I loved this book and know you will love it, too. Read Brooks' novel, and let its magic fill your mind and will long for book three, as much as I.

     Thank you for joining me, today, as we had the pleasure and privilege to look at an exciting new book coming out next week. I am pre-ordering my physical copy to join my other Terry Brooks' novels on my bookshelf. Good reading, people! Please join me again, next time, as we leave the world of fantasy and take up a nonfiction book. Have I piqued your interest? I hope so, it looks to be a fun romp in the pages of nonfiction.

     It is about two minutes after the 147th Running of the Belmont Stakes and I just watched American Pharoah win the race and the triple crown. Congratulations to the owners, trainers, New York and all racing fans, and to all involved with American Pharoah's running and winning. I am so happy for you all. What an exciting race!


Until next time...
This is a white Rose of Sharon with red center. [*]

...many happy pages of reading!

Be kind to one another,
you never know what sorrows or troubles
are in another's heart.

My love to you all...


[1] "The Darkling Child: Defenders of Shannara." [Terry Brooks] Retrieved 06-02-15.
[2] "Terry Brooks on the End of the Shannara Saga." [Jules-Pierre Malartre; 12-12-13] Retrieved 06-04-15.
[3] "Synopsis." Retrieved 06-05-15.
[4] "10 Traits of a Strong Antagonist." Retrieved 06-05-15.
[5] "Antagonist." [graphic image] Retrieved 06-05-15.
[*] "Netgalley." Retrieved 06-05-14.
[6] "Project Team Member Combinations to Avoid." [graphic] Retrieved 06-05-15.
[7] "Script Notes: Major Character Types - 'Antagonist.'" [Michael Tabb; 02-13-15] Retrieved 06-05-15.
[8] "Breaking: AK Lawmaker - No Room for Transparency." [Shannyn Moore, 02-18-13] Retrieved 06-05-15.
[9] "Top 10 Comic Book Anti-Heroes (Marvel & DC)." [shell harris, 05-11-10] Retrieved 05-05-15.
[10] "The Antihero." [jacob baggett] Retrieved 05-05-15.
[11] "Turning Point." [graphic] Retrieved 05-05-15.
[12] "Mickey-fantasia.jpg." Retrieved 06-06-15.
[13] "Colorful Music." Retrieved 06-06-15.
[14] "2015 Belmont Stakes Logo." Retrieved 06-06-15.
[15] "White Rose of Sharon Gifts." Retrieved 06-02-15.