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Reviews

Legends of Shannara

Legends of Shannara: Bearers of the Black Staff. Terry Brooks. New York: Del Rey, 2010. 448 pp., $27.00 (hardcover)

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Legends of Shannara: The Measure of the Magic. Terry Brooks. New York: Del Rey, 2011. 400 pp., $27.00 (hardcover).

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Reviewed by Daniel Baird


[This review originally appeared in Mythprint 49:4-5 (#357-358) in April-May 2012.]

Two Novels by Terry Brooks

These two books continue to tie together the modern world found in Brooks’ Word and Void series with his later (at least chronologically) Shannara fantasy world. Bearers of the Black Staff is set 500 years after events of his previous book and long after the end of the world as we know it. The magical barrier created by Hawk in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy is failing. The last remaining bearer of the black staff, Sider Ament, has to find a way to bring together once again Elves and Men to protect themselves from what lies out the barrier—evils that include all sorts of nightmarish creatures. And of course there are schemes among both Elves and Men to keep Sider Ament from fulfilling this goal.

In these new books Brooks moves away from the science and technology that dominated the Genesis of Shannara trilogy. Yet magic is still not well understood, too long forgotten by the Elves. Hence we watch the characters struggle to understand both technology and magic as they face their challenges. Joining Sider Ament in his struggle are various Elves from the city of Arborlon (which you will recognize from earlier books) and Men from the neighboring city of Glensk Wood. Elven Princess Phryne Amarantyne follows a Brooks’ standard plot: daughter does not get along with father and runs away for adventure. Helping her are the two humans Panterra Qu and Prue Liss as well as a small cast of minor characters. Add terrible trolls and a demon who hunts bearers of the black staff to the mix and you get murder, intrigue, confusion—with the stage being set for our main characters’ heroic acts.

In reading the books I found that knowledge of the earlier trilogy, Genesis of Shannara, was useful but not absolutely necessary as certain characters and events were referenced occasionally but usually explained. Compared to Brooks’ other books I found Bearers of the Black Staff plods along a bit. I was surprised to find myself halfway through the book still waiting for major events to come together. The book and the its sequel really seem to read like one book rather than 2 separate books. The Measure of Magic picks up the events immediately where Bearers of the Black Staff left them and continues to the conclusion. The ending was interesting and, although it brought events to a close, it did leave wriggle room for the author to write another book to make a trilogy without encroaching on the events from the book, First King of Shannara.

If you like your men strong and silent then you will like Sider Ament who is very much a Brooks’ stereotype familiar from his other works. Panterra Qu was well developed as a character, his female friend Prue Liss less so, but it was enjoyable to follow them into adventures. Certain deaths of characters seemed superfluous—a problem I have had with other books by the author. I confess I looked forward to reading these books because I did not like the prior trilogy: Genesis of Shannara. Although the Genesis trilogy did fulfill the role of explaining why the world as we know it—one of technology and science—came to be the world of Shannara, it was too dark and violent compared to other works by Brooks. The return to more standard fare I enjoyed and if I found some of the stereotypical characters and plot elements a bit worn there were still a few surprises along the way as well. Since these books assume you are already familiar with his fantasy world, if you are new to Terry Brooks definitely start elsewhere such as with the Sword of Shannara. If you are a die-hard fan or grew up reading Brooks like I did these two novels will provide some nice reading.


Legends of Shannara: Bearers of the Black Staff. Terry Brooks. New York: Del Rey, 2010. 448 pp., $27.00 (hardcover)

Buy Online

Legends of Shannara: The Measure of the Magic. Terry Brooks. New York: Del Rey, 2011. 400 pp., $27.00 (hardcover).

Buy Online