• Page Count: 726
  • Release Date: 1977
  • My Rating: 2 stars

Long ago, wars of ancient Evil ruined the world and forced mankind to compete with many other races – gnomes, trolls, dwarfs, and elves. In peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knows little of such troubles until giant, forbidding Allanon, with strange Druidic powers, reveals a supposedly-dead Warlock Lord plots to destroy the world.

The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness is the Sword of Shannara, only usable by a true heir of Shannara. On Shea, last of the bloodline, rests the hope of all the races. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flies into the Vale to kill Shea. To save the Vale, Shea flees, drawing the Skull Bearer after him.

It’s basically The Fellowship of the Ring meets Wizard’s First Rule (except REALLY BORING).

A wise cloaked man named Gandalf Allanon shows up in a sleepy village looking for Shea, a boy who doesn’t know his true name/origins. He proceeds to “remind” the kid of his history lessons in a clunky info dump that goes on foreverrrr. Basically, the elves are doing their own thing in the west, the hobbits men are “quite content to live apart from the other races, isolated from the problems of the rest of the world,” and the Warlock Lord who lives in Skull Kingdom is real (which sounds more like a bad Disneyland ride than any Lord of Darkness should). Allanon mentions that the legend of the Sword of Shannara says that a son of the House of Shannara would come forth to take up the Sword against the Warlock Lord… and oh yeah btw Shea is actually half Elven and a son of the House of Shannara ndb.

Shea the Missing Heir is left with a note that he’s no longer safe and has to flee to Bree somewhere that involves a lot of walking. A stranger in a green cloak shows up saying he’s a friend of Allanon and everything is SO similar to the scene where Strider meets Frodo that I can’t even start on that. Anyways, Aragon Jr tells Shea that he’s being hunted and needs to travel only by day because the orc-type things are weaker in sunlight. Shea’s adopted brother Sam Flick follows him and the pair meet up with a prince so their new fellowship can trek across all sorts of thoroughly-described terrain.

Cliche fantasy moments follow, complete with the Council of Elrond, Mines of Moria, Mirror of Galadriel, valg, and names like Durin and Balinor. The Gandalf figure even falls and the fellowship thinks he’s gone/dead. There’s also a Dark Lord who “managed to unlock the secret of perpetuating his spiritual existence long after his mortal remains should have decomposed” and possessed forces between the material & spirit worlds “where he summoned the black wraiths… and waited for his time to strike back.”

Many of the story’s other concepts have been recycled through so many fantasy books that it doesn’t feel totally fair to look down on this one in particular for copying. This was published before a lot of other books… and the whole genre builds off of tropes that readers love, anyways. Maybe this just had the misfortune of being one of the books I got to last, so everything felt redundant? I’m really trying to give it a chance!

So I actually didn’t have a problem with this book being a mess of fantasy cliches. That was probably the part that entertained me the most… eventually it was just plain fun to see how many it could cram in. And I keep reading these types of books because I LIKE that general story, so it’s not like “Lord of the Rings knockoff” is always a bad thing with me. However, I can’t deny that I was realllllly unimpressed with the clumsy writing style and general execution. If I wasn’t a huge fantasy fan I probably would’ve given up after a few chapters out of sheer boredom. You could seriously skip 10 pages and not miss anything important! By the second page it’s obvious this is one of those books that spend pages establishing the individual weeds by the side of a trail…

I think I’m still going to check out the sequels, though, because something about this pulled me in enough that I finished it and was just laughing at the whole mess instead of being irritated. The Elfstone concept does have potential!! So hopefully the sequel can get some better writing and another female character besides one insignificant damsel in distress.


4 comments on “Review: The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks”

  1. I’m surprised you could finish this. I quit halfway through. There are better fantasy novels to read with my valuable time.

    • Umm I’ve only seen a few episodes of the show, but it definitely seems like it starts with the second book. I think they kind of went their own direction with it as well 🙂

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