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Friday, August 24, 2007

"The Elves of Cintra" by Terry Brooks

Official Terry Brooks Website
Order “The Elves of CintraHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Click HERE To Watch an Interview with Terry Brooks

Growing up, my love for fantasy literature can be largely attributed to a select few authors including J.R.R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, Robert Jordan and the subject of this review, Terry Brooks. Ever since the original Shannara trilogy, I’ve been a Terry Brooks addict and over the years, the author has continued to impress me with his numerous Shannara sequels, the Magic Kingdom of Landover series which is a personal favorite, and the excellent urban fantasy trilogy the Word and the Void. Last year, Mr. Brooks took readers by surprise with “Armageddon’s Children”, which was set in a post-apocalyptic Earth where the author’s worlds of Shannara and the Word and the Void collided with one another, laying the groundwork for the Genesis of Shannara series, which revolves around a gypsy morph whose purpose is to save the human race by leading the people of the Word to the Promised Land, a haven that will shelter them until the outside madness & destruction are complete and the world has had time to heal itself…

Immediately picking up after the cliffhanger events at the end of “Armageddon’s Children”, “The Elves of Cintra” continues the storylines that were established in the previous book including the fate of Hawk & Tessa, Logan Tom leading the Ghosts away from the city of Seattle, and Angel Perez and the tatterdemalion Ailie reaching the haven of the Elves and joining forces with Kirisin who is in search of the Loden Elftsone that will save the Ellcrys, and in turn, the Elves. Among the various subplots in play, there’s a demon disguised as a prominent elf, a rogue Knight of the Word, a scene that satisfyingly ties in with The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy, and a final showdown between Angel & the demon Delloreen, not to mention familiar themes of destiny, regret, family, forgiveness, responsibility, survival and growing up. Overall, the story in “The Elves of Cintra” is vintage Terry Brooks—fast pacing, multiple viewpoints, short chapters, mini-cliffhangers, succinct length (384 pages), et cetera—and is a worthy follow-up to “Armageddon’s Children”. To be honest though, I didn’t think it was quite as strong as its predecessor. Obviously Elves play a much more prominent role in the story this time around, and as fascinating as it is to see the worlds of the Word/Void and Shannara crossing over, I have to admit that the whole concept of Elfstones, Ellcrys and so forth, seems a little played out. I guess that’s why I enjoyed the parts that featured Logan and the Ghosts so much more, because they offered something different from what you might normally see in a Terry Brooks adventure. The only other problem I had was with the ending. If you’ve been reading the author’s books for a while now, then you know that cliffhangers are a major part of his repertoire, and since “The Elves of the Cintra” is the middle volume in a trilogy sequence, I was expecting quite a humdinger. Instead, Mr. Brooks does a good job of wrapping up events in a bearable manner for those who hate wait to between releases, but I thought the finale was disappointingly anticlimactic. Of course, that’s not going to stop me from looking forward to the next book in the series :D

Moving on, like any Terry Brooks novel, “The Elves of Cintra” features a large cast of characters, comprised of a mix of young heroes/heroines, experienced veterans, enigmatic mystics, nasty villains, and an animal or two ;) For me, this kind of format has its advantages and disadvantages. From one perspective, the many different voices offer great diversity and help the story to move along at a fast clip. On the other hand, in-depth character analysis can be a bit lacking, but fortunately Mr. Brooks handles this problem area better than most. Looking at “The Elves of Cintra” specifically, the biggest issue I had was that some of the characters seemed too much like previous Terry Brooks characters. For instance, Logan could be John Ross reincarnated, Angel is indistinguishable, Hawk is the prototypical boy ‘destined for greatness’, and Kirisin, Simralin, et cetera, are just like any other elves that the author has already written. Thankfully you have the Ghosts, a group of street kids who each have their own distinctive personality & talent and work well together as a family. They’re easily my favorites in the book and it was particularly nice to get to know more about Fixit, Bear and Candle. Unfortunately, some of the characters from the first book that I enjoyed reading about—Hawk, Tessa, Findo Gask—are not as prominent in “The Elves of Cintra”. The villains in particular have been a bit disappointing, especially compared to some of the more memorable ones Mr. Brooks has come up with in the past, but I’m hoping that will be remedied in book three. Another issue I had was with the character deaths. Because of the large cast, it’s sometimes difficult to connect with everyone in the book, especially the minor role players, and a couple of the casualties in “The Elves of Cintra” lacked any real emotional impact and seemed more like plot devices than something I should care about. Finally, of the new characters introduced, Catalya is by far the most intriguing and I definitely look forward to reading more about her. As a whole, the characterization in “The Elves of Cintra” is solid as usual, but I have seen better from Mr. Brooks.

As someone who has read and enjoyed the Shannara books and the Word and the Void trilogy, the Genesis of Shannara series has been a particularly fun and rewarding experience. In fact, I think anyone who calls themselves a fan of Mr. Brooks would be hard-pressed not to enjoy the new trilogy. For readers new to Terry Brooks, I think the Genesis of Shannara would be accessible to you since it’s basically serving as the ultimate prequel to the Shannara series. Sure, you might miss out on a few references to the Word and the VoidJohn Ross, Nest Freemark, Two Bears, feeders, the Lady, Hopewell—and the ShannaraKing of the Silver River, Elves/Faerie, Ellcrys, Blue Elfstones, the Forbidding, Arborlon, the Elven Home Guard, shades, et cetera—but as a series, the books stand well on their own. In the end, even though I felt “The Elves of Cintra” was not as strong as “Armageddon’s Children”, the trilogy as a whole is shaping up to be one of the author’s most accomplished works and I can’t wait to see how it ends and what the author has in store for his readers following the Genesis of Shannara. What impresses me the most about the trilogy is that even after thirty years of writing, Terry Brooks is still producing high-quality fantasy at a prodigious rate, and in fact, has gotten even better. So thank you Mr. Brooks for all of the wonderful books that you’ve given us and may your career continue to be a long and successful one…

FYI: While waiting for the concluding volume to the Genesis of Shannara trilogy, readers can look forward to the "Dark Wraith of Shannara", an original graphic novel being published by Del Rey. The story, which takes place a few years after the events of “The Wishsong of Shannara” and stars siblings Jair & Brin Ohmsford, the young girl Kimber Boh, Cogline the Druid, and the Croton Witch, was created by Terry Brooks with Robert Place Napton (Saint Angel, Deity, Battlestar Galactica) writing and Edwin David (Battle of the Planets, ShadowChasers) drawing. The graphic novel is set for a March 25, 2008 release date and you can preorder it HERE.


Aidan Moher said...

I just wanted to let you know that that I included your review, among others, in a list of The Elves of Cintra on the new and improved News Blog on the official Terry Brooks web site! Hopefully that will send some more casual traffic over to your blog!

You can find it HERE!

A Dribble of Ink

Robert said...

Aidan, thanks for the heads up and for the linkage! I didn't realize you posted on Terry's website. Very cool :D Traffic has been about normal, but I did notice that I was getting a lot of giveaway submissions ;) Thanks again!

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