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Saturday, December 29, 2012

GUEST REVIEW: Wards of Fairie by Terry Brooks (reviewed by Ryan Lawler)

Official Author Website
Order the book HERE
Read chapter one HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Elves Of Cintra
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Dark Wraith Of Shannara

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Terry Brooks published his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, in 1977. It was a New York Times bestseller for more than five months. He has published over two dozen bestselling novels since, including the Magic Kingdom series, the Word and the Void trilogy and, further instalments in his Shannara series. A practising attorney for many years, Terry Brooks now writes full-time and lives with his wife, Judine, in Washington state.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: When the world was young, and its name was Faerie, the power of magic ruled—and the Elfstones warded the race of Elves and their lands, keeping evil at bay. But when an Elven girl fell hopelessly in love with a Darkling boy of the Void, he carried away more than her heart.

Thousands of years later, tumultuous times are upon the world now known as the Four Lands. Users of magic are in conflict with proponents of science. Elves have distanced their society from the other races. The dwindling Druid order and its teachings are threatened with extinction. A sinister politician has used treachery and murder to rise as prime minister of the mighty Federation. Meanwhile, poring through a long-forgotten diary, the young Druid Aphenglow Elessedil has stumbled upon the secret account of an Elven girl’s heartbreak and the shocking truth about the vanished Elfstones. But never has a little knowledge been so very dangerous—as Aphenglow quickly learns when she’s set upon by assassins.

Yet there can be no turning back from the road to which fate has steered her. For whoever captures the Elfstones and their untold powers will surely hold the advantage in the devastating clash to come. But Aphenglow and her allies—Druids, Elves, and humans alike—remember the monstrous history of the Demon War, and they know that the Four Lands will never survive another reign of darkness. But whether they themselves can survive the attempt to stem that tide is another question entirely.

FORMAT/INFO: Wards of Faerie is 371 pages long and is the first volume in the Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy. August 21st, 2012 marked the US Hardcover/Ebook publication of Wards of Faerie via Del Rey Books. It was also released in Hardcover/e-book format in the UK on 23rd August, 2012 by Orbit Books.

ANALYSIS: Every venture I have taken into Shannara of late has been one full of trepidation and low expectations. There have been quite a few highs and lows with Brooks over the past few years, but seemed the magic of Shannara had run out after the completion of the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy. It's been 10 long years since the end of that trilogy, 35 years since publication of The Sword of Shannara, but Brooks has shown he still has what it takes to write an exciting Shannara novel.

Things start off according to the Shannara formula, a druid discovers some long lost magic and then goes about collecting a bunch of characters with familiar last names (Ohmsford, Leah, etc.) so that they can go on an adventure to retrieve the long lost magic for the greater good. It is a formula that has served Brooks very well over the course of thirty five years and it appears as though this venture will be no different. But then you start to notice things, little things, small subversions of his established formula. Things like an obsessive compulsive Ard Rhys whose lack of foresight borders on the incompetent. Things like brutal deaths and incapacitations, and a dynamic political world enacting machinations on multiple fronts. There is so much scope, so much more going on here compared to what we are first presented on the surface, and compared to what we have been presented with over the past ten years.

The biggest difference, but perhaps the most subtle difference, is the premise of the main quest. This is not a journey in response to a big bad guy threatening a small valley, this is a journey to retrieve an ancient magic because of a deep seated fear that it might be misused if found. "Maybe we should just leave it alone" is a phrase that gets repeated a lot throughout the book, but the druids just cannot let it go, and this single minded tunnel vision creates fractures and rifts in relationships all over the Four Lands which may not be recoverable. The druids play protagonist and antagonist in the same book. They do what they do for noble reasons, but in this book you can finally appreciate the point of view of all the other races in the Four Lands - you can understand why the secretive actions of druids only serves to fuel further distrust. It feels... authentic.

That said, despite the excellent execution, this book does not stray too far from the Brooks tried and tested formula. The characters are typically plucky and courageous, but at least you feel like they have more realistic motivations. Unfortunately, like a lot of first books in a Shannara trilogy, Wards of Faerie is a sacrificial lamb designed to set up the rest of the Trilogy. The self contained subplots were very good and well resolved, and I can see where the rest of the trilogy is going (which has me quite excited), but the setup and exposition is still just typical Brooks setup and exposition, and it makes this book seem pale compared to the promise of what is to come.

CONCLUSION: I've read every single Shannara book, and Wards of Faerie is in my top five, maybe even my top three. It's an action packed book that is very easy to read and makes me want to read the next book in the trilogy. Great job Terry, I look forward to reading Bloodfire Quest.


GUEST REVIEWER INFO: Ryan Lawler is someone who likes keeping busy, working a full time job whilst trying to find time for completing a Master's degree, playing tennis, reading speculative fiction, romancing the missus, keeping up with his video game addiction and writing stories. Ryan was born and brought up in Australia and has worked as an avionics and software engineer. He lives with his family in the US currently and you can find more about him on his blog and follow him on twitter @RyanL1986. He also frequently reviews books on Fantasy Book Review.

 Ryan was kind enough to accept our guest review request on twitter and so many thanks to Ryan for volunteering his time and insight to Fantasy Book Critic.


Ryan Lawler said...

It's hard to take myself seriously with a picture like that :)

Mihir said...

I think this pic best brought out the color of your eyes ;)


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