My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It had been many, many years since I’d read a Shannara book – long enough that I had no idea whether my distantly-remembered opinions of the early books were valid or not. When I had the opportunity to pick this up from NetGalley and DelRey, I was happy to check it out and see what I’d been missing all this time.
Unfortunately, I failed to be won over. Although this was explicitly advertised as a “stand-alone” novel, it’s really not. A huge chunk of the beginning of the story is a “let’s get all caught up” infodump… but somehow, though a large number of pages are devoted to the backstory and how all the characters are related to each other, I didn’t come out of it feeling like I really ‘knew’ them at all, or that I was really certain of the scenario. I’m guessing that if I’d read earlier books, I might’ve felt better acquainted – but in that case, I think I would’ve been more annoyed at having to get through all the past history.
Leofur and Chrysallin a two young women who have become good friends. When Chrysallin is kidnapped, Leofur must go on a quest to save her – not just because of their friendship, but because she suspects her father, the evil wizard Arcannen, might be involved in the abduction. In addition, Leofur’s partner, Paxon, is Chrysallin’s brother. Although Paxon is off on his own mission, and doesn’t seem to have time to spare for Leofur, whatever would he say if he came back to find his sister gone?
As a secondary plot, we follow Paxon’s mission. A diplomatic summit between Druids and a Federation Council is attacked, and although innocent, the Druids fear that they’ll be blamed. Paxon must lead the druids back to their safe stronghold, but their journey is plagued by mishaps. A suspicion grows that who else but the evil wizard Arcannen Rai is behind the terrorism.
While entertaining enough, the plot structure felt quite formulaic. I also didn’t really like the ‘steampunk’ elements thrown into the general “quest fantasy” scenario – they didn’t feel natural in the setting; it was more like they were thrown in just to suit a current trend.
Overall, my pre-teenage opinion that Brooks is rather mediocre and generic fantasy has been confirmed.