For four decades now, Terry Brooks has penned his epic Shannara fantasy series. Now, he has decided to bring it to a close.
More or less.
Recently announced, he will write the chronicological end of his creation in a series of books. Then he may — or may not — go back and write some books to fill in gaps in the series.
With nearly 30 books in the series thus far, Shannara has become a staple world in the fantasy genre. It emerged at a time when high fantasy fans didn’t have much to choose from. When I had read everything Tolkien had written (which, unfortunately, wasn’t a lot), a friend recommenced Terry Brooks. While some argued his first book, The Sword of Shannara was too much like LotR, the series quickly established itself as an original world. So for Tolkien fans, Brooks provided a land of humans, elves and other creatures that filled the post-Tolkien void.
As a series goes, some of the books are self-contained standalones, though most are trilogies. This makes it easy for new fans to drop into Shannara without necessarily going back to the first book. The books, or groups of books, usually are separated by decades, if not centuries of time. One issue fans of the epic Wheel of Time series have, is that if you started it as a kid, you didn’t finish it until you had kids. Plus, you can’t start at, say, volume 12. On the other hand, I’m sure many Shannara fans have hoped for Brooks to go back and revisit their favorite characters.
I recommend starting with the first book, but regardless where you begin, Shannara is a land that will endure for ages to come.
Since 1977, Terry Brooks has been writing his Shannara fantasy series. Once the first trilogy was complete, he gave up his day job as a lawyer and never looked back. In spite of his success, he has often been asked why he writes fantasy. Not so much now, with fantasy’s mainstream success, but some still equate fantasy with escapism.
True, any book, television show, hobby has that element — and there’s nothing wrong with that, so long as most people know how not let one overcome the other. Good fiction, whether or not it is fantasy, ultimately rests on how much it draws on real life. From the outside, that may be hard to grasp when talking about stories with fantastic creatures. Yet we have detailed here in past posts that it was the depth and themes of fictional worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia that was in large measure the reason for their enduring success. Continue reading
Nearly forty years ago, during a dark age where epic fantasy was hard to come by, Terry Brooks released The Sword of Shannara. In many ways, similar to The Lord of the Rings: An unaware, peaceful guy (Shea Ohmsford), happy in his own world, is tasked by a wise, mysterious stranger (Allanon) to obtain the Sword of Shannara before the Warlock Lord uses it to conquer Shannara. While some thought the plot too similar to Frodo/Gandalf/The Ring/Sauron, Tolkien’s books would ultimately establish the archtype for all fantasy that followed. And, in the following decades, Brooks would unveil his Shannara mythos in over 25 books (and it’s still going).
For those that wished Tolkien had written much more, Brooks is the perfect author. His books quickly would show their originality. Long-time readers were in for a welcome surprise when he connected them to his Word & Void series and linking high fantasy with the modern world. Since the series is made up of self-contained sequences (trilogies, duologies…), which makes it easier to pick a place to start (though Sword is still the best place). It also makes those who slogged through years of Robert Jordan’s epic one-story series, or those afraid to start, a little more at ease of taking on another never-ending fantasy. However, many Brooks fans probably wish he would go back and revisit some of his classic characters.
In the final analysis, fantasy fans will long remember Middle-Earth, Narnia and Shannara.
Middle-Earth and Narnia. Two of the best known worlds in fantasy. Are there others as good? After first reading Lord of the Rings and everything else Tolkien wrote, I was hooked and wanted something else. Someone recommended the fantasy series by Terry Brooks.
And that was it.
Starting in 1977, Brooks has written over 20 books in the series. Stand-alones. Trilogies. Prequels. Duologies. One could start just about anywhere, but I always recommend starting with the first, The Sword of Shannara, then work your way forward. Then go to the very beginning for what would become the prequel series, The Word and the Void (it was first written as a seperate series and later led to the Shannara books via five other volumes).
Some complain his first book was too much of a Tolkien clone. Maybe, but he quickly came into his own and created one of the great fantasy mythos. I have found them to be much more readable than some others in the genre. Those go on and on and often have massive, tedious books. Each of Brooks’ books, or groups of books, stand on their own, while drawing on others and leading you to a conclusion. Sometimes I wish the gaps in the timeline between each series weren’t so large, but from his perspective it makes it easier to create new stories and characters. Still, fans hope he will revisit some of the classic stories. Once you become hooked, buy the companion reference for a guide to this ever-growing world.
Will you choose to go on this adventure or continue on your boring path?