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Heritage of Shannara quartet: an unofficial review

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  • One Vorlon
    replied
    Re: Heritage of Shannara quartet: an unofficial review

    Originally posted by otakualchemist View Post
    . . . agree that Wren is badly underdeveloped. I felt very attached to Par, Coll, and Walker but Wren simply felt like a character moving the plot along. It seems like she was their to get the elves so the others could do their tasks without being stopped from their missions they were assigned. Terry is very good at writing strong female characters but with Wren he kinda fell flat on his face. Maybe Terry got a little over his head with to many characters but what ever the reason was Wren suffered greatly from the lack of character development.
    There are two things that really bug me about Wren's arc. First, as I pointed out above, Wren doesn't feel like a Rover. The author had already developed their culture as a patriarchal gypsy-knockoff, and created a number of interesting male and female characters in it.

    But there's no trace of any of that in Wren's character. She'd work as a Dungeons & Dragons (or Lord of the Rings)-type ranger character . . . but not as a gypsy. She has no performing skills, there's no sign of her growing up in a male dominated society (which inadvertently encouraged the women to become ruthless and sneaky), there's no mention of stealing horses . . . Wren is just a generic female character from the Four Lands. Really, its a violation of Chekhov's Gun

    Second, its very ironic that there's so little for Wren to do . . . because Brooks lays out what would've been a very interesting conflict for her. If you're paying attention to the Queen's monologue, there was a bunch of palace intrigue and an attempted coup . . . right before Wren gets to the island. If he'd just saved that, for when Wren arrived, she'd have had an actual adventure, and Elf-Queen would've been so much stronger.

    . . . I guess the big problem I have with you criticism is that these stretch goals were never meant to be reached in the quartet. They were what the characters wanted to happen at the end of the Heritage series not what Allanon was sending them to achieve at the time. If those goals could have been accomplished great if not then fine as long as they achieved Allanons main goal. The Druids are always like that. . .
    I agree - but that also becomes a problem in this quartet. For Walker Boh, and one of the other characters, the trustworthiness of the Druids is a key theme. Are they ultimately a force for good in the world, or are they just as bad as the Skullbearers, the Mord Wraiths, and the Shadowen?

    If Allanon had offered some advice/help to achieve their personal goals, that would've made a difference for me. Or if the story had ended with the heroes saying, "all right, now that we saved the world, let's go solve Problem X" . . . That shows some respect for the heroes, some concern for their hopes and dreams. But instead, Allanon gets everything he wants, and the children of Shannara just have to accept the results. That's a little too close to using them (even if it was for the good of the world)

    Now, in the earlier books, the author could get away with that. But here . . . here, he has one character who's open skepticism of the Druid quest is a key factor of the plot. And a second one who needs to know that the magic can be used for good without corrupt someone. Brooks raised the issue, and then . . . just walked away

    (And on a side note - what kind of heroes are content to save the world, but not their hometowns? I mean, come on, at least try! Even Tolkien's hobbits were able to do that much on their own)


    For my detailed opinion of your stretch goals
    Yeah, the failure of the elven stretch goal really doesn't make much sense. It seems more like a writer's convenience/deus ex machina solution, than a reasonable outcome. And it kind of underscores the problem that Allanon got everything he wanted, and everyone else just got screwed.

    As I was getting at above, if the heroes had pulled off even one stretch goal, achieved one big thing beyond Allanon's designs, it would've made a huge difference for me. It doesn't even have to be one of the stretch goals I pointed out. Just . . .score a point for the good guys and the cause of "Free Will". Find a way to make the world a little better, and not accept the status quo.

    Spoiler ->*Them getting anything out of Eldwist would have been nice but they were there for the Black Elfstones and trying to stay alive fighting a creature from the time of Faeries. I think they were a little to busy to be grabbing books and magic objects while running and fighting for their lives.

    I agree - it would've been hard to salvage anything. But I mention this one in part because the destruction was a huge, huge bonus for Allanon. The Druids were always into controlling information, hoarding knowledge away. Perfectly preserved, the site was a treasure trove of ancient secrets . . . a bounty that the Druids wouldn't have been able to monopolize

    But as it plays out, its a big win for Allanon (on one of his personal stretch goals), and a big loss for everyone else. An independent window into the past is gone, and the Druid monopoly is reaffirmed

    Thanks for writing the review I love reading all of the Shannara reviews you have put up. The Heritage is my favorite series in the Shannara series and really enjoyed reading your review and opinion of them. I really hope you do reviews for the rest of the Shannara books.
    I'm glad you like them - its always nice to be appreciated. I'm actually planning on doing more, but things have been crazy, and just now starting to settle down. And yet, I kept buying books, so now I've got a huge backlog to work through

    Leave a comment:


  • otakualchemist
    replied
    Re: Heritage of Shannara quartet: an unofficial review

    Great review for the Heritage of Shannara series. I think you are spot on when you say this is the part of the Shannara series that Terry Brooks stops following the Tolkien like plots and finds his own voice. From the Heritage series onward Terry truly shows that Shannara is not a rip off of Tolkien but a completely different creature all together.

    You have some fair criticisms of the quartet. I agree that Paranor and the Rovers get very little development. I think Terry just had to much characters and plot going on so something had to be pushed to the sides. Unfortunately they got the short straw. The elves did get some decent development over the course of the Heritage series but the ending pretty much reversed that. (Look in spoilers and see my opinion of the elves)

    Also agree that Wren is badly underdeveloped. I felt very attached to Par, Coll, and Walker but Wren simply felt like a character moving the plot along. It seems like she was their to get the elves so the others could do their tasks without being stopped from their missions they were assigned. Terry is very good at writing strong female characters but with Wren he kinda fell flat on his face. Maybe Terry got a little over his head with to many characters but what ever the reason was Wren suffered greatly from the lack of character development.

    As for the others things that left a bad taste in your mouth I can see you points but I kinda disagree with your view of them. At least if you look at the Shannara series as a whole not just the Heritage series alone. I guess the big problem I have with you criticism is that these stretch goals were never meant to be reached in the quartet. They were what the characters wanted to happen at the end of the Heritage series not what Allanon was sending them to achieve at the time. If those goals could have been accomplished great if not then fine as long as they achieved Allanons main goal. The Druids are always like that. They send you on a mission to do a very specific task while hinting that it will help or improve something in the characters interest. It may or may not but if it does not in the way they believe it will. To me Terry introduced those goals in the Heritage but planned to solve/reach them in later books.

    Spoiler ->Some these goals are slowly getting resolved as Terry is getting to the end of the Shannara series



    For my detailed opinion of your stretch goals

    Spoiler ->*The Federation hating magic even more. This leads to the main conflict in almost all his latest books. Magic(Druids/Elves/Ohmsford) vs Science(Federation and other anti magic groups) It will probably be the major conflict that will end the Shannara series for good.

    *Them getting anything out of Eldwist would have been nice but they were there for the Black Elfstones and trying to stay alive fighting a creature from the time of Faeries. I think they were a little to busy to be grabbing books and magic objects while running and fighting for their lives.

    * Elves banning their newly learned or relearned magic!!! The elves actually achieved their long time goal and then toss it away. Why? It sucks and is lame. No problem with you here. I don't even know how Terry thought that was a good idea.

    *Would have been nice to get the lands of Leah and Shady Vale out of the Federations hands but it seems kinda a stretch to think that two small towns can break away from the larger and more powerful Federation. The Border Lands could do it because they had help from the other races by not being isolated from them. Shady Vale and Leah are in the deeper Southland where the Elves and Dwarfs can not help them much and they don't have to man power to fight the Federation without the other races.



    Thanks for writing the review I love reading all of the Shannara reviews you have put up. The Heritage is my favorite series in the Shannara series and really enjoyed reading your review and opinion of them. I really hope you do reviews for the rest of the Shannara books.
    Last edited by otakualchemist; 06-13-2015, 11:53 PM.

    Leave a comment:


  • One Vorlon
    started a topic Heritage of Shannara quartet: an unofficial review

    Heritage of Shannara quartet: an unofficial review

    The Heritage of Shannara quartet
    (The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, the Elf Queen of Shannara, and The Talismans of Shannara)
    by Terry Brooks

    Burn, Witches, Burn!

    What They Say:
    The Scions of Shannara
    Since the death of the Druid Allanon, magic has been strictly forbidden in the Four Lands. Yet Par still has limited use of the Wishsong. Then a dire message from Allanon sends Par and his brother Coll on an impossible task: to recover the long-lost Sword of Shannara—or all life in the Four Lands will be destroyed.

    The Druid of Shannara
    Evil forces remain in control of the Four Lands. To restore the Keep of the Druid Allanon, Walker Boh sets out on a journey to find the black Elfstone. He must venture into perilous, unknown lands with a strange band of fellow travelers—one of whom is hatching his own sinister plot.

    The Elf Queen of Shannara
    Ordered by the Druid Allanon to find the Elves and return them to the world of Men, Wren is carried away to an island where Elves might still exist. Even if by some miracle she locates the Elves, can she convince them to follow her back through a demon-haunted jungle to the safety of the shore?

    The Talismans of Shannara
    The Shadowen still swarm over the Four Lands, poisoning everything with their dark magic. Their leader is determined to destroy all the Scions of Shannara. With traps cleverly laid, the charges are doomed to failure—unless Par can discover a way to harness the power of the Sword of Shannara.

    The Premise
    The dream is always the same. A handful of ragged refugees desperately crawl across the dying landscape, as dark shadows with burning eyes flit among them. One of the shadows notices the dreamer, and comes for them . . . and only waking spares the dreamer from the shadow’s touch.

    Five hundred years after the death of Allanon, much has changed in the Four Lands. Men have united under the banner of the Federation, and rule with an iron fist. The dwarves toil ceaselessly for their human “advisors”, even as the gnomes flee to the fringes. No one has seen an elf in generations.

    And magic is strictly forbidden.

    Witch hunters relentlessly comb the Four Lands, seeking any trace of the old magic. Artifacts are confiscated, while practitioners are shipped off to “reeducation camps” . . . or simply disappear. If a few innocents are wrongly arrested, or civil liberties curtailed, so be it, the Federation preaches. The people must be protected against magic!

    But even amidst the Federation’s pogrom, rumors spread of “Shadowen”, strange beings with dark magic. As the Federation doubles down, sending out even more witch hunters, three descendants of the Ohmsford family receive visits from a strange old man. An old man who claims to be Cogline, the crazy hermit who helped Brin and Jair Ohmsford defeat the Mord Wraiths . . . five centuries earlier. The dreams are real, he insists. Allanon calls . . .

    On the shores of the Hadeshorn, the shade of Allanon speaks, rising up from the depths. And the descendants of Brin and Jair meet their destiny.

    “Find the Sword of Shannara, for Only the Truth Shall Set Us Free”

    For young Par Ohmsford, being chosen for a Druid quest is a dream come true. And not just any quest – one to find the Sword of Shannara! As a child, he’d listened to the old stories over and over again. Wil Ohmsford and the quest for the Bloodfire. Brin and Jair against the Mord Wraiths. But by far his favorite was always Shea’s hunt for the Sword . . . the magic of the Elfstones, the bandit Panamon Creel, the Warlock Lord’s dark secret . . .

    And with the help of the family magic, Par has built a career out of retelling those same stories, travelling the South as a bard, always staying one step ahead of the Federation’s witch hunters. As his brother tells the tale, Par uses the wishsong to wrap his audience in illusion, allowing them to experience the adventure as if they were there.

    But this . . . This is his chance! His chance to be a part of the stories he’s told for so long, to actually touch the history of his family and stand alongside the likes of Shea, Wil and Jair Ohmsford. . .

    Along the way, he will walk in the footsteps of his heroes, and meet many friends, some old, and some new. But the Sword of Shannara disappeared for a reason, and the danger grows with every step. For Par’s quest will take him deep into the heart of the Federation, where the truth has been outlawed and the witch hunters are thick.

    Once more, a Creel and an Ohmsford will go in search of the legendary blade. But what they actually find will shake the foundations of the world.

    ”Find Paranor, and Return the Druids to the World of Men”

    ”I will cut off my hand before I bring back the Druids!” A horrified Walker Boh exclaimed, when he heard Allanon’s charge. Haunted by his magic, and dogged by the promise of Brin Ohmsford, Walker had long ago fled to the East and hidden himself away, desperately hoping to avoid the family legacy. For the “Dark Uncle”, the idea of actually participating in a Druid quest was a nightmare. And bringing back the Druids . . . sheer madness.

    Only now he has no choice – and his words have already cost him. . .

    Intrigued by the idea of the Black Elfstone, a magic that eats other magics, Walker Boh went in search of the key to Paranor. The entire time, he kept telling himself it was just curiosity, and that he could go home at any time. A mantra he kept repeating, over and over, right until he stumbled into the Stone King’s trap - a killing magic which wrapped itself around his hand. . .

    Now, wracked by lethal poisons, lost Paranor offers his only hope. To save himself, Walker Boh will have to challenge a self-proclaimed god-king, leading a team of heroes and villains to steal back the Black Elfstone . . . or die trying.

    "Seek the Elves, and Restore the Balance"

    A distant cousin of Par and Walker, Wren Ohmsford never quite felt like part of the family. An orphan girl raised by Rovers, she’d never known her parents. Her only link to her past, a trio of rocks painted to resemble the blue Elfstones. So when the shade of Allanon orders her to find the lost elves, she knows in her heart that she’s not Ohmsford-enough to take part in a quest like this. Besides, it’s a fool’s errand - no one’s even heard from the Elves in generations.

    But egged on by her own curiosity, and a few veiled hints from Cogline, Wren begins to ask around anyway. Just when did the elves disappear? And why? Were the any signs of war or disease?

    After all, a few innocent questions couldn’t hurt, right?

    Almost before she realizes it, she’s flying across the Great Sea, to an island that isn’t supposed to exist. There she will learn of the Shame of the Elves . . . But can she escape the living hell the Elves have trapped themselves in?

    And the enemy is closer than they know . . .

    He shakes his head, and laughs. Even dead, Allanon never learns. Science? Magic? Those are just tools. Fear. Ignorance. Greed. Those are the real powers that move the world.

    But Allanon has just made his job so much easier. By mobilizing the children of Shannara, Allanon has exposed the last elements of resistance. And he knows just how to break them.

    The Elves? Paranoid, militaristic, and belligerent, the Federation has turned the Elves into their own private boogeymen. The moment a single Elf sets foot in the Four Lands, entire armies will fall upon them. A whisper or two in the right ear is all it will take.

    The Druids? So proud, so ambitious . . . and so superstitious. It’ll be downright entertaining to see how they fare when the Horsemen ride again.

    But for Par . . . .for Par, he has something truly evil planned.

    He’s going to tell Par the truth.

    The Review: Having already established his fantasy setting in the Sword of Shannara trilogy, the Heritage of Shannara quartet marks Terry Brooks first big, ambitious project in the setting. A four volume epic adventure that sends key members of the Ohmsford family (along with family friend Morgan Leah) across the length and breadth of the Four Lands in search of the lost magic of their ancestors. Cities burn, armies march, and potent magic twists the very land.

    And Heritage works well for newcomers to the franchise. Despite some references to the original trilogy, Heritage is effectively a reboot of the series, and provides an easy entry point into the setting. A lot can change in five hundred years, after all. And Par’s fascination with his family’s history (and propensity for telling the old stories) makes for an easy way to catch the audience up, when necessary.

    The quartet also marks a complete revision of the author’s style. Not as much depth as some of his earlier work, but much better pacing, and free of the lengthy blocks of exposition common to the Sword of Shannara trilogy. If you didn’t know it was the same author, it’d be easy to assume an entirely different author had taken over the series.

    Structurally, Scions of Shannara kicks off the adventure, introducing the cast before focusing in on Par’s journey to Tyrsis in search of the Sword of Shannara. Druid of Shannara and Elf-Queen of Shannara pick up almost immediately afterwards, taking place roughly simultaneously, and cover Walker and Wren’s quests. Finally, Talismans of Shannara covers the reunion of the three, and the fall of the Shadowen.

    And there’s a lot of nice character development for Par, and definitely for Morgan Leah. Traditionally, the Princes of Leah have been largely relegated to the role of sidekick. But here, Morgan (the great-great. . . .great-grandson of Rone Leah) is a major player, with a lot of screen time across three of the novels. We get to see him eagerly jump into the quests with aplomb, struggle with the price of his sword’s magic, and even fall in love.

    But every series has its flaws, and that remains true with the Heritage quartet. First off, the books don’t do much to further develop Paranor, the Rovers, or the Elves. The original Sword of Shannara trilogy managed to give all three a distinct feel, however, Heritage doesn’t build on that prior development. In fact, it doesn’t even recapture what the original books accomplished.

    Plus, the ending of the quartet always left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on why. While the heroes do accomplish their primary goals, they fail (miserably) to achieve any of their stretch goals, including:

    Spoiler ->
    * The oppressive, abusive, and anti-magic Federation is not reformed or dismantled. In fact, given the events of the quartet, its likely that the Federation will become even more intolerant towards magic.

    * Eldwist, a city almost perfectly preserved since before the great wars of science, is destroyed without being studied. Nor do the heroes remove any books, artifacts, or other materials for study.

    * Not only do the elves stop any research into magic, they forbid anyone (even themselves) to use what they’ve already learned.

    * Their hometowns - Leah and Shady Vale - remain under the control of the Federation



    So while the immediate threat of the Shadowen is defeated, the heroes fail to bend the course of civilization in a more positive direction – all they really do is reestablish the status quo as it existed at the death of Allanon. Now, I can appreciate some of the stretch goals would’ve been incredibly tough to achieve. But to fail to get any of them . . .

    And that’s particularly bad news for The Elf Queen of Shannara, which is all about the Rovers and the elves. The fact that Wren is a Rover is purely an excuse for why she’s travelling – it doesn’t seem to color her character at all. When she finds the elves, there’s no real plot there – no evil overlord or action in Arborlon – just some exposition. And her stretch goals are the easiest to achieve – for one, all she’d have to do is stand aside (and yet still manages to fail). So Elf Queen is easily the weakest in the quartet, and Wren is the least impressive of the heroes. . . I’m actually kind of surprised that the author chose to flesh her quest out into book length.

    That’s not to let Druid of Shannara off the hook. Older than Par and Wren, Walker Boh is the only one who realizes that he's just been screwed with his pants on - which gives his adventure an interesting feel. However, the final piece of his quest (bring back the Druids) feels underdeveloped. And the author really misses an opportunity. From the beginning, Walker is suspicious of Allanon’s intent, and (with the failure of the stretch goals) Allanon’s the only big winner (since he gets a redo on his plan). Yet Walker never really confronts Allanon about it, and (for some reason) makes peace with Allanon’s choices almost entirely off-screen. So it does feel unfinished.

    But its still a strong quartet, finally breaking free of the setting’s original Tolkien-esque underpinnings. And, once again, we get to see just how big Allanon has made the Ohmsfords’ world, how much he’s changed them. When Allanon first found the Ohmsfords, they were a family of small town innkeepers. Now, roughly six centuries late, they're an extended clan with ties across the Four Lands, and no one bats an eye if an Ohmsford child shows signs of their ancestral magic. Privy to many of the great secrets of the Four Lands, they've seen and done more than almost any other group in the Four Lands - any mapmaker worth his salt would kill for five minutes with the Ohmsfords.

    Series: While it’s a good intro to Shannara, the Heritage of Shannara is actually the second series in the franchise. Up next is the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy.

    My Final Thoughts: The books of the Heritage of Shannara quartet were actually my introduction to the Shannara franchise, and I have no problem recommending them to others - even if they've never read any of the Shannara books. Its simply a very good fantasy series.

    However, I almost feel like the author would've been better served taking a break after Druid, and coming back refreshed. It feels like he was starting to wear out, and his fatigue does show up in the books, leaving certain scenes (which should be high drama) as kind of . . .meh. Nothing unforgivable - but something that should've been easily fixable.

    Incidentally, I decided to cover them as a quartet, rather than as individual novels, because the four books are pretty intertwined. As with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Heritage quartet is one giant epic story with multiple parts. You simply can't read them out of order, because key pieces of all three quests show up in each book.
    Last edited by One Vorlon; 09-20-2014, 02:19 AM.
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