When I first saw the Shannara books on post-apocalyptic lists I knew I had to read them. Would you ever expect a high fantasy novel to be about man-kinds destruction? As far as I know the Shannara books are the only high fantasy stories that have a post-apocalyptic element. The Shannara books as it turns out are not all written in chronological fashion but instead in trilogies, some trilogies come before others and some come after — the date of publishing has little influence. Because of this I decided to go with the first book, The Sword of Shannara, written in 1977. While it does not take place immediately after the apocalypse the setting does have its origins in a past destruction of man-kind — as well nods to the past.
Besides spawning the hugely popular series, The Sword of Shannara is quite infamous for being a copy of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Based on what I know of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I have only read one of the books but have seen the movies, after reading tSoS I do have to agree it at least pays heavy homage to Tolkien's plot. If you were to replace the sword with a ring it would be virtually the same plot. Despite the plot structure being the same I feel Terry Brooks makes the fantasy world his own and dare I say more engaging. I found that Brooks create much darker imagery, scarier monsters, more action sequences and less reliance on magic. I don't consider myself a fan of fantasy, especially high fantasy, so I was relieved when I read this book and didn't find any talking trees — although there is one that appears sentient — or even much depth into magic really.
I had my doubts at first if this book was going to be something I would like. First of all it is thick which generally turns me off because I would like to read all the books I currently have shelf but I ended up reading this in less time than it takes me to read some two hundred page books. Not only is the writing engaging but the story moves along with suspense about what will happen next. If anything Brooks might have taken making the story flow quickly too far by cutting corners in the plot. For example while the group of three beginning characters are traveling to a land called Anar they come out of a dense forest only to find an apparition that all a sudden takes them there. The of course wake up without any knowledge of what happens. Also I think he overlooks the obvious problem that the character Menion would have no reason to so readily believe that Shea and Flicks story of the sword. It is only later in the book that his doubts are revealed.
As for being apocalyptic I can say after reading tSoS that it defiantly is in a very revealing way. According to the druid Allanon mankind long ago — this isn't clear and it seems to be contradictory how long but it may have been one thousand years — had what was called The Great Wars that caused the landscape to alter and forced mankind underground. The result was the Four Lands and the unground humans evolved into trolls, gnomes and dwarfs — what the difference is is never explained and I really never figured it out. There are also elves in the story but they are said not to be from humans (future story I guess). Apart from the story there are also artifacts such as a flashlight, dog whistle, machinery and metal girders. In one case the heros of the story had a fight with a gruesome creature that they said was created by mankind before the Great Wars.
Recommendation: If don't hate fantasy it is worth it to read but I don't see it being a favorite book
Scorch level: .5
Long ago, the wars of ancient Evil had ruined the world and forced mankind to compete with many other races—gnomes, trolls, dwarfs, and elves. But in peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knew little of such troubles.
Then came the giant, forbidding Allanon, possessed of strange Druidie powers, to reveal that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destroy the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could only be used by a true heir of Shannara. On Shea, last of the blood line, rested the hope of all races.
Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea flees, drawing the Skull Bearer after him.
Thus begins the seemingly hopeless quest of a simple man against the greatest power of evil the world has ever known.Del Rey - 60th Printing
Long ago, the wars of the ancient Evil ruined the world. In peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knows little of such troubles. But the supposedly dead Warlock Lord is plotting to destroy everything in his wake. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness is the Sword of Shannara, which can be used only by a true heir of Shannara. On Shea, last of the bloodline, rests the hope of all the races.Ballantine 1991 - 3rd Printing
Long ago the world of Shea Ohmsford was ruined by the wars of ancient Evil. Now mankind must compete for the Earth with many other races—gnomes, trolls, dwarfs and elves. But Shea, the half-human, half-elven adopted son of an innkeeper, knows little of such troubles. Shady Vale, where her grew to manhood, seems a haven for peace.
Then into Shady Vale comes the giant, forbidding figure of Allanon, possessed of strange knowledge and even stranger Druidic powers. To Shea, he reveals the evil Warlock Lord, supposedly long dead, is once again plotting to destroy the world. Against the Power of Darkness the sole effective weapon is the Sword of Shannara, which can used only by a true descendant of Jerle Shannara. Shea is the last living heir: on him rests the hope of all races! When Shea protests that he is no hero, the Druid states that he must reclaim the Sword. In the morning Allanon is gone, leaving behind a mysterious warning note.
Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of the Warlock Lord, flies to the Vale, seeking to destroy the last heir of Shannara. Rather than risk destruction for the Vale, Shea and his skeptical half-brother Flick flee, drawing the Skull Bearer after them. Allanon's cryptic orders have directed them to Culhaven, home of the dwarfs. Somehow they must go there to await him, despite the Skull Bearers and others unknown, dire perils. And beyond Culhaven, they must enter the ravaged Northland, where the Warlock Lord holds total dominion.
Thus begins the seemingly hopeless quest of a simple man against the greatest power of evil the world has known. Valiant comrades join him against a host of foes and soul-wrenching dangers. Terrors and wonders increase as the overwhelming armies of the Warlock Lord move toward war. But in the end, Shea alone must confront the Lord of Evil without knowledge or hope to guide him.Del Rey - 2003 Young Adult
The fate of the world rests on an unlikely hero...
Tucked away in peaceful Shady Vale, the young half-elf Shea Ohmsford gives little thought to the outside world. Yet far to the north, the evil Warlock Lord has dispatched shadowy Skull Bearers, creatures twisted by dark sorcery, to hunt him down. At the same time, a black-cloaked giant of a man appears in Shady Vale. He claims to be the mysterious Druid known as Allanon, a wizardly wanderer of vast knowledge and power—and he has come to see Shea. For Shea, he says, is the last descendant of an ancient Elven king. Only he, in all the world, can wield the fabled Sword of Shannara. And only the Sword can stop the Warlock Lord from destroying all that lives.
The Sword lies far from Shady Vale, in the Druid castle of Paranor. And Paranor has fallen under the shadow of the Warlock Lord. Yet all is not lost. Shea will rise to the challenge. Together with Allanon and a handful of brave companions, he begins a desperate quest into the very heart of evil...
ATOP THE DRUID'S KEEP
Slowly the survivors of the quest filed into the stone chamber, smiles on their faces, their wounds forgotten.
In the exact center of the rounded chamber, set in the polished surface of the giant Tre-Stone, they beheld the legendary Sword of Shannara, blade downward like a gleaming cross of silver and gold.
At last, after all their effort, the endless marches, the miserable days and nights, there before them stood the ancient talisman they had risked everything to find. Allanon was missing, and Shea was lost as well. But the Sword of Shannara was theirs. They had outwitted the Warlock Lord.
"Where is Flick?" the elf asked suddenly. For the first time they realized that he was missing. They glanced about the chamber, looking blankly at one another for explanation. Then Menion Leah, who had turned back to the gleaming Sword, watched the impossible happen.
The great block of Tre-Stone and its precious display began to shimmer and dissolve before his astonished eyes. It took only seconds for the entire image to fade into smoke, and at last into the air itself, until the men stood alone in an empty room, staring into space.
"A trap! The thrid trap!" roared Menion, recovering from the initial shock.Del Rey - 2003 Young Adult
Hunted by the Skull Bearer
The Skull Bearer swooped almost gracefully from out of the lowlands across the river to the north and settled into a long glide, bearing directly toward their place of concealment. The Valeman were frozen with terror, unable even to think, let alone move, as they watched the creature begin to close the distance between them. It did not matter that it had not yet seen them, perhaps did not know that they were there. It would know in the next few seconds, and for the brothers there was no time to run, no place to hide, no chance to escape. Shea felt the dryness of his mouth and somewhere within his scattered thoughts remembered the Elfstones, but his mind had gone numb. He sat paralyzed with his brother and waited for the end...
"Marvelous! I enjoyed every moment of it." —Frank Herbert, Author of Dune
"Brooks unfolds a luxurious tapestry of adventure, studded with exciting action and sparkling with several sharp characterizations... this first novel is a superior sword-and-sorcery tale for adult tastes." —ALA Booklist
"We are predicting that The Sword of Shannara will be the biggest cult book since Tolkien." —The Village Voice
"Every now and again advance word gets around about a book that's special. This is one such. It is an epic fantasy in grand style. Brook's imaginative spellbinder weaves old threads and patterns into new designs and textures that keep as touchstones familiar things while fashioning from them a fresh fabric that delights." —Publishers Weekly
"Loyalty, honor, pride, the reliance on valiant companions in time of peril—they're all here." —Minneapolis Tribune
"A new benchmark in the field of adult fantasy. Terry Brooks has provided the nonstop excitement of a good story peopled with lovable fantasy characters." —Nashville Banner
"True to the genre of the heroic quest, Terry Brooks creates a fantasy world both wonderfully romantic and hideously evil... He is certainly a major new writer of fantasy and is already at work on a sequel." —BOOKWORLD, Chicago Tribune
"There are scenes of single combat, deadly peril, great battles, picaresque adventure, shy love, and a final confrontation between the Warlock and Shea which comes up to its promise. It sweeps and it resounds." —Algis Budrys, Bookwest
"...a tale told with verve and often backed with a fine sense of mood that will provide many nights of exciting reading for adult and child alike." —Dan Miller, Chicago Daily News
"...a well-written and enchanting tale of men, elves, and dwarfs pitted against warmongering sorcerers, gnomes, and trolls. The characters are robust and delightful." —Los AngelesDel Rey - 60th Printing
The New York Times Bestseller
The Sword of Shannara is the first volume of the classic series that has become one of the most popular fantasy tales of all time
Thus begins the enthralling Shannara epic, a spellbinding tale of adventure, magic, and myth...Ballantine 1991 - 3rd Printing
[paperback blurb extension]
But behind him, he could already hear the huge rock door swing shut on their inescapable prison, creaking as its rusted hinges gave way under the monstrous weight of the stone. The highlander launched himself across the room, crashing into the door just as it closed on them, the snap of its locks clicking firmly into place.
Muffled laughter echoed broken off the chill walls mocking their foolishness and their bitter, inevitable defeat.
The Sword of Shannara is the rarest of all novels—a truly believable, wholly satisfying wonderstory of epic fantasy.Del Rey - 2003 Young Adult
Named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association