Living in peaceful Shady Vale, Shea Ohmsford knew little of the troubles that plagued the rest of the world. Then the giant, forbidding Allanon revealed 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--Shea being the last of the bloodline, upon whom all hope rested. Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him....
Terry Brooks was born in Illinois in 1944, where he spent a great deal of his childhood and early adulthood dreaming up stories in and around Sinnissippi Park, the very same park that would eventually become the setting for his bestselling Word & Void trilogy. He went to college and received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College, where he majored in English Literature, and he received his graduate degree from the School of Law at Washington & Lee University. A writer since high school, he wrote many stories within the genres of science fiction, western, fiction, and non-fiction, until one semester early in his college years he was given The Lord of the Rings to read. That moment changed Terry's life forever, because in Tolkien's great work he found all the elements needed to fully explore his writing combined in one genre. He then wrote The Sword of Shannara, the seven year grand result retaining sanity while studying at Washington & Lee University and practicing law. It became the first work of fiction ever to appear on the New York Times trade paperback bestseller list, where it remained for over five months.
Man did that ever SUCK. And not your garden-variety, ham-fisted hackiness kind of suck. No, this was dumbfounded, frustrated bitterness swelling into white heat for which the only salve is the venting of my smoking, bile-filled vitriol in the form of this juvenile tantrum scathing rebuke of Brooks’ abominable, turd-like abortion of appalling plot-stealing gall.…Therefore listen to Baby Rage above and take cover…*inhales deeply and launches*… . . .
A shitty, lifeless point for point rip off of Lord of the Rings.
Where do I begin. Well, I may have mentioned this already but it bears repeating ad nauseam…This book sucked. It really sucked. It sucked wookie balls, infected corpses and randy polar bears. It sucked so bad it could pull bricks through a garden hose.
This novel, and I use the term loosely and with much reservation, is a 767 page Memorex recording of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, except:
** instead of a ring the quest item is a sword;
** instead of Gandalf, Sauron, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli, Nazgul and Gollum, you get the Allanon, The Warlock Lord, Menion, Balinor, Durin, Hendel, Skull Bearers, Orl Fane; and
** instead of lush, poetic prose, rich with allusions to a detailed, magnificent history and a wider world that draws you in and makes you long to look under every stone and behind every tree for some new thread of Tolkien’s magical tapestry…..you get a clunky, ill-formed world depicted by clumsy, tinny prose that fails utterly to imbue any sense of tension and emotion into the narrative….well other than outrage.
Even the back stories of these Tolkien analogs and the central plot points are lifted almost verbatim from LOTR. For example:
-- Orl Fane is a gnome, driven insane by his lustful desire for the Sword of Shannara. Hmm? Who could that be? *coughing/retching sound* Galling…Galling
-- The Skull bearers are former humans who sacrificed their humanity to become the Warlord Kings most trusted servants and strike fear into the hearts of all who see them. There is even a part where one of them almost kills Frodo Shea.
-- Allanon, the Druid, puts the Hobbits Shea and Flick on the quest to find the Sword of Shannara and guides them on their travels…until of course he falls at Moira ….only to come back even stronger. (I’m sure I’ve read something like this before).
-- You have the initial formation of the “fellowship” to seek the Sword following the council at Rivendell Culhaven and a grand final battle that certainly looks like it could have been a rehearsal for the “Battle of Pelennor Fields”…only shittier and without the dramatic tension and splendor of the original.
How is it that no member of the Tolkien estate has ever bum-rushed Brooks and gone Middle Earth on his ass with a pair of pliers and a blow torch. Where is Marcellus Wallace when we need him.
In case I haven’t been as glassy and transparent as possible, let me begin my wrap up by saying, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like myself while I was reading it and I feel worse as a person for having read it. I feel soiled.
Did I mention that this is 767 pages long?
767 pages of lifted/borrowed/stolen, clumsily altered and uninspiringly executed plot with thin, lifeless characterizations that pale like Casper in the shadow of their superior source material. There is nothing about this that I can recommend to someone, except maybe to infuse a greater appreciation for the genius that was Tolkien’s masterpiece.
Alright. Before anyone goes into a tirade of why I gave this book a five-star rating, read on.
I was never the novel-reader type. I was never much of a novelist, either. I live in a Third World country, so when I was young, we kids amuse ourselves by learning to climb trees, playing hide-and-seek and all sorts of outdoorsy games.
Until I met Terry Brooks through The Sword of Shannara.
A neighbor of ours was moving out, and with the bulk of books and other stuff they have, they decided to sell most of them. Ms. Susan saw me browsing through the books they were selling one afternoon, and when I was about to leave without buying anything (I had no money, since my parents never really gave me money to spend on anything until I was in High School), she beckoned me to come closer and gave me a seemingly old, yellowed-page-kind of book with the cover ripped off and no more first few pages. For an eleven year-old kid, it was kind of cradling a treasure (add that to my over-active imagination, hahaha).
That's when I started reading. In earnest.
The Sword of Shannara engrossed me. In bibliophyllic terms, I was heavily intoxicated, hahaha Sure, it had a very similar plotline with that of the Lord of the Rings by Tolkien (which I found out years later when I was in college already), but as you go further into the story, you would see where Brooks' originality lies. Besides, J.R.R. Tolkien is Terry Brook's mentor. It would be highly improbable if Tolkien's Middle Earth wouldn't rub off on any of his students. :D
When I started working, I made it a point to collect all of Terry Brooks' works, from the Sword of Shannara trilogy (I bought a brand new hard cover version of The Sword of Shannara) to the Genesis of Shannara books. I would often end up comparing how beautiful was the first book, the Sword of Shannara, is compared to the rest of the following materials.
Where others see repetition, I see consistency. Where others see a rip-off copycat work, I see one of the many variations in the seeds of literature that Tolkien sowed into the world of reading and writing.
Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara will always hold a special place in my heart, as it awakened me to the world of fantasy, fiction, and magic. :)
If The Sword of Shannara was a film, it would go like this:
Mirkwood Productions proudly presents:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SWORD
Directed by Meriadoc Brandybuck. Director of Photography: Celeborn. Costume Design: Arwen Evenstar. Visual Effects: Saruman the White. Sound Design: Noldor Unlimited. Starring Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Gandalf the Grey, Sauron the Necromancer, Aragorn Arathornsson, Gimli van Gloin, and many more!
The Ohmsford brothers Shea (BAGGINS) and Flick (GAMGEE) live a peaceful and simple life in the Vale (SHIRE), helping their father (HAMFAST GAMGEE) run the family inn, when one day a mysterious stranger arrives in the Vale. His name is Allanon (GANDALF THE WHITE) and he has a dark and disturbing tale to tell: The Warlock Lord (an exceptional performance by the DARK LORD) has risen again. He knows that the ancient Sword of Shannara, currently being protected by the Druids in Paranor (GONDOR), is the only weapon that can permantly destroy him if wielded by a descendant of the House of Shannara. Allanon reveals to Shea that he is, in fact, part elf and carries the bloodline of Shannara. His life is in danger and he must flee the Vale at once. Allanon tells him to meet him the dwarf city of Culhaven (RIVENDELL) as soon as possible and disappears.
Hesitant to believe Allanon's tale at first, the brothers decide to wait and see if part of the stranger's story is true – that the servants of the Warlock Lord are looking for Shea. They bear a Skull Mark ™ . One night, Shea and Flick witness one of the Skull Bearers (NAZGUL) in the village and flee instantly. They must get to Culhaven somehow and decide to seek the help of their friend Menion Leah (HALDIR). Their journey takes them through the Black Oaks forest and past the Misty Marsh where they are attacked by and narrowly escape a Mist Wraith (our very own WATCHER IN THE WATER has come out of retirement to appear in this film) before they finally arrive safe and sound in Culhaven, where they meet Balinor Buckhannah (ARAGORN) and Hendel the dwarf (VAN GLOIN). A council of the Races is held under the direction of Allanon, and it is decided that a small party (FELLOWSHIP ™) must journey north and rescue the Sword of Shannara from the army of Goblins that has captured it in a raid of Paranor. etc, ad naus.
I threw this first against the wall and then away. There's only so much derivation a woman can take...
Now this is what I like to see in a fantasy novel. This has everything that makes the genre so appealing to me; it’s got a diverse set of races and cultural systems; it’s got both great darkness and profound good. But, most importantly, it’s got history. When I read books like this I want to feel like the fantasy universe has existed a thousand years prior and will exist a thousand years after. With Shannara it feels like I’ve stepped into the middle of a vast, complex and beautiful world that has always been, and always will be.
The Epic Quest
The wonderful adventure begins with two young men, a wise and powerful historian and destiny, the mightiest force of all. One of the men is a decedent to the long dead elven King Shannara. His name is Shae and he is destined to wield his ancestor’s sword, the only weapon capable of destroying the mighty Warlock Lord, and bringing an end to the tension that is about to cause an all-out war. Does this sound familiar? I will address the Tolkien parallels later on in my review. So bear with me. Shae has no experience in adventure; he has spent most of his life in his father’s inn, so he has a mighty task ahead of him. One in which he is, naturally, reluctant to undertake. You see, his life was fairly ordinary till the historian, Allanon, appeared and informed him of his quest.
Shae and his brother Flick turn to their friend for help. Well, I say friend, I mean to say Shae’s friend. Flick hates Menion Leah; he thinks he is a reckless waste of space. This makes for a rather awkward and funny group dynamic, one that sees a reluctant hero in the middle of his two greatest friends that don’t stop bickering. The trio depart, run into a heap of trouble, and get unbelievably lost. The situation is amusing and desperate. Shae does find his courage though, as he learns to wield the ancient elf stones that the historian gave him. They run into more danger, and later more allies, as the historian urges Shae ever closer to his all too important destiny.
A party of desperation
It quickly becomes clear that this is no simple adventure story. I was really quite glad of this because it made the last parts of it really intense. The group is forced to split up, and rouse the allied forced to stand against the huge incoming invasion. It’s all tied up with Shae’s destiny. Evil is striking first with the purpose of preventing him from claiming the only weapon capable of severing the darkness. It’s one big race of survival with legions of foes marching on the lands of the heroes. The sword is the only hope of victory.
“Herein lies the heart and soul of the nations. Their right to be free men, Their desire to live in peace, Their courage to seek out truth, Herein lies the Sword of Shannara.”
However, there’s more to it than that. Brook’s forces of evil are not just some twisted things form the darkness. They are races of goblins and trolls, which are like the heroes. They have been manipulated into serving a greater power. They are not without redemption; they do not have black hearts; they have simply had their free will stole from them, and then unleashed in a brutal war. This, for me, made the entire conflict quite interesting; it meant that there could be both great evil and good on both sides. This can be seen with the great betrayal and the rock trolls that show reactance when they find Shae. It felt like a real war, but in a fantastical setting.
Is it too Tolkienesque?
Is such a thing possible? Brooks has borrowed heavily from Tolkien, and I mean heavily. More so than any other author I’ve read. Robert Jordan did this too, but with Brooks the entire structure of the novel is like a condensed version of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Not only are there similar characters, uncannily so, but there is also an almost exact replica of the siege of Minas Tirith. However, the book is still worth a read. Certainly, the crossovers are a little annoying in parts but, as a huge fan of the genre, I cannot simply overlook what Terry Brooks does well. This is his first novel, and whist it resembles Tolkien’s world, I know that his later books don’t entirely.
I think this book should be approached with a very open mind. It’s a simple stepping stone that Brooks has used to go on and explore his own world in greater depth in later books. It’s almost like he has used Tolkien as a crutch to get himself started with his own writing. I can’t condemn the book for this reason alone. Moreover, I like his writing style and his own influence can be seen in later books of fantasy, and even some video games such as The Elder Scrolls franchise and World of Warcraft. There are original aspects in here, though they are few in number.
Tolkien’s story was also that excellent that when a few early fantasy writers regurgitated it, it wasn’t completely terrible. They could get away with it because they were the first to do it. I have no major problems seeing the repetition here; this is a great fantasy adventure. I urge other readers to try it for themselves before they shun the author because of his copycat label because, in this case, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I, for one, will be reading the rest of the trilogy. However, I am hoping for improvements in the writing. I’m willing to enjoy this book in good humour, as it’s the author’s first book, but if the similarity is constant I may not persist in reading another trilogy.
The Original Shannara Trilogy 1. The Sword of Shannara- Four worthy stars
The Sword of Shannara was a very popular book back in the 70s right after the huge success of The Lord of the Rings when everyone wanted to read more fantasy. I wasn't old enough to read it back then, so I came to it much later. I read part of the first book and, knowing how popular it had been, and feeling like it was a classic, I was prepared to enjoy it. About half way through I gave it to my ten year old son.
The weird thing is, it's so like The Lord of the Rings, at the same time that it's not. I don't mind a few common fantasy elements (especially in works written before they were cliché), but Brooks' plot and characters come almost straight out of Tolkien. This may have been acceptable if the writing had come straight out of Tolkien, too, but Brooks' style is clunky, wordy, and awkward. Adjectives and adverbs are used without restraint. I mean there are constant repetitive superfluous unnecessary redundant profligate excessive numbers of adjectives. And did I mention the weirdly-placed adverbs which are used unsparingly, unrestrainedly, extravagantly, and immoderately? And annoyingly? . . . When I couldn't care less whether Shea and Flick (they're the hobbits-- I mean the heroes) live or die, then the characterization is weak. Actually, I was kind of hoping that they would die. If they died, the book would have to end, right?
Conclusion: These are fine for kids (at least this one is, I can't say if all of the later Shannara books are -- probably not). But, do you really want to teach them to write like that? If not, give them C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Susan Cooper, and Lloyd Alexander. To be fair: This series is wildly popular. Perhaps the writing gets better (it has been 30 years, after all). I have heard that only the first book is too much like Tolkien. But I'll never know for sure because I can't make it through the first one.
A friend who was also into fantasy insisted I read this series, and I got as far as the first three books before I stopped believing him when he told me they were magical and wonderful and would get better and better. As far as I can tell, they all have the exact same plot. Mysterious Wizard shows up at home of person. Tells person he is Chosen for an Important Quest. What follows is chapter after chapter of "I don't WANNA go on a Quest!" "You MUST go on a Quest!" Seriously, I know the reluctant hero who doesn't want to/feel worthy of/is afraid of his Quest is a staple of fantasy literature, but this series takes it to a whole new level - the perpetually petulant hero. Nothing but whine, whine, whine through the whole damn book. And then the book ends, with our hero crabby but triumphant and returning home, and the Mysterious Wizard apparently dead or missing. Only to turn up again at the beginning of the next book to browbeat the next whiny member of the Chosen Family to go on HIS Quest. Lather, rinse, repeat.
this is perhaps my first experience with a Bad Book. young nerds like myself shouldn't have to scorn fantasy literature, but this wet piece of crapola put me off of fantasy for years. something this derivative should never have seen the light of day. i don't care if folks needed a tolkien fix, there were other, better literary drugs out there they could have turned to. Brooks spends a very long time blowing tolkien style, but it is an extremely un-relaxing bj and i found myself getting agitated every other page. watch those teeth, Terry, you're supposed to be a professional. those aren't sighs of relaxation, those are sighs of irritation and disgust. and isn't plagiarism against the law? this is High Crap of the first order.
Everyone says that you fall into one of two camps: Those who love Tolkien, and philistines. I belong firmly in the latter. It is my firm belief that the man (Tolkien) got paid by the word. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoy Brooks' Shannara series. I have read all of them, own most of the hard covers, and have spirited debates (code for a fight) with my friends about why these books are not carbon rip-offs of Tolkien's works. Great characters, epic stories with fallible heroes, and a world lovingly crafted from the ruins of our own.
I acquired this book in the lobby of a Greek hotel in 1979. It was on a table of free books, ones that had been left behind in guests' rooms. I was on holiday with my parents and very bored (ungrateful little shit, I know, I know).
It was the illustrated edition and as a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings I dived right in and loved the hell out of it.
Even then, I did notice the STRONG ... oh-so-strong ... almost play by play parallels to The Lord of the Rings. To this day, I'm not sure how that was allowed to fly.
But I loved it - the Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and hobbit analogues all did their job. I liked the style, the grand scale, the epicness, the battles, the tentacles rising from the silent lake outside the Mines of Moria, all of it!
The battles with the vast hordes of evil gnomes are still in my memory 40+ years later. So, clearly Terry Brooks was doing things right.
Even the lethargic pace of many sections where detail was lavished on countryside scenery evoked that JRRT feel that I craved.
It was a hugely successful book commercially, and spawned a vast series, of which I read at least one and a bit more volumes. I seem to recall enjoying the second one quite a bit.
Many years later I started reading it to my boys. We'd read The Lord of the Rings together, and I was looking for something else to share. That return didn't go so well. Hard on the heels of LotR the borrowing was rather too in-your-face. And even in the shadow of its predecessor, the whole thing felt rather slow in the 2000s. The pace of books, or at least my taste in them, has substantially increased, and TSoS wasn't doing it for me.
So, it's a mixed bag of glorious childhood memories, slightly tarnished by a brief, aborted attempt to return.
They do say that you can never go back, and perhaps I should stop trying. However, if you've never started, then give it a go and see what rocked our world in the 80s!
Wow - that is pretty much all I could say for hours after finishing this absolutely epic first installment in the Shannara series.
This book gave me everything I want in my fantasies - a vast landscape, colossal amounts of world-building, varied characters, mythical and mystical creatures, a definite good/bad binary, a quest to save the world, great character development, legions of backstory, action, adventure and intrigue, and ending on a battle scent to end all battle scenes.
The best fantasies are always hefty tomes and this one was no exception! This enabled the story to provide everything from the list above (and then some!), whilst still not overshadowing the epic plot and the journey across this fantastical landscape to conclude the adventures detailed.
I did, however, have some minor gripes with this novel. Firstly, the omittance of all but one female character made this immediately drop a star rating! The one solitary female in the entirety of the 664 pages felt like she was only included to play the damsel in distress and allow for a heroic rescue by one of the main male characters. Bleurgh!
Also, there seemed to be many instances where the 'baddies' were thwarted at the last second without giving a full explanation as to how or why. There were plenty of fully explained and chapter-long battle scenes but some early incidents see the main characters escape without themselves even realizing how they did so. Some moments didn't feel real, for this reason, and would have really benefitted from some padding out.
In all, I can forgive this its minor sins as there was SO much to love about this fantastical journey, and I can't wait to join back in with the escapades of this already beloved cast in the next installment.
If you are comparing the literary value of science fiction/fantasy books, I think it is best to use food as an example. Terry Brooks can be viewed as a really good bacon cheeseburger, it is fun to eat, makes you feel full, however it is often sloppily put together in a hurried fashion, without much effort and does not give your body true fulfillment.
While Tolkien on the other hand, or C.S. Lewis, are like well planned home cooked meals, with each food group represented and placed on a finely set dining table. Both are food, and both are great in their own respects. Just very different in execution and planning. I do like Brook's vision of the fantasy races and world formed by the aftereffects of a devastating nuclear war sometime in the near future.
Not horrible book, I could have put up with it until the end but I don't see why. During this book I had the same feel I had when reading Feist's Magician: Apprentice and that is feel of tasteless, generic fantasy that might be passable in video game but it's very dull in relatively long book.
Very forgettable book.
Edit:Because not long ago I decided that every book I DNF gets 1 star this book gets it rating decreased from 2 to 1 stars
The Sword of Shannara is basically The Lord of the Rings version 2.0. It is also one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read.
The book was first recommended to me by my father and uncle at a family gathering last year (I should clarify that 'recommended' here means 'briefly mentioned during a short discussion about good literature'). I had not read a fantasy novel for quite a while and was in search of something to read, so I found the book in one of my parents' bookshelves and brought it with me when I went to India this winter. I was enthralled.
The book is a tale of Shea Ohmsford, a rather normal boy living in a peaceful valley far away from any sort of action or adventure. That is, until the mysterious druid Allanon appears and tells Shea that he is the last heir to the legacy of the mythic House of Shannara; once the rulers of the elven people and now long gone.
When it is then revealed that the dreaded Warlock Lord has returned from supposed death to destroy the world, Shea must embark upon a journey to find the long-lost Sword of Shannara, for he is the only one left who can wield it to keep the darkness at bay.
Based on my own opinion and all the reviews I have read, you either love or hate this book. As for myself, I would recommend it to everyone, in particular those who have read authors like Tolkien and want to experience more of the same, or those looking for an introduction to the genre of fantasy. For me it was a great way to return to it, and a great introduction to a wonderful series.
I loved it when I was sixteen. And probably at least once in between there.
When I was thirty-six I picked it up, made it about a chapter and a half in, and threw it against the wall.
It left a dent.
(Edited for the trolls among you: A- this is a touch of hyperbole. Look it up.
B- It's a 700+ page book, and I was incensed. It's not entirely inconceivable that this thing would dent the drywall.
Just saying. Back to the original review... )
This book was written before fan-fic was quite so mainstream. There were no fic websites out there then – there were no websites then. There was still fan-fic, printed in little fanzines and passed around among friends and such. And then there was this sort of thing, perpetrated on a public that had been introduced to wonder in the form of elves and wizards and quests, and who wanted more of it. Terry Brooks saw a market, and he acted to take advantage of it. I've read here and there that bad as this one is, the rest of the series improves – it couldn't get much worse, I have to say. But this: this is shameful.
When I was but an impressionable teen, my crush gave me this book for my birthday. He had teeth like little baby pearls and could quote from The Princess Bride, so I was pretty far gone on him. This book was so bad that it effectively cured me of that crush. Despite being a plot-point-for-plot-point, character-for-character rip-off of the Lord of the Rings, it's pretty boring. In fact, the only surprise in this novel is that despite such blatant plagiarism, none of the beauty of Tolkein's descriptions or rich history of his peoples translates over. I don't know how Brooks managed to strip Tolkein's tales of everything wonderful and beautiful, but he did it somehow.
4,25 sterren - Nederlandse hardcover 🦋🦋🦋🦋 Opnieuw gelezen, weer meegenomen naar een wereld na ammagedon. Ik vind Terry Brooks echt een wereld neer zetten waar we high fantasy kunnen meebeleven door de ogen van de hoofdrolspelers. 🌹🌹🌹
And Brooks is no J.R.R. Tolkien. That aside, it is an okay read. The storytelling isn't bad, and the story becomes slightly more original as it goes along. I actually finished it, so it can't be terrible, but it gets two stars for its absolute lack of originality.
Shea Ohmsford and his brother Flick are enjoying a peaceful life in the small town of Shady Vale when the legendary Druid Allanon appears to them to go on a quest to reclaim the Sword of Shannara and save all of the lands from the evil Warlock Lord. Will Shea and Flick accept the quest? Read on and find out for yourself.
This was a pretty good action-packed fantasy story that is inspired by the Lord of the rings. If you enjoy fantasy stories and the Lord of the rings, be sure to check out this book at your local library and wherever books are sold. I look forward to continuing this trilogy in the future.
So, I've read reviews that say this is just Terry Brooks' Lord of the Rings. I do see that, but at the same time, I think he made it his own in a lot of ways. I mean, aren't all fantasy adventures just someone's take on Lord of the Rings ... anyway, other than the fact that it's 700-some pages and I thought I would never finish it .. I liked it. I wasn't happy that 2 of the characters I liked died, but, it was a battle-adventure, can't live happily-ever-after for everyone. There were some lulling and overly-descriptive areas but mainly it was a page-turner, especially when just as one story-line was getting to a climax, he'd change to a different side of the story .. that was great to keep me reading. I've read Eragon and can see where that author was heavily influenced by this book, at least it seems to me he was. All this book was missing was a dragon .. haha .. Anyway, it's worth a read. I really enjoyed it!
The Sword of Shannara parallels the Lord of the Rings series on so many points it's a wonder he didn't get sued! About a third of the way in I began to feel deja vu, like I was rereading The Fellowship of the Ring. There are best-bud insignificant protagonists, who are told to go on an adventure by a mysterious wizardy type guy. During the mini-starter adventure they nearly get done in by undeadish dudes and meet a ranger, who is an aloof royal. They meet back up in a safe haven (dwarf this time, not elf) to discuss who and how they shall proceed in their questing against the ultimate evil "dark lord". The similarities go on and on.
But hey, enough of my yakkin'! The fact is, this is an epic work with some interesting elements, some of which do tarry from LotR territory. Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I feel like Brooks' heart was in the right place. And if nothing else, he was young, enthusiastic and inexperienced. For his legion of fans, it's for the best this book was not buried in legal proceedings and that its author was able to launch a long and fruitful career, for which many readers are grateful.
Terry Brooks-by his own admission-was a failed author until someone put a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings into his hands. Suddenly, he became a very successful published author of fantasy novels. Was this some kind of magic? Perhaps divine inspiration? Nope. It was pure, unadulterated theft.
Now, there are two kinds of people that seem to be writing reviews for this book. The first kind of person hates it because it really is just Tolkien's masterpiece with the names changed. I don't know who published this or why Brook's wasn't sued into oblivion, but he doesn't even try to hide the fact that this book is largely not his own work. The same characters, the same plot points, and even some of the same exact scenes are copied from The Lord of the Rings and dropped into this book.
The second kind of person rates this book pretty highly, and almost always adds a weak "Well, there are a lot of things that are different, too...". These people are either knowingly or subconsciously giving this book a pass that it doesn't deserve. Yes, there are a few things that are a little different here and there, but to make that small fact the saving grace of this book is extremely disingenuous.
As for my own personal opinion, I can freely admit that this book is a totally unoriginal con-job and still rate it rather highly. Why? Because I like The Lord of the Rings and so I am predisposed to liking a book that is almost the same thing. I am not taking off stars because of some kind of self-righteous anger, and at the same time I am not giving this book a pass by writing a review meekly explaining away its shady history.
Looked at independently of its source material, I only have a few notes:
Things I liked: It was rarely boring. Things moved at a nice pace for most of this pretty long novel.
It wrapped up its story in one book. Yes, I know the Shannara brand has about 20 books out at the moment, but this one doesn't really end on a cliffhanger and you can put it down without feeling like you have to move on to the next. The idea that every fantasy story has to be at least a trilogy is a cancer that has been eating away at the genre for a long time now. If Tolkien's publisher had just let him print the damn thing in one big volume we wouldn't have this problem, but what can you do?
The world's background was interesting, if not a little under developed (in book 1, at least). The world is basically our world after a nuclear holocaust wiped out most of the planet's life. Slowly, life reemerged as fantasy races and magic replaced science. Fun.
Things I didn't like (besides the aforementioned plagiarism, of which you could write an entire book about): The fellowship (sorry. Hunting party) members were all pretty bland and were practically interchangeable for most of the story.
The big battle scenes were pretty bad. Here is an example of what the big battle scenes are like: "The enemy lined up their cavalry, but they were driven back by the pikemen. Then, a unit of swordsmen got into formation and charged the enemy line, causing them to break. From the battlements, archers fired their bows, killing half of an enemy unit". It's just "This happens. Then this happens. Then this happens. Then this happens". You feel like you are a bird watching these random masses of people moving and shuffling around without really feeling like you are in the midst of the action in any way.
I mentioned that I liked the world background, but the fact that it wasn't really developed is a problem at times. We are basically in a fantasy world, for example, and suddenly a random robot attacks the characters. It just felt a little cheesy and out of place without delving more into the ancient (pre nuclear holocaust) history of the world. In fact, the background of the world was so quickly mentioned and forgotten that it seems like Brooks threw that in there just so he could have a random robot attack.
So there you have it. The Sword of Shannara is a blatant rip off of The Lord of the Rings that deserves NO excuses or pardons, and yet it can still be enjoyed for what it is. Shocking, right?
The Sword of Shannara, as virtually all serious fantasy fans are aware, was the "break-out" novel that made Terry Brooks a best-selling and very wealthy giant of the publishing industry, sparked a plethora of sequels (the original trilogy was followed by 30-some spin-off series books, prequels, etc.!), and regularly appears on shortlists of the most influential and recommended works of late 20th-century fantasy, or, indeed, of modern fantasy in general. When I was starting to get into reading fantasy in the 80s (having read hardly any of it in my childhood and youth), it was taken for granted to be an obvious must-read in the genre, after the LOTR trilogy, which I'd read in 1980. (More on that below.)
In the late 80s (1987 is a rough guess), Barb and I read this together. We liked it well enough; the story-telling held our interest, the prose style was easily readable, the world-building proved to be competent, and the characters who were intended to be appealing were reasonably so. But we weren't bowled over by it, and I didn't find anything about it that stood out. My main take-away from it was that the premise, plotting, and characterizations were highly dependent on Tolkien. Tolkien influence, of course, would be expected in any subsequent English-language epic fantasy; he set the pattern for almost all subsequent depictions of elves and dwarves, for instance. But this book goes beyond that, to the point where it's essentially an LOTR knock-off. To be sure, it's set in the far future (after an apocalyptic event has rendered high technology a dim memory, and returned the world to a quasi-medieval state), not the dim past. But the functional effect is the same. Again, we have an evil sorcerer from the past returning to power to threaten the survival of all that's good, true and civilized; a magic-endued artifact that alone can thwart him (here, it's a sword rather than a ring); and an unassuming youth from a buccolic setting who's called to save the world under the guidance of a wizard who shows up at his door, and starts him on a quest. Gandalf is pretty obviously the model for Alanon, the Skull Bearers are clearly patterned after the Ringwraiths, and so forth. This book actually became, to my mind, the archetype of what I call "cookie-cutter fantasy," that is, fantasy works that seem to me to have no distinct literary vision of their own, and that I suspect are written simply to make money by following a formula that's been proven to sell, rather than because the author has some burning message or story to share.
Barb and I were satisfied enough with this as passable entertainment that we tried reading the immediate sequel, The Elfstones of Shannara; but we quickly dropped it when we discovered it's set decades after the first book, and deals with entirely different characters. We did later read and like a couple of books in the Heritage of Shannara spin-off series, set centuries later. But we were much more taken with the author's Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold, and did go on to follow that series. This is probably a minority position among genre fans, but I view the latter as the place where Brooks actually finds his own voice rather than just echoing Tolkien's, and as a more rewarding series (at least for me personally) than the Shannara books.
I grew up with the Shannara series. Along with The Wheel of Time, The Sword of Truth, and A Song of Ice and Fire, it was one of the big fantasy series that I read through numerous times and eagerly awaited more books from the author. I recently discovered the MTV (weird, but whatever) TV series The Shannara Chronicles, which was like a low budget version of Game of Thrones if it was made by drunk frat boys, starring all their jock and cheerleader friends, and John Rhys Davies, because why not. In other words, fun-ish, but full of cheese, questionable acting, silly special effects, and a whole lot of douche. I felt the desire to go back and read a few old favorites from the books.
This book came out something like 40 years ago, and at the time, the Fantasy Genre as we know it was relatively new. You had Tolkien, Jack Vance, a couple others, but the genre was still relatively new and fresh, without anything having become too cliche or overused yet. The adolescents from an obscure village told by a stern wizzardly fellow that they have to leave because one of them just might be the chosen one and Count Evil Von Murderkill over there will totally murderkill them if they don't, cue the Lord of the Rings Fanfare, storyline hadn't really be so overused as it is today. I'm really sad to say this, because I LOVED this book twenty-five years ago, but if Terry Brooks were to take it to a publisher in this day and age, he would likely be turned away because of how generic it is. At the time it was written, the storyline wasn't as cliche as it is today, but, the genre as a whole has done a lot of moving on from that point now.
The book has a lot of nostalgia value for me, but in the forty years since it's publication, the Fantasy Genre has moved on to bigger and better things. Three stars is all I can give it today, even with nostaliga factored into the rating.
This book threw me head first into the fantasy genre. And i don't mean sci-fi but the magic, elves and dragon genre. It was in our house, no one will admit to who's book it was, but I was reading everything and anything in the house at that time and absolutely LOVED this book. It's your typical fantasy/quest type of story filled with good, evil and hope. And I found it to be a nice break from the murder/suspense stories I had been reading.
If you've never read fantasy and want to take a dip, or surprisingly enjoyed the magic and fantasy of harry potter, then start off with this book.
My other weakness are books that have continuous stories. This book has probably got at least 12 books that are linked together. You should read them in order.
Η ιστορία είναι καλούτσικη, ο χειρισμός της όμως δείχνει αρκετή αφέλεια. Οι χαρακτήρες θα μπορούσαν να είναι πολύ καλύτεροι. Η αφήγηση, ενώ χρησιμοποιεί ωραία γλώσσα και όμορφες περιγραφές, μας περιγράφει δυο και τρεις φορές τα ίδια πράγματα, ξανά και ξανά, ενώ είναι γενικώς πολυυυυύ αργό. Η πλοκή θυμίζει πολύ έντονα την τριλογιά «ο Άρχοντας των δαχτυ��ιδιών». Στην αρχή του, το «Η συντροφιά του δαχτυλιδιού» και το τέλος του το «Οι δύο πύργοι» (σε καμιά περίπτωση όμως δεν το φτάνει, ούτε καν το πλησιάζει). Δεν έμεινα ευχαριστημένη, παρ’ όλα αυτά θα προχωρήσω στην ανάγνωση του επόμενου βιβλίου της σειράς, καθώς έχω ακούσει γενικώς καλύτερα λόγια.
When I was in 8th grade I stayed home sick from school one day. My sister-in-law lent me this book, and I read the whole thing in one day. What a read! It remains to this day a standard for what a good fantasy should be like.
When I finished The Lord of the Rings, all I wanted was more Lord of the Rings. And by that, what I mean is that I wanted that feeling I had while reading LotR, being lost in a world all its own and being so close to characters I considered friends.
That's why I think I get the appeal for The Sword of Shannara and honestly after all the reviews I've read, I expected this book to be much more close to LotR than it is. And going back to my first point, that's why I sought this book out, I was looking for more LotR since I heard it was a carbon copy.
Now that's not to say I couldn't go down the list of LotR characters and name a corresponding Shannara character. It's quite easy actually.
But even then, you can tell that Brooks did go beyond the exact same story. Now, please remember beyond does not equal better, by no means. LotR remains my all-time favorite books and this book gets nowhere close, but I do acknowledge the differences were at least enough for me. Those differences also show the shortcomings with this book, since that character depth is clearly lacking.
Yes Menion Leah is your Aragon character, but he's unknown royalty from an all but unknown kingdom. Not destined to be the returned king, he's just a straight-forward dude, loyal and brave.
Yes, Allanon is your Gandalf, but he's also the last one of his kind and he ... disappears for no reason all the time.
Yes, Shea is Frodo, but he's half-elf and this is more of a farmboy becomes great fantasy cliche than a Frodo who's great because of who he is. Completely different.
Yes, the Sword of Shannara is the ring, but it's missing most of the book and doesn't ... do the same stuff. We'll leave it at that.
I could keep going, but I'll quit there. Suffice it to say, the differences worked for me to make this its own story.
Having known it was a carbon copy, the similar elements didn't put me off as much as it could have I'm sure. I enjoyed The Sword of Shannara as a straight-forward quest/battle book. I thought it was enjoyable and had more surprises than I thought it would despite being cliche (or originator of many cliches?).
It completely lacks the depth of LotR, of course, (what doesn't) but it works at what it's doing and done competently. I'll read more.
3.5 out of 5 Stars (recommended)
Note on Narration: It's Scott Brick. Need I say more?
Romanzo fantasy cult della mia infanzia contraddistinto da un campionario di personaggi clichettosi che si oppongo al solito - e noioso - antagonista tutto scuro, cattivissimo e con l'originale desiderio di dominare il mondo. Si parla di un'opera chiaramente godibile per un neofita, ma il retaggio tolkeniano, a tratti, coincide con un vero e proprio plagio che pregiudica tremendamente l'esperienza di lettura.