BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Review: Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

Book Blurb:     The survivors of the Great Wars that devastated our world must face unimaginable challenges in this first of two novels set in the prehistory of Shannara!

    The Genesis of Shannara trilogy-Armageddon’s Children, The Elves of Cintra, and The Gypsy Morph-charted the fall of our own world into the hands of once-men and demons...and the escape of a few humans, Elves, and others into a remote mountain valley walled in by impenetrable magic. For five-hundred years the survivors have lived peacefully, learning to co-exist and to build a new world with the limited resources and skills available to them. Now the magic that kept them safe for so many centuries is wearing down.  Frightening creatures are penetrating the barriers and wreaking havoc on the valley within. It is time for the four peoples to stand together and create  the new world of Shannara.

Review:    This book occurs before, well before, the events of the first published Shannara book, The Sword of Shannara. Our world, the Earth, has been devastated and there were only a few survivors. Some of those survivors live in a valley separated from the rest of the world by barriers made of magic. Outside of the valley are other survivors, who have mutated over the years. There’s been no contact between the two groups and many of the human survivors in the valley are unwilling to believe that there even coudl be survivors. The human man who led the survivors to the valley five hundred years ago has been transformed over time into a messiah and a religious figure. Naturally, it’s conservative group and a core belief is that Hawk, the man who, in their opinion, saved the human race, will return. One of the main characters, Aislinne, sums it up well: “Child, child. I mean five centuries of traditions and beliefs that have become a bedrock of faith for far too many of our people. You cannot challenge something so deeply ingrained without arousing strong sentiment. Look now. How much do you know of the history of the Children of the Hawk?”

You might think that Brooks looks at religion and cults and how both grow and change and affect the culture they spring from. Fantasy allows an author the chance to explore, question and reflect issues that can be difficult to do in mainstream fiction. Using epic fantasy to do so while telling an engaging story would have been a worthwhile. effort. Sadly, Brooks chooses to stay with his tried and true formula. While the religion does play a part in the storyline, it drives certain actions, it’s not a key part of the story. The characters - Sider Ament ( the titular bearer of the Black Staff), Panterra Qu, Prue Liss, Aislinne - are moderately interesting but could be any character from any Shannara novel, just with a different name. 

I wanted to like this book, I really did. I enjoyed the first Shannara trilogy and most of the following books. I never read the Genesis trilogy nor the Word and Void series, both of which are set in time prior to this book. Still, I expected to enjoy it. Instead, it felt like a re-tread. We’ve seen all the characters before - in The Sword of Shannara, in The Driud of Shannara, in The Lord of the Rings, in any of the Pern novels by Anne McCffrey. If you have read any of those, you have read this one. What should have been an interesting glimpse into Shannara’s history and the development of it’s magical culture is instead a moderately interesting rewrite of earlier Shannara books. 

Unless you are a hardcore Brooks or Shannara fan, don’t bother with this book.  

This ARC was received from the publisher for review.

Publisher:  Del Rey

Format Read:  ARC

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