Thursday, 30 August 2007

‘The Elves of Cintra’ – Terry Brooks (Orbit Books)

A lot of great stuff has happened since I started this blog and one of these things has been discovering how much I enjoy reading Terry Brooks’ ‘Shannara’ books. I could never really get into this series and will rather shamefacedly admit to being one of the people who say things like, “Shannara just rips off Lord of the Rings.” This was until I read ‘Armageddon’s Children’, was completely enthralled by the story (because that’s what counts) and left impatiently waiting to see what happened next. It was a good job that ‘The Elves of Cintra’ came through the door a couple of days ago (thanks Orbit!) as I was able to pick up where I left off and get some answers…
Brooks ties up the cliff-hanger straight away and takes the reader back to the more pressing concerns of various groups of characters trying to make their way in this post-apocalyptic world. While the Ghosts leave the demon-infested streets of Seattle behind, two elves and a Knight of the Word battle an unseen enemy in an attempt to save the Elvish people. In the meantime, a young man is discovering his true heritage and what his burgeoning powers will mean to the world.
‘The Elves of Cintra’ is the second book in the ‘Genesis of Shannara’ trilogy and we all know that ‘middle books’ run the risk of being seen as filling a gap between the story’s beginning and an explosive finale. Brooks cleverly avoids this by bringing closure to a number of ongoing storylines while also making it clear that the story is not over yet. There are some spectacular set pieces that leaves the reader in no doubt as to the sheer power of the magic used in Brooks’ world, in particular Logan Tom’s fight with the rogue knight and Angel’s face off with Delloreen. It’s also clever how magic is introduced more and more as the world begins to move away from the technology that doomed it and towards the magical setting of future novels. Brooks’ characters are very boldly drawn with a clear distinction between good and evil that won’t be to everyone’s taste in a genre where ‘grey morality’ is fashionable. What saves them though are the detail invested in each character that shows the reader just exactly why characters act the way they do. The level of detail in the rest of the book is astonishing and helps to ground the reader in the story. Brooks really excels in the incidental details that flesh out a story and keep a reader interested, the Senator and Larkin Quill are two examples that spring to mind.
The only thing that grated (slightly) was the unmasking of the enemy within the Elven people. It felt to me that questions arising from this were brushed off (under the guise of evil chuckles and the enemy being rather smug) and I was left thinking, “but…?” This was only a minor complaint though in a story that left me feeling elated at the events but already impatient to see how this one finally ends…

Nine out of Ten


Chris, The Book Swede said...

Wow, this sound good! I was one of the "Terry Brooks rips off LOTR" people too, but I may request a copy after your review, Graeme! =D


The Book Swede

Aidan Moher said...


I'm thrilled to see how much you've enjoyed Terry's two latest novels. Anytime someone realizes that Terry is so much more than a "Tolkien-clone" makes me giddy. You should be sure to pick up a copy of his Word and Void Novels (Running with the Demon, Knight of the Word, Angel Fire East) which is a prequel trilogy setting up Armageddon's Children and The Elves of Cintra and telling the story of Nest Freemark and John Ross (who you'll be familiar with after reading AC and EOC).


Make sure you read Armageddon's Children first, it sets up the events in The Elves of Cintra and is pretty essential to know what's going on. Also, it can't hurt for you to start with the W/V books, either! Can't wait to see a review.

A Dribble of Ink

Shawn C. Speakman said...

Glad you loved it, Graeme. Most people who call Terry a hack haven't even read him, let alone spent time away from the first 1/3 of SWORD--where comparisons of Brooks and Tolkien are legitimate and right on where it comes to "ripping off."

Then again, if people studied Old English they'd see where Tolkien ripped things off too.

But The Elfstones of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, Running with the Demon, and Angel Fire East are all masterpieces, in my opinion, and are books everyone should read. Especially those Word/Void books. Those books alone make Terry one of the best writers today.

John Dent said...

I'm having a hard time disagreeing with Shawn.

Graeme Flory said...

I've got so many other books to get through but I am going to have to make time to work through the Terry Brooks back catalogue at some point :o)
I was one of the people who only made it through the first third of 'Sword', I think it's definitely been better for me to approach it in this order...