Wednesday, 30 January 2008

‘Dark Wraith of Shannara’ – Terry Brooks (Del Rey Books)

Love him or hate him (and I’m starting to quite like him) you can’t argue that Terry Brooks is one of the big names in the fantasy genre and has been since the late seventies. The two series that he is most well known for are his ‘Shannara’ books and ‘The Word and the Void’, both of which are now inter-linked. Not only has Terry done this but he also seems to be looking for any gaps that need filling. While it’s probably too early to see if ‘The Word and the Void’ gets similar treatment, well known characters from ‘Shannara’ have made the leap from the written word to graphic novel format and it’s a pretty good spectacle to behold.
Now, I’m woefully poor with the history of Shannara but I’ve done a little bit of digging around and can tell you that ‘Dark Wraith’ takes place after the events of ‘The Wishsong of Shannara’ and the short story ‘Indomitable’. It is the story of the machinations of the hitherto unknown Croton Witch but ‘Dark Wraith’ is more about the trials of Jair Ohmsford as he must balance the needs of his friends (and Shannara itself) with the damage his newly found magic does to his psyche every time he uses it. Does he succeed? Well, if you’ve read the rest of the Shannara books then you’ll already know the answer but ‘Dark Wraith’ is still a good read to get stuck into with a cast of characters that veterans of the series will instantly recognise but who also serve as a good introductory point for the casual reader.
‘Dark Wraith’ ticks all the boxes for a ‘quest story’ but human interest elements ensure that the story stays relatively fresh and free of cliché. It’s nice and short as well which means that events don’t run out of steam, there’s a job that needs doing and that’s what the story is all about. For a tale that is short, ‘Dark Wraith’ really does well to show the reader all the thoughts and feelings of certain characters, I really got a feel for who Jair Ohmsford was and this helped me understand the story much more. I also enjoyed watching the relationship play out between Jair and Garet Jax, I’m certainly interested to see where this goes next.
One problem I did have was Edwin David’s artwork and that’s unfortunate seeing as his artwork is on every single page! ;o) While the more monstrous characters/creatures come across very well I didn’t see much else that made the artwork stand out from any other comics (or graphic novels) that I’ve read. I’m not really big on art though so I may well be missing loads of stuff that others will enjoy.
‘Dark Wraith of Shannara’ is a fun read that lost marks, for me, only because it wasn’t set in a world that I could identify with more. There wasn’t the ‘spark’ I would have got from a ‘Malazan’ or ‘Westeros’ graphic novel and that’s no-one’s fault, just the way it is when personal preference comes to the fore. Fans of Terry Brooks will love this to pieces!

Seven and a Half out of Ten

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