Bane of Kings reviews the start of the Legends of Shannara duology by epic-fantasy author Terry Brooks, and published by Orbit Books, entitled Bearers of the Black Staff.
“An epic fantasy that will have you hooked from the start.” ~The Founding Fields
I know Terry Brooks has been around for a while, but this is the first time I’ve actually read any of his work, and seeing as some people practically worship it, I thought I’d see what all the hype was about. So I jumped in with, if I am correct, Brooks’ latest paperback release, Bearers of the Black Staff, (With the sequel, A Measure of Magic being Brooks’ latest novel), an opener to a new series that is called the Legends of Shannara.
I haven’t read high fantasy in a while, so it was a nice change to read Bearers of the Black Staff.
The novel is set 500 years after a demon-lead war that devastated humanity, and forced whoever managed to survive to flee to a small, isolated valley protected by magical barriers that keep invading armies out, but the people in, and there they remain, with elves and mutants.
I don’t get how the elves showed themselves and the like though, and I hope that it is explained in the earlier novels, but let’s continue with the plot. Technology is almost completely destroyed, with the exception of a couple of things that didn’t really fit in with the atmosphere that Bearers of the Black Staff created. Although there is a logical reason for them being there, it still… doesn’t feel right, if you get my meaning.
Most people in the valley believe that the barriers will remain that way forever, and they will be forever protected. But however, there’s just one problem, when the barriers collapse, the humans refuse to accept any possibility that they could have collapsed at all.
And it falls to a pair of trackers named Panterra Qu and Prue Liss, along with an Elf Princess Phyrne, to deliver the news to the population of the valley under orders of Sider Amnet, the Gray Man.
However, with some of the humans not wanting to believe that everything has changed, and a ruthless army of Trolls preparing for an invasion, things are starting to become desperate.
Right now, I would probably go into detail about how Bearers of the Black Staff is similar or different or better than the previous books in Brooks’ Shannara series, but seeing as I haven’t read those books, I haven’t really leapt at the opportunity to go out and read them ASAP, though.
Bearers of the Black Staff does have its flaws, as mentioned above; I just think that technology and high fantasy don’t fit together well. The only way I can see it working for me in epic fantasy right now is in the Warhammer World, with the many books set in that universe.
The plot I found to be rather straightforward, with several added subplots working outside the novel itself. However, the book is designed to be easy to read and impossible to put down, and believe me, I found Bearers of the Black Staff hard to tear myself away from, and I found that Brooks has managed to make readers feel comfortable and at home in his universe without much effort on their part, be they newcomers to the Shannara Universe or devout fans of the world.
If I found one thing annoying, Bearers of the Black Staff is not a full, complete novel. Despite the fact that The Measure of Magic is intended to be the second book in the duology, I’m thinking more along the lines is that it will be the second half of a book, if you get my meaning.
More Legends of Shannara: Bearers of the Black Staff, The Measure of Magic
More Terry Brooks: The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstone of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The Elf Queen of Shannara, The Talismans of Shannara.