Wednesday, July 19, 2006

DUST JACKETS: The Elfstones of Shannara

Perhaps one of the best books I’ve never finished is The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. The book came to my attention, because I found it in the most unlikely of places. As you might expect, a 911 center can be a stressful place, so the one in which I work has a room set aside for when things just get too stressful. We call it the quiet room. This room probably gets more use as a place for a quick nap during a break, but we also have a small bookshelf in this room. The majority of its contents are motivational books and procedure manuals, but shortly after I started here, I discovered two of Brooks’ “Shannara” books.

The Elfstones of Shannara is actually the second book within this popular fantasy series. Having never read the first book, The Sword of Shannara, I can’t really make any specific comparisons or speak on how the characters and reality have evolved. What I can say is that Brooks does a nice job of introducing one very well-developed really. Even without reading the first book, I found no trouble in following this story. He makes references to events in that first book, and I sensed we were dealing with a sequel focused on the next generation of characters within this world, but I can’t say that with certainty.

Within this book, the magic that has protected mankind from hordes of demons is failing. A rare tree called the Ellerys, the source of this power, is dying and must be rekindled. The demons are already making their way into the world of men and the bodies pile up fast. A young man named Wil Ohmsford is the one who possesses the aforementioned elfstones, and he’s charged with guarding a young elven girl who is the only one capable of fulfilling their quest of planting a new Ellerys.

I remember the most interesting thing about this book was that I found myself wondering if this was a book set in in Earth’s future. While I don’t recall seeing any advanced technology, references to the world’s history almost give the impression of a post-apocalyptic world. I found this an interesting twist on the traditional fantasy, but I’ve never progressed enough within the series to learn if this impression is accurate.

For anyone who loves traditional fantasy, Brooks proves himself a master of the genre. He does a nice job of building the tension, and even though I only read this during my breaks, which aren’t that long, I managed to make it halfway through this 564 page book within a few months.

So how did such a good page-turner lose my interest? The answer is “stress.” The quiet room was designed for an escape during stressful times, and at one point in my training, I definitely felt this stress. The police radios are notorious for breaking our new hires. Even those who easily complete their training on the 911 phone lines find themselves unable to follow all the activity on the police radios. Without delving into too much detail about that, let is suffice that I made it through that radio training by the skin of my teeth. Somehow, I associate that stressful time with this book, and it basically killed my interest. In the back of my mind, I’m well aware of this book and the fact it’s still sitting on the shelf in that quiet room, but I’ve never been able to pick up the book. The interest just isn’t there, because it’s like revisiting a bad memory. As I write this, I can’t help but think to myself how ludicrous my explanation sounds.

I sometimes wonder why we even have this bookshelf within the quiet room, because I don’t think I ever see anyone reading in there or taking something from the bookshelf to read. I think the dry nature of the reading selections doesn’t help. I do find it interesting that two fantasy novels have snuck in there, and I sometimes wonder how they got there. That probably makes The Elfstones of Shannara an orphaned book twice over. Another interesting note about this book. As you can see by the picture of the book held open, the makeshift bookmark I put there more than four years ago is still keeping my place.

Other Books by Terry Brooks:

I’ve not read any other books by Brooks, but that might soon change. He’s got a new book entitled Armageddon’s Children coming out later this summer, August 29th to be exact. His website is giving away thirty copies of the advanced readers copies. I’ve entered the contest, and if I win a copy, then you’ll seeing a review of it in the Wildcat’s Lair quite soon. Keep your fingers crossed!

1 comment:

DesLily said...

tsk tsk Bill... you shoulda finished it lol..

well they are MY kind of books.. so much so that though I read them many years ago, the fact that I had loaned book one to someone and never got it back, made me go to ebay and after several attempts I finally bought the "original" series in Trade size, with the original art work on and in them.
Book one's cover and inside piece of art is done by the Brothers Hildebrandt, and the covers on the other two were by Darrell K Sweet. Both outstanding artists!
For anyone who really enjoys Fantasy they should put this triogy on their list! Though Terry Brooks has written many other books, these are my personal favorites of his. (and I do have two other series of books he put out that all refer to the original series)

I'm glad you did this post.. I really couldn't imagine liking what you are reading and never going back to it!.. but I'll accept your "excuse" lol..