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Terry Brooks will always be associated with Shannara, in the same way as David Eddings will probably never escape the lands of the Belgariad and Raymond Feist and Riftworld will always go together. All of them have branched off and written other series, but they cannot escape the stories they are best known for. However, what Brooks is trying to do with the "Genesis of Shannara Trilogy" is combine his Shannara and "Word and Void" trilogies into something that his website claims will appeal to new readers of his books, which is exactly what I am.
Starting with the second part in a trilogy is not wise, however, as "The Elves of Cintra" immediately assumes you've previously read "Armageddon's Children" and drops you straight into the action without preamble and without introducing you to any of the characters. You're supposed to know who Logan Tom is and how and why a Knight of the Word should be associating himself with a group of children known as the Ghosts.
Once things settle down, it does become a little clearer. Logan Tom has rescued a group of street kids and is determined to lead them to safety, wherever that may be. One of these street kids, Hawk, is more than he seems and he appears to have found that safety with the King of Silver River. Logan Tom, having lost Hawk, is keen to find him as well as keep the others safe.
At the same time, another Knight of the Word, Angel Perez, has been called to The Cintra, to help the elves find a magical elfstone which will keep them safe. Two of the elves, Kirisin and Erisha, have already been warned of the impending danger to The Cintra and are already trying to find the stone. Both Angel Perez and the elves are hampered in their searches by demons looking to kill them and disrupt their plans.
This is a fairly gripping story, mixing a familiar world, albeit several years in the future and having been largely destroyed and abandoned, with the traditional fantasy elements of heroes and magic and elves. The two don't quite fit together entirely comfortably, although the two story arcs are largely separate, so there is no clash of cultures. The main problem is that this book is a middle part of a trilogy and is written as such. This means that there is plenty of reference to past acts which I was not familiar with. Whilst this left me curious enough as to what had happened to want to read the first part of the trilogy, it was a distraction, as the frequency of these references made me feel like an outsider.
Whilst this book makes the past sound as if it were full of excitement, the future doesn't look so bright. The middle part of a trilogy should be taking events on from the opening part and building up to a big finish. This time, however, there doesn't appear to be any big finish. We get a vague introduction to someone who could ultimately turn out to be the bad guy, but he is given so little attention he doesn't seem threatening. The occasional foe is dispatched here, but they aren't made to feel like a build up to a major enemy, which suggests a damp squib of a final part.
That said, this book isn't entirely welcoming, either. The segments of back-story that annoyed in the first part are again present and again not entirely appropriate. There are also new characters who appear from nowhere and serve only as cannon fodder or as an obvious plot device to introduce something or someone more important. For what is actually quite a short book, it seems strange to be feeling that parts of it could be cut out, but much feels dragged out or entirely unnecessary.
It's not that it's unreadable, as Brooks writes well. I did find myself caring about the characters and feeling upset when things didn't go their way. Admittedly, this level of involvement isn't in keeping with the rest of the book, as I couldn't cheer them onto success, as it was never clear how to count success, with no real aim ever in sight. In the end, I was simply happy when someone didn't die, as it was the only clearly positive outcome. This really sums up the whole book; it is not a collection of positive things, but more an absence of negative ones.
Maybe this is why Brooks' website suggests this would be a good trilogy for new readers of his work. Long standing fans will know that he has written better than this, which he must have done to have had a career spanning three decades. Newcomers such as me won't realise this and may therefore get more enjoyment out of the writing, even if the story is a little weak. Certainly, I have found myself keen to read the previous book in the trilogy for clarification and because this books makes it sound worthwhile, but I wouldn't want to read this again and I'm not enthused by the closing part of the trilogy, as this doesn't set it up at all well.
This is one to borrow, not to buy, especially with a cheapest price for a new copy being £10.44 from Amazon and second hand copies going for more than £5.00 including postage from eBay, it may be better to wait until paperback copies are available. Even then, I would still only recommend a purchase if you're a completist who has followed Brooks for his full thirty year career and can't bear to let any of his work pass you by.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk
Fifty years from now, our world looks very different. Governments have fallen. Thousands live in fortified strongholds; others roam the landscape as either predator or prey. Standing against the forces that have tipped the balance from good to evil are very few heroes, men and women imbued with powerful magic and sworn to a high destiny. Logan Tom is one of those heroes. He's on a desperate quest to deliver the street kids he rescued in Seattle to safety. So, too, is Angel Perez, who is leading a second group in the Oregon wilderness where she encounters the long-hidden Elves of Cintra. And Hawk - just learning his magic - has an encounter with the mystical King of the Silver River, who promises safety for both humans and elves - if only they can reach him...