Review of BEARERS OF THE BLACK STAFF by Terry Brooks (see his website)
LEGENDS OF SHANNARA
Del Rey, August 2010
For five hundred years, humans, elves, and mutants have lived high in the mountains, separated from the destruction that was the rest of the world by magical mists. Now, though, those mists, and the spells that held them in place are failing. Sider Ament, a bearer of the black staffs passed down from the Knights of the Word, sends two young scouts to warn the valley's inhabitants while he tracks the invaders who have already killed a pair of guards. But the two, Panterra and Prue meet with doubt. Over the centuries the magic of the mists has pasted into an article of faith. And the religious leaders would rather murder than risk the loss of their authority.
Prue and Panterra escape assassins and travel to the elves where they meet up with a couple of friends and the elf princess. Together, they travel to the formerly mist-protected passes--and meet up with disaster. An invading army of trolls already camps nearby.
Author Terry Brooks (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Brooks) continues his Shannara uber-series with a new cycle depicting renewed contact between the magical Shannara world and the destroyed world outside. Unlike many fantasy authors, Brooks begins with a dystopic near-future, as war, plague, and human-caused destruction wipes out civilization, but where magic and the long-dormant elves can play a larger role. Brooks doesn't create noble and good races but good and evil people...from any race. Even the elves are torn between what they wish to believe and what they see around them.
With BEARERS OF THE BLACK STAFF, Brooks gives us a set of young protagonists with potential but serious flaws. Panterra is impulsive and doesn't know his own feelings. Elf-princess Phryne is also impulsive, headstrong and caught up in herself (not unusual for a teenager). Over the course of the story, Brooks lets them see the consequences of their actions and lack of action, ending the story with a cliffhanger that will require all of them to step up to a higher level if they are to have a chance at survival. Meanwhile, too many others pursue business as usual, even as the world changes around them.
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