Review of BLOODFIRE QUEST by Terry Brooks
THE DARK LEGACY OF SHANNARADel Rey, March 2013
The breakdown in the barrier is caused by the slow death of the great tree, Ellcrys, who has selected Arling, an elf-princess, to be her unwilling heir. Now, Arling's sister, Aphenglow, must abandon her quest for the stones and help Arling discover how to renew the tree... and somehow prevent the sacrifice that is necessary if the barriers are to be renewed.
Author Terry Brooks (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of fantasy by Brooks) can tell a compelling story (which is why he now has dozens of Shannara stories as well as his other series and books). And BLOODFIRE has its good moments, especially the battle between Aphenglow and the elf-hunter Cymrian (on one side) and the assassin Stoon with his trio of mutant-killers. I felt that the story ended on a high point, with a real cliff-hanger (sorry guys, it's a series, you don't get a resolution), with the strongest elements of the novel bringing up the end, and with clear objectives for the protagonists as they wrestle with the sequel. Too much of BLOODFIRE, though, was all about getting there. Arling resolves not to come to terms with her selection by the Ellcrys, Redden sits in prison and worries, Redden's brother, Railing, tries to decide what to do not that his brother is captured (and possibly dead). Shapeshifter (and daughter of a druid) Oriantha wanders around looking to rescue Redden (although her motivation for doing so isn't especially clear), while not actually doing much.
There seems to be a tendency in fantasy series to flip from story aspect to story aspect, to juggle a collection of independent story lines, to make sure new story lines emerge as older ones wrap up, and to never actually get anywhere. Combined with middle book-itus, this can make for some painful reading. Fortunately, BLOODFIRE QUEST avoids the worst of these dangers. We have a primary story line (the quest for the Ellcrys), a primary character (Aphenglow), and a ticking clock (the breakdown in the barrier). Still, it seemed to me that we spent way too much time waiting, discussing options (or refusing to accept the reality that there were no options). Brooks's strong story-telling at the end helped sell the next book, but it also made me wonder why it hadn't been on display the whole way through.
If you're a fan of Shannara, and especially if you've been reading THE DARK LEGACY mini-series, you'll want to grab BLOODFIRE. It definitely isn't one of those books where nothing happens to the point where you can skip the whole thing. I wouldn't recommend starting here, though.
Two StarsReviewed 5/05/13
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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