Monday, November 12, 2007

Review - Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

My audio catching up on old novels continues.

In Elfstones of Shannara we move forward about 50 years from the happenings of the Sword of Shannara. A new and greater threat looms over the four lands and once again the Ohmsford family is there to greet it. Demons, once banished from the world by ancient elven magic have started to break free from their eternal prison and are poised to destroy the races. The Ellcrys, an ancient and magical tree, which is the only thing holding back the Demons is dying. The only way to stop the ravaging Demons is to save the tree. It falls to Wil Ohmsford to help escort an elven girl named Amberle to bring about the rebirth of the tree and save the world. With the help of the magic elfstones and the Druid Allanon, well heck they might just make it.

I found "Elfstones" to be a decent novel but after finishing the second book and starting the third I'm starting to be annoyed with a few aspects of Terry Brooks' early writing. For one names are rarely used in dialogue. It's always "elven girl" or "valeman" or "elven king". The second is the self-doubting characters. Granted you want characters who have genuine human frailties and fear and self doubt are natural. That said, considering the Ohmsford line is the heroic protagonists in all of these tales you'd think they'd be a little less whiny and a little more capable. There are basically 2 chapters in this book (one with Wil and one with Amberle) where they do nothing but whine that they can't do what is needed to be done. (and then of course do it).

One other thing that always bothers me is that none of the Ohmsfords ever learns how to use a weapon of any sort they are always completely reliant on whoever is with them or the elfstones. I mean come on. Aragorn and Boromir taught the hobbits how to use swords can no one teach an Ohmsford?

The story here is decent, the setting is very good, but the characters are only ok. The parts of the tale revolving around the elven defense of their homeland are much more entertaining than the Wil/Amberle quest. That said I would recommend the book for younger fantasy fans it's a decent stroy, one I probably would have really enjoyed more at 15 -16 years old. Parental rating: PG

Rating: 7.0/10
Kendall makes a good point in the comments. I should have mentioned a little on the quality of the audio since I was listening to the book and not reading it. I'll do so here rather than bury it in the comments. The unabridged audiobook was produced by Books on Tape and is available for downloadable purchase at The story is read by Scott Brick who after listening to nearly 50 hours of his reading does an excellent job. He has a strong voice and uses subtle inflection changes when switching characters rather than a lot of contrived and fake sounding voices. The audio quality itself is excellent. Audible allows you to download in one of four audio quality formats. I would always choose four (the highest), I have no desire to listen to subpar audio and the only savings for listening to lower formats is bandwidth and disk space which is cheap.


Kendall said...

That's a good review of the novel, but...what's the audio like?! Is it a good audiobook? You reviewed an audiobook, yet said nothing about the audio aspect?! ;-)

I'm curious, because I occasionally consider getting the audio books as a way of rereading the first three in this series.

So was it a good production? Was there one person, or several, reading? Good reading voice(s)?? If one person, did he or she vary his/her voice for speaking parts, or just do a straight read? Etc. Please, do tell! :-)

Kendall said...

Thanks for the comments on the audio side of it! :-) I'm listening to Scott Brick right now with another audiobook and like him, so that's great that he's doing Brooks' stuff.

Chris said...

Really?! The Elven battles absolutely bored me to tears. I had to really restrain myself from just skipping them and finishing the Bloodfire search... most readers knew that the Elves were going to struggle until the very end but somehow, through force of will, survive just long enough for the seed to be replanted. Yeah.

I do think its odd that they don't use names (especially Eretria... I always thought she should say something sexier or more intimate than 'Healer'), but I've found that that is something that all writers use for a Medieval setting (although technically I believe that this takes place after we're all dead). Just one of those things I've learned to overlook. I guess it would be much harder to do when you have to listen to it.

I loved it. Although the overall plot was pretty predictable (who the Changeling was and Amberle's actual purpose), the subtle twists and turns made it for me.

The Ohmsfords are always annoying... it's just something we all need to deal with and ignore when possible :)