Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Wishsong of Shannara Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Terry Brooks
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Series: Sword of Shannara Book Three
Pages: 512

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(Spoilers for the previous two Shannara Books are below).

Like the previous two books in this trilogy it is possible to read the Wishsong of Shannara as a standalone novel, but it would spoil the outcomes to the previous two books in the trilogy.  I would, at the very least, recommend you read Elfstones before reading this book, as that is a great individual book that shouldn’t be spoiled for anyone.

The Sword of Shannara Trilogy has been one of the most inconsistent groups of books in terms of quality that I’ve ever encountered.  The first book struggles, the second book displays brilliance, and this final book falls directly in between.  The Wishsong of Shannara is a lot more entertaining than The Sword of Shannara, but it never creates a cast of characters or a plot that has the same impact as Elfstones.  In addition to this the plot structure Brooks has been using starts to feel formulaic, leading this story to run a course of predictability.

The Ildatch is an ancient source of evil that has summoned its Mord Wraiths to begin conquering the Four Lands.  It’s up to Brin Ohmsford and her ability to use powerful magic called the Wishsong to stop this new threat of evil.  Traveling with Rone Leah and Allanon she seeks to destroy the Ildatch.
Brin’s brother Jair also has the Wishsong and decides to follow Brin and make sure she returns home safely, all the while fearing that the Ildatch has set a trap for her.

There are a lot of issues with Wishsong.  The first and foremost is the formulaic plot approach. Once again Allanon returns to set a new generation of Ohmsford’s on a quest to save the world.  The two part structure used to tell Elfstones, is once again utilized in Wishsong as the novel splits its time between Brin and Jair.

The problem with this is each of the two separate plot lines are nearly identical.  Both involve small groups of people trying to get to the Ildatch – which begs the question why not all travel together?  If there not all going to travel together, at least create some variety with your two plots.  The two-plot centered Elfstones worked because one was a quest based adventure, and the other was a desperate last stand.  In Wishsong it’s just two quest adventures.  This results in a much less interesting story.

The main characters  – Rone, Brin, and Jair – are a lot less emotionally engaging than the characters from Elfstones. Brin is by far the strongest of the three and she’s given the most interesting internal and external conflicts found in the book.  Her ability with the wishsong also helps spur her development, and creates some interesting moral dilemmas for her.  Rone feels like nothing more than a romantic attachment for Brin, and though interesting things happen to him, he himself accomplishes little.  Jair is hot and cold throughout the story, I eventually grew to like him, but it definitely took awhile.

The secondary characters are really hit or miss.  Garet Jax is the standout of the secondaries.  He’s a weapons master who essentially kicks everyone’s ass; he’s not particularly deep, but nevertheless he was fun to read.  Slanter has the personality of a mule.  He’s not exciting but he is the first Gnome Terry Brooks has introduced that has ambiguous loyalties, which is a first for the Gnomes in this series as they’ve all been portrayed as the “bad guys.” Slanter’s personality didn’t yield any emotional attachments to him as a character, but what Brooks attempts with him is appreciated. Cogline and Kimber are likeable, but not especially memorable.  There inclusion into the later half of the story helps spice up Brin’s plot.

The worst secondary character offenders are Edain Elessidil, Helt, and Elb Foraker – companions who end up joining with Jair.  These characters lack everything in the development department.  They don’t have personalities, they don’t have interesting back stories, and they don’t add anything exciting to the story.  These characters feel like forced entries into the novel – they never grow or develop – they are simply boring and intrusive.

The strongest point of Wishsong is the magic the book is named after.  Terry Brooks does an excellent job of being vague with the powers of the wishsong, showing what it can do over a gradual course of time.  Like the previous Shannara books, Wishsong is also satisfying as a form of lighter hearted escapism, and people looking for a break from the real world will certainly find it here. Overall Terry Brooks brings the Sword of Shannara Trilogy to a decent conclusion. Wishsong is neither the best nor worst of Terry Brooks’ books, but I felt it could have definitely been better.

Score: 6.9

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