Brooks (Witch Wraith, 2013, etc.) returns with a stand-alone Shannara novel starring Paxon Leah.
The book is replete with sorcerers, druids, magical weapons and other familiar signifiers of the fantasy genre, but true wonder is in disappointingly short supply. The presence of mechanically powered airships and gunlike weapons distinguish the story somewhat from its obvious forebears, but at heart, Brooks’ story sits squarely—perhaps too squarely—in the tradition of Tolkien and his cohort. The narrative concerns the travails of one Paxon Leah, scion of a once-significant magical family, as he attempts to rescue his sister from an evil wizard bent on retrieving the Leahs’ magical sword. Paxon is aided in his efforts by the Druids, an order of magic users tasked with policing the use of arcane arts, who are locked in political struggle with the technology-favoring Federation; Arcannen, the sinister mage who kidnapped Paxon’s sister, plays both sides with the Leahs acting as his unwitting pawns. That’s about all there is to it: The bland characters are broadly drawn, afforded a basic characteristic or two (Paxon is noble and resolute, Arcannen is wicked and devious, etc.), the prose is risibly clunky, exposition is baldly delivered, often repeatedly, as if Brooks had forgotten he had already explained various plot points, and the depictions of magic and other fantastic elements of Paxon’s world are generic and feel secondhand. Brooks delivers some mild pleasures: The story does move briskly, and there are enjoyable bits of business involving battles with werewolves and scenes of supernatural combat, and the familiar stations of Paxon’s “hero’s journey” are comforting in their familiarity.
Square, sturdy, straight-down-the-middle fantasy entertainment, enjoyable for the Shannara faithful.