The forces of good and evil converge to do battle in Brooks’ (The High Druid’s Blade, 2014, etc.) latest addition to the ever expanding Shannara series.
The stalwart paladin of the Druids, Paxon Leah, protects Druid Avalene as she seeks out unsanctioned practitioners of magic. The Druid is pursuing both a malevolent sorcerer, Arcannen, and teenager Reyn Frosch, an untrained wielder of the magical “wishsong.” Arcannen is also in hot pursuit of the magical musician and makes a bargain with the geishalike Lariana to train her in spell-casting if she seduces Reyn into working for him. Arcannen yearns to revenge himself on the meddling Druids and on a maverick wing of the government’s army, which sacked a pirate village that sheltered him. This last seems oddly sentimental for a conniving villain, but shoving in an army means plenty of violent men entering the fray with ray guns and mutated hunting animals. Those gleefully gruesome battles brim with far more depth and detail than the characters. Between skirmishes, vulnerable Reyn falls hard for Lariana, while Avalene and Paxon manage to barely steer clear of a maiden-and-hero love story. Inducing eye rolls, the few women who appear are either exotic beauties or cold fish, and their worst sin is “dominance.” Extensive exposition helps the reader unfamiliar with Shannara catch up on centuries of back story. Despite the reams of summary and the way all the characters sound the same whenever they open their mouths, Brooks’ expert pacing moves the story along quickly.
While retrograde and without much style, the novel will likely find an audience in fans of the series.