Brooks continues to squeeze mileage out of his sword-and-sorcery Shannara yarns; this one's the fifth, following The Scions of Shannara (1990), and describes the quest for the Black Elfstone, a jewel that nullifies magic and can restore Paranor, the magically lost Keep of the Druids. Along with the usual magical characters--the Druid-descended Par, Coll, and Wren Ohmsford, and their uncle, Walker Boh--comes Morgan Leah (he of the magical but broken sword), Quickening, daughter of the King of the Silver River, and Pe Ell, an assassin with an irresistible magic knife. Turns out that the Black Elfstone is in the hands of the Stone King, an ancient and powerful being who's gone mad and wants to turn the world to stone. The quest gets off to a rocky start, what with Coil a captire of the evil chief Shadowen, Rimmer Dall; Wren away on a different task altogether; and Walker Boh stuck in a magical trap, dying of poison and with his arm turned to stone. Some quite lively plotting, but set forth in an abstracted, rather slapdash fashion that will not deter Shannara fans but will certainly prevent more discerning readers from taking Brooks seriously.