Publisher: Del Rey
Book Review by David L. Felts
Have you read this book?
The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks’ first novel, was published in 1977. I read it a couple of years later, right after going through Lord of the Rings, which followed a devouring of the original twelve Acer/Lance Conan books. I remember not being all that impressed, since it seemed a pretty direct retelling of the Lord of the Rings. The second, The Elfstones of Shannara was better, and, although I read it, I don’t remember anything about The Wishsong of Shannara.
The point of that whole rambling paragraph was to say I haven’t read a Terry Brooks story in around 30 years, but my interested was rekindled by the moderately good (though millennified) Shannara series on MTV. I enjoyed it enough to seek out some of Brooks’ work.
One thing I do remember thinking after read the books was that it was cool that the whole Shannara series is takes place an undefined (but very long) time after the destruction of the modern world. The show highlighted this aspect more than the books, but I thought it a pretty cool extrapolation of the end result of our Armageddon.
I bit of poking around revealed Brooks had written a series of books about the before times detailing the fall of civilization and the rise of magic and the creatures and demons that populated his Shannara world.
Armageddon’s Children is the first book in the Genesis of Shannara series, and I enjoyed it quite a bit despite a few familiar bumps.
Brooks has never been one to be all that worried about every day details like eating and drinking. He glosses over those sort of activities without much impact on the story. However, I have to admit that one of the things that bothered me here was that the characters where always eating “packaged” food and water because the environment was so poisoned nothing could grow and all the water was bad.
Fine enough, except that the story takes place some 30 years or so after the wars and events that destroyed civilization. While this certainly isn’t a deal breaker, it was nonetheless something that made me go yeah right every time I read it.
That quibble out of the way, let’s dig in….
Weapons, disease and poisons have left a reduced humanity struggling in the remnants of the modern world. Somewhere in there, the violence of all the destruction brought magic back; seems it had always been there, but had been suppressed as humans became more advanced. Even the elves have been here all along, hidden from human sight in the wildest reaches of the world. The Good Guys, going by the Knights of the Word, have been fighting the demons of the Void spawned by the destruction. At this time, both magic and science co-exist.
But things haven’t been going well for the Good Guys and the demons are winning. The human race is teetering on the brink of destruction. There are only two Knights left, and they’ve been handed an impossible task by their patron, the White Lady.
Logan Tom is sent west to seek a magical creature called the gypsy morph, humanity’s last hope. Angel Perez is sent in another direction on a mystery mission; we still don’t know what she’s been sent to do by the end of the book. All of this is presented with somewhat frequent flashbacks, vignettes meant to help us understand the characters and their motivation and (heh) genesis.
Young Hawk and his group of street kids eking out a living in what used to be Seattle might just be the key to saving the future of the human race.
As the first book of a trilogy, the story doesn’t end so much as stop, leaving quite a bit left to be resolved. The follow-up is The Elves of Cintra; they were briefly introduced in Armageddon’s Children and set up with their own conflict that I imagine will get much more attention in the next book.
I enjoyed Armageddon’s Children. End of the world stuff has always been one of my favorite genres, and I had fun reading Brooks’ take on how the modern world might be destroyed and magic brought back. He does tend to drag on sometime with the whole internal monologue conflict decision making thing his characters seem to anguish over, however, and the backstories might have served better had they been condensed, but overall this would be a fun read for for most fantasy fans.