In my youth, I enjoyed Terry Brooks’ first three Shannara novels so much that I revisited them numerous times. But I had never read the prequel to his first novel, The Sword of Shannara, which he published roughly two decades later, and it has been a long time since I’ve read any of his stories.
I found diving into First King of Shannara refreshing, and at the same time comforting, hungry as I was to recapture the magic his novels once held for me. Brooks certainly knows how to tell an entertaining story, and his prose flowed smoothly as he introduced me to his characters and the dilemmas they faced. He threw a lot of history at me in the opening chapters, but then he gave me a breather as Bremen returns to Paranor, the center of Druid learning. There he tries to warn them that the evil Brona is leading an army of Gnomes, Trolls, and Skull Bearers to invade the land. I enjoyed meeting his friends, and hoped that he could convince the council to accept his arguments. Unfortunately, just as they once expelled him from their order, the Druids refused to see his point of view. So they again cast him out. But this time, some of his friends accompanied him, recognizing his wisdom, and the urgency of the situation.
Returning to Shannara as I did, without remembering much from the original trilogy, the novel struck me afresh, yet soothed me with a sense of déjà vu. I enjoyed following the protagonists as they fought Brona’s minions, sought out the magical items necessary to combat the villain, and repeatedly faced off against the forces of evil. I felt sad when the characters I had come to care about died, but rejoiced in the survivors’ triumphs. With his prequel, Terry Brooks left me satisfied, and interested in rereading that first great novel, The Sword of Shannara, as well as the ones that immediately followed.
As a teen, J. R. R. Tolkien’s novels left me wanting more great stories like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. In Terry Brooks, I found a writer who sated my hunger. While my palate has evolved since my teens, it’s comforting to know that I can occasionally order a former favorite off the menu, savor its familiar flavors, and leave the table satisfied. If, after watching Peter Jackson’s films, or reading Tolkien’s books, you find your stomach rumbling, might I suggest a house special: one of Terry Brooks’ delicious and satisfying Shannara entrees?