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The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, Book Two

by Terry Brooks

Reviewed October 17, 2001.
A Del Rey Book.  2001.  375 pages.  Available at Sembach Library (F BRO).

Okay, I’m going to have to rant for a minute.

I did like the book, but the ending made me just plain angry.  In the last two pages, one of the viewpoint groups sees a group of fighters advancing against them, like nothing they’ve ever seen before.  Then the book ends.

I normally would never tell the ending of a book, but this ending has absolutely nothing to do with what went on in the rest of the book.  Or at least if it does relate, we don’t know how.  There was no foreshadowing of this at all.

If he had simply put this in a special section at the end:  “Preview of coming attractions,” it wouldn’t have bothered me so much.  Without that part, the book had a satisfying ending.  We know it’s the middle part of a trilogy and that there’s more to come, but the main conflict of this particular segment had been resolved.  Those last two pages belonged in the next book, in my opinion.  It seemed like a shameless manipulation to make you have to read the next book.  I don’t mind that sort of device at the end of a chapter, but I don’t feel it has any place at the end of a book.  (I admit that others may feel differently about it.)

My advice, if you’re interested in reading this trilogy, is to wait until the third book has come out and read them all together.  If I remember correctly, the first book, Ilse Witch, ended similarly.  I didn’t remember all the details of that book, but he did a good job reminding you as needed in this book.  I did have a bit of trouble remembering who was who among the multitudinous viewpoint characters, which probably would have been less of a problem if there hadn’t been a year and a half between the first two books.

Now, about the book itself:  This book is fantasy, a continuation of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series.  I haven’t read a lot of adult fantasy, but I have read most of his books.  (I do read as many children’s fantasy books as I can get my hands on.  I don’t like smut or gore or a heavy dose of the occult, which some adult fantasy books have.)  Some of his books do get tiresome--He has the habit I associate with not-great writing of having his characters excessively agonize over their feelings and impending decisions.  This book isn’t nearly so tedious in that regard as some of his others, so perhaps he’s growing out of that habit.

I do appreciate that Terry Brooks’ books are smut-free, making them perhaps a good choice for a teen who has finished reading Tolkien’s books and wants to try more fantasy.  His books do not have such clearly delineated sides of good and evil as Tolkien’s.  His good and powerful wizard-like Druids tend to be deceptive, and this book has an evil character who we hope will discover the truth of her childhood and reform.  Some hideously horrible things happen to some of the secondary characters in this book, so I would never consent to reading it aloud to my 7-year-old, as we are The Lord of the Rings.

With all that said, I did enjoy the book, and will definitely want to read the next one.  The plot was gripping.  Because he switched so often between different groups of viewpoint characters, it was easier to put the book down between chapters, and I didn’t finish it nearly so quickly as some.  This book didn’t engage my emotions as much as, say, The Elfstones of Shannara,

In conclusion, if you like The Lord of the Rings, I do recommend trying Terry Brooks.  Read his first book, The Sword of Shannara, which essentially borrows the plot from The Lord of the Rings.  Don’t, however, stop there.  Read the second book, The Elfstones of Shannara.  That one is my favorite.  (Although I read it many years ago, and my opinion may have changed by now.)  It is not a Tolkien copy at all, and has an original and exciting plot.  If you don’t like that one, you might as well stop!  If you do like it, you’ll probably be captivated enough to want to continue.  You’ll be hooked, as I have been, into reading all his Shannara books, even though you will like some better than others.

Reviews of other books by Terry Brooks:
Sometimes the Magic Works

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund. All rights reserved.

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