I'm a long time lover of the world of Shannara that Terry Brooks created. Over the years I've read and enjoyed his many series and stand alone which have given greater depth, insight and history into this world. With Wards of Faerie, we begin a new adventure set in the Four Lands a couple of generations after the The High Druid of Shannara Trilogy.
Wards of Faerie, like the other Shannara books, centers upon a quest. This time the Druids are on a quest to find Elfstones that were lost thousands of years ago. In fact they have been lost so long that they have entered into the realm of myth and legend to the point that nobody knows what they do and some even doubt their existence. In many ways it is evident that this book is the first book in a series. The first many chapters involve the characters doing a lot of research, talking, thinking and preparing for things to come. There are a few small fights and interactions throughout these first few chapters to help "up the ante" and make it apparent that there is certain danger in the days to come.
Personally I enjoyed the slower pace. Rather than dumping us headlong into an adventure, Brooks takes his time and lets us get to know a number of core characters very intimately. We work side-by-side with Aphenglow as she intently studies the ancient Elven histories in search of clues. We play and race with the twins Redden and Railing and learn about their impulsive spontaneity as well as their close brotherly bond. We are taken deep inside the political intrigue and rise of a new Prime Minister of the Federation. We learn about the new Druid Order and the current Ard Rhs Kyhber. Through the first half of the book, we walk alongside a series of key characters as they make meticulous investigations and preparations for a huge adventure to come.
For those who are fans of action, don't worry. Just because the book spends a lot of time setting up the main adventure doesn't mean that it can't have significant action. As I already mentioned, there are a couple of hand-to-hand fights early on in the book. These are precursors to numerous smaller action sequences through the first half of the book. By the midpoint though, the action starts to pick up and before long there is an all out siege being waged by hundreds of soldiers at the same time as other explorers are facing environmental dangers in a strange new land as they seek out the Stones.
For those who haven't read any of the Shannara books before, Brooks always provides enough exposition and backstory to let you jump into a new series without being terribly lost. However if you've read previous Shannara books, there are plenty of scenes that should make fans very happy including a brief appearance by a character from some of the early books.
While I agree with the critics who say that Brooks's works aren't "high literature", I also have to admit that he does pen fun and compelling stories that really draw me in and keep me turning page after page. In addition to the overall danger of the quest to find the Elfstones, there is a huge conspiratorial battle lurking behind the scenes and ready to explode into sight that could change the face and fate of the Four Lands.
I found it a joy to get back into the world of Shannara and begin another epic adventure. My only complaint is that (as is often the case) the book ends by leaving me with apprehension as to what will happen next…and I have to wait until next year to find out. This book had all the intriguing characters, compelling plot twists and turns (though I admit that I found one of the big "twists" to be somewhat predictable), and exciting adventure that I've come to love from Terry Brooks.
I can definitely recommend this to any Shannara fan. Although I would recommend you go back and pick up some of the earlier series too, if you haven't read any of Brooks's books before, you should enjoy this without requiring any previous reading. As is the case with his earlier works, the action and violence is big enough to be exciting while still being acceptable for younger readers (even down into the tweens).
4 out of 5 stars
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