I’ll admit, historically, when picking out a book to read, I’ve gravitated more heavily towards the science-fiction genre. It has been relatively recently that I’ve started to pick up more and more stories in the realm of fantasy. My first foray into the genre was (and I’m sure countless others can say the same) Tolkien’s The Hobbit when I was young. As an adult, and a more serious reader, I began delving into fantasy first through some of the bigger names such as George R. R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, and since then have discovered countless other works by lesser known authors.
While Terry Brooks is by no means a “lesser known author,” I wouldn’t go as far to say that he’s a household name (although possibly MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles may change that). I initially picked up the first two books in Brooks’ Original Shannara Trilogy (The Sword of Shannara and The Elfstones of Shannara), however, on recommendation from a friend, I decided to forgo reading ‘Sword‘ and delved right into book two. With that, reading through ‘Elfstones‘ felt like a solid introduction to the world of The Four Lands, and I personally felt as if there were no indication that I was missing out on much by skipping over its predecessor.
As for my thoughts on ‘Elfstones,’ I can safely say that I enjoyed reading it. Was it insightful, deep, enlightening, and/or meaningful in any way to me? Definitely not – yet that doesn’t necessarily disqualify a book from being good. By and large, ‘Elfstones‘ feels like a fairly standard fantasy adventure. We have young reluctant heroes, a mysterious wizard who knows more than he lets on, a very black-and-white good vs. evil dynamic, elves, dwarves, and battles with an epic scale. While it is easy to read through this and find several genre tropes throughout, Brooks has a knack for genuinely writing his characters and makes a point to give them an interesting world to explore. Tropes aside, the world of the Four Lands has a few surprises and fascinating elements to explore, and the book’s looming threat of other-worldly demons brings an interesting – almost creepy – element to the dark, villainous forces we so often find in epic fantasy.
While this book, in my opinion, is by no means game-changing, I’m sure fans of the genre will find something to enjoy in the Four Lands and the greater world of Shannara.