A Dribble of Ink
Published in

A Dribble of Ink

How Terry Brooks Saved Epic Fantasy

And helped me fall in love with Tolkien’s world.

Frodo’s Dead

There’s something familiar about this fellowship.

Reading The Sword of Shannara with a 21st century perspective can be any combination of frustrating, confusing, exciting, boring, and amusing.

Art by Luis Melon
‘The Sword of Shannara’ by Doug Beekman
  • Unlike almost every other secondary world I can think of, the Four Lands are constantly evolving: technologically, culturally, and socially.
  • It’s full of strong women who get shit done. They’re good, they’re evil, they’re somewhere in between. They’re complicated and competent.
  • Over its chronological course (from Running with the Demon to the High Druid’s Blade), the Shannara series is at various times an urban fantasy , a post-apocalyptic narrative, and an epic fantasy. Brooks is never content to stay confined to a single genre.
  • It deals heavily with physical, emotional, and mental disability.
The Four Lands

The aftermath of a nuclear war that has wiped out most of humanity on Earth, and left in its wake the beginnings of a world full of myths and magic.

It’s like being dropped into your favourite pub around a table of your oldest friends.

  • Young;
  • Naive;
  • Embued with some hidden magic;
  • Hidden away from the larger world;
  • Unaware of her inner strength;
  • Pitched against uncertainty; and
  • Resistant to being pushed into a larger world conflict.

“At the heart of every book I have written is the notion that absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Brooks revealed.

  • The Heritage of Shannara (1990–93), a four volume series, is particularly notable for its darker tone and the structure of its narrative, which dedicates the middle two volumes to two parties off on their own simultaneous journeys.
  • The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara (2000–2002) introduces a huge leap in technology to the series, and begins the series’ long-running exploration of the societal effects of magic clashing with technology. It also hints more obviously at the fantasy world’s connection to our own.
  • And, most notably, The Elfstones of Shannara (1982).

If you were to start reading Terry Brooks today, there’s no better place to begin than with The Elfstones of Shannara.

‘Witch Wraith’ by Todd Lockwood

“Welcome to the Four Lands. Let me show you around.”

Buy The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks



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Aidan Moher

Hugo Award-winning writer with work in Kotaku, Wired, Uncanny Magazine, and Tor.com. He lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and kids.