For today, we're moving things up to chapter 20.
*Ph33r teh Sp0173rz*
Ok, so Brooks first decides to follow Par's attempts to recover the Sword of Shannara after the three scions each receive their charge from Allanon. Since we adopt Par's p.o.v. more or less throughout the first part of this volume, it's a wise place to start. Chekov's gun #1 can now go off: we find out who Par and Coll's daring rescuer was by using the hawk ring and asking for the "the Archer." The whole scene has shades of Robin Hood floating all around it, but Brooks has gotten better at disguising his source material and working it seamlessly into his sub-created world.
Par, Coll, Morgan, Steff, and Teel sneak into the occupied city of Varfleet and locate "the Movement" in the person of the large, but good-natured Hirehone (a guy who'd fit right in with the Merry Men). He takes them to the outlaw fortress known as "The Jut" and introduces them to the Movement leader, Padishar Creel. Creel is a flamboyant, Robin-Hood or a character, but well-drawn enough to feel real and organic. He, at least, being a flaming romantic, has an easily discernible (and hinted at in prior scenes) reason for taking Par and Co. at their word and organizing the search for the sword. While waiting to set out on the quest, we get a good look at The Jut and Padishar Creel. Both hold up well under examination; indeed this whole section flows pretty well. Creel eventually determines a possible resting place for the sword based on a hunch he's already had for some time (again, giving his romantic steak, we can believe that he's the sort of guy who's calculated this sort of thing and been dying for an excuse to see if he's right). That leads us to our next location, Tyrsis.
Tyrsis, like Varfleet and The Jut, has a well-developed feel to it. Part of this is probably because the city has built up a significant history over the last three books that can be tapped into and developed. There's something about Brook's description of the place that makes it more than merely a perfunctory setting, but a real imagined world with hints at its own economy, politics, social norms, etc. Of course at this point the demands of pulp intrude and we catch sight of the strong, vivacious, Omni-compitent, yet also richly emotional, and perfunctory red-headed Damson Rhee, a.k.a "the love interest" if you didn't see that from a mile off. Don't get me wrong, she functions well as a character and is deftly introduced into the plot; full marks for the author there. It's just another place, however, where I (notice the emphasis on "I") feel that Brook's commitment to pulp grates against his genuine potential for high fantasy. Damson Rhee, as we have her thus far, is a good character but definitely belongs in the world of A Princess of Mars and not The Lord of the Ring. The problem is that the more Brooks' world takes on a life of its own through the accumulation of events it hedges more and more towards The Lord of the Rings. That issue aside, there's only one real mistake in this section and that's the forced p.o.v. shift when Mennion notices Hirehone in the crowd. Noticing Hirehone is fine, but shifting p.o.v. for two lines to do it is unnecessary and adds flaming, dancing Yodas to highlights and arrows. Putting these things aside, the whole Tyrsis episode is well drawn, like the Jut it mostly subsumes its pedigree as a "caper" stock scene beneath the overall world that Brooks has created with the action ending at just the right point to keep us in suspense. Tyrsis and it environs is what I remember most from my readings as a kid, and looking at the overall quality of this section I can see why.