Today's musings bring us up to the end of chapter 24.
As Par and Damson set out to rescue the others from the Federation guardhouse, we enter into a nice, protracted interlacement with Walker Boh's narrative. The switching back and forth between the two plots in this section of the book is deftly handled right down to meteorological details and emphasizes the unity of the overarching story while also ratcheting up the suspense in each of the sub-plots. This is a mature writing technique and Brooks is to be commended for pulling it off.
Beyond that, however, I'm thinking of deducting a few points for Walker's encounter with the Grimpond during this sequence. I already cried foul over this aquatic oracle as too much like the Hadeshorn in my reviews of The Wishsong of Shannara. The scenes only saving graces in this context are that it is well-written and that with the Grimpond as an established character the scene feels organic instead of forced. It's still a blatant repeat of an earlier episode, however, without any symbolic value or subtle commentary to justify it (for an example of an author properly repeating episodes for thematic and narrative effect see Edoras/Merry/Theoden and Minas Tirith/Pippin/Denethor). That aside, Walker's psychological battle over whether to take up the quest or not is believable, as is the technique Cogline uses to push him in the right direction (giving the volume of the Druid histories that records the spell for banishing Paranor and tells how the Black Elfstone could be used to bring it back).
Moving back to Par's quest, the two attempts to break into the Pit are fun and well written. The Pit "zombies" are especially chilling and something I still remember vividly from Jr. High. Padishar is quite a fun and well-rounded character; good enough to cover for the non-entities that are Stasis, Drutt, and Ciba Blue. Damson Rhee, however, drags the novel back towards the level of Jr. High light reading. Her romance with par seems more than a bit forced and her character lacks weight (we need a marine here, not the captain of the cheer squad). This does, of course, beg the question of who the book's intended audience is. I've been puzzling a bit over this. The Wishsong of Shannara seemed pretty plainly intended for young teenagers. With The Scions of Shannara, the only clue I can find is that the main characters seem to be in their teens or early twenties. That suggests that this series is aimed at middle and older teens. There's a strong sense, though, that the qualifier should be added "and really anyone who's interested in Fantasy." That's probably true, in a broad sense, of any book, but I think its intentionally so here. Something about the way it's written really seems to suggest that this volume is intended for a wider audience than heretofore. Maybe it's earned one. We'll see.