Saturday, June 16, 2012

More Scions of Shannara: The Platypus Reads Part CLVIII

Today's post brings us from chapter 24 to the beginning of chapter 28.  These books have been out for around twenty years, but I still feel obliged to say:

*Spoiler Warning*

In this section, Brooks ups the narritive ante by moving from two interlacing stories (Walker Boh and the Ohmsford Brothers) to three (Walker Boh, The Ohmsford Brothers, Morgan Leah).  So far, the cord of three strands is holding.  This increased narrative complexity comes as The Scions of Shannara moves towards its climax.  As this is the first book in a series of four, that climax is bound to be a cliff-hanger; indeed, three cliff-hangers.  If Brooks can pull it off that will be a great beginning for the series.  Meantime, lets take a brief look at each thread.

The Ohmsford thread, given the age of its protagonists, is bound to be the mature.  I wish I could remember as a Jr. Higher which thread interested me the most.  I'd wager it was watching the 18-22ish Ohmsford bros.  Now, they feel a little less interesting, though that may be the writing and not the age of the characters.  Whatever the truth may be, the story itself still flows along smoothly and carries enough interest to cover for the main characters.  In Brooks' defense, I did find Par and Coll's meditations in a tool shed to be true to the sort of brotherly conversation that occurs when you both share a room.  This conversation should also clue us in as to what Brooks intends to do to these characters: split them up and somehow force a role reversal with Par having to save Coll.  Beyond that, Tyrsis remains and interesting place, and Brooks continues to lavish loving authorial attention to it the course of these chapters.  The meeting with Mole in his den beneath the city streets adds color and richness to the setting and keeps the third attempt on the pit from feeling like mere repetition.  Something about that episode disturbed me again, but I'm not quite sure what it is.  Maybe I don't like the depiction of psychosis for mere entertainment value (as with the Shadowen on Toffer Ridge).  I don't know.

Morgan's thread follows the Highlander and Padishar Creel back to the Jut where evidenced of a traitor within the movement are on the rise and a Federation army shows up to avenge the two attempts on the Pit.  This is a nicely drawn stock episode by a writer who's by now mastered this sort of thing.  We have the scene complicated by the hunt for the traitor, the appearance of the unstoppable weapon (the Creeper) which our heroes stop once and may stop again.  We also have the arrival of unexpected help in the Rock Trolls which Brooks nicely complicates by making them ambassadors seeking an alliance. This nice little twist introduces the possibility that they will become a plot element after the siege is over, thus making them more than mere window-dressing to the audience, increasing the overall believability of the scene, and enhancing our sense of the larger world of the story.  Telling the story through Morgan's p.o.v. gives the hobbit highlander some much needed screen time and preserves our sense of being an outsider at the Jut, thus increasing the outlaw's mystique and removing any assurances that they will succeed by virtue of being "main characters."  In turn, the character of Padishar Creel is by now well enough established to keep our interest in the outlaw band high and give us a real stake in their future.  So, all-in-all, I can't find anything to deduct points from here.  Nicely done Mr. Brooks!

The third thread follows Walker Boh and resumes at the beginning of book 28 with Walker's decision to leave Hearthstone and look for the Black Elfstone.  Walker's a self-righteous whiner, but I have a soft spot for him.  He may still be young, but he's definitely the oldest of the main characters and thus provides a little more weight to the story.  His thread couldn't stand on its own without the interruption and action provided by the others, but it also provides a nice counterpoint to all their rushing about.

Missing, of course, in all this is Wren.  Brooks has made an interesting choice in giving the third scion a fully sketched and likable character while allowing her almost no screen time in the book.  We'll have to see how he recovers her and works her back into the grand narrative over the next few books.  Indeed, with one book going mostly to Par, and books two and three going to Walker and Wren, it will be interesting to see how Brooks holds our interest in characters he must largely abandon for four to eight hundred pages and with the plot as a whole.

That's all I've got for today.  The Scions of Shannara should be wrapped up soon and I am planning on beginning The Druid of Shannara immediately after that.    

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