Monday, July 23, 2012

First Thoughts on The Elf Queen of Shannara: The Platypus Reads Part CLXXV

This post will begin a series of reflections on The Elf Queen of Shannara by Terry Brooks.  Each reflection post will follow a reading session and attempt to record my thoughts and feelings on what I have just read.  I hope that this will allow me to give greater attention to detail in reviewing the book as well as producing a record of the effects of certain passages "as read" without time for further knowledge of the plot (where possible, I did read these back in Jr. High) to interfere.  I have thus far pursued this tactic with The Elfstones of Shannara, The Wishsong of Shannara, The Scions of Shannara, and The Druid of Shannara.  The overall goals of this project are to gain insight into the process of authorial growth and hone my skills as a literary critic by studying a simple and popular set of books by a bestselling author with a long publishing history.  I claim nothing more than amateur status in either of these pursuits.

*Spoiler Material Ahead*

All you get today is Chapter 1, but there's plenty of food for thought right there.

Terry Brooks has developed an interesting habit in the Heritage Series, namely, beginning each book with a short vignette featuring a character(s) that is essential to the main characters' quest rather than begin with the main character.  He began The Scions of Shannara with Cogline, The Druid of Shannara with The King of the Silver River, and now begins The Elf Queen of Shannara with Ellenroh Elessidil.  I suppose that these scenes are meant to serve as narrative hooks that give the story an initial "punch" that will help them get through the slow establishing material that follows.  If it backfires, however, the reader is left thinking "hey, where did that cool book from the first chapter go".  The tactic seems risky.  I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts on this especially if you've seen it done with other authors.

Given the placement and number of times the word is mentioned in the first chapter, I'm guessing that "fire" will be a significant symbol in this book.  I wonder if it's in any way meant to parallel the Bloodfire in The Elfstones of Shannara, the other book in the series that focuses on the elves.  In addition to fire, the sea should be important as well since most of this book will take place on an island.  Brooks also seems to be setting some limits to the world of the Four Lands in this series as the prior volume took us to shores of the sea in the Northeast and this volume will take us again to the shores of the sea in the Southwest.  Practically speaking, this means that the Stone King lives in New York and the elves have fled from California to Hawaii while the evil Texas (with the aid of demons) have pushed up from the south to cover all the lands between.  The rock trolls are pretty organic, and I guess that fits well for the Pacific Northwest.  But I digress...

Finally, I wonder how Brooks will develop the elves in this volume.  I think I remember this book with the most clarity from my prior reading, but I don't remember elven culture being worked out in any greater detail.  If so, that's too bad.  Terry Brooks' elves up to this point have just been humans with pointy ears, a real creative tragedy in my opinion.  Revisiting them now after his abilities as an author have grown should give him the opportunity to enrich this particular part of his created world.  We'll see if my memory is faulty. 

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