Those of us who were book worms growing up know what it is to have literary role models. I'm not talking about every geek who wants to be the next Tolkien (something I was fervently guilty of as a kid). Instead, I mean that those who love to read as children often find themselves selecting characters that they wish they could be like; characters that show them one possible image of themselves. The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child, / Met his own image walking in the garden. / That apparition, sole of men, he saw. So, when I was in Jr. High, I always wished I could be like Walker Boh. He was introverted, learned, intuitive, got to dress in black, loved nature, and was respected as a natural leader. In short, he was a kind of cool that very awkward and uncool Jr. High me could envision being one day. Nowadays, I dress in black, have a beard and both my arms. Make of that what you will.
Onto the review. We're covering up through about half of Chapter 17. Don't continue reading if you don't want to know what happens.
Actually, since there isn't that much happening in terms of action, there's not much to spoil. Having enlisted the help of Tracker Horner Dees, the little company push north over the mountains and down towards Eldwist and the Tiderace. While traveling in the mountains they meet Carisman, a troubadour who has been made king the Urpas. He negotiates their escape from Urpa territory so long as they take him along. This makes Pe Ell increasingly testy. During the escape, Morgan and Quickening are washed over a cliff and inexplicably have Mad Wild Tree Sex on an islet. Rejoining the group the next day, Quickening and Morgan continue to journey to Eldwist casting amorous glances all the way. That is until they come to the Koden, a creature which guards the gates to Uhl Belk's realm. Now Walker Boh gets to show his stuff and communes with the Koden, convincing them to let the group pass. And... that's where I had to leave off reading and go to bed...
1. I love the episode with the Koden. This is the first time Brooks has given us a monster and done something different with it. The whole scene has a wonderful sense of tension tempered with sorrow that sets a wonderful emotional tone for the stone city of Eldwist. This is also our first chance in the novel to see Walker acting as Allanon. Here, and not at Paranor, is really where he claims the mantel of "Druid of Shannara." I think it's also important that his career begins with an act of empathy and compassion.
2. For all that this is Walker's book, we see remarkably little of the guy. I think Brooks is doing this intentionally. As with Quickening, our sense of awe and wonder with Walker will decrease the more we get into his thoughts -indeed the more time he's on screen. If Walker Boh is going to become Allanon, he needs to become as distant and inscrutable as Allanon. Again, Brooks' choice to begin this distancing in the novel dedicated to Walker is interesting a daring; another sign of real authorial growth.
3. I wonder if any of this was influenced by a game or six of Dungeons and Dragons. By the time the PCs reach Eldwist, we've got a classic group: tracker, rogue/assassin, barbarian, druid, bard, and NPC McGuffin. Even the way the episodes are constructed reminds me of a good GM trying to make sure that there's something special for each character to do during the session. Eldwist itself reminds me of a dungeon in The Legend of Zelda or Final Fantasy. If these books are ever adapted into films, the design team are going to have a field day with Eldwist.
4. Mad Wild Tree Sex is forced and dumb.
5. I was surprised at how likable Carisman is as a character. I'd completely forgotten about him. When he first arrived on scene, I thought he'd be another annoying whimsy of Brooks' rather omnivorous authorial tastes, but even his constant Bombadil-like poetry is somehow fitting.
So there you have it: one part nostalgia, one part literary review. Meantime, the Platypus continues to speak Truth.