Monday, July 16, 2012

More Druid of Shannara: The Platypus Reads Part CLXXI

Well folks, we're nearing the end of the book and today's post carries us all the way to chapter 26.  I don't know what that will mean for the rest of the Heritage Series.  There should be time for at least one more volume.  Once the school year starts up again, I may have to abbreviate my review of The Talismans of Shannara into a post or two.  Congratulations to all of you who have stuck with this odyssey thus far.  Remember, if the day to day report gets to be too much, you can always skip to the "Final Thoughts On ..." post to get the gist of my take on the book.  Without further ado, then, let's dive in.

*Spoiler Reminder*

Let's begin with the Wren episode.  With the brief return of Garth and Wren, we get a little more fast paced intrigue and action.  I think Brooks did include this chapter here to give a tonal and emotional break from Eldwist on the chance that it might be burning his audience out.  That seems like a gamble as the sharp change could throw readers out of the story or simply frustrate them and thus reduce the Wren thread to a mere distraction to be gotten over. I'm not sure what my own feelings are.  The chapter didn't bother me, but I'm not sure whether cutting it out would help or hurt the book as a whole.

Moving on, we have some good-old-fashion supporting character killing.  Those supporting characters are just wonderful.  They're usually on screen long enough for the audience to get attached to them so that killing them off has some real emotional and narrative capital, but they aren't strictly necessary to the plot.  This brings us to the death of Carisman.  This poor guy was doomed from the start, but I'd forgotten how he died.  A lesser talent would have used this red shirt to advertise the deadliness of the Koden, or the Rake, or the Maw Grint, or even Uhl Belk himself.  By having the Urdas come back and kill Carisman, off screen, when he tries to save them from the dangers of the city is much more satisfying and the mark or a mature writer.  I say the mark of a "mature writer" because of the economy it shows: it weaves the Urdas into the world of the story by making them more than a random encounter, it also provides Carisman with a complete story by giving meaning to his death.  Nothing introduced is wasted here.  All the elements weave back into the story and infuse the main narrative with greater pathos since Eldwist has claimed the one character who seemed somehow resistant to its cheerless gloom.  Even the fact that Carisman dies offscreen contributes to the tone by denying us any sharp and violent action that would cut against the growing sense of solidification and despair.

Walker finally get some screen time here as the title character of the book.  I argue that he's really taken up his role as Druid of Shannara when he faces the Koden, but Walker doesn't understand yet what he's done.  Now, he gets to wrestle with choosing the choice he has already made.  Some readers find Walker a bit of a whiner, but his particular flavor of angst doesn't bother me.  Twenty and thirty year-olds have these kinds of issues as they try to square who they've become with who they thought they were supposed to be.  Maybe it will bug me when I'm fifty.

Uhl Belk is pretty darn cool, I do have to say.  This is the atypical Brooks book in that the final baddy isn't some sort of horrible, faceless monster.  I love his choice of "The Thinker" as the form in which Belk chooses to appear.  As the original statue is the capstone for the doors of Hell, so belk sits and ponders in the Hell of his own making.  Like Dante's shades, he too can think, but has lost the good if intellect.  The whole conversation with Belk is wonderfully and hauntingly done.  I did notice the return of the strange magical eroticism that we see in Brin's confrontation with the Maelmord in The Wishsong of Shannara.  This time, it reminded me a bit of The Moon Pearl.  I'm not sure what Brooks is doing here.  Maybe he's just trying to make us feel discomfited?  It worked for Alien.

Chapter 27 will return us to Pe Ell.  I'm looking forward to polishing this thing off, so we'll see how far I've gotten next time.  Best wishes until then! 

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