Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Final Thoughts on "The Talismans of Shannara:" The Platypus Reads Part CXCVII

And so we come to the end.  It's appropriate that this final post on the first seven books of Terry Brook's Shannara series should come in October.  That's about the time I finished my first read through the The Talismans of Shannara all those years ago.  Without further comment, then, let's get down to the finale of the Heritage Series.

*Spoilers and such*

We last left our heroes back at chapter XXV out of a total of XXXVII.  That's a lot of ground to cover.  Coll has to be recovered and his role among the scions of Shannara made clear.  Wren has to face her betrayer and triumph.  Par must succeed in taming the Wishsong and resisting the advances of First Seeker Rimmer Dall.  Walker has broken the siege of Paranor, but his final objective still must be made clear.  Minor characters like Damson, Morgan, Padishar, and Matty Roh still have their stories to tell.  Over all this still looms the question of how the Shadowen can be defeated.  How do you sum that all up?

Let me try.  The climax of The Talismans of Shannara plays out like a well-run campaign of Dungeons and Dragons.  Each character has their moment of glory and their special skill to contribute in defeating Rimmer Dall and his Shadowen hordes.  These "moments of glory" are nicely parceled out in a series of stock scenes: the chase (Morgan eludes the Seekers), the assault on the convoy (Morgan rescues Wren), the assault on the stronghold (Damson and Matty rescue Coll, and Walker, Morgan, Matty, and Damson rescue Par), the boss fight (against Gloon and against Rimmer Dall), and creative problem solving (destroying the Creepers).  These scenes are well-narrated and linked together with enough plausibility to keep us reading.  When it's all done, there's a nice debrief among our troop of PCs where the GM Stick, Walker Boh, helps answer any nagging questions.  It's nice, but only that.

The Talismans of Shannara can be a bit of a disappointment after the authorial break-outs achieved in The Druid of Shannara and the second half of The Elf Queen of Shannara.  That's true, but it shouldn't blind us to the overall achievement.  Even the Talismans moves the level of Brooks' craft well beyond that achieved in The Wishsong of Shannara, and the world of The Four Lands has only grown richer and more complex by the end of the Heritage Series.  Moreover, this enriching occurs without ever giving us the sense that the world of the first three volumes has simply been "relaunched" or worse, completely overhauled in the process.  When the company finally drifts its separate ways and Walker lies down to sleep the Druid sleep, we are left with a feeling of deep continuity, a sense that the story has been completed and all is as it should be.

That's how I ultimately feel after spending two summers with these books.  Sure, there were more worthy books I could have read, but that wasn't my aim.  My aim was to tie up some of the loose threads from my boyhood, to lay some unfinished business to rest.  Life goes on in the Four Lands of North America, and though in my mind the Shannara Series may be sleeping the Druid sleep, I do look forward to the day it will awake again with old friends and new adventures.   

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