Today's post will cover chapters VIII and IX of Terry Brook's First King of Shannara. Readers who wish to remain spoiler free should not read on.
Chapter VIII effectively re-launches the narrative as we begin Tay's quest to find the Black Elfstone. This makes for a clunk in the story machinery that has ramped up with the assault on Paranor and the attempt to recover the Eilt Druin. Brooks attempts to smooth over this sudden change of pace by letting us get to know Tay a little better. This chapter also serves as the great reveal of our titular character, Jerle Shannara. Shannara is a butch "I'm the hero here ladies" so of guy. Disappointing -except that we know there must be more, because if we've read The Sword of Shannara then we know that at the critical moment this elven beefcake will fail ... and that, that is interesting.
Chapter IX complicates our emerging ensemble and thus attempts to deepen the reader's stake in seeing these characters come through. We learn that Jerle Shannara has a thing for Tay's sister and that she passed him over for a mere leather merchant. We also learn pretty quickly that Arborlon is no longer Tay's home after fifteen years with the druids. Now that Paranor has been sacked and all the druids there slain, that means that Tay doesn't really have a home in the world. The quest for the Black Elfstone will henceforth be not just a quest for a magic rock but for Tay's place in the world. Of course, in Brooks' universe that means that there's a strong chance the plucky elf won't make it. Further fleshing out Tay Trefenwyd is his relationship with Preia. Poor Tay, the girl he's carried a torch for all these years has a death-crush on his best friend, Jerle. Preia also presents us with one of Brooks' (how shall we call them?)"strong women." These feisty femmes are a stock and trade for Brooks since Eretria made her debut in The Elfstones of Shannara. They always strike me as one-dimensional, but we'll see how Brooks does this time around. At least she's not a moody teenager.
On the mission end of things, Brooks keeps the narrative surprisingly short. The king seems more like an old uncle than royalty (Brooks always was too much of a West-Coast American to really write High Fantasy), but Brooks' skill a quick and likable character-sketches keeps things from falling into the ridiculous. I'm surprised that we don't get a scene with the Elven council, but perhaps it would bog down the narrative at this point and we do really need to get going.
And on that note... so do I....