Sunday, July 21, 2013

Final Thoughts on First King of Shannara: The Platypus Reads Part CCXXXIII

This post will cover the remaining chapters of Terry Brooks' First King of Shannara along with my final assessment of the work.  Those who have not read the book and do not want the ending spoiled should not read on.

*Spoilers Plain and Simple*

So here we go.  The end was known from the beginning and now we have it: the final confrontation with the Warlock Lord and the creation of a legend.  Rather than outline it all for you, I'll break this last section down into pros and cons.  Pros need to go first.

Pro: The action rises straight through to the conclusion.  The penultimate battles are striking and well-narrated.  The final chapter shifts into a more "legendary" tone that lends the ending sufficient gravitas and the mood is fitting for the Pyrrhic victory with which the story concludes.  Allanon also becomes integrated into the cast in the way he needs to be for the ending to satisfy.  The greatest praise goes to the subtle way in which Brooks allows us to feel that the tide of battle is turning against the Warlock Lord without ever letting up on the tension or allowing us to think that victory is a foregone conclusion.  In a book where we already know that the villain will lose, that's quite the achievement.

Cons: The final battle with the warlock lord feels like it would have worked better on film than in a novel.  There was too much meaningless cutting back and forth between the characters that did little to raise tensions and made great swaths of it feel contrived.  The Warlock Lord is also just not that impressive as a villain.  Finally, Tay Trefenway never has enough weight as a character to become the rallying cry that Brooks wants to make him.  He and Risca always feel like throw-away characters right down to the bitter end.

With the last chapters of the work out of the way, it's time to give a final assessment on First King of Shannara.  From a mere technical standpoint, Fist King of Shannara is superior to the seven books that precede it.  Bremen is a wonderfully realized character and, like Qi Gon Jin, my only regret is that we don't get more of him.  The other characters that people the book are less fully-realized, but the fact that this is the first fully adult cast in The Shannara Series helps elevate the general tone of the work and avoids some patent silliness present in the previous books.  What is lacking in First King of Shannara that was present in its predecessors is that sharp inventive edge that gives the series its imaginative force.  The chapters surrounding the forging of the sword are the only place where it appears.  The rest of the work is rather bland by comparison and leaves me with the final verdict of "merely competent."  However, "merely competent" is a good place to strike out for further writing endeavors.  Mr. Brooks is still publishing.  ...and I am still reading.        

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