Thursday, July 18, 2013

First King of Shannara (Cont.): The Platypus Reads Part CCXXX

Today's post will cover chapters XXIV and XXV of Terry Brooks' First King of Shannara.  Once more, the goal is to blog after each of my reading sessions in order to record a more in-depth assessment of the work as I'm actually experiencing it.  A final post giving my thoughts on the book as a whole will be posted at the end.  For previous entries in this series, click on the label "Shannara" at the bottom of this post.  Thoughts on other authors of note can be found on the side bar.  For the sum total of my literary musings, click the label marked "The Platypus Reads" at the bottom of this post.  As always, if you don't want spoilers, don't read on.

*Spoilers...  I know, I feel like I still have to say it...*

Chapters XXIV and XXV begin the inevitable interlacing of the three plots (the sword, the elves, the dwarves) that will draw the novel to its thundering conclusion.  The first part of chapter XXIV features more dramatic dwarf battles that again break off with a cunning escape.  To keep the tension up, the second half of the chapter switches to the Elves and their decision to crown Jerle king and finally get a move on.  For the first half, I don't have much to say.  The narration is more of what we've come to expect from Brooks' fight scenes.  Risca seems to have almost unlimited power and still seems rather ill-defined as a character.  I mean, what doesn't this guy do an who doesn't he know?  The only thing the scene really produces is tension and that's what it's meant to do.  When in doubt, fall back on pacing.  The second scene is only really interesting in the Preia Starle seems to have moved from sex-object to Lady MacBeth.  If Brooks had built her up as Lady MacBeth from the beginning it would have made for a more compelling sub-plot.  Jerle's character would have made more sense and the overall effect would have been compelling -like watching two people saw off the branch their sitting on.  Maybe that's what Brooks was going for but, if so, he totally flubbed it.  As a side note, I am waiting for someone to say "En taro Trefenwyd Executor."

Chapter XXV is really all about plot business and is actually a very cleverly disguised laundry list: figure out what to do about sword, split up the company, keep Mareth and Kinson's relationship growing, hint that the dwarves have been wiped out, help Mareth out with her magic a bit, and throw in the King of the Silver River to please the fans.  All of that should make for a crappy chapter, but somehow it's a lot more readable and compelling than the previous one.  Again, Brooks seems to fire on all cylinders only when he's with Bremen and Co.  From what I can see, they are the particular characters and the particular plot that he wanted to write.  Except for the fact that Brooks has been wedded to frenetic p.o.v jumping since at least The Elfstones of Shannara, it might have been better for him to have written the entire novel from Bremen and Co.'s p.o.v.  After all, Jerle functions better as a mythic character anyway and the dwarf plot is already underdeveloped.  At least it would have produced a more daring novel in the vein of The Druid of Shannara.  As it is, two-thirds of this book falls flat. 

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