Friday, July 12, 2013

First King of Shannara: The Platypus Reads Part CCXXV

This post will resume our discussion of Terry Brooks' First King of Shannara, beginning with chapter XVI.  Once again, the purpose of this series of posts is to record my impressions after each reading session in order to create a more detailed and "in the moment" analysis of Brooks' literary skill.  Readers who wish to remain spoiler free should not read on.

*Plot Information*

Chapter XVI leads us into the Chew Magna, a fortress from the lost age of Faerie.  It's also the first real imaginative piece that I've seen in this story.  Much of First King of Shannara has felt a little paste-board and recycled.  With the Chew Magna, Brooks' world suddenly pops into life.  This is a setting to compare with the lost city of Eldwist in The Druid of Shannara or the labyrinthine tunnels and endless hideouts of The Scions of Shannara.  The garden at the center of the fortress formed from the life-forces of the fey who once used the Black Elfstone is at least worthy of an episode of Star Trek.  This was the first point in the novel where I found it hard to put it down.

Chapter XVII closes out the second section of the book with the finding of the Black Elfstone and the death of Tay Trefenwyd.  While the garden of the Chew Magna is strongly reminiscent of the Wishsong of Shannara's Maelmord, the scene has it's own life and narrative arc.  Once again, evil magic is portrayed as vaguely sadomasochistic; an odd quirk of Brook's that always bothers me.  Jerle Shannara is a defined character by now, but he isn't a particularly likable one and with the death of Tay it's hard to know how he'll carry the narrative load.  Preia Starle and Vree Erreden are only character sketches as well.  Tay's death has some pathos and nicely closes his character arch: he has no place in the world and musy die with the rest of the druids -with this difference: that his death has meaning.

The next section of First King of Shannara is called The Forging of the Sword and presumably returns us to the stronger character of Bremen.  This is all for the best since this is really his story more than any of the other characters.  I look forward to seeing how Brooks does.  The image on the jacket cover suggests that the artist found the forging of the Sword of Shannara to be the most evocative image in the book.

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