Today's post will cover chapters XXIX and XXX of Terry Brooks' First King of Shannara. As always, don't read on if you haven't read the book yet and want to keep it a surprise.
Chapter XXIX cuts away from the action in the west to follow Kinson and Mareth's attempt to rally what's left of the dwarves. The pass through the ruins of Culhaven, fight a skull bearer left to keep watch and link back up with Risca and the dwarven remnant. Brooks attempts to continue Mareth's character development in this chapter by having the skull bearer pretend to be her long lost father. The action plays like a hasty remix of Rimmer Dal and Par Ohmsford in The Talismans of Shannara and thus falls flat. The dramatic smooch between Kinson and Mareth when its all over is too cliche to be really satisfying (For me reading about it at least. If it worked for them, who am I to disagree? That's what I get for peeping in on other people's business). Aside from character development, the scene is also meant to simultaneously increase tension by keeping us wondering what's happening with the elves while at the same time giving us just a little hope that with the dwarves found the tables can be turned. Welcome to the world of pulp. This is how we roll.
Chapter XXX cuts back to the battle for the Rhenn. Terry Brooks seems to have read a little Sun Tsu between this and the last chapter so the battle scenes have a freshness that's been lacking so far. Jerle's continued struggle to believe that the Sword of Shannara can help him is kept at the forefront of our attention in tandem with his military genius. The hope is that we will admire Jerle as a legendary leader while understanding his ultimate failure to use to the sword. It's a bold move, and I think it's probably more than Brook's story is able to handle. My guess at this point is that he'll partially pull it off. The question of whether he'll finesse the rest with pulpy panache is still up for grabs. There have been enough flat spaces in First King of Shannara to make me doubt, but enough inspired moments to give me hope. The end is coming soon, so I won't have to wait long to find out.