I seem to be on a fantasy thing lately. If it has swords and magic then I’m game. I want to read it. I would say that I’ve read a lot of fantasy in my reading career and I keep coming back for more. Spend enough time in a genre and you start to know the major authors whether or not you’ve read them. But given the nature of Fantasy literature, it seems difficult to be well versed in the plethora of authors this genre has simply because it isn’t easy (for me at least) to hop between series, worlds, magic systems etc. Also, some of the volumes can be quite lengthy so if you’re going to try an author for the first time, you probably aren’t going to bother unless you get a pretty huge recommendation from someone you know and trust, that has similar tastes in reading as you do.
This is not why I picked up Paladins of Shannara: Allanon’s Quest. To be honest, I can’t give you a particularly good reason as to why I went ahead and jumped into Shannara at all. I think I’ve just seen the name Terry Brooks (and by association Shannara as well) around for many years and figured I should take a gander at the work. It’s funny though, now that I write this post, I realize that this isn’t my first exposure to Terry Brooks at all. I read his adaptation of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace when I was a younger (it came out in ’99 so that would make me exactly nine when I read it). I remember loving that book (I should probably read it again), so I suppose my expectations of Terry Brooks should have been pretty high.
But they weren’t. I had read a few reviews of Paladins and wasn’t expecting much. It turns out, Allanon’s Quest is the first in a series of shorts, set in the world of Shannara (the others being The Weapon Master’s Choice and The Black Irix). I’m told that long time fans of the series will recognize characters and gain a better understanding of the events happening in Shannara’s history (I’m also told these shorts contradict some of the other Shannara Novels but I don’t know this for a fact). For a newbie though, it was a good way to kill an hour or so.
It’s pretty classic stuff. There’s a prophecy, a sword (the sword which I’m assuming The Sword of Shannara Trilogy is all about), and an evil warlock bent on harming Shannara in anyway possible. Of course lineage is important and is the call to action for our formidable druid, Allanon. He must seek out the last remaining descendent of some king and protect him from harm until it is time for him to take up the sword and defeat the Warlock. Granted, this was only a short story, so all of these things don’t come to pass in the 30-40 pages which make up Allanon’s Quest. Really, all that happens is Allanon drinks at an Inn, interrogates an old man, is nearly killed by a Skull Bearer, and finally discovers that the lead he was pursuing was not meant to bear fruit but there is still another chance to succeed with a young boy named Shea who the warlock has not discovered yet. I’d say it was a pretty good appetizer and I’ll probably pursue the whole course later. Maybe I’ll take a few more samples before I dive in to Shannara full though. After all, there are still two more shorts that I can read to get my feet wet.
In all, as I said before, it was a good way to kill an hour, and if you are not familiar with Shannara at all (like I wasn’t) I think it could be a useful introduction to the world without having to commit to reading a full novel. I had heard some complaints about Terry’s writing style. Complaints that said that he was getting lazy and really only writing these shorts to feed the commercial side of what is now Shannara as a business. I didn’t feel that the writing was lazy or overly “commercial”. He has a good command of language and doesn’t dwell on unnecessary details. This seems important to me in a genre that is prone to over description. Perhaps his other work is better but Allanon’s Quest is good enough.
Lastly, I really wished there had been more description of the Skull Bearers. These guys seemed curious and made me wish I had read more of the series so I could have had a better picture of what these creatures were actually like. I suppose that was my only complaint.
I’d say if you’re into fantasy, take a look at this one. It’s only a dollar. Anyway, until next time . . .