Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks
Published by Del Rey
Author Web site: http://www.terrybrooks.net
Terry Brooks is one of the Big Brand Names in Fantasy, having conquered bestseller lists and garnered a global fan-base. His latest novel, Armageddon’s Children, effectively ties together his most popular saga, Shannara with his modern-day fantasy, the Word and Void trilogy. Following the events in Angel Fire East, Armageddon’s Children is set approximately 80 years into the future and shows a world on the brink of great change. The world of Man is dissolving as monsters, demons, and “once-men” roam the blasted lands of the United States. While there are strong ties to the Word and Void trilogy, and subtler ties to Shannara, Armageddon’s Children can be read without intimate knowledge of the events in Brooks’s other sagas.
The narrative follows three protagonists as they attempt to survive in the hostile land, the first whom is Logan Tom – a Knight of the Word. In this world, Knights such as Tom help maintain the balance between good (the Word) and evil (the Void) and can wield a great deal of magic. Brooks’s fans have attempted to connect these Knights with the Druids in the Shannara saga for many years, and perhaps this connection will be clarified by saga’s end. For the purposes of Armageddon’s Children, Brooks provides ample background on the Knights of the Word and their counterparts, the servants of the Void. The second protagonist is a young man named Hawk, a Moses-like figure who stands at the head the Ghosts, a clan of children and young people who have all lost their parents. Hawk protects them from the monsters in the world, while providing food and leadership. Brooks goes on to rattle off the backstory of many of the members of the Ghost clan, while leaving Hawk’s story until the end.
The final protagonist in this story is young woman Angel Perez, another Knight of the Word. While Hawk and the Ghosts begin to see glimpses of the monstrous creatures in the desolate land, Angel fights them off on a regular basis. Brooks’s once-men come off almost as zombies, and along with the insect-like monsters and demons, provide ample terror for the humans trying to survive and see their race live on into the future.
Logan Tom’s mission as Knight of the Word is to find the Gypsy Morph, the offspring of Nest Freemark, a Knight of the Word from an earlier generation and the protagonist of Brooks’ Word and Void saga. As he travels across the country, Logan Tom battles his internal demons as well as the demons roaming the landscape. Logan lost his family and his friends at a very early age and has spent much of his life attempting to reconcile this with his position as a Knight of Word. The revelations of Tom’s past came across as one of the stronger elements of the novel.
Terry Brooks is something of a frustrating writer in that while his premises can be interesting, the execution is often lacking. Take Shannara – you’ve got a very Tolkienish feel to the world, yet the world is actually our own, hundreds, maybe thousands of years into a post-nuclear future. A Druid/Mage stumbling upon an ancient technology that happens to be an everyday item today, such as a flashlight, can be played in many interesting ways. This isn’t unlike Jack Vance’s Dying Earth or Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. However, Brooks’ prose is stilted and filled with various repetitions of action or narrative. His story is also much more predictable, and this is also evident in Armageddon’s Children. These are just two of the problems I had with Armageddon’s Children. There is a great story idea here, too – how the world of man transforms into a blasted world filled with demons, elves, and magic. Unfortunately, the continual character histories, presented more as info-dumps rather than elements integrated into the flow of the narrative, prevent a fully immersive reading experience. The characters and story don’t quite come together as parts of the same whole.
This being the first volume of a trilogy, the novel ends on something of a cliffhanger, although some of the mysteries/questions Brooks raises are answered by the conclusion of the novel. However, these mysteries were telegraphed early on and easy enough to puzzle out before Brooks truly revealed their answer. Brooks’s style has remained rather consistent throughout his novels, so his constant readers will likely enjoy the novel and the various connections between his two most beloved sagas. I wanted to like this novel, but unfortunately, the overall execution marred Brooks’s interesting story idea.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford
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