The Elves of Cintra by Terry Brooks
Book Two of the Genesis of Shannara
Published by Del Rey (US), ISBN: 0345484118 and 978-0345484116, August 2007;
Published by Orbit (UK), ISBN: 1841495743 and 978-1841495743, September 2007.
Review by Mark Yon / Hobbit
And so to the second in Terry’s latest trilogy, The Genesis of Shannara. (The first, Armageddon’s Children, was reviewed by RobB HERE in September 2006.) There we were introduced to the world fifty years ahead, seen through the eyes of Hawk and his band of young Ghosts (children under his care), as well as the Knight of the Word Logan Tom and his colleague Angel Perez. We also saw the world of Cintra through the young eyes of one of the Chosen, Kirisin and his friends, who realise that there may be a cover-up in the Elves world.
This book starts straight after the precipitous ending of the first. Hawk and his girlfriend Tessa, after escaping the events of the first book, are set a new Quest which separates them from the other Ghosts. Logan is set the task of leading the other Ghosts to safety in Oregon. Kirisin and his friend Erisha continue to investigate a conspiracy in Cintra that leads them away and into possible danger. At the same time Angel Perez continues with Ailie, the tatterdemalion, to meet the Elves and warn them of the impending danger.
So, the book sets off at a rapid pace, alternating between these different viewpoints. However as the book is the middle book of a trilogy, it is, in trilogy terms, a means to an end. It has no real major resolution. In fact, the ending of the second, although a resolution of sorts, is merely a point from which the third (hitherto unnamed) book will continue. That’s not to say, however, that this book is pointless.
What this book does more than Armageddon’s Children is develop the scenarios set up in the first: in particular, and as the title suggests, the role of the Elves in this tale. Those immersed in the world of Shannara will begin to recognise more key people and elements from the world’s history – Elfstones, the King of the Silver River, the Ellcrys, etc., as Terry builds in backstory.
Whereas the first book was mainly set in the post-apocalyptic urban nightmare of our future, here the book is more evenly divided amongst events in the Elves’ forest-world of Cintra and the proceedings of the young-adult Ghosts as they leave the Seattle area. This can be a little disconcerting for the reader, the two positions being diametric opposites. Unlike the desperate survival of Humans, the world of the Elves shows a much more cared for (and perhaps care-free) society, in harmony with the environment. Though there are problems that unfold there in the progress of the book, the Elves up to this point seem to have spent their time in happy isolation, feeling that the increasing presence of the Void is due to Human negligence, and something they’re better off left to live in.
However the intervention of the Word suggests that the two places are interlinked and that the final destruction of the Human world will have consequences for the Elves, not least a threat on the survival of the Ellcrys. Thus in the second book, again as perhaps befitting the middle act of a trilogy, the somewhat disparate elements set up in the first book begin to converge so that all can be resolved in the third and final act.
We have all the usual trademarks of Terry’s work here: the core of the book based around a quest, or in this case quests (of which not everyone will survive), the protagonists being mainly young adults having to take on grown-up responsibilities, comments on environmental and societal issues, the highlighting of essential personality traits such as love, family, honour and so forth. Issues are resolved, others develop and some characters are lost. Terry has used many of the old issues previously touched on through many of his books: of environmental concern, of the decay caused by human mismanagement, and the consequences of neglect, but also covertly managed to highlight contemporary issues of climate change, refugees and gated communities through this series. There are also the usual Brooks' positives in amongst the dark events here: points of hope and resolution as well as determination and doing the right thing.
It is very ambitious to try and combine the worlds of Shannara and The Word and the Void. However, this book shows a logical progression of connections as this series advances. Many of the key links are there for readers to find if they wish in the earlier books, though you do not need to have read Terry’s back catalogue in order to understand this series.
What I have enjoyed mostly with this new series is the way that the writing has been honed. I think that it is a lot tighter and more direct than some of Terry’s earlier books, leading to a faster-paced and at times very exciting page turner.
After thirty years in the business of Fantasy writing, Terry can still write a thrilling adventure tale, and to my mind this is one which fans of either The Word and the Void series or the Shannara books will find much to like.
Mark Yon / Hobbit, August 2007
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