Tag Archives: Terry Brooks

Autumnquest

I’m not sure what it is about the onset of autumn that makes me want to read fantasy, especially the variety in which the characters are off on some quest or other. I suspect it’s because it was the beginning of the school year when I was first introduced to The Hobbit, and back then we started school later in the year than they do now. So, when the fire was first lit, the desire to travel to other worlds was first instilled in me, it was late summer/early fall, and I’ve come to associate that with fantasy.

Whatever the reason, when the air takes that turn, when the first autumn rains start falling and the nights get brisker, when the first leaves begin to turn (they’re already turning on the sumac here in Arkansas, bright red beacons amidst all the deep green), when that dusty, musty scent permeates everything, I want to curl up and follow someone on a Grand Quest.

That probably at least partly explains why I decided to pick up The Hobbit and read it again after all these years. And I may well read LOTR as well, though I’ve read it more recently (back when the movies were coming out).

I was thinking about all this today—September 24, just a couple days after Hobbit Day, Bilbo and Frodo’s shared birthday—and it made me wonder how I satisfied this longing when I was young. Fantasy was hard to come by here in Arkansas back then, at least in the rural part I lived in. I can remember discovering The Sword of Shannara around the time it came out via the Science Fiction

Cover of "The Sword of Shannara"

Book Club (SFBC) and just devouring it. Going along on the adventure with Shea and Flick Ohmsford, leaving Shady Vale in a quest to acquire the Sword of Shannara and defeat the Warlock Lord, discovering dwarves and elves in a setting entirely different from Middle-earth—and yet so hauntingly familiar at the same time—was pure joy for me.

I didn’t care that it followed the LOTR formula so closely. So what? It was a new world, with new characters—not only Shea and Flick, but the wizard Allanon, a dark, possibly dangerous man who made Gandalf somewhat meek in comparison. Then there was Menion Leah, a friend of Shea’s, who always reminded me somewhat of Han Solo. Later, we meet Panamon Creel, highwayman, and his partner-in-crime, the Rock Troll Keltset. We also meet Balinor, son of the King of Callahorn, who works with Allanon much the way Aragorn worked with Gandalf.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. If you’ve never read The Sword of Shannara and love good epic fantasy in the old-school tradition, pick it up. Author Terry Brooks wove an entire history in which you eventually learn—as I suspected when I first read Sword—that the Four Lands are actually part of post-apocalyptic Earth. I haven’t read any of the other Shannara books—and he has plenty by now—but I’d like to catch up, because he goes back and fills in the history with different Shannara story arcs as well as his series Word and Void.

At any rate, just as Frodo and Sam separate from the Fellowship and go to Mordor alone in LOTR, Shea splits from the party and ends up journeying with Panamon Creel to the Northland and the home of the Warlock Lord, where he ultimately defeats the arch-enemy. Here’s where the differences are, because Frodo never had to meet Sauron face to face, while Shea has to use the Sword of Shannara for its purpose: to wield it in battle against the Warlock Lord.

Another difference is that there aren’t any characters like Panamon Creel and Keltset in LOTR. I’m not sure Tolkien would have included a highwayman in his cast. Not noble enough.

Cover of "The Elfstones of Shannara: (#2)...

But the overall picture is the same, and maybe that’s why I was never able to read the second book he came out with, The Elfstones of Shannara. I wanted another Epic Quest, and Elfstones didn’t seem to be shaping up that way. Now, if you go back and look at the chronological order they should be read in (as opposed to the publication order), Elfstones is part of another series entirely, even though it concerns descendants of Shea Ohmsford.

At any rate, The Sword of Shannara definitely helped me get through the paucity of good epic fantasy, though I read it in summertime. I can distinctly remember sitting in the shade of late afternoon in the yard, reading my huge hardback SFBC edition with cover and interior illustrations by The Brothers Hildebrant (I could probably come close to an entire post about their work, I loved it so much). I read much slower in those days, and so could spend a month or more getting through one of these big books, enjoying every minute of it.

Depiction of the quest party for the novel The...

Depiction of the quest party for the novel The Sword of Shannara (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still, I think The Hobbit probably helped the most. As I mentioned in my last post, I read it so much I got burned out on it, and that by the time I was in my middle teens. So I must have read it almost every year until I couldn’t take it anymore.

So now here we are again. The first day of autumn was this past weekend. The crickets are chirping, leaves are turning on the sumac to tease us about the coming season. The air is changing, the nights are cooler, the days pleasant.

And I have this desire to visit faraway lands, to see distant vistas under a bright sun or silvery moon, to hear tales told by the campfire of olden times. I want to watch while characters creep down underground passages or tread as quietly as possible down forest trails. Elves. Hobbits. Orcs. Wizards. And who knows what else I might encounter around the next bend in the trail or curve of the tunnel? What might be lurking in the ruins of that old castle?

And am I really hearing the faint slap of bare feet behind us? Did I really see eyes glowing far back on the trail, or am I imagining things?

Let’s turn the page and find out.

Later,
Gil

Tolkien's Cover Designs for the First Edition ...

Tolkien’s Cover Designs for the First Edition of The Lord of the Rings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Autumnquest

That title is a word I just made up, by the way. If you’ve seen it somewhere else (which wouldn’t surprise me), my apologies for stealing.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. Today is a perfect fall day here: cloudy, cool, and a little rainy this morning. It’s cool enough to be comfortable without needing to actually wear a coat or jacket.

For some reason, autumn always makes me want to read some kind of huge epic fantasy. I think maybe it’s because I originally encountered The Hobbit during the school year, which began in (very) early fall when I was a kid. And, since Bilbo travels across Middle-earth during the fall and winter, I guess I associate fall with fantasy.

The problem I’m having with that this year is that I’ve reached a point where I have a rough time reading straight fantasy. I can do urban fantasy, but when I’m in some completely fantastical world I start losing interest. It’s kinda depressing, really, because I used to love these things. Going to other worlds, whether Tolkien’s Middle-earth with Hobbits or Donaldson’s The Land with Thomas Covenant, was my escape from this world. And, since I used to spend my summers being much busier than I do now (shame on me for not being that way now), fall and winter were the times when I caught up on my reading.

So I guess it’s kind of a Pavlov’s dogs sort of thing. Autumn rolls around and I want to stick my nose in a big, thick book that’s got one hell of an epic story going on in it’s pages.

But I guess I’m a hopeful kind of guy, despite what some people say about me (and you know who you are lol), because I went to my friend’s used book store (this is his last week in business) and picked up The Sword of Shannara and its sequel, The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I read Sword years ago, as I have mentioned previously, and tried to read Elfstones without much luck. It didn’t have the same flavor as Sword to me for some reason, maybe because it wasn’t shaping up to be the same kind of quest fantasy as Sword was. I have several years of perspective now, though, so I think I’ll give it another chance. After all, Brooks has had quite a bit of success with the entire Shannara series of books, judging from how many he’s written (and their claims of being New York Times Bestsellers), so perhaps I should. Yes, they’re considerably older than my general rule 0f not reading things more than a year old (with certain exceptions, of course), but that’s okay. It’s always easy to learn from a successful author, and Brooks is that.

Or, on the other hand, I have a copy of Eragon, which was likewise successful. I’ve seen the movie (which I understand completely butchered the story), but have yet to try the book. Maybe it will be my fall book this year. I also have its sequel, so that’s good. If I like it, I can keep going.

On the other hand, another book I’ve been intending to read is The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. I like historical novels (I highly recommend Sarum by Edward Rutherford, if you like them as well), and this one is set in medieval times, so it might fit the bill as well.

Decision, decisions.

And on that note, I think I’ll go eat dinner and decide what book to delve into.

Later,

Gil

PS. The Link Below to “100 Fantasy Novels and Collections Everyone Should Read” also links to “100 Science Fiction Novels Everyone Should Read” as well as “100 Days of Fantasy.” I recommend looking at them. The last is author Ty Johnston’s blogging about the 100 books that influenced him as a fantasy writer, and you can find it here.

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