Today I am shining the spotlight on one of my favourite authors.
When I was eleven or twelve, my dad brought some used books home from a garage sale. Among them were The Sword of Shannara trilogy and Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold! An avid fan of fantasy already, I eagerly picked them up because of the fantastic looking covers, and because my dad assured me they were wonderful fantasy stories. I was not disappointed. At all. I was the furthest thing from disappointed, in fact.
The Sword of Shannara is Terry Brooks' first book, published in 1977. He wrote it after reading and being captivated by The Lord of the Rings, and you can certainly tell that Tolkien was his inspiration. Sword has a similar grand fantasy feel to it, with a group of travelers on a quest to save the land from an ancient evil. The main character, a half-elf named Shea Ohmsford, is the last heir of Shannara and therefore their only hope because he has the ability to wield the Sword of Shannara. He and his cousin Flick are reminiscent of Frodo and Sam, and the druid Allanon, of course, has a role much like Gandalf's.
Sword is a classic story and should be read as such--meaning, don't expect a lot of unique plot twists, but be prepared for a solid adventure story. I re-read this book recently, and sadly did not enjoy it as much as when I was a kid, but I still admire it for promoting grand fantasy like Tolkien's. Sword is followed by The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara, and together the three make the original Shannara Trilogy.
There are many more series that take place in the Shannara world, following the later generations of Ohmsfords. The Shannara series I like best is actually not the original, but the later Voyage of Jerle Shannara trilogy, which starts with Ilse Witch. Brooks starts using more of his own ideas and less of Tolkien's here. The adventure is wonderful and the plot twists sublime. And there are airships. Airships! Who can say no to airships?
And now we come to my absolute favourite series by Brooks: The Magic Kingdom of Landover. Beginning with Magic Kingdom for Sale--Sold!, the Landover books are light-hearted fantasy that follow the story of Ben Holiday, a lawyer who is distraught from the loss of his wife and answers an ad in a magazine to buy a magic kingdom for a million dollars. Interested yet?
To Ben's surprise, the kingdom turns out to be real, but not quite the fairy-tale land the man who sold it to him led him to believe. Citizens refuse to recognize him as king, taxes haven't been collected for years, an evil dragon is on the loose and a witch is plotting to reek havoc and destruction on the land.
This is the book series that I recommend to everyone, even readers who don't normally like fantasy or sci-fi. Oh, and did I mention it is funny? Downright hilarious, at times. There's a sarcastic, talking dog named Abernathy who works as Ben's scribe, gnomes who get into mischief, a wizard who fumbles with magic, a sylph who can turn into a tree... And since I can't say enough good things about this series, I will leave it there.
I can't talk about Terry Brooks without mentioning his Word and Void series, which begins with Running with the Demon. This book is different and much darker than his other stories. It takes place in a small town called Hopewell in Illinois, where demonic creatures called feeders live, and only a few people can see them. Nest Freemark is one of those people. A fourteen-year-old girl, she has a power that no one understands, least of all her. Mysteries unfold as John Ross, a Knight of the Word, comes to Hopewell when he senses terrible evil growing there. This book has suspense, horror, and wonderfully strong characters.
Some people who liked Shannara and Magic Kingdom hated this series. Some people who didn't like Shannara or Magic Kingdom loved Word and Void. I happen to like all three. But whatever your tastes, I hope you are inspired to give Terry Brooks a try if you haven't read anything by him, or perhaps try a different series by him if you have.