So, I Read This Book Today

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High Fantasy

Tolkien, Brooks, and Really Bad Television

“Herein lies the heart and soul of the nations.
Their right to be free men,
Their desire to live in peace,
Their courage to seek out truth,
Herein lies the Sword of Shannara.”
― Terry Brooks, The Sword of Shannara

I first read “The Sword of Shannara” back in the 70’s. A true ‘Sword and Sorcery’ tale, complete with dragons and monsters, gnomes, elves, and all the rest, The Sword was high fantasy at its best. Flick and Shea Ohmsford, country boys, out to save the world. Then, of course, life happened, and though I read many of Terry Brook’s books, and listened to many more, the Shannara cycle fell to the back of my mind.

Recently, I came across The Shannara Chronicles, a 2016 television adaptation of the Shannara series, and gave it a try. With Austin Butler as Will Ohmsford, (and of course, you can’ have fantasy on television without John Rhys-Davies) the storyline is:

An Elvish tree, known as the Ellcrys, is dying. The bad news is that the tree has been the only piece of magic that protects the Four Lands from the Demon World. Amberle Elessedil is the only one who can save the tree. But she has to unlock magic that the Elves haven’t used in thousands of years. With the help of Wil Ohmsford, she travels to find the lost magic. But it won’t be an easy task. – Written by Chris Green

OK, the show was really bad. Dumbed down to reach the Twilight crowd, this group of hormonal teenagers really wasn’t pleasant to watch. True Shannara fans must have been throwing things at their television screens . . . I made it through the first one and then knocked it off my Netflix “watch” list. However, the show lead to me restarting the Shannara series itself. Though I have the paperbacks, (The top photo is of my edition, an oldie!) there was an audio copy at my local library, narrated by the incredible Scott Brick, so I picked it up to listen. What I found, after so many years, was a disappointment. Yes, the story is everything a Lord of the Rings (the photo at right is of a first edition set) fan could ask for. But that is exactly why I was disappointed. I simply couldn’t get over the parallels. It felt very much like ‘same song, different verse’.

“Long ago, the wars of the ancient Evil ruined the world. In peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knows little of such troubles. But the supposedly dead Warlock Lord is plotting to destroy everything in his wake. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness is the Sword of Shannara, which can be used only by a true heir of Shannara. On Shea, last of the bloodline, rests the hope of all the races.” – blurb

Then, I sat back and laughed at myself. Snotty much? I first read LoTR many, many years ago, when I was still in elementary school, and it set my expectations for books for many years to follow. And while the overarching storyline is indeed very similar, what did I expect? This is sword and sorcery at its finest – a genre I have loved all my life. And as amazing as that Oxford Don proved to be, he single-handedly developed a genre that was the focus for all that were to come. And Mr. Brooks is, in my opinion, the greatest of those followed in the footsteps of the Giant of the genre, the father of them all.

7347Stricken ill after the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Tolkien first began writing The Book of Lost Tales to pass the time as he recovered. By 1925 he was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University, and the literary world would never be the same. Brooks’ story is much different. Growing up in the rural midwestern town of Sterling, Illinois, he gained a BA in English Literature, but like many of his generation, that Lit degree didn’t go far, and he moved on to gain a J.D. from Washington and Lee University, practicing law for many years before beginning 7346his writing career in earnest. As the Shannara Wikia puts it:

“One day, in his early college life, he was given a copy of The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, which inspired him to write in one genre.”

And his writing really is inspired. Though drawing heavily from the tales of his beloved predecessor, Brooks developed a story beloved by millions, just as Tolkien did before him.Magic Kingdom For Sale.jpg

If you are a lover of all that is sword and sorcery, this series, and the other works of Brooks (I am partial to the Magic Kingdom of Landover series. Bumbling wizards, evil dragons, talking dogs and all. . .) are all wonderful. If you haven’t picked up any of his books, and I can’t imagine you haven’t if you are a reader of fantasy at all, you should. And if, like me, you haven’t visited this marvelous world in years, then you should. Enjoy!

Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth Nix $1.99 Today

When I saw that Sabriel was on sale for $1.99 on Amazon today, it brought to mind just how much I had enjoyed the book. It is advertised as YA, but it is much more than that. Anyone who is knowledgeable of Garth Nix’s work knows he is a wonderful writer, and the Abhorsen series proves that over and over again.

I read Sabriel and Lirael back when they were first published, and I remember loving them, but I never wrote reviews. I simply wasn’t doing that back then. Some time I will read all the books and post reviews, but for right now, if you haven’t read the Abhorsen books, I highly recommend you pick up Sabriel at this price and give it a read when you are feeling like reading high fantasy. It is wonderful, and you will no doubt be addicted!

Click the titles of each book to go to the Goodreads site, except for the Sabriel title, which will take you to Amazon to pick up your copy at the special price of $1.99.

Sabriel (Abhorsen #1)
For ONLY $1.99 at

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny. . . .

Lirael (Abhorsen #2)


Lirael has never felt like a true daughter of the Clayr. Now, two years past the time when she should have received the Sight that is the Clayr’s birthright, she feels alone, abandoned, unsure of who she is. Nevertheless, the fate of the Old Kingdom lies in her hands. With only her faithful companion, the Disreputable

Dog, Lirael must undertake a desperate mission under the growing shadow of an ancient evil.

In this sequel to Sabriel, winner of the Aurealis Award for Excellence in Australian Science Fiction, New York Times best-selling author Garth Nix weaves a spellbinding tale of discovery, destiny, and danger.

Abhorsen (Abhorsen #3)


An old evil has arisen – freed from its subterranean prison and seeking to escape the binding silver hemispheres which prevent it from finally unleashing its terrible powers.

Lirael, newly come into her inheritance as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, knows that the fate of the world is in her hands. With only a vision from the Clayr to guide her, and the uncertain help of her companions — Sam, the Disreputable Dog, and Mogget — Lirael sets out on her perilous mission.

Then answer must be found somewhere in Life or Death – but can a former Second Assistant Librarian possibly discover the means to defeat the DIt is six months since the cataclysmic events of Abhorsen, six months Nicholas Sayre has spent recovering in the Ancelstierre. But he is desperate to return to the Old Kingdom, and at last has the chance.

All he has to do is spend a weekend in a country house as a favour for his Uncle Edward, Chief Minister of Ancelstierre. That seems easy enough, till he discovers that the house holds many secrets, and the worst of them is a relic of the Old Kingdom, too far from the Wall for any spark of its magical life to reignite.

Unless someone finds a way to unleash its power…. estroyer…before it is too late?

The Creature in the Case (Abhorsen #3.5)

1042546It is six months since the cataclysmic events of Abhorsen, six months Nicholas Sayre has spent recovering in the Ancelstierre. But he is desperate to return to the Old Kingdom, and at last has the chance.

All he has to do is spend a weekend in a country house as a favour for his Uncle Edward, Chief Minister of Ancelstierre. That seems easy enough, till he discovers that the house holds many secrets, and the worst of them is a relic of the Old Kingdom, too far from the Wall for any spark of its magical life to reignite.

Unless someone finds a way to unleash its power….

Across The Wall: A Tale Of The Abhorsen And Other Stories (Abhorsen #3.5: the Creature in the Case)

If a writer tells the stories, do the stories tell the writer?

Thirteen stories from the international bestselling author, including the award-winning Old Kingdom story Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case.

Nicholas Sayre will do anything to get across the Wall. Thoughts of Lirael and Sam haunt his dreams, and he has come to realize that his destiny lies with them, in the Old Kingdom. But here in Ancelstierre, Nick faces an obstacle that is not entirely human, with a strange power that seems to come from Nicholas himself.

The rest of the collection includes two widely different takes on the Merlin myth, a gritty urban version of Hansel and Gretel, a heartbreaking story of children and war, a western, a traditional tale with a twist and a hilarious choose-your-own-adventure spoof.

Each story is introduced by Garth Nix, giving context, anecdotes and a glimpse into his creative process. This edition includes a bonus section of frequently asked questions and answers.

Clariel (Abhorsen #4)

20662728Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilp. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her – and it is herself she must question most of all.

To Hold the Bridge (Abhorsen)  A Short Story Collection in the World of Abhorsen

23213811Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?

Also included in this remarkable collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.

Untitled (Abhorsen #5)

According to Nix’s author’s note at the end of “Clariel”, this novel will be about Nicholas Sayre and Lirael following the events of the short story “The Creature in the Case”.


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