What was originally a decision to read the first two Shannara series has become a decision to read them all, in order. Well,more or less in order. Because of the way I started, I am going forward from Shannara and then looping back to the prehistory. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome to hop on board for this eccentric, erratic read/reread. Previous reviews are under Read all of Shannara.
There are mild spoilers ahead for the very beginning of Ilse Witch and slight spoilers for previous books, but this is designed to be the sort of ramble that won’t bother the spoiler-averse.
The short version of the ramble: Why didn’t I have a copy of Antrax available right away? Why!
The longer version:
Ilse Witch starts when a battered elf washes up in the Four Lands and is found and brought to the healers by a Wing Rider who very quickly contacts the king of the Elves and Walker, the Lands’ only Druid. Walker decides that it is time to find out where the elf came from, why, and how and collects a group to go with him. Unfortunately, the Ilse Witch keeps a close eye on all that happens in the Four Lands, and she wants two things: To kill Walker and to keep whatever magic he finds in the strange land for herself.
I am glad Walker is a major character here. He was one of my favorites in the Heritage series, so it is good to see what he is up to. On the other hand, it is frustrating to find that is back to feeling bitter and frustrated. It would be nice to see him maintain some of the peace he found at the end of Heritage. I also can’t help wondering why someone hasn’t developed an alarm clock for Druid Sleep. Surely he could have gotten up before Wren died? She would have given him the help he needed. He has also gotten more like Allanon, with dark skin and a tendency toward ironic smiles. He thinks he is getting more like Allanon in secret-keeping, but unless something more comes up in the next few books, he has a ways to go before he manages proper Druidic games-playing.
In any case, once the castaway washes up and he has something to do, he gets very busy with trip-organizing and stops being quite so bitter. Also, the book gets moving at a rapid clip. There have been more overtly dangerous opponents than the Ilse Witch, but she and Walker know they are opponents, making the moves and counter-moves between them quite interesting.
Even better, when Walker goes to collect his crew, he asks Quentin Leah along! It is about time a Druid realized that Leahs like to tag along on the adventures and that they are inevitably useful. He also picks up Bek Rowe, Quentin’s cousin/brother (by adoption and choice), giving the book a good sibling pairing. Both of them have a lot to learn and get right to it, making them among Brooks’ more pro-active heroes.
Other members of the crew include Truls Rohk, a wonderfully mysterious and ambiguous character and the Rovers Rue Meridian and Redden Alt Mer. Add Panix the Dwarf, Hunter Predd the Wing Rider, Ahren Elessedil, the Elf; and Ryer Ord Star the (human?) seer, and the cast ends up being a busy and colorful one.
And there is plenty to do. The Ilse Witch and Walker are not the only ones making plans, and there is also the weather and various natural disasters to keep everyone occupied, and when they find the peninsula marked on the castaway’s map, things get even crazier.
Brooks ends the book in a cascade of cliffhangers. Seriously, why didn’t I have Antrax on hand right away?
In the meantime, Terry Brooks continues to send updates on his time in New Zealand with the actors & crew for the MTV Elfstones of Shannara miniseries. He’s up to Day Three now.
By the way, those of you who mind spoilers shouldn’t read The World of Shannara until after reading this series, even if it is illustrated by David Cherry.
Or the all-in-one version: The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara