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.
Morgawr was something of a rocky read. Smack in the middle of it was a middling detailed torture scene with a heavily implied rape, and it threw me for a loop. I tend to think of the Shannara books as good-hearted, easy-to-read fantasy. For all their body count, the first seven books fit that definition, and I would say Ilse Witch and Antrax still hit that level: There is a lot of fighting and loss, but there is a clear and desirable goal, and even in Antrax, Walker Boh gains something worth having. Morgawr, quite aside from the aforementioned scene, is a lot darker in what is sought and what is gained: Mostly, everyone just wants to live to get home and never set foot out of doors afterward.
Of course, I still wanted to see how it all turned out, so I did eventually finish. Grianne Ohmsford has a hard row to hoe, having been rather forcibly confronted with all the lies she has been told and, worse, all the lies she has told herself (I don’t recommend the Sword as a psychologist; it is actually a wonder she survived the encounter). It is no wonder she spends most of the book shutting everyone and everything out—although she does still love her little brother. As I have mentioned before, and will probably say again, Brooks writes strong and believable sibling bonds.
Actually, everyone who survives this trip emerges much the worse for wear and inclined to swear off adventure of all kinds forever. It would be hard to say which of the survivors has a harder time, since they have all lost important people and often had all their illusions and more than a few of their hopes stripped away as well. I think I feel sorriest for Quentin Leah, though. The poor guy is the first (and possibly last) Leah to actually be invited to come along on the quest of the day, and it is a horrible experience that makes him doubt himself and everyone else.
The Morgawr himself is a truly nasty, slimy, brain-eating (but not zombie) villain who requires a lot of ingenuity to withstand—the method ultimately used is pretty impressive and clever, which in turn makes the villain more impressive. Terry Brooks does enjoy his villains! On the other hand, I am getting a little tired of the Federation as an enemy, which is not helped by the fact that, thanks to reading the books out of order, I now know that they will still be the evil enemy many books forward in Dark Legacy of Shannara. One would think things would change over the years. I really, really hope that gets wrapped up before the series ends.
The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara is a mixed bag: It expands the world of Shannara, opening new possibilities for future exploration, and it introduces some memorable new characters, especially Truls Rohk. The Rovers changing culture and way of life is welcome as well: As the years go by, they have developed new skills and customs, though they are still a distinctive culture
In the end Morgawr is not my favorite of the Shannara books which makes this a very uneven series in terms of response: Ilse Witch came close to beating out Wishsong as a favorite, but the trilogy as a whole ends up in a much darker place.
Next on the list, the The High Druid of Shannara Trilogy. See you on the other side!
Oh, and it finally occurred to me to go rummaging around Deviant Art, and I found this picture of Truls Rohk by RavensGlade. Anyone got any others to point me to?