On the surface it may seem like another fantasy series and one that has been around for a while so nothing new… But you could not be further from the truth. The many books of the Shannara series is a first glimpse into a number of genres, fantasy and otherwise. Within its epic fantasy there lies hints of science fiction, epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy, urban fantasy, low fantasy and even a little post apocalyptic fiction. It is a series that is molded by elements of many genres and it is a series that has within its unassuming covers something for everyone. That can’t be said about many series.
The Four Lands
The Four Lands is where all the Shannara novels are set. It is all that is left of the modern world. The Four Lands is located in the modern Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada. This was after the Earth was destroyed in something called The Great Wars. While there remains a little of the old world( Columbia River still exists) to be seen, the new world is populated with Men, Elves, Trolls, Dwarves and Gnomes, all of which used to be humans but who were changed due to the fact that the Great Wars caused the human genome to mutate.
( This is talked about in the The Genesis of Shannara series and the other connecting series that join the events in the Word and the Void to the current Shannara novels.)
The Druids of Paramor
Now I know what you are think “ugh Druids been there gotten that T-Shirt…” But the Druids of Paramor are Druids with a difference. These are not your normal Druids and are also an important part of the series.
The mission of the Druids of Paranor is to gather, study and safeguard the knowledge of the Old World.
“A small number of survivors were determined to keep the knowledge of the Old World safe. The result was the First Council at Paranor, and thus the Druids were born. However, the Druids found that, over the millennium after the holocaust, crucial pieces of knowledge of the old sciences had been lost, and without the pieces crucial to their understanding, the Druids were unable to restore science to benefit the Races as they had wished. Nonetheless, many continued to study science, convinced that one day it would be used again.” – Shannara Wiki
While they do use magic, a lot of their knowledge of the old world science is used as well. In most of the novels that I have read there has only been two Druids. Allanon and Walker Boh. Both are great believers in the greater good rather than personal good, so they both send the people who are need to save the day into situations where they may not be able to both live and save the day. This is another point that separates this series from others. While the day is saved, the hero’s are not always and often are left less than they were.
The fact that magic and the use of magic also alters the genes of the heroes throughout the series is also a point of interest. They are ever evolving and that brings a conflict through the series as they don’t really want to be.
So we get to the books… Or at least the ones I have read!! What to say that is not to spoilerish… hmm… ok we will try this –
Allanon is the bringer of bad news or possibly worse news to the Ohmsford family. The series starts with Shea and his brother Flick and ends with Shea’s great grandchildren. Over that amount of time you see the mutating effect that magic (namely the Elfstones) has on the the Ohmsford line as they used their growing powers to fight off demons, Shadowen, the Skull Bears, The Warlock and the Dagda Mor.
While the series ends with the world not being taken over by the forces of evil (spoiler alert), it does not all end in happiness either. You clearly see the toll that the events take on the heroes as well as the effects that the magic has had. Brooks writes a fantasy like one would write a war movie. Yes the heroes make it home, but they are never the same people that left. There are no fanfares, no great home coming and none of them are even noticed really for what they have done. They just go home.
The Heritage of Shannara series
This series introduces a new druid, Boh, who cuts off his own arm. Admittedly he had sort of had to but it is still a rather shocking way to introduce a character. In this series the King of the Silver River makes one of the biggest of his many appearances. I personally think he is one of the most interesting side figures of the series as he is the last person from the Old World. Or at least we think he is a person… Well he is from the Old World. He is basically the creator/whatever of the four lands. He is the one that set the Four Lands straight after the events that ended the world as we know it. From his “garden” he put creature and plants back into the Four Lands. Although we never know where this “garden” is and it may be a lot like that ship thing in Cycle of Fire with those crystal things… (if you know what I am talking about).
A lot of things happen in this series so I am not sure where to start. It is one of the more normal fantasy series of the whole lot although a lot of very interesting things still happen. The four horsemen show up of giant lizards, a few people get taken over by Shadowen, people sort of kill themselves (it was very sad), war is waged, the elves are brought back to the Four Lands and Par thinks he has killed his brother Coll and…. you will just have to read it!
I haven’t read the other series but that is just a matter of so many books so very little time!
The Word & The Void trilogy
The Word/Void trilogy (also called The Word and The Void) consists of Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Word‘, and Angel Fire East‘ and is predominantly set in present-day Illinois. It follows John Ross and Nest Freemark, forced acquaintances who use magic given to them from the Word to prevent mankind from being overcome by the demonic forces of the Void. – Shannara Wiki
This is the most urban fantasy type of the who series although I believe that they next one The Genesis of Shannara as contains so of that element.
The Genesis of Shannara trilogy
They cover events during The Great Wars, which are alluded to often in the Shannara series.The first novel in the Genesis trilogy details the quest of two Knights of the Word in protecting two powerful magics in a post-apocalyptic Earth.
The Gypsy Morph is an epic saga of a world in flux as the mortal realm yields to a magical one as the champions of the Word and the Void clash for the last time to decide what will be and what must cease; and as, from the remnants of a doomed age, something altogether extraordinary rises. – Shannara Wiki
The Legends of Shannara duology
The story takes place five centuries after the demon apocalypse in the Genesis of Shannara trilogy. It follows descendants of the survivors of the apocalypse in this new world. – Shannara Wiki
Horrified by the consequences of the First War of the Races, theDruids at Paranor have stopped studying the arcane arts and have turned to the sciences of the Old World.
But Brona, now the Warlock Lord, thought to have died in the First War of the Races, has come to make a new war on the Races. He is now stronger than ever, gathering spirits from the netherworld and a massive Troll army under his banner. Brona’s first target is Paranor, the home of the Druids – Shannara Wiki
The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy
Set aboard the airship Jerle Shannara (named after the olden king), the story follows Walker Boh as he guides the crew across the ocean in search of an ancient source of power – Shannara Wiki
Ok this one seems like the series that shouldn’t have happened.. but then some of these long ones series have at least one or more that are not as good as the original series.
In the end I hope that I have at least brought this great series to your attention and given you reason to give it a read.