Scions of Shannara: Chapters 7-12

August: Par, Coll, and Morgan Leah arrive at Culhaven, and it’s very different than what we remember from the previous series. The Federation has taken over the dwarven city, and have been systematically punishing the dwarfs for defying them. The famous gardens are gone, as are most of the men, killed in battle, sold in slavery, or shipped off into work mines. The population is mostly made up of old women and children. Morgan leads the brothers to an orphanage he knows, where they can hide from Federation soldiers until they can meet with someone who can find Walker Boh.

Enter Steff and Teel, two dwarfs who are willing to guide the party through the Eastlands to find Boh on one condition: if they find some magic capable of helping the dwarfs, it must be used. The five journey north up the Wolfsktaag Mountains, following a similar route that Brin Ohmsford took many years ago. After escaping a few dangerous monsters in the mountains, they arrive at Hearthstone, the old home of Cogline and Kimber Boh, and current home of Walker Boh. The Uncle is not home, though they are expected, with a hot meal waiting for them.

Walker never shows up, instead sending a Moor Cat named Rumor to Par when he is alone. Rumor leads Par to Walker, and the two can finally have a talk about the dreams that started everything. Walker is reluctant to do anything about the dreams, wanting to just live in isolation and not get involved with magic, druids, politics, war, or anything else. He desires nothing but to ignore his magic inherited from Brin Ohmsford, even adopting his mother’s name instead of Ohmsford. His reluctance just reinforces Par’s resolve to go to Allanon though.

Before the party can leave Hearthstone though, Coll and Par are ambushed. Spider Gnomes kidnap Par and much to his horror, take him to their Shadowen leader, this one in the appearance of a little girl. Creepy children are the worst. Par escapes with the power of the wishsong, but becomes lost in Olden Moor, home of the werebeast spirits. Par is wounded and poisoned by the werebeasts, but is saved by Rumor and Walker Boh. Par passes out.

When he wakes up, they are in Storlock, familiar to us as the home of the gnomish healers. Walker, Coll, and the others rushed him there as fast as possible, saving his life. Walker tells Par he changed his mind, he will go listen to what Allanon has to say for himself.

Sara: It seems like so much has happened–maybe because they’ve traveled so far–but they really haven’t done a whole lot so far in this book. They haven’t even gotten to Allanon yet. It’s a weird pacing thing where it seems fast-paced but the plot hasn’t advanced much. I do appreciate the world building, though. I think it would be hard to jump forward that far in time.

August: At the rate we’re going, the visit to Allanon is going to be closer to the end of the book. Which I guess is fine to set up the rest of the series, but it does make Scions feel more like a really long prologue then anything else.

We got some new characters to examine. Most notably, we are introduced to Walker Boh, the Dark Uncle. Walker Boh was my favorite character in the Shannara books the first time I read them, it will be very interesting to see if he stays that way in this read through. The reluctant loner, he comes off as a bit stereotypical, but it’s still early. He bears innate magic from his heritage, and also learned magic from, presumably, Cogline, making him a force to be reckoned with.

Sara:  I remember really liking Walker, as well. If anything, I expect to like him more as an adult, since he seems more adult-ish than most of our Ohmsford characters.

August: I don’t know if I’ll like him more, I’m worried he’s going to come across as too “try hard”, you know what I mean? I’m sure he gets more personable and less trying to be edgy as the series goes on, but I still worry a little. Walker is a major character, not just in this series, but later series as well, so I’m hoping I like him still.

Sara: I suppose that is a danger. He has come across as very edgy so far, though I can relate to his loner curmudgeonliness as a loner curmudgeon myself. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to be left out of politics as the world falls apart around us?

August: We also have Steff and Teel, continuing the tradition of bad ass dwarfs. Fighting for the restoration of their homeland, they are a no-nonsense couple with hidden pasts. While Steff is very much of the same ilk as dwarfs from previous books like Hendel, Teel is much more interesting. The first lady dwarf we get as a real character, her mask and her silence gives her an air of mystery. It’s driving me a little bit crazy that I don’t remember what her deal is, so I guess that means it’s working.

Sara: I can’t remember Teel’s story, either! It’s really bugging me. I’m also not sure if I like or hate the mysteriousness. I do like Steff, though. And the dynamic between Steff and Teel has been really interesting.

August: Speaking of dwarfs, they got a rough slate between books. A lot of time is spent discussing how badly the dwarfs have it under Federation rule. Talks of genocide, work camps, and sexual slavery really make the chapters in Culhaven the darkest of the entire series so far. Too dark maybe? I don’t know. On one hand, I appreciate the smaller, more realistic stakes instead of just “world ending calamities.” On the other hand, the tone doesn’t really fit. It would be one thing if these chapters signaled a permanent change into a darker story, but then we’re right back with a fellowship walking through the woods story. We’ll see if this sort of tone shift comes back, or if this was just a one time thing I suppose.

Sara: Yeah, I had forgotten about what happened to the dwarfs. I agree that is is a pretty severe shift from the previous stories. It seems a little extreme, especially since they Federation have already been set up as the big evil empire with their ban on magic and stuff. But I guess with the big storyline with the elves and the Ellcrys and the Forbidding, maybe Brooks felt like the dwarves needed a bigger story? Regardless, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I agree that it seems unnecessarily extreme.

August: Also, creepy children are the goddamn worst.

Sara: Creepy children need hugs, too, August.

<shudder> Yeah. Definitely the worst. Way to go for the cheap freakout with the big payoff, Brooks.

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Scions of Shannara: Chapters 1-6

Sara: In Scions of Shannara, we return to the Four Lands, a world that was once rife with magic, to find that magic has all but left the lands. The Druids died with Allanon hundreds of years ago. The Elves of the Westland have vanished. The Trolls have withdrawn into the Northland and keep to themselves. The Gnomes and the Dwarves of the Eastland have been conquered, the Dwarves nearly eliminated in the process, by the humans of the Federation, an anti-magic Coalition who rule a majority of the Southlands. And the Federation themselves hunt down and eliminate any rumor of magic, claiming magic as being responsible for the damaging of the lands.

The story begins as an old man answers a summons to a lake we readers know all too well. Allanon, from beyond the grave, rises from the depths of the Hadeshorn, charging his unwilling summonee with a task.

The Four Lands are in danger again, and again, the only the Ohmsfords can save it.

Allanon has been sending dreams to the scions—Par, Wren, and Walker Boh—to no avail, so this old man must go in person and make them listen.

Then we meet Par and Coll Ohmsford, brothers from Shady Vale. It turns out that Par has been receiving the dreams from Allanon, but he has dismissed them as only dreams. Despite the fact that this descendant of Jair Ohmsford can use the wishsong to create illusions, he apparently he doesn’t believe in the very tales he and his brother tell patrons at an inn at Varfleet, the heart of the Federation, where he uses the wishsong to make the patrons viscerally live each tale as his brother tells it.

But of course, using real magic when magic is outlawed finally catches up to the brothers, and the Federation magic hunters—called Seekers—show up to arrest them. But before the Seekers can close in on the brothers, a band of rebel outlaws—who call themselves the Freeborn and refuse to submit to Federation rule—come to their rescue, helping them escape.

When Par and Coll ask the stranger why he helped them, he alludes to their shared history together. The Ohmsfords can’t figure out who this stranger is, but the readers get a pretty good clue as he extends one finger out into a pike. The brothers refuse to join his band, though, and so they part ways, the stranger giving them a coin and telling them to ask for him if they change their minds.

The brothers flee the city, unsure what exactly to do next. Their initial plan is to return home until the whole thing with the Seekers can blow over. But on their way, they are attacked by a human twisted by magic—a being the Federation call Shadowen. They are saved by something else familiar to readers: an old man throwing something into a fire, making it explode. The old man chases the Shadowen off, and as Par and Coll offer a dubious thanks, he announces that he’s been looking for them: he comes with a message from Allanon.

The old man reveals himself to be Cogline—the very old man from Wishsong of Shannara who helped Brin and Rone Leah on their quest to the Maelmord. The brothers are skeptical, but that doesn’t seem to bother Cogline. He explains he only agreed to be messenger to Allanon because, as a student of the Druids back in the day, he’s the only one left for him to call upon for help. His message: the dreams are real, and without the three scions of Shannara, the world will fall into darkness. Only they can stop it, so they must go to the Hadeshorn on the first day of the new moon so he can tell them what needs to be done. Then Cogline tells the brothers he’s off to find Wren and Walker Boh, leaving them in skeptical confusion.

Coll and Par argue about the merits and perils of rushing off to the Hadeshorn, until Par finally lets himself get talking into going back to the Vale.

But they don’t ever get there. On a whim, they decide to stop by the Leah hunting cabin for a night, where they run into Morgan Leah—no longer a prince of Leah, since the Federation has done away with all the Southland’s monarchies—but the bearer of the now-dormant sword of Leah. He convinces the brothers to stay in Leah while he goes to the Vale to make sure the Seekers aren’t looking for them.

Four days later, he comes back to announce the Vale is not safe for them. So all that’s left is to either hide out as outlaws, or respond to the strange dream summons from Allanon.

Morgan Leah comes up with a workable plan for the two brothers: go into the Eastland and find their uncle, Walker Boh. If he’s also getting the dreams from Allanon, it stands to reason that maybe Cogline was telling the truth, and the world really is in grave danger. And then they’ll have the mysterious “Dark Uncle” to help them on their quest.

So they begin their trek to the Culhaven, running into another Shadowen on their way. This one is much scarier and tougher than the one Cogline chased off, and all looks hopeless for our little band of Southlanders, until Morgan unlocks the dormant magic of the Sword of Leah and saves them.

And Par is jealous that he’s no longer the only one with real magic.

There’s a lot going on so far. The brief history of the realm was surprisingly concise, so maybe we should be thankful Allanon isn’t the one who gave it to us.

August: I really enjoyed these opening chapters. A lot goes on, but it’s fast paced so the pages just fly by. It introduces the main characters well enough. I like that it drops us in the middle of some action. It’s a nice change of pace from opening every story in the pastoral setting of Shady Vale.

Sara: The Federation is clearly the Empire in Star Wars, so Brooks has apparently turned to other successful writers to copy now that Lord of the Rings has been played out.

August: Maybe. I don’t see the parallels right away. I got more of a generic colonial empire vibe.

Sara: I’m excited to have another charismatic Leah, although I have memories of him eventually punking out over some magical construct female at some point, whether this book or another one, so I’m trying not to get too attached.

August: I remember liking Morgan Leah quite a bit. I think the magical construct girl comes up later in this series. After the bore that Rone Leah ended up being, it’s nice to get someone with some personality. He comes off as a little stilted early on, being a “prankster” or whatever, but he still miles better than Rone.

Sara: Overall, Par and Coll are clearly Shea and Flick all over again, which makes me hugely sympathetic toward Coll, since Flick always seemed to get the short end of the deal.

August: The parallels are definitely there between Par/Coll and Shea/Flick. But the differences are already starting to crop up. Coll is less reluctant to get going then Flick. Flick would argue with Shea and Menion Leah no matter what, while Coll is more thoughtful and takes in all arguments. With four books, Coll will probably get more time to develop then Flick.

Sara: There seems to be lots of foreshadowing to the other books in the Heritage series. Wren is lost in the Westland, so we know the story of the Elves is coming. And the talismans—the Sword of Shannara and the Elfstones—were mentioned to be lost, so that story will be coming as well. As far as the Druid, well. It’s too early to tell (except for us who have totally read this before), but it stands to reason that one of the three receiving the dreams will have to carry on the Druid legacy for Druid of Shannara.

August: I think Wren and Walker Boh are in this book too. Like, this is where the group gets together, then the next books follow their individual journeys. And Brooks is definitely bringing back all his magic toys from the previous series. We’ve gotten the Wishsong, the Sword of Leah is back, it stands to reason the rest are coming too.

Sara: And the free-born stranger is obviously descended from Panamon Creel, right?

August: Yes, I do believe you are correct.

Sara: I already don’t care about Par and Coll at all, which seems to be par (see what I did there?) for the course with Brooks and his (in)ability to develop characters. But I’d say we’re off to a great start otherwise, here. It’s fascinating to see how the world has evolved since the last book. And even though the Evil Empire verses the rebels thing is a little overdone, the politics of it are really interesting to me. And I have so many questions! Where did the Elves go? Are there any Dwarves left at all? What is that black obelisk thing at Rainbow Lake? What dark magics are the Seekers hiding? Is the King of the Silver River truly gone? I’m excited to keep reading to find out.

August: Having his characters start out flat is definitely a weakness of Brook’s writing.  If they are given time to develop, his characters usually become very interesting and enduring. Otherwise, we get the Culhaven Six from Wishsong. He certainly has plenty of time with these characters, and since I remember some of them from the last time I read these books, many many years ago, I think he eventually succeeds here.

Brook’s worldbuilding has always been a strength, and is usually my favorite part of the openings of his books. This one is no different. We’re in a familiar setting, but the rules have changed.

Sara: You’re right. I will try to be patient and give the characters some time to grow. I suppose I can’t expect astounding worldbuilding and character development both all at once. It’s only been six chapters, after all.

You’re also right that the pages are just flying by. Onward we go!

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Recap and Preview #3

August: And thus, we have finished the original Shannara trilogy. One of the more influential book series in my childhood, and I’m pretty sure yours too. Whenever I write fantasy, Shannara is never too far from my mind. From the uniqueness of the races to the melding of the old world to the use of magic, Shannara imprinted on me during those young, formative, years.

Sara: Holy cow! I never thought we’d make it. I’m so excited we finished the first trilogy. Woohoo! Three down, twenty-something more to go? Ish?

But yes, Brooks was hugely influential on me. Definitely influential on me as a writer, as well. I have even had someone tell me that my writing was very Brooks-ish. I think he taught me to always do something unexpected, and just when something is going right, make something even more horrible happen. But also, yes, the worldbuilding. Whether it was deliberate on his part or not, he always manages to connect things back around, so that everything that comes up has significance later. Things have consequences. Magic, especially. I’m a fan of that.

August: As for Wishsong specifically, it was always my least favorite of the original trilogy. Maybe because I was younger and less interested in the idea of the relatively peaceful climax, but I actually liked it a lot more this time around. It still has some pretty serious flaws, but before I didn’t appreciate some part that I do now.

Like Brin. I like Brin so much more this time through. She might be my favorite character from these first three books, and before this re-read she would have been one of my least favorite. Her willingness to sacrifice herself for her friends and for the world is admirable, and her struggle with her darker impulses comes off as a real climax. It’s built up slowly through the book, from the time Allanon shows her how to use the wishsong to destroy to the final confrontation with her brother.

Most of the other characters are lacking though. Jair is fine, but unremarkable as a secondary protagonist. And the rest of the Culhaven Six, well… I feel like I complained about their lack of characterization in nearly every post for this book. They are just shallow characters that are disguised like they are important. And after the adventuring party from Sword, this group had some high expectations that they did not live up to.

Sara: I liked Wishsong much more this time around, as well. It was rather refreshing, coming off the teenage angst of Elfstones and the almost painful Tolkein-ness of Sword. This was a unique story with an interesting arc, even if the characterization of most of the characters was lacking. At least he did well with the main character–and a woman, no less, so hey, he’s come a long way, in my eyes. Brin’s struggle was actually really relatable. And you’re right, I admire her, as well, for doing what she had to do to protect her family and the world. Not to mention, she kept her promise to Allanon. The Druid is dead. After all she went through, she could have noped out of going back there and having her whole heritage touched by meddling Druid fingers.

August: Next up is the Heritage of Shannara series, starting out with The Scions of Shannara. I remember Heritage being the best of Terry Brook’s fantasy series, a four-book epic with several great characters and locations. Unfortunately,  I remember very few specifics about what happens in what book, so the next books should hopefully have some fun surprises in store.

Sara: I do remember Heritage being where Brooks when from high fantasy to what I consider almost fantasy horror. I remember these books being much darker with just as much at stake. I know there are more weird/horrifying creatures, more sullen Druids, and more Druid pawns. And also a lot of war across the Four Lands. But like you, I don’t remember a lot of specifics, and I have no recollection what Scions is even about. So, yes! Fun surprises, indeed. This is going to be exciting!

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Wishsong of Shannara: Chapters 41-48

August: This is it. The climax to not only Wishsong, but of the original Shannara trilogy. It has to wrap up not only the story of Jair and Brin, but also bring the three-book arc to a satisfying close. Does it do it? Let’s find out.

Jair and the Culhaven Six (I decided that’s the name of their group), storm through a courtyard in Graymark. Though they reach relative safety behind a portcullis, Helt the Borderman, already wounded, stays behind to bar the way so the pursuing gnomes can’t reach them. They meet more gnomes though, and fight their way through them, but Edain the Elf and Foraker the Dwarf take wounds, and make a last stand at the top of a stairway to buy Jair more time. Jair, Slanter, and Garet Jax reach the Croagh, a stone spiral staircase that winds around until it reaches Heaven’s Well, their destination.

The three of them race up the stairs, and reach the summit. There, Garet Jax finds his destiny. A Jachyra is guarding Heaven’s Well, the same beast that killed Allanon, and Jax knows this fight is why he has accompanied Jair this whole time. Slanter has to drag Jair away as the weapon master and the demon duel to the death. The last two remaining members of the Culhaven Six reach the poisoned Heaven’s Well, a large bubbling spring, and Jair throws in the dust the King of the Silver River gave him. The water turns clear and fresh, and Jair has accomplished the mission the king gave him. Throwing in his vision crystal, the water turns into a seeing pool, and Jair finds his sister.

Brin walked through the Maelmord alone, the jungle an evil presence that weighed on her. Only with the power of the wishsong was she able to pass, by cloaking herself as kindred to the evil that dwelled within, by using her magic to show there was no difference between her and the evils of the Ildatch. She could feel herself be swept away by the magic, losing her sense of who she was as she journied deeper into the Maelmord. But there was no other way to reach her goal.

She finds the Ildatch in a tower rising from the jungle. a huge, ancient tome laying on a dias. And it begins to talk to her. First it makes a connection. The two share a magic after all. Then it begins to tempt her.  It gives her a taste of it’s dark and terrible power, before snatching it away, all while telling Brin she is the one who it has been waiting for. She struggles to maintain control over herself as the Ildatch worms its way into her psyche. It tempts her with knowledge. After all, what is it except a book of other people’s wisdom, neither good or evil? It tempts her with power. With the combined might of their magics, she could be more powerful than even the Warlock Lord. Finally, it tempts her with danger. Mord Wraiths descend upon her, and almost reflexively she turns to the power of the Ildatch, and crushes them. And with that, Brin is the dark child, and lost.

Jair watches through the still waters of Heaven’s Well, horrified, and remembers the third magic the King of the Silver River gave him. One time, and only one time, he can use the wishsong to create something real, not just an illusion, and he knows what he needs to do. He begins the sing, and finds himself no longer at the Well, but in front of the dark child. He has to find his sister, to do something to reach her and help her.

The dark child, with the Ildatch whispering in her mind, tries to kill him, striking out with her magic. Jair avoids it, creating illusions to hide behind, but can do little else to get the book away from his sister. Eventually he creates clones of himself, dozens of Jair Ohmsford to swarm over her. The dark child disintegrates them one by one but then feels the real hands of her brother on her, holding her tight, singing to her the memories of their childhood. Jair finds Brin, bringing her back, banishing the dark child. Brin Ohmsford casts the Ildatch behind and uses the wishsong to destroy it.

Meanwhile, Rone, Kimber, Cogline, and Whisper are dicking around fighting some Mord Wraiths.

With the Ildatch’s power broken, it’s creations begin to fall apart. Everyone meets on the Croagh and escape, but not before Jair and Slanter find the bloodied body of Garet Jax the Weapon Master. No sign of the Jachyra remains, but Jair is convinced Jax defeated the demon before succumbing to his wounds. At any rate, they escape, and begin the long journey home. They stop at the Chard Rush, the place where Allanon fell, where his shade waits for Brin. He tells her to take it easy, that there will be a time when the wishsong is needed again, but not in her lifetime. But the next time evil threatens the land, the children of Shannara will be ready.

Whew, that was quite an ending climax!

Sara: It was! There was definitely a moment where I wasn’t sure if Jair would be able to pull it off. It all fit together very nicely, though. The battle of sibling verses sibling was really intense. It was weird to not want either one to lose!

August: For various reasons, I’ve been a little down on Wishsong as a whole, but I loved this ending. One by one, companions fall in the line of duty, the climatic brother vs sister struggle, the corrupting Ildatch probing Brin’s psyche to find weakness. A lot happens in a short amount of time.

First though, what didn’t work? The parts with Rone and company fighting Mord Wraiths felt pointless. It was just to give them something to do while the real drama went on without them. This sort of thing is pretty common in the genre unfortunately. When you don’t have anything for some people to do, have them fight something while the main characters do the important stuff.

Sara: Yeah, Rone stayed utterly useless to the bitter end. What a disappointment, for cat’s sake. Heh. But at least we still have the sword of Leah all enchanted. Means to an end, I guess.

August: And while I thought the deaths of the Culhaven Six were effective at building tension, it would have been more effective if we liked the characters better. This has been a constant complaint about Wishsong, and it comes to a head here. You don’t really care about them like you do the more fleshed out companions in Sword. This group is more like the Elven Rangers in Elfstone. The rangers were killed slowly though, to draw out the horror of the demon hunting them. This group is killed in the span of just a few pages, quickly and mercilessly, without any time for Jair to mourn them. It does well in really keeping the action moving, but I just wished they had more character time.

Sara: Yeah, the characterization for the Culhaven Six (love it, by the way) is one of my complaints, as well. Slanter is really the only one who is developed at all, and he actually lives. I actually really grew to like Slanter a lot, by the end. He reminds me of Hoggle from Labyrinth, hehe. And Whisper! I loved Whisper. He’s the real hero here, since without him, Brin would have died more than once. Also, Brooks managed to give a moor cat that doesn’t talk more personality than the rest of them. So we know he’s capable of it, he just didn’t do it for the Culhaven Six for whatever reason.

That being said, I have to hand it to Brooks for killing off most of Jair’s party. With the first two books, there were very few casualties (aside from the Elven Rangers in Elfstones, who were clearly Redshirts to begin with). I wasn’t exactly ready for them to all sacrifice themselves, although like you said, it built great tension. I do wish I’d connected more emotionally to them, but in a way, this establishes that Brooks is not afraid to kill prominent characters. Which is one of the things I remember about his writing. So this may be the end of the first trilogy, but it’s only the beginning of Brooks brutally murdering characters.

August: I wonder a little bit if he left their characters vague on purpose because he knew he was going to kill them all. Maybe he thought readers weren’t ready to invest a lot in characters who were going to die by the end. After all, looking at the Tolkien influences, almost none of the heroes die. Of course, George RR Martin would prove this wrong a decade or so later, but still.

Sara: One last thing about the Culhaven Six deaths. I’m actually kind of glad he cut away for Garet Jax’s final battle. Even though it took away some of the emotional impact, I think there’s something poetical about it being left to the imagination rather than a play-by-play of the fight.

August: I agree, partially because these sort of epic one on one fights aren’t Brook’s strong point. They are fine, but they always pale in comparison to his larger scale battles. If this was Salvatore or someone else who excels at these kind of duels, I would be disappointed, but this was more than acceptable.

I also really liked the encounter with the Ildatch. To go back to Tolkien (will we ever really leave him?), this felt very much like the One Ring tempting its bearers. I liked that it tried different approaches to tempt Brin, playing on her innocence and insecurities about the wishsong until it finally just threw some monsters at her. I like that it ties the trilogy together, that it was the cause of the Warlock Lord’s rise to power, and it took the magic fused into the wishsong by the elfstones to destroy it.

Sara: I actually missed the Tolkien parallel there. It makes me like that scene a little better. I kinda felt like that whole tempting thing was a little long and drawn out. I ended up rolling my eyes a bit by the millionth time the Ildatch called her the dark child. The fight between the siblings was way better. The stakes were pretty high, since we want both of them to stay alive.

August: The ending of Jair and Brin’s fight is a little cheesy, but still effective. The power of love overcoming evil is a bit cliche now, but Brooks is always subverting obvious solutions. The Sword of Shannara destroys because it reveals truth, not because it’s a blade, and the Ildatch is defeated because of family, not because of powerful magic.

Sara: And the demons are trapped because a girl turned into a tree! Heh. Not quite the same. Sorry. But yes! I do appreciate that the true obstacles in these books are often the insecurities and lies of the characters trying to save the day, not the villans they are having to face.

Also, I thought that after Allanon died, we were finished with the Allanon infodumps. Turns out, we got another one from him beyond the grave. At least it was short this time.

August: Last thing. The Ildatch mentions the Word when it tells of it’s creation. This is an early glimpse at the large Terry Brook’s universe, and I love little teases like this.

Sara: Yes! It was so long between my reading of the Shannara books and my reading of the Word and the Void series that I totally missed this connection. I got really excited when I saw that. And now I’m really looking forward to re-reading the Word and the Void. Eventually. When we get to that point. In a decade, maybe, haha.

But hey, here we are, end of the first trilogy. We did it. Yay!

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Wishshong of Shannara: Chapters 33-40

Sara: The next section opens with Jair cowering away from Stythys, the Mwellret, who demands he give him his wishsong magic. Just when it seems like the end for Jair, in walks the Gnome jailer, ignoring the Mwellret’s warning to leave them alone. Turns out, it’s not the jailer! It’s Slanter, with Garet Jax just behind him, to rescue Jair. The whole party survived the attack on the Dwarven fortress and reconnected after the Dwarf fortress fell, then decided they couldn’t continue the quest without, well, the only one who could complete the quest.

Slanter leads them through the Gnome prison and accompaning fortress in a harrowing escape, running into and from Gnomes around every corner, dragging their now-prisoner Stythys, who fights them every step of the way. Slanter finally gets them past the sentries, and they make their way to Graymark to rescue Jair’s sister and heal the Silver River.

Meanwhile, Brin gives her companions an abbreviated tale of her encounter with the Grimpond. She’s not ready to discuss the fact that it wore her face or showed her Jair in trouble. Internally, she wrestles with the Grimpond’s taunts that Allanon was deluded about their quest and her part in it. What if he had been wrong? And who is controlling the wraiths? She has more questions than answers, and none of them are good.

Safe at Cogline’s house, she reveals that the sword of Leah is in the hands of the Spider Gnomes, and that the Grimpond fortold that she and Rone were heading toward their deaths. At her tears, Cogline has a sudden change of heart and agrees that he and the moor cat will help them get the sword and take them to the Maelmord. Kimber Boh insists that she be allowed to go, since Whisper doesn’t listen to Cogline, and Cogline gets absent-minded without her. After much arguing, Brin remembers that the whole reason they went there to begin with was to get a guide, so they reluctantly agree.

Cogline leads them to the Spider Gnome camp, and using explosive powder and the moor cat, they cause havoc in the camp and manage to retrive the sword of Leah. As they flee from the Spider Gnomes, Brin falls behind. She’s almost overcome by a Gnome, but in sheer terror, she unleashes the wishsong on it, tearing it to pieces. Her initial reaction is glee, which is immediately replaced by horror. What is she becoming?

As she wanders through the mist alone, she vows to not use the wishsong again until they reach the Maelmord. But then she realizes she’s being followed by creatures in the mist. The Werebeasts. They hound her as she flees, showing her glimpses of people she knows. Finally, fearing for her life, she breaks the vow she just made and starts to use the wishsong against them…until they turn into her parents.

Luckily, her cry of fear and anguish is heard, and Rone calls out to her. Just as the Werebeasts attack, Whisper is there, tearing them apart. Finally reunited with her party, they tell her not to go off again alone, and Rone begs forgiveness for abandoning her, blaming the sword’s magic making him think of nothing else. She forgives him, but secretly decides she’ll be leaving them all behind to make her way to the Maelmord alone.

Meanwhile, Jair and his company journy toward the mountains until Slanter calls a halt and says it’s impossible to go forward without being seen. Graymark sits atop a cliff with a view of the coverless plain of rock all around. Foraker and Jax force Stythys to reveal another way, which he agrees to, as long as they swear to free him once they’re through.

But when he says his way is through the Caves of Night, Slanter loses his shit. The Caves are where the Mwellrets took his people to die. He insists there’s no way through, that they shouldn’t trust the Mwellret to take them. But nobody listens, and they go into the pitch black caves where only their prisoner can make light and navigate the maze of tunnels. Not only that, but the cave itself has mouths, horrible maws called Procks that will open beneath the unwary traveler and chew them up if they fall in.

Things go all right at first, until they get to the Procks. In the middle of them, no surprise, Stythys betrays them, grabbing Jair and threatening to slit his throat. Jair uses the wishsong to distract him while Slanter and Jax attack him. The ensuing struggle results in the Mwellret falling into a Prock, leaving them in the darkness as he dies. After a despairing moment in the dark, Jair realizes he can use the vision stone to give them light so Helt can use his night vision to lead them through the tunnels.

Brin and her party rest briefly before heading into the Graymark sewers, and at this time, Cogline decides to tell them about the “magic” he used against the Spider Gnomes. It’s from the world before the Great War, mixes of chemicals and metals. He says it’s from Chemics, although it sounds more like alchemy to me. Then they continue on through the overpowering stentch of the sewers, until they reach a bridge. Brin tricks them by using the wishsong so it appears she’s still with them going the opposite way, then goes across the bridge, collapsing it behind her so they can’t follow. They are hurt and confused, Rone especially, and Kimber commands Whisper to go after her. The giant moor cat is able to jump the gap and follow her.

Jair and his party make it out of the caves, where they can clearly see Graymark and the steps leading to Heaven’s Well. But it’s in full view of anyone inside, so they’ll have to take the tunnels. Again. The party wants to wait until daylight the next day, but Jair worries they don’t have time, so he uses the vision crystal to see if he can see where Brin is.

And as he watches, Whisper finally catches up to her. She uses the wishsong to send him back, then heads forward again, until she reaches another bridge. Halfway across, she’s attacked by Mutens, horrible creatures who guard the Graymark sewers. She struggles to use the wishsong against them but can’t, and stands helpless against them. As the first one comes forward, Whisper jumps to her aid, the wishsong’s magic having not been strong enough to turn aside the command from his master. The big cat fights the creatures, but they are too much for him. Just as they are about to overwhelm him, her block on the wishsong shatters, and she destroys the creatures.

But in doing so, she’s destroyed all that was keeping her from being used by her magic. She has lost something of herself. So she uses the wishsong against the big cat one last time, this time kindly, using it to explain to him why he must stay, to guard her retreat, should she come back. As he settles in to wait, she nears the Maelmord.

Jair, seeing this, says they have to go immediately. They’re out of time. So they go through the tunnels, Slanter leading them through them and into Graymark. They pass mostly undetected until near the end, when they are attacked by a giant flying creature, who goes after Helt, injuring him deeper than the scratches on his face. The creature sounds the alarm, and they flee, heading as fast as they can to the gate house. If they get closed inside, they will be trapped, but if they get through it and close it, they will be safe from the Gnomes. The race is on.

And Brin steps into the Maelmord.

August: There sure was a lot of wandering through dark corridors in this section. It’s a testament to the writing that each dark and spooky passage feels unique and unsettling in it’s own way. Mostly. By the time Slanter is leading Jair and company lost through Graymark, I was beginning to lose my patience. While it accomplishes it’s goal of showing the monotony of being lost in a dark place, it’s also kinda boring to read after the fourth time in three chapters. The scenes are being lost in the dark are some of the scariest in the series, but seriously, let’s spread them out some.

Sara: Yeah, by the time they hit Graymark, I was sort of numb to the horror of dark, scary corridors. Although Brooks sure knows how to create horrifying creatures. It’s like he reads a list of phobias and thinks to himself, how can I make that more terrifying? Let’s take a pitch-black cave AND THEN GIVE IT MOUTHS YOU CAN’T SEE UNTIL THEY ARE EATING YOU. Yep. Never going into a cave ever again.

August: And some sort of bat thing that wounds Helt, and the Mutens that attack Brin… and that’s just in this section! Brook’s bringing out beasts cobbled together by our nightmares is usually one of the highlights of his books.

Sara: Yeah, his monsters have definitely given me nightmares once or twice. At any rate, I’m glad Jair finally did something to help his party, getting them out of the caves in mostly one piece. It was a good moment, short-lived as it was.

August: I don’t know, I still find Jair rather useless. Still better than Rone Leah though. Rone is my least favorite characters in any of these books so far. Even lower than whiny Amberele. Rone is at the bottom of the list.

Sara: LOL he really is. Brin, on the other hand, is scary and unstable. With very powerful magic at her disposal. I’m actually really glad she left her party members behind. This is the one time I agree with a hero going off alone.

August: Brin in this section is great. It did a really good job of showing us her conflict and her slow embrace of the Dark Side, I mean, the wishsong. Characters learning the scope of their powers as they slowly but surely use them for evil and destruction only to (maybe?) be saved at the last minute is a trope I’m a big fan of.

Sara: Yeah I also appreciate how magic in these books always has a price. Sure, it can solve problems, but boy, does it also cause some. Speaking of magic, at first I wasn’t sure how I felt about Cogline and his Chemist magic, but it turned out to be pretty cool. I can just imagine this crazy old dude with pouches with all these chemical substances that do all these wild things. He’s like a Final Fantasy character. It does add a cool new thing to the Shannara world.

August: By now you should know I love when stuff from our world are brought into Shannara, so I love Cogline’s magic. You’re right, he does feel like a Final Fantasy character. I also love that he calls them “Chemics.” It’s a nice little touch that things don’t always get passed down correctly after thousands of years. It also makes Cogline a character we haven’t had in Shannara before, sort of a mad inventor, which is always a favorite of mine.

Sara: Also, there are so many Gnomes. There’s like, an endless supply of them. Why haven’t they completely overrun the rest of the world, yet?

August: Poor Gnomes. I always feel bad for the canon fodder.

Only eight more chapters to go then we are finished with Wishsong of Shannara!

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Wishsong of Shannara: Chapters 25-32

August: The fight commences! Allanon vs the Jachyra. The monster is stronger, faster, and more resilient, but Allanon has the druid magic on his side. Every time the Jachyra is hurt, it feeds on the pain and becomes stronger. Eventually it becomes too strong for Allanon, and Rone Leah raises the magical Sword of Leah to get involved. He is quickly wounded though, and the sword is thrown into the river. But the distraction is enough for Allanon to defeat the Jachyra, shoving his hand down the beasts throat and filling it with fire.

But the fight has taken a great toll on Allanon. Mortally wounded, he asks Brin to bring him to the water of the river, which calms as they approach. The shade of Breman rises, and takes Allanon with him to whatever lies beyond. The last of the Druids has left the Four Lands.

Brin drags Rone away from the battle, following the river. Rone is suffering from the Jachyra’s poison, and is nearly dead by the time they reach a trading post filled with unscrupulous characters. During the night, the two are assaulted by a group of trappers, but Brin uses the wishsong to disable them and make them run. She also uses the wishsong to heal Rone’s poison, and she has to come to grip with the fact that the wishsong is more than a toy, that it can be used for good, or evil. Breman named her Savior and Destroyer, and the wishsong was indeed both.

As Rone heals, they learn of a man named Cogline who has lived in the area his entire life and knows it better than anyone else. Brin must pass through the Eastlands, through the Darklin Reach and Olden Moor to reach her destination. When they find Cogline though, he’s a crazy old hermit who has no interest in helping them. Fortunately, living with Cogline is a girl named Kimber Boh, and a giant Moor Cat named Whisper. Together, they all convince Cogline to help, but Rone is insistent on finding the Sword of Leah first, or else he will be unable to protect Brin.

Kimber leads them to the Grimpond, a tricky shade who may be able to help them find the sword, if Brin is clever enough to see fact from fiction. The shade appears as a mirror image of Brin herself. The shade tells her many things, though how much is true is uncertain. It claims the Illdatch is the source of evil through the Four Lands, having gave power to the Warlock Lord originally. It claims the Mord Wraiths are in thrall to the wishsong, of eyes watching their journey, and of Brin and Rone’s deaths. But it will not tell her what she wants to know, so she traps the shade with the wishsong. Thus she learns that Gnomes have the sword, and a secret way into Graymark, the castle of the wraiths.

Meanwhile, Jair has been captured by Stythys the Mwellret and taken to a Gnomish prison keep. The Mwellret wants Jair’s magic, and will leave him imprisoned until he gets it. As a parting gift, the Grimpond shows Brin an image of Jair, nearly falling under the sway of Stythys…

Sara: Jair, the perpetual prisoner. Seriously, he’s been captive of at least three different parties at this point. You think he’ll actually manage to rescue himself this time, or will one of his “dead” party members rescue him? Goes to show that characters that show some agency are a bit more likeable, because at this point I just can’t even with Jair.

August: So, I have to admit, I was disappointed in the Jachyra. It just seemed kind of generic of a monster. Usually, the monsters in these books are more creative, whether it’s part mechanical or something more unique like the Reaper and Changling. Even the Kraken from the last section was a unique take on the monster. The Jachyra is… what exactly? Just an unstoppable demon. I remember not liking it the first time I read it, and I didn’t like it this time either. Allanon’s death coming at the hands of such a try-hard creature was disappointing.

Sara: I get that it was supposed to be scary because it feeds on pain, its own and others, and it also poisons anything it wounds. But yeah, for some reason, none of that was as scary as the Reaper or the Changeling. Or even the Kraken. Which you know coming from me means something, since I wasn’t all that impressed with the Kraken before this.

August: I suppose something should be said for Allanon. He’s been the central figure of the trilogy, and now he’s gone, the one consistency between books. While on the surface, Allanon was a Gandalf rip-off, he became much more through the three books. The glimpses into his thought process was some of my favorite character bits in the trilogy. He had to fight his own doubts about his own actions as well as extremely powerful enemies. The Druids in Terry Brook’s books are some of his best, most well-rounded characters, and they start with Allanon.

Sara: Yeah, Allanon’s growth this book especially has been really interesting. And it will weird to not have him in the books anymore. I will admit that his death scene did evoke some feelings in my eyes. His interaction with Brin after the battle was really well done.

August: Rone Leah is a whiny bitch. I’m tired of him. Menion Leah must be so disappointed in his grandson.

Sara: Noooo kidding. Poor Menion. The best of the Leahs. No Leah will ever be able to live up to him.

August: It’s interesting where these books show their age in character tropes. Weapon Master Garet Jax is the most badass super cool dressed in black character ever. The Jachyra is the most badass super cool monster ever. Rone is a whiny emo kid who puts his own concerns over his girlfriend’s. All these characters are supposed to be taken seriously, I think, but it’s just impossible to do these days. In gaming, characters like that are called Edge Lords. Because they’re so edgy. This book, much more than the other two in the series, falls into Edge Lord tropes, and when we finish, I feel like that’s going to be my main issue with it.

Sara: Yeah, I wonder how much of Brooks and his characterization is purposefully using those tropes. As with Allanon, we know he’s capable of writing good, original characters. Brin is another good example, as well. After the Grimpond scene, I’m actually kind of scared of Brin! She has a lot of power and nobody really to keep her in check, especially with Allanon gone. That’s something Brooks has done really well in this novel. Brin’s growth from innocent girl with “toy” magic to a person who is willing to do what she thinks needs to be done to achieve her quest, even if it means using her powers to manipulate. The flashes of rage, which I found kind of annoying at first, are good clues to Brin’s surprisingly volitle nature.

But then you have Cogline, the crazy old dude. I know I harp on Brooks for his show don’t tell with character development, but after trying to convince us Cogline was crazy using dialogue, I prefer him just telling us. Having him yell the same thing over and over and giggle incessently are…well, really not great ways to show insanity. Although I do remember that it’s all an act, so who knows. In general, though, as great as he is describing setting and creating a mood, scary creatures and holy shit moments, his characterization could use some work, at this point.

August: One final thing I wanted to talk about here. Elfstones in general, and these sections in particular, start to set things up for future books. I’m not sure how much Brook’s had planned in advance, but this section shows the passing of the old guard (Allanon) and the beginning of the new. There’s a bit of a prophecy with the Grimpond, where it says that Brin’s shadow will be the darkest and longest reaching of her families legacy. It could just be refering the power of the wishsong in this book, but it’s also foretelling what comes in the next few series.

Sara: Oh yeah! That’s right. And I can only imagine that Walker Boh and Kimber Boh have something to do with each other. And I remember Cogline becoming important later on. So yes! I think he absolutely knew what he was going as far as planning for future books. It’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

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Wishsong of Shannara: Chapters 17-24

Sara: We left the small band from Culhaven having just made it across the Wedge, blowing the bridge so that the Gnome army couldn’t follow them.

But unfortunately for them, its out of the frying pan and into the fire, for when they arrive at Capaal, another Gnome army is laying siege to the Dwarven fort. But the Dwarves can’t give up and escape into the tunnels, for the fort controls the lock system, which is all that’s keeping the poison from the Ildach from spilling out across the land, far and wide. No wonder the Gnomes want it so badly.

Their Dwarven companion, Foraker, decides to stay to help his bretheren, and, at the very least, warn them of the Wedge. He settles for shooting an arrow into the fort with a message to let them know. Unfortunately, that means getting pretty close, carefully navigating the cliffs around the fortress without being seen by the enemy army.

The message successfully delievered, they begin their harrowing retreat. They just barely make it away from the Gnome army besieging the fort when they run up against…another Gnome army. There are sure a lot of Gnomes around here.

Trapped between a rock and a hard place (literally in this case), the band of six begin their retreat, hoping to find secret tunnels into Capaal, where they can regroup and figure out how to continue north.

But their luck runs out, and they are spotted. As they flee for their lives and their freedom, they get separated: Jair and Jax leaping off a cliff into the river below, Foraker and Edain slipping into the tunnels, and Slanter and Helt bravely making their way straight through the army, Helt posing as a Mord Wraith and Slanter insisting the army make way for their master. This works impressively well, and they manage to convince the Dwarves to let them inside before the Gnomes can catch them.

Jair wakes up to Slanter impatiently shaking him, and they are deep inside the Dwarven fort. Jair is overjoyed his party has survived and been reunited. Except Jax, who has gone with Helt to scout a way through the army.

For some reason, the Gnomes have gone quiet and withdrawn outside, which has everyone on edge.

While they wait for Jax to return, Foraker tells them about a possible lead in navigating the Graymark, where they have to go on their quest for the King of the Silver River.

And we are introduced to a WHOLE NEW RACE THAT HAS NEVER BEEN MENTIONED BEFORE, getting their whole backstory. These Mwellrets are lizardlike, use dark magic to shape shift, and enslaved the Gnomes for a long time. Slanter is adamantly against speaking to him, but Foraker convinces him to at least try. The meeting goes horribly, though, for the second Jair speaks, the Mwellret knows about the Wishsong, and compells him to use it somehow. They rush out of the lizard man’s prison and decide to make their way without him.

Jax returns with news of a way forward. They are just about to leave, when they receive news that the Mwellret has escaped. If it could have at any time, why now? Well, Jair thinks he knows why.

Jax wants them to leave, anyway, but just as he’s insisting, the Gnomes start chanting, and three Mord Wraiths step forward to summon…

A KRAKEN.

The kraken comes up from the depths of the lake and attacks the fortress, breaking it apart so the Gnomes can overrun the Dwarves. Jair’s little company–all but he and Slanter–rush forth to meet the threat. Mord Wraiths take out most of them, as Garet Jax bravely fights off the kraken, causing it enough injury to sink back into the lake, taking the Weapons Master with him.

Slanter convinces Jair to flee, away from the retreating Dwarves, since the Gnomes are in hot pursuit. But as they make their way from the battle, the escaped Mwellret snatches Jair and disappears with him. Slanter looks for him without success, then reluctantly makes his way on his own, less than happy than he thought he’d be, being free of his obligation to the boy.

Then we check in on Brin and her little band. They are making their way from the now-vanished Paranor, toward the Anar at last. Brin begins to withdraw from her companions, feeling as if she is alone even around them. Allanon, however, finally opens up to the two, revealing that his time in the world is near its end. His adoptive father, Bremen, fortold his death when they visited the Hadeshorn.

As they make their way through what Allanon hopes will be a route the Mord Wraiths won’t expect them to go, it seems as though his time has finally come. A deadly, dangerous Jachyra, more dangerous than the Mord Wraiths themselves, blocks their way forward.

This section ends with Allanon squaring off against this deadly foe, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope that he will live through the battle…

August: We sure picked quite a cliffhanger to leave off on!

Sara: No kidding! I’m excited to dive right into the next section.

So, I’m still having a hard time with the characterization of Slanter. Everyone keeps insisting he likes Jair, but he sure doesn’t act like it with the things he says and the way he treats him. There’s a disconnect there that I’m really having trouble with, and I can’t figure out why Jair likes him. But I get the feeling we haven’t seen the last of him, even though he seems to be going his own way, now.

August: I don’t have much of a new opinion on any of the companions really. Slanter gets the most page time, but I pretty much agree with you. So far, this group of adventuring companions isn’t as interesting as the group in Sword. How much of that can be attributed to the length of the book. Wishsong is over 200 pages shorter than Sword, and while I appreciate a more streamlined narrative, I wonder how many side stories that would have fleshed out some characters were left out.

Sara: Knowing Brooks, he’d probably just describe the weather of wherever they came from instead of developing characters.

As far as the Mwellrets go, I think it’s an interesting backstory. My only minor issues with their introduction is that it’s like the Wing Riders last book: there was a huge info dump for their history, and it seemed like Brooks was trying really hard to justify the fact that they hadn’t been mentioned before. I would have dealt with that differently, as a writer. Like, if the characters had maybe at least heard about them even if they didn’t know anything about them, it would have felt less like him making excuses and introducing a brand new thing and being like NOBODY BUT THE GNOMES KNEW ABOUT THEM. Seemed like an attempt at misdirection but I didn’t fall for it. Still interesting though. I’m curious how it’s going to pan out for Jair as a prisoner of one. Or “friend” as he insists.

August: I’m not too bothered by the introduction of the Mwellrets. I don’t expect Jair, who’s still a kid from a small village, to know too much about most things. The dwarves and gnomes seem to know about them, and that’s good enough for me. The one we’ve met is a pretty creepy character, and I usually like lizard races in fantasy as long as they are mysterious and creepy. Hmm, maybe this book is why I prefer that portrayal?

Sara: Something I noticed yet again in this section is that Brooks writes a lot about weather. A lot. Like, each chapter tells us what the weather is doing. I can see how influential Brooks was on my writing, because a lot of my early novels always open talking about the weather. Turns out unless weather is significant to the plot, readers don’t care all that much. That being said, I do, as always, really like his descriptions of places. I really felt like I was standing on the edge of the cliffs overlooking Capaal. And the Wolfsktaag mountains were very atmospheric. The Chard Rush was very vivid in my mind.

August: I’ll admit, sometimes I tune out of the descriptions. They are very evocative, and always very well done, but there’s always so many of them, it takes an extra effort of focus to read them. I never regret focusing and reading them closely, but seriously Terry Brooks: some of us have other things to be doing. I’m pretty sure this is one of those Tolkien inspired things that has gone out of style though, so I try not to be too critical of it in a 33 year old book.

Sara: Yeah, fair enough.

So, when we started following Brin and company again, I was not shocked when we got an Allanon infodump. Although it sounds like it might be our last one! It was kind of nice to have Brooks talk about the changes in Allanon, not just the physical, where he’s clearly aged when he hasn’t before, but also that he finally feels like maybe he doesn’t have to die with all the secrets in the world. Just some of them. Shows some personal growth, there, that he finally told his unsuspecting companions something of what was going on. And we finally got confirmation that Allanon is more Bremen’s adoptive son than birth son. I think, anyway. The way it was worded was a tad vague, which makes me wonder if even Brooks isn’t entirely sure where to come down on that.

August: I enjoy getting a rare look into Allanon’s thoughts. That’s one advantage of having a more free-wheeling perspective as opposed to more modern fiction, which is usually more tightly bound to one perspective.

Sara: I’m looking forward to Allanon’s final battle. Brooks is so good at the terrifying creatures, and the Jachyra I’m sure will be no exception. Although I am a bit disappointed in the kraken. I had a hard time reconciling what I thought of as a kraken with his descriptions of the thing, and almost would have preferred it be some lake creature or demon, not an ocean dwelling creature that magically showed up to crawl all over the land and live in fresh water. Still. It made for a good action scene, and I’m curious to see if Jax survived it.

August: I disagree a little, I enjoyed the kraken even if it doesn’t fit what we usually think of as a kraken. Maybe it would be easier to call it something else, but Brooks has been subverting our expectations for typical fantasy races and creatures since the beginning, so I’m okay with it. Also, I am absolutely terrified of giant sea monsters. I blame Sphere by Michael Crichton. Any kind of giant sea tentacly beaky monster has my number. Shove a spear in it’s stupid eye, Jax.

Sara: I mean, you’re not wrong as far as Brooks and expectation subversion. Although maybe that’s why I didn’t like the kraken here. Crichton did such a great job with the his giant squid monster. Not even Brooks, in all his descriptive glory, can hold a candle to that terror. Man, now I need to go re-read Sphere. BRB.

After I go read what happens to Allanon, that is. Onward!

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