Wishsong of Shannara: Chapters 9-16

August: Allanon, Rone Leah, and Brin arrive at the Hadeshorn. Allanon must consult with the shade of his father before they proceed East. He learns the usual cryptic secrets, but also that Paranor, the Druid Keep, has fallen to the Mord Wraiths. Before they proceed, they must deal with this threat. Rone is vehemently against this dangerous plan, but Allanon as a solution. He dips the Sword of Leah in the waters of the Hadeshorn, then blasts it with fire, turning the blade black. Rone is tested almost immediately, as they are ambushed by a Mord Wraith. The sword draws the magic of the Wraith to it, absorbing it, leaving the Wraith open to Allanon’s attack. Working together, they destroy the Wraith.

They travel to Paranor, and Allanon tells them what must be done. It is time for Paranor to pass from these lands. They sneak into the castle, avoiding the Gnomes and Wraiths so Allanon can take one last look at the secret Druid histories. With that done, Allanon casts his fire into the deepest part of the keep, awakening Paranor’s doom. A green mist fills the castle, killing all it touches. Allanon and company race outside and watch the mist consume the castle. When the green mist dissipates, Paranor is gone.

Further south, Jair, Slanter, and Garet Jax leave the Black Oaks and camp along the Silver River. It’s a pretty unfriendly party. Slanter doesn’t want to be there, and Jax has his own mysterious purpose. Jair dreams of our favorite deity allegory, the King of the Silver River. The source of the Silver River is being poisoned, and the King’s power will fail. Even worse, he has seen Brin’s quest, and seen that it will not succeed. He gives Jair a bag of dust that he says will be cleanse the taint if used at the source.

The King has another request. The Eflstones are useless to Jair because they were not freely given. In exchange for them, the King gives Jair three magics. One, a crystal that will show Jair where Brin is when he sings to it. Two, strength for Jair and his companions, and protection of Garet Jax. The third magic is the most powerful. One time only, Jair will be able to use the wishsong and produce not an illusion, but the real thing. Neither Slanter or Jax believe him when he tells them this, so he uses the crystal as proof, and it works.

The three of them reach the Dwarven city Culhaven. Jair goes before the Dwarven Council and it’s allies and tells them his tale and his needs to go East. The last time an Ohmsford requested aid in Culhaven, a party was formed, and this goes very similar. After much debate about how much aid can be given since the Dwarves are in a fierce war with the Gnomes, a party of six is chosen. Jair Ohmsford is obviously going. Slanter is very reluctant, but knows the Eastlands better than anyone and feels he has no choice. Garet Jax is going as well, and they are joined by three others: The Elf Edain Elessedail, son of King Ander; The massive Borderman Helt, a former Tracker; and the Dwarf Elb Foraker, a former companion of Jax. Together, the six depart Culhaven.

They plan to follow the Silver River, more and more tainted the further east they go, to the keep of Capaal, where a Dwarven Army is stationed. To do so, they must cross a massive gorge called the Wedge, but are dismayed to see the only bridge taken over by Gnomes. How did they get past the army at Capaal is the question on everyone’s minds. They devise a risky and complicated plan to get past the Gnomish camps before Jair remembers he has magic and can disguise them. They cross the bridge and collapse it behind them, and the six of them vanish into the night…

Sara: Dude, the next person who wants to cross that bridge is going to be very put out when they find it collapsed (and why do I get the feeling the next person is going to be Allanon and company?)

August: One of the biggest events of the entire Shannara canon happens in this section with the magical enhancement of the Sword of Leah. The sword comes around just as much as the Elfstones in later books, It is probably my favorite item in the books. An all black sword with the power to cut through magic is really really neat.

Sara: I had actually completely forgotten about that part until reading it. But it makes sense, now, because when we did the Sword of Shannara re-read, I had it in my head that the Sword of Leah was magical. When it was just a normal sword, I thought that maybe I’d remembered wrong. So that was a nice surprise!

August: And more time with the King of the Silver River. You know he’s my favorite. I do wonder what plans he has for the Elfstones. I know at some point they come back, but I do not remember what he does with them at all.

Sara: Yes, I do always appreciate a visit from the King of the Silver River, too. It was actually an interesting inversion of the established meetings with him. Before, he’s the one who saved our adventurers. This time, he’s asking our adventurer to save him. And yes, the Elfstones. I vaguely recall that they do resurface at some point, but I don’t remember how or why. It’s kind of nice, though. Wil would never have given them to anyone freely, and the King of the Silver River absolves him of any further responsibility of them.

August: You’re right, it is a nice inversion of how the King typically operates. With the poisoning of his river, there’s a desperation to him that we haven’t seen before.

But most importantly, the party has left from Riverdale! After a fake adventuring party set out in Elfstones just to be mercilessly hunted down by the Reaper, we now have a good ol’ adventuring party setting out. We talked about how much Lord of the Rings influenced those scenes in Sword, so there’s no need to go over that again. There is something pleasing about a diverse group of badasses getting together and setting out to save the world.

Sara: Yes, it did have a real Fellowship of the Ring feel and echoed Sword a great deal. Badass, true, but to me it also felt a bit stale. We’ve seen this time and again. But I guess it’s always this way with epic fantasy adventures. There’s always going to be a small party of adventurers who have to go save the world from The Greatest Evil. As a side note, I feel bad for Jair. He really does seem to be traveling with the world’s most boring company for all their badassery.

August: They are a little boring, but we were also just introduced to them. While I doubt we will get the kind of character development that we got in Sword with Balinor and Hendel (this book just isn’t long enough!), I’m willing to wait and see on some of these guys before writing them off. But I just love an adventuring party.

We’ve both said many times that Terry Brooks does some awesome descriptions. His writing about the corruption of the river as they go further East is phenomenal, as is his description of the fall of Paranor. But all is not perfect. Brooks still has some pretty flat characters because he tells, not shows. For instance, Brooks tells us Jair and Edain are becoming friends. We get no real instance of any friendship between them, but we are instead just told they are friends because they’re close to the same age. There are many characters that work well, and this bit stuck out for me because of how much it did not work at all.

Sara: Agreed, although he does point out how little talking there was between his traveling companions before, so maybe all it really took was having someone who would actually talk to him during their travels. But, yeah. Brooks imbues so much atmosphere in his writing. The settings seem to engulf me as I’m reading, and I really feel like I’m adventuring alongside our heroes. But yeah, he always tends to fall flat when it comes to using those same amazing writing skills to develop his characters the way he does his settings. The man can craft epic battle scenes and sweeping landscapes, he’s spectacular at the minute details of traveling, weaponry, and weather, but when it comes to character interactions, they rarely work for me. The back and forth between Slanter and Jair bugs me, too. Without Helt coming over and explaining that Slanter actually does care about Jair despite his attitude, I never would have really picked up on that. I really thought he felt forced into this journey and hated Jair for dragging him into it. Although I will say I like finally seeing Jax for what he is: a fighting-obsessed fanatic who might actually be a little nuts. He’s not there to protect Jair at all, although that’s a nice byproduct. He’s there to go test himself against the thing that will probably kill him.

August: Yeah, Jax is a little more interesting than I remember him being. I like the idea of him being a bit insane in his quest for a fight. It gives him a bit of an edge besides just being a really good fighter. I wonder if his conversation with Jair is the only hint of this, because I do not remember it at all.

Sara: One last thing I found to be pretty significant was the removal of Paranor. It’s symbolic of the ending of an era, the fading of the Druids of the lands. I have memories of Walker Boh in later books sneaking into Paranor wherever it’s hidden, and I get the feeling eventually it’ll return, but with Allanon being the last, and knowing this is probably his last adventure, I found that scene to be pretty powerful.

August: I know Walker definitely goes back to Paranor, but whether he brings the castle out of it’s banishment or not, I don’t remember. Paranor vanishing in a killer green mist while Allanon and company race to escape is indeed a powerful scene. It’s one of my favorite set pieces we’ve read so far.

Sara: Same here! I look forward to reading more, though. Onward!

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