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!