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 The Trolls have withdrawn into the Northland and keep to themselves.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!