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.