Herein lies the heart and the soul of the nations, their right to be free men, their desire to live in peace, their courage to seek out the truth. Herein lies the Sword of Shannara.
Shea Ohmsford doesn’t know it yet but he’s the most important person in the world. As the last descendant of Jerle Shannara he’s the only person capable of wielding the Sword of Shannara, an ancient weapon that can destroy the Warlock Lord. Unfortunately this makes him a target, forcing him to flee home and confront his destiny.
It will be obvious to anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings that this is close to a carbon copy for the first few hundred pages. Shea is joined by a disparate group of heroes consisting of humans, elves, a wizard and a dwarf and it’s easy to recognize their parallel counterparts in LOTR. Allanon is clearly a Gandalf remix as Balinor is for Aragorn. Palance is a mix of Denethor and Theoden, Stenmin is Wormtongue, Orl Fane is Gollum. Shea and Flick Ohmsford are Frodo and Sam, Menion is Legolas, Hendel is Gimli, etc. As well there are various plot points that are similar as well. There’s a chosen one, a reluctant hero, a fake death, a dangerous lair and a magical device capable of defeating pure evil.
But while Tolkien clearly inspired aspects of plot and character, Brooks does put his own personal spin on the story. There are a variety of settings accompanied by good description that creates solid imagery for the reader. As well, the backstory for this world is only hinted at but is enough to understand a cataclysm befell Earth thousands of years ago and shows that previous decisions are responsible for current events.
The story is fast-paced and keeps the reader on their toes as circumstances can change within the space of a paragraph. That said at times it’s at the expense of character growth. Menion seemingly falls in love in the space of several days and there’s no reunion scene with Flick, Allanon and Eventine after the elf king’s rescue which could possibly have been a great scene. Several times throughout the story the plot will leapfrog over what appear to be great setups for dialogue or exposition that could further the plot. These missed opportunities are a shame considering how many characters Brooks has that require good progression and development.