My rating: 3 of 5 stars
These short pieces were written as add-on stories in the larger Shannara world. As such, none really add a whole lot to the bigger picture, but do give us a bit of a spotlight on events not essential to the novels. They are:
This one is set before the events of Sword of Shannara and endeavors to tell how Allanon first learned that there was a Shannara descendant that the Warlock Lord had not managed to track down and kill. It’s got a lot of the familiar in it- Allanon, of course, the first Druid we meet in the Shannara series (and one of my favorite characters), Eventine Ellessedil as a young king, and a new character, Eldra Daravanian, who worked for the Ellessidil family as historian and genealogist. He’s the only one who might know of a side lineage of Shannara that could still be out there. He left Arborlon under less than ideal circumstances, and Allanon has to convince him to help. And there follows the usual Brooksian twists and turns in a compacted format.
Overall, it’s a decent story. Brooks has said in the past that short form isn’t his strong suit, and it does sort of show in this (and the other two) stories. But the story is decent and it feels like a Shannara story. It has some tension, magic, and action. The problem is that there are some details that don’t quite line up with the what was related in the original novel. Whether this is because Brooks didn’t remember all the details (not necessarily unbelievable with the number of books in the series), or, like other authors of lengthy series, decided the earlier details were no longer relevant, but they are there, and for those who know the stories well, they do jump out. At the same time, none of the changes really make a difference in the original story. Nothing changes in Shea Ohmsford’s destiny or adventures if his mother died before or after he was brought to Shady Vale. So, while I noted the discrepancies, they didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the original story or this short piece. It was a nice add-on to the larger series, a quick read, and, well, if Allanon’s involved, I’m probably going to like it.
The Weapons Master’s Choice:
This story concerns Garet Jax, the Weapons Master from Wishsong of Shannara. Here, Jax is camped in the wilderness where he is approached by a beautiful woman who asks his help in freeing her people from an evil wizard/dracul who has her town captive and is feeding on the residents. Jax is suspicious and his gut feeling is that Lyriana is not telling him the whole story, but he agrees to help her, in part because he feels a deep attraction to her. They travel to her remote home where Jax not only finds the dracul as Lyriana told him, but a crumbling ruin of a town that no one ever approaches any more. The reasons for all of it are part of what Lyriana didn’t tell Jax, but in the end, he does kill the dracul and save the townspeople. Jax must also face his growing attraction to Lyriana in relation to the rest of her secrets.
This was a pretty good story. Of course, it doesn’t have the sweep and depth of a novel, but it moves along nicely. The plot might be a bit thin in spots, but it holds well enough. We get to see a bit more of Jax’s character and learn a few tidbits (not nearly enough!) about him. There is a fair amount of tension, the fight scene is good even if it seems a bit rushed, and there is just a touch of magic. I would say it is definitely worth the short time it takes to read it.
The Black Irix:
This is the third in the Paladins of Shannara series and is set just after the events of Sword of Shannara. Shea and Flick Ohmsford are back in Shady Vale, but Shea is still weak and sickly from his battle with the Warlock Lord. He is not getting any better, and so, against his own convictions, Flick goes to see a witch/healer who gives him a potion to have Shea drink to make him better. She also tells Flick that Shea is going on another quest, and that Flick should let him go. Flick dismisses this last because Shea has been adamant that he will not do anything of the sort ever again. The potion works, Shea gets better, and life goes on. Until Panamon Creel, the thief and con man who was part of the Shannara quest, comes to ask Shea’s help in retrieving the Black Irix, a medallion sacred to the Trolls that Keltset had with him when he died. The Irix has fallen into the hands of a collector of precious items and Creel wants to get it back and return it to the Trolls. He needs Shea to use the Blue Elfstones to locate the Irix. Shea agrees to help, and Flick eventually joins them. The Stones lead them to the fortress of Kestra Chule, who knows Creel. When they get there, the Ohmsford brothers discover that Creel has betrayed them. Or has he?
This is the one of the three Paladins stories that feels the most like a Brooks tale to me. Probably because it is the one that is set up like most of the novels- a fairly classic quest story. Like all of Brooks’ tales, it’s not so much the plot but the characters that bring you in and keep you reading. Here, we have Shea and Flick, arguing and stubborn as always, but also always there to support and help each other through anything. And Panamon Creel, the con man with a heart, who always has something up his sleeve. The strength here is the characters, not the action (there is very little) or the plot twists (it’s pretty straightfoward). But it is good to revisit old friends and see them being themselves and still getting into a spot of trouble now and again. Worth the short time it takes to read it.
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