46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 1998
I was impressed with Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara, but he was obviously just warming-up in preparation for his true masterpiece, the Elfstones of Shannara. The Ellcrys tree, created millennia ago by long-lost Elven magic, is the strength behind the Spell of Forbidding, a dimension of imprisonment for ancient evil. In quick succession, the Ellcrys begins dying, the Forbidding starts crumbling, and the demons within break free--and that's only the first dozen pages! Allanon meets his match with the sorcerous Dagda Mor, only one of thousands of unstoppable demons who fear but one thing: a rebirth of the Ellcrys. Oh, I haven't even mentioned the cunning Changeling or the fearsome Reaper--there are enough villains and heroes in these pages to fill a shelful of ordinary books. Since 1982 when I first read this novel, I've returned at least ten times. I feel I've come to know and cherish these characters, like visiting old freinds every once in a while. Of the hundreds of fictional works I've read these past three decades, only a half-dozen have been as absorbing or given me as much enjoyment as the Elfstones of Shannara.
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2000
This book was the first of the initial trilogy that I read, and I still think it's the best. It has a near-perfect blend of suspense, intrigue, hierarchal rivalry, and romance. Also, it has one of the most intriguing, exciting, and well written large-scale fantasy war scenes I've ever encountered.
This book is NOT a clone of the first book, The Sword of Shannara, as some might be led to believe. True, something goes wrong, then Allanon appears. However, he is not the main character, and with all due respect to him, one large reason he is there is to simply tie in this book with the rest of the series.
A note to all people interested in this book but turned off by all references saying it's too much like Tolkien, only worse: people don't realize that the two series are not comparable. The two authors' writing styles are different. Brooks' works tend to focus on the here-and-now, using more dialogue and action. Tolkien tends to focus on the Big Picture, using tons more detail. Neither style is bad. It's the reader's taste.
FINAL NOTE: Good literature has no specific demographic. The Elfstones of Shannara is a good read for all. It has plenty of action and intrigue, while maintaining a definite mature atmosphere.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 1999
The Elfstones of Shannara is definitely the best book in the Shannara series. I love this book, and have read it over, and over, and over.... For the longest time, I wondered why I liked it so much. Then, I realized that it wasn't like any of the rest of the Shannara series (Sword of Shannara was O.K., but the later books became nothing more than agonizingly slow psychodramas with characters that were constantly struggling to deal with the use of the "magic"- bleh!). This novel, on the other hand, is perfectly balanced, with a somewhat different concept than the standard "Kill the evil wizard/dictator" plot. The Ellcrys, the tree that bars a horde of vengeful demons behind the magic walls of the Forbidding, is dying. Once she is gone, the creatures of darkness will pour in and destroy the world. The only way to stop the terrible events is to sent one of the Chosen to bathe the seed of the Ellcrys in the Bloodfire. This task falls upon Amberle Elessedil, a reluctant former Chosen. Allanon appoints Wil Ohmsford as her protector and sends them off on a mission to save the world. Meanwhile, the forbidding collapses, freeing the demons. It's up to the Elven Army to stop them, aided by the brave men of the Free Corps. Character development is excellent; none of Brooks' other works has any characters that come close to the ones in this book. Stee Jans, Ander, Amberle.... they're all very compelling and all seem very real. The plot is great, too. My personal favorite moment is the battle with the demons at Halys Cut, but the book is chock full of memorable scenes. The first encounter with Cephelo, Allanon's battle with the furies, the witch sisters, and the final agonizing decision itself... All of them will earn a special place in your memory of great fantasy. The only real downside to it all is that this book shows you how creative Brooks can really be. When you see that someone has the ability to write a masterwork like this and then go and read something like "The Wishsong of Shannara," it really disillusions you.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2001
Well, lots of people have done a general spread on this sterling novel so let me just list the highlights of what I liked:
CONCEPT: It is about 50 years after the Sword of Shannara storyline. A new Evil of Demons and Devils threatens the lands as the barrier which holds them back begins to waver. The only hope is to rejuvenate the Tree of Life, which controls the barrier, and that task falls upon Will omsford, grandson to Shea, and the only remaining servant to the Tree of life; a young reluctant elven woman.
MARKETING APPEAL: great epic story of good vs a primordial evil; runs on the bestselling SWORD OF SHANNARA; a weak boyish hero must assist a young girl, the last of the Chosen of the Ellycrys (that keeps the Evil kept captive), to an unexplored land to seek a means to rejuvenating the Ellycrys; Promises great battles, in the usual Brooks style, and the usual LEVEL ONE story telling level of good vs. Evil;
SCORING: Superb (A), Excellent (A-), Very good (B+), Good (B) Fairly Good (B-) Above Average (C+), Mediocre (C ), Barely Passable (C-) Pretty Bad (D+), Dismal (D), Waste of Time (D-), Into the Trash (F)
DIALOGUE: B+ STRUCTURE: A HISTORY SETTING: B CHARACTERS: B+ EVIL SETUP/ANTAGONISTS: A EMOTIONAL IMPACT: A SURPRISES: A LITTLE THINGS: B MONSTERS: A- PACING: A- OVERALL STYLE: A FLOW OF WORDS: A- CHOICE OF FOCUS: A TRANSITIONS/FLASHBACKS/POV: A COMPLEXITY OF WORDS/SYMBOLISM/THEMES: B+
OVERALL GRADE: A - (at the cusp to an A)
HISTORY SETTING: Pretty good History; the lands are created after a nuclear holocaust; the Faeries of Old return to the world; the other four races which are created are men, trolls, gnomes and dwarves. Some people claim Brooks is a Tolkien rip off but I don't see this too much. The elves, besides being faerie related, have lost much of their knowledge and magic of old. Furthermore, they aren't like the Tolkien elves as they have to sleep, die at the usual human age and are not gay and happy. Perhaps THE SWORD OF SHANNARA has more comparisons so I can't entirely say. Even the dwarves in this story are different, as they are great engineering types but they fear caves. Gnomes, other than having a group of healers called Storks, are barely introduced. Same goes for the Trolls except when an army of them arrives to drive the Demons back from the capitol. I would say that the History is nothing comparable to Tolkien. It lacks complexity and details. It does, however, deal with simple, focused ideas which get the points across. Fantasy setups don't always have to be terribly detailed to be good, I have found. Paranor, the well of knowledge run by the Druids, as well as the division of the Four Lands was done fairly well, in my opinion. And, needless to say, the fight between Good and Evil Faeries may have been adapted from previous legends but it was illustrated quite well.
PACING: The story never let up. Even emotionally, Brooks didn't try to spend too much time on details that would bog the story down and things kept moving forward and forward. Just the way I like it.
EMOTIONAL IMPACT: great love triangle; that's all I will say or I'll spoil it. :)
SURPRISES: many but again, I can't list them.
CONCEPT: Save the Elvish People from the Evil Faeries, who were behind the Forbidding. The idea itself has a smartly crafted fantasy world with a common yet well detailed Evil. The true strength to the novel is the means of how Brooks goes about laying all the points about, as well as the characters.
FAVORITE ACTION PASSAGE: "Far to the west of Arborlon, beyond the Breakline, there was a stirring in the air. Something blacker than darkness of the early dawn appeared, writhing and shuddering with the force of some blow that appeared to strike it. Momentarily, the veil of blackness held firm. Then it split wide, rent by the force from within it. Howls and shrieks of glee spilled forth from the impenetrable blackness beyond, as dozens of clawed limbs spilled forth from the straining toward the light. Then red fire exploded all about and the hands fell away, twisted and burned. The Dagda Mor appeared out of the dark, hissing with rage. His Staff of Power steamed hotly as he brushed aside the impatient ones and stepped boldly through the opening. An instant later, the dark forms of the Reaper and the Changeling followed him. Other bodies pushed forward in desperation, but the edges of the rent came together quickly, closing off the blackness and the things that lived within it. In moments, the opening had disappeared entirely and the strange trio stood alone." (see, doesn't he write great?) :D
WHY IT WORKED FOR ME: Reasons stated above, as well as the love triangle. There was a certain bittersweet quality to the lovestory where Wil had eyes for Amberle and continued to reject the Rover girl. As for audience appeal, I think the main reasons for it being a bestseller are: (1) large epic scale woven with skill, style and emotions; (2) excellent characterization; (3) great battle scenes; (4) great yet simple details on the History of the lands; (5) love triangle that ended bittersweet.
FLAWS: Much more plot oriented than context related. Those who would prefer a Tolkienesque context related world will be disappointed. Amberle and Flick were unimpressive.
COMMENTS: My second time reading it. Years later and still my favorite Shannara novel.
GRADE REASON: Done very well. For the reasons stated above, I have no compunctions in giving it such a high mark.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2000
I read the Sword of Shannara and I wasn't too impressed. Oh, it was all right, but it was kind of a cookie-cutter fantasy novel. Sword borrowed heavily from The Lord of the Rings and didn't offer anything really inventive or new; Brooks simply threw a party (of mixed races) together and sent them to defeat--surprise, surprise--an evil lord. Also, Sword didn't allow readers to connect with its characters. The characters in Sword were often one-dimensional and lacked depth--they were types rather than actual people.
The Elfstones of Shannara, however, is the complete opposite. Though Sword is the most famous in the series (because it was the first), I really feel that writing Sword gave Brooks practice so he could create a much better and richer novel. Gone are the wooden, one-dimensional types. Allanon is much more complex and human in this novel. The elves, who did appear in Shannara (though described in absolutely NO detail), are the centerpiece of this novel and readers spend the majority of Elfstones within the Westland (the land of the Elves). Also, I found myself invested in the two main characters, Wil and Amberle, and actually cared about their fortunes. Wil and Amberle show genunie affection and concern for one another. There's an emotional component to Elfstones that was lacking in Sword. Does this emotional component sometimes become a bit sugary? Well, yes, but I think that every writer needs to risk dealing with the human heart. I don't care what kind of writing you like to read--sci-fi, fantasty, literary, western, etc.--CHARACTERS are what make a novel, not the endless monsters, battles, and wanderings to and fro. Whereas Sword was all convention and plot, Elfstone places its characters first.
No need to fret, though. Those who like battles and monsters will not be diappointed. Elfstones still delivers the goods expected from fantasy readers. Also, it's refreshing to see a female heroine in a male-dominated genre (though she could be a bit stronger). The ending as well is quite refreshing. I won't spoil it, of course, but the ending doesn't wrap things up with a typical "perfect" closing. The ending to Elfstones is bittersweet and I'm shocked, actually, that Brooks's editors didn't beg him to alter it. Or maybe they did and Brooks refused.
Elfstones, though not a perfect book, is still a welcome novel in a genre beleaguered by bad, or overrated, writers (i.e. Robert Jordan). I wholeheartedly recommend this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2004
This book blew me away! It was original, exciting and scared the heck out of me at times. The Reaper...*shudder*. It was also the first book that brought tears to my eyes at the end...and that's saying something.
Even after over 20 years, I still look back on this book fondly as one of my favorites of all time.
Perhaps after I read the 80+ books I've bought and not read I shall return to this series.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Terry Brooks has written many wonderful novels, and deserves all the positive praise he has ever received, but 'The Elfstones' is without-a-doubt his crowning achievement. All of his terrific Shannara books are worth reading, but this one holds a special place for me. I read it in High School when it first came out and have since read it again and again, and I have always come to be enthralled at the amazing plot, the likeable characters and how I questioned those who Terry wanted me to question, only to find out some were actually good guys, and some turned out to be fantastically evil. The images of the Land as Brooks describes it actually comes to life, and the charge that Allanon gives to poor Wil is an amazing one: protect someone using a magic you hardly understand or even know how to call upon, and do it against incredible odds. The ending truly surprised me, and brought me almost to tears. I came to appreciate and bond with these people, and to lose one, even for a good cause was difficult to take. A well written, exciting and VERY enjoyable novel which delivers on ALL accounts. One of the very best books I have ever read, and I haven't read everything, but I have read a LOT of books. Fantasty lovers who have yet to read the Shannara series have NO idea how good the genre can actually be until they pick up something by Terry Brooks. The Elfstones of Shannara is simply put a wonderful novel. It isn't literature, but it IS fantastic. Escape into Terry's wonderful imagination for a while and you too will find yourself going back again and again. It's like taking your children to Disneyland...it's an experience you want to capture over and over again. I loved this book when I first read it, and after many re-reads still holds the #1 place in my heart for a fantasy story.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2006
Normally, any sequel to a book that was written so well and with the impact of The Sword of Shannara is disappointing. Not so with The Elfstones of Shannara.
The same, incredible descriptive power that Brooks has mastered comes alive in this book as well. The battle scenes between the Elven Army and the Demons is superb, and I had a picture in my mind's eye at every turn of the page. The pacing of a good story is an art that Brooks also seems to have perfected, as the scenes shift from the battles to the quest that Wil and Amberle are on. The fear that Wil has of the Elfstones as well as the Reaper is tangible. The doubts and emotions that flow between Amberle and Wil are easy to read into, and the side characters keep my interest throughout.
The most fun I had reading this story was the valor and charisma of Stee Jans, the Free Corps commander. Peripheral characters like him cease to be peripheral to me, and make me cheer on the forces of good all the more.
While Brooks described the central part of the Four Lands well in Sword, he went a step farther in Elfstones giving each area that Wil and Amberle traversed throughout the deep Westland a mysticism and life of its own. The climactic battle between Elves and Demons, Allanon and the Dagda Mor, and Wil and the Reaper, and the rebirth of the Ellcrys are a nice end to a descriptive and well told story.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2005
A little known fact that some may not know is that Elfstones may have never been. After the success of Sword, Del Rey told Terry Brooks to start on a sequel to Sword, even though he never had intentions on doing so (and look where he has taken us since). So he set about doing just that. But he didn't write Elfstones. He wrote a completely different novel. It had no Ohmsfords in it and was about Menion Leah's grandson. It concerned him and a young woman whose magic was singing, like a siren (which he later borrowed from to write Wishsong). After finishing it and sending it to Del Rey, he waited. It was sent back and Lester Del Rey said it was horrid and start over. So he did and he wrote Elfstones.
What he wrote, in my mind set him apart from Tolkien and a completely different story than Sword. Once again he picked up with the Ohmsfords. The Ellcrys, the tree that the Elves made thousands of years before is dying. And with her is the ability to keep the barrier between the Four Lands and The Forbidding still strong. Without the barrier the demons (who were pushed into the Forbidding years ago by the elves) will begin to issue their dominance on the world. So the druid Allanon summons Wil Ohmsford to first help him convince the elfgirl Amberle to take a seed from the Ellcrys to the Bloodfire. He then must protect her on this perilous journey with only the Elfstones to protect her and him. Elfstones that he can barely use. Tailing them is The Reaper a most feared demon.
The aspects I like in this book are even though he is an Ohmsford, Wil can barely use the magic that Allanon gives him. We also meet the Rovers for the first time. They become very important in later books. Eretria is one of Brooks' most endearing characters. The battle between Allanon and the Dagda Moor is probably one of the best battle scenes in all his books (and the one that would look the best on screen, if it is ever a movie). And even though the ending is very heart-wrenching and leaves you kind of blah, but it sets up Wishsong, to me this is his best Shannara book.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2006
This is my all-time favrite Shannara book. I really liked all of the action and sheer exitment! The Reaper, one of the demons who escapes the Forbiding, sort of gave me the creeps. I was really frightened for Wil and Amberle. The Ellcrys was a really cool plant. I wish I could have one! I love Allonon, but feel sort of sorry for him. I would highly recomend this book for anyone who likes elves, science fiction, and action! I really like the way Terry Brooks writes, with all of the description, I can really picture what's happening. I love this book and all of the others(The Sword, The Wishsong, The Scions,etc.) This, however, was my favorite as I said before. If you are like me and like big, fat books filled with suspense and thrilling moments, this is a book for you. This is a fantastic book! :)