Armageddon's Children

Reviewed: October 9, 2008
By: Terry Brooks
Publisher: Del Rey Books
404 pages, $10.99

In the Word and Void trilogy, the tale of Nest Freemark and John Ross, the Knight of the Word, Terry Brooks began to build a bridge between our world and the world of the fourteen novels in the Shannara series.

I’ve mentioned before that the Shannara books, although they are in the genre known as high fantasy, actually take place in the future where our science based civilization has collapsed and been replaced by one strongly tilted in the direction of magic.

In creating this world, Brooks has combined those two speculative fiction staples: the fantasy quest novel and the post-disaster novel. At one time most of the representatives of the latter type dealt with what the world might be like after a nuclear disaster. Brooks has adapted it to deal with the aftermath of an ecological and moral collapse.

As with most of these stories the actual disaster has already taken place off stage and we are left to deal with the results. All the central characters of this sequence of books, which looks like it will be aptly called the Genesis of Shannara cycle, are of the generation after the collapse, shen the poisoned land creates monsters of those it does not kill and the forces of mystic evil reshape those who chose to follow its lure.

Be warned before starting this book that it is clearly part of a cycle (usually three books with Brooks, but sometimes four) and it does not end in a nice place. Every major character in this first book is left in a precarious position as their thread in the tapestry comes to a close.

We first meet Logan Tom. Logan is a Knight of the Word, one of the last left in the world as far as he knows. His story reads a bit like a mixture of fantasy and the Road Warrior. He travels in a high tech ATV, but fights with the power of his black knight’s staff. He has dedicated himself to rescuing as many humans as possible from the demons, once-men, feeders and creatures that seem dedicated to eliminating any of the untransformed, unmutated human race that might remain. He is guided in his mission by dreams and, eventually, by the finger bones of Nest Freemark. He is tasked by the mysterious Lady to find the Gypsy Morph and guide it to fulfill its destiny.

Next we meet Hawk, leader of the Ghosts (“We haunt the ruins of our parents world”), one of many bands of youngsters who live in the destroyed cities of the world. The adults who lay claim to be the heirs of civilization are barricaded in out sports stadiums and sturdy malls, but they are trapped there and the beasts are coming for them one by one. The youth who have fled the false security of these last bastions are learning to survive in new ways. Hawk is a visionary as well as a leader and a fighter. He plans for and protects his small tribe and he is a lot more important than he thinks he is.

Almost a third of the way through the book we meet another Knight, Angel Perez. She works tirelessly to rescue the children of the besieged bastions of humanity, for she knows that one particular demon, whom she calls the Old Man, has special plans for them. In carrying out her crusade she incurs the wrath of Delloreen, an ambitious human changeling who is bent on tracking her and using the kill to usurp the Old Man’s leadership of the demon and once-man hordes. Aside from trying to survive this deadly contest, she is tasked by the Lady with helping creatures she doesn’t even believe in and has to find before she can help them

Finally we meet the Elves. They have been around since the world was young, and have avoided contact with humanity whenever possible, though glimpses of them have given rise to many legends over time. They have care of the Ellcrys, a mystic tree whose existence has kept the worst of the evils from boiling into out world When the elves had magic they had banished many foul creatures from the world and locked them away, but the elves have lost that touch and do not wish to interact with the decaying world. Two youth, Kirisin and Erisha, become convinced of the need to act on a summon from the Ellcrys which only they have heard.

Armageddon's Children merely sets all these players in motion and leaves them in dire straits on page 404. It was a good opening act, but there’s quire a ways to go. The second book is just recently out in paperback and the third in hardcover. I’d like to see how all this ends and see if I’m right about how it ties into the books which relate the later history.