The two books under discussion this week complete the trilogy, Genesis of Shannara, which marks the transition between our world and the fantasy world of Shannara.
The Shannara saga itself is a fantasy series which began as a sort of homage to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but quite swiftly turned out to be set in Earth's future rather than in some dim past.
The events of The Word and the Void trilogy, which immediately preceded the Genesis of Shannara arc of which these books are a part, took place some years earlier. In those books it was clear that supernatural beings called demons were subverting human beings and causing some of them to change mystically.
By this arc things have gotten much worse. Environmental degradation has progressed enormously. Governments have collapsed on a world wide scale. Some humans have begun to mutate into other stable humanoid forms: some insectoid and come lizard-like. Others have become a race of semi-demons known as once-men. They are controlled and manipulated by the demonkind and have become a massive roving army of chaos bringers, assaulting, killing and converting true humans who are mostly barricaded in communities in sports stadiums and shopping malls.
The Elves of Cintra deals in much more depth with the elven race, which plays an enormous role in the later books in the series. Thye have been largely unknown to humanity throughout history, but now the two races must meet and jointly plan to survive the chaos being brought on by the agents of the Void.
The Gypsy Morph of the final book in this story arc was born in the Word and the Void series, but we learn that it may have been out of circulation for a while - how long is uncertain from the narrative, but Brooks’ website says it was 80 years. In that time the United States has disintegrated offstage between the two trilogies; we get only a few details of this in memory flashbacks from various characters in this set of books.
We have already met the Ghosts, a group of urban children who are led by a young man named Hawk. They were the focus of Armageddon’s Children. Hawk’s role here is not unlike that of Moses. His concept of it is that he must somehow lead his people to a better place. His concept is going to have to grow a lot.
We have met two Knights of the Word, possibly the last two sane members of that order, a man named Logan Tom and a woman named Angel Perez. Logan has been tasked by a spiritual guide called the Lady to assist Hawk in his task of moving a large group of surviving humans to a place that will shelter them from the catastrophe which is still to come. Angel has been sent by the same entity to assist the Elves in finding a way to survive a coming assault from the demon forces.
The lead player among the Elves is a Kirisin, who is already a member of the guardians of the mystical Ellcrys, a tree whose existence has helped to keep most otherworldly forces of chaos and the evil Void from entering this plane or reality. It is his task to find first the Elfstones of power and then have them lead him to the Loden Stone which will give him the ability to safeguard his people.
After having given us four novels in a row in which there was no set piece battle it seemed fairly likely that Brooks would not get past the final book in this arc without several battles, and that was indeed the case here. As all the plot lines and characters come together in the third book, The Gypsy Morph, and we reach the stage where there have to be major group confrontations instead of the one-on-one struggles that filled the first two books. Those relied more on the mystery, quest and revelation types of plotting. They were quieter but more intense books in many ways.
This trilogy does suffer somewhat from what I could call prequel disease. There are already 15 books that come after this one in Brooks’ Shannara saga, so you know that the Gypsy Morph’s gambit is going to succeed and that the world in which those other stories take place is going to exist. Fortunately, Brooks tells his tale well enough to make you enjoy the trip even when you already know the destination.