The Sword of Shannara: The Shannara Series, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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The Sword of Shannara is the first volume of the classic series that has become one of the most popular fantasy tales of all time.
Long ago, the wars of the ancient Evil ruined the world. In peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knows little of such troubles. But the supposedly dead Warlock Lord is plotting to destroy everything in his wake.
The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness is the Sword of Shannara, which can be used only by a true heir of Shannara. On Shea, last of the bloodline, rests the hope of all the races.
Thus begins the enthralling Shannara epic, a spellbinding tale of adventure, magic, and myth....
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|Listening Length||26 hours and 21 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||December 28, 2003|
|Publisher||Random House Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #3,002 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#251 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#789 in Epic Fantasy (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on January 24, 2015
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A few months later, disappointed in myself, I tried again. This time it felt like a totally new book: I suppose my basic familiarity with the plot allowed me to appreciate the richness of the writing, which is truly awesome. While perhaps Brooks can be faulted for having shamelessly copied from Tolkien, he actually is a great writer, and the adventure and description in this novel is very immersive. I'm glad that I came to appreciate the book finally, and now I can participate in the rest of the Shannara works!
So take my advice: read it twice! If you're disgusted the first time, give it a break, then, with fresh eyes, try again, and you'll probably see it for what it is.
Only Shea can control the mystical talisman known as the Sword of Shannara. The magic and myth has so been ingrained in the beliefs and attitudes of the lands and it's people, that only a Shannara heir can now wield the weapon against the Warlock Lord and defeat him. Shea sets out with the aid of his brother Flick, close friend Menion Leah, prince of the nearby city-state of Leah, and new allies, human, Dwarf, and Elf, as well as a mystic named Allanon, to recover the Sword and prevent the Warlock Lord from taking control of the known world.
The Sword of Shannara is a fantasy classic that is also infamous. The novel is the cause of much controversy, to say the least. The book is derided by critics ranging from everyday readers, to “Tolkien scholars” like Tom Shippey, for having “stolen” it's storyline from Tolkien, by “plagiarizing” The Lord of the Rings.
I used to think this way. From my own cursory looks at the text, and my readings of summaries and reviews, I wavered about whether to read the book or not. I kept hearing how good it sounded and the concept is rather interesting. But, I wondered to myself, if it's just a knockoff of Tolkien's Middle Earth cosmology, then what's the point of wasting time on it?
I finally read the book, and I must say that I wonder who in the world calls this a “knockoff” or “plagiarism” of The Lord of the Rings? Are there similarities in characters and settings? Yes, there are. But so what?! Does that really matter? Tolkien's work, and C. S. Lewis' for that matter, are so influential and popular, that they have become a part of our culture. Of course, such stories and themes will influence later literary and cinematic works.
For those who think that I am giving Brooks too much of a pass, well, I can most certainly understand the criticism. The author does does rely a tad too much on the use of the basic storyline of LOTR as a template. Sword might have been a better work had it not been so very derivative of Tolkien's work. But the book is so different after the first two hundred pages, that, despite the small continuing similarities, Sword takes on it's own, distinct, feel.
I admit that I became annoyed at the way that the books dovetailed with each other too heavily at times, but I am more lenient for three reasons. First of all, as already pointed out, the elements of the two books that are in common, are overblown. The similarities are there, yes, but the differences are more than enough to make the Terry Brooks' story it's own separate tale.
The second reason is that the books are very different afterward. Sword, and the rest of the Shannara series, is far more original than people think at first glance, and the different history which was hinted at several times in Sword is later fleshed out even further. The “Four Lands” becomes a vivid, separate place with it's own mythology. I know this not only from what I have read about the rest of the books in the series, but from having read one myself. Years ago, long before I had read LOTR, heard of Sword, or heard of the withering criticism leveled against it.
A large part of this narrative which is spoken of in this book, and expanded upon in later works, is the identity and location of the world. The Four Lands is our world, not in the past, but in the future. At first, there were only two species of Men. The regular humans, and the magical Elves that predated Men, and lived in hidden realms in nature that were unknown except for in various folklore accounts.
Then the “Great Wars” came, as the characters in the books call them. In these conflagrations, a combination of conventional armed conflict, and what is implied to be the use of thermonuclear weapons, results in most of the known world being obliterated. Only the Four Lands which seem to be based around the Pacific Northwestern United States where author Terry Brooks lives, seems to have survived. Besides the Elves and faerie creatures, the Humans were divided into several groups. There were humans who escaped the holocaust unchanged, and there were other groups who underwent physical changes and mutations as a result of the nuclear energies loosed upon the world. These were named after vaguely-remembered creatures from the various legends in the pre-holocaust world. Such creatures as Dwarfs, Gnomes, or Trolls, for instance, among other groups.
As is readily seen, the author took a great deal of time putting thought into how to make the world he was creating his very own, and not just a carbon-copy of Middle Earth. Robert Jordan similarly used a Tolkienesque influence to tell a story occurring after a cataclysmic event that nearly destroyed the world. So have other authors. Terry Brooks was the first, and paved the way, for which he deserves credit.
The final reason that I am lenient on the sometimes all too-closely mirrored plot-lines in the works is that Terry Brooks did a great service to the genre of fantasy. So many tales are based in part on Tolkien's Middle Earth cosmology. To be sure, many of these works were a tad too derivative of LOTR, but not all. Ranging from some of David Eddings works (which I don't recommend, by the by) to the first book of The Wheel of Time series (which I do recommend), and others. There are great stories that would have received blistering attacks, and perhaps not have been tried, had The Sword of Shannara not been published and received the most withering of such attacks first. After Brooks, fairly or not, (I say unfairly) no one else is seen as so unfairly close, except maybe Eragon or some others.
Don't get me wrong, The Sword of Shannara does not hold a candle to The Lord of the Rings, or many of the books in Jordan's Wheel of Time series. The quality of writing is not as developed here, nor does it have the poetic beauty of Tolkien's. For that matter, the book is full of fantasy cliches. Every cliché that was developing in fantasy since Tolkien first published LOTR was stuffed in here. The author perhaps overused various fantasy conventions. He did use them well, however, it should be noted. It wasn't as refined as the works of Jordan and especially Tolkien, but it was and is a fun read. But none of this should really matter. Sword is not being judged compared to Tolkien.
If we judged that way, almost no book would ever be able to rise to a high level of literary value or entertainment. The point of a proper critique is to judge the book on it's own merits. Judge it for what it is, in other words, not what it is not. It is perfectly fine to mention, as I have, where the book could be improved via a comparison to a better work, but not to degrade the story due to it's not being said work. Judge the work for what it is, and then you find the true worth of the story. By that standard, The Sword of Shannara is a fun fantasy tale. One that is well worth reading.
Top reviews from other countries
It's not a poor book or poorly written but it's just too similar to Lord of the Rings and I just couldn't get away from that.
I hope I can revisit at a later date as I'm sure the saga will be worth it in the end.
Sadly I persevered 2 thirds through. No female characters except 2 thirds through who was a pretty pink princess character. The most important character goes AWOL halfway through book.
For fantasy I recommend Stephen Donaldson's first trilogies.