I was introduced to the Shannara books as a teenager, and I can honestly say it was a transformative experience, maybe even more so than “The Lord of the Rings,” which I had to become an adult to appreciate properly. I have about, oh, 9 of Brooks’s books sitting on my shelves, all looking very well-thumbed. But then I moved on and haven’t read any of his stuff for a while. Every time I look at those books I think maybe I should re-read them, but then I worry that I won’t like them as much as I did then, and a key adolescent experience will be forever tainted for me.
So it was with some reluctance and trepidation that I began “Wards of Faerie,” which I picked up somewhat at random when I saw it was on sale. Things, I soon discovered, have moved on in the Four Lands since I last visited (airships?! Who saw that coming?!), and this book is both almost too familiar and yet too different than the beloved books of my teenage years, and yet, and yet…
And yet I zoomed through the entire thing in a couple of sittings, totally enthralled and unable to turn away. I still love the Four Lands, it turns out, and Brooks still retains his old storytelling magic. No, he isn’t the most elegant prose stylist, but somehow his fantasy worlds are so vivid, his characters so compelling, and his storylines so gripping that I was utterly hooked anyway. This book is a bit more mature than a lot of the earlier books I read–there is less focus on adolescent boys crashing around in the woods (although that element is still certainly there) and more about grown women searching through archives–but I’m a bit more mature too, so that’s all fine.
Bottom line: I’m not sure this is quite the classic that “Sword of Shannara” was (what could be?), but if you’re a Brooksophile like I am, chances are good you’ll enjoy this book, and if you’ve just discovered Brooks, it may turn you into a fan.