Kat Hooper's Reviews > The Sword of Shannara

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
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's review
Mar 31, 2009

did not like it
Read in January, 2003

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

The Sword of Shannara was a very popular book back in the 70s right after the huge success of The Lord of the Rings when everyone wanted to read more fantasy. I wasn't old enough to read it back then, so I came to it much later. I read part of the first book and, knowing how popular it had been, and feeling like it was a classic, I was prepared to enjoy it. About half way through I gave it to my ten year old son.

The weird thing is, it's so like The Lord of the Rings, at the same time that it's not. I don't mind a few common fantasy elements (especially in works written before they were cliché), but Brooks' plot and characters come almost straight out of Tolkien. This may have been acceptable if the writing had come straight out of Tolkien, too, but Brooks' style is clunky, wordy, and awkward. Adjectives and adverbs are used without restraint. I mean there are constant repetitive superfluous unnecessary redundant profligate excessive numbers of adjectives. And did I mention the weirdly-placed adverbs which are used unsparingly, unrestrainedly, extravagantly, and immoderately? And annoyingly? . . . When I couldn't care less whether Shea and Flick (they're the hobbits-- I mean the heroes) live or die, then the characterization is weak. Actually, I was kind of hoping that they would die. If they died, the book would have to end, right?

Conclusion: These are fine for kids (at least this one is, I can't say if all of the later Shannara books are -- probably not). But, do you really want to teach them to write like that? If not, give them C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Susan Cooper, and Lloyd Alexander. To be fair: This series is wildly popular. Perhaps the writing gets better (it has been 30 years, after all). I have heard that only the first book is too much like Tolkien. But I'll never know for sure because I can't make it through the first one.

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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Michael Exactly--this is derivative Tolkien without Tolkien's prose!

message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol Neman Thanks for the discerning review...I had never before been interested in trying the 'fantasy' genre, and lately been thinking of reading this one, so reading your review I'm thinking that I could probably choose a better series to get involved with. Thanks again.

Kat  Hooper Carol, if you are planning to try some fantasy, please see these lists. There are some excellent choices there!

message 4: by Krys (new) - rated it 1 star

Krys My review was VERY similar. I too noticed the almost identical story makeup as Lord of the Rings, and that's largely why I didn't finish it. Same story... in a style I personally find unreadable. Might as well just re-read Lord of the Rings.

John B I have to disagree. I have read almost every book Brooks has written, and I've never been a big fan of fantasy. I read Sword when I was 12 yrs. If you know anything about him, it was his first novel and it does show. He gets much better over the course of the Shannara world. He heavily credits Tolkein as an influence, but he takes his own path. I love these books. They are the few I have read multiple times.

Interestingly, I couldn't get through Harry Potter for similar reasons you describe for Sword. JK is a horrible writer. She has a great imagination, but her prose is choppy and flat. I never finished the first book.

Fred D Kat, I totally agree with your review. I too noticed the adverb problem. He kept making up adverbs out of words that shouldn't be adverbs. For example, on page 702 of the paperback edition, I found this phrase: "The cloak crumpled and sank emptily, falling to the floor in a pile". "Emptily"? Really? Is that even a word? Oh my gosh that is so awkward. Why not simply say "The empty cloak crumpled and sank to the floor in a pile"? I found crap like that all throughout the book. Thank you for your review. It was spot on.

message 7: by Al (new)

Al Kapple I agree with your assesment whole heartedly, and as Its good to see that there are others who recognize a hack that suffers from adverb abuse. I am sure Brooks fans are eagerly awaiting his new series about a teenage wizard with a lightening bolt scar on his chin.

Jimbo "constant repetitive superfluous unnecessary redundant profligate excessive numbers of adjectives" - ROFL

Adam Molenaar Love it, can't wait for the TV show!

Kathryn Andrews It's very rare for me to give up on a book. For comparison's sake, I read every single one of the Eragon books, even the really really bad ones. I couldn't finish Sword. I tried, honestly, but if I hit one more clunkily written overly verbose ripped straight from Tolkein plot element I was in danger of throwing the book across the room. And I believe in treating library books with more care than that, so I just took it back to the library before the temptation became too strong.

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