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  1. #1
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Article: Terry Brooks: The Magic Works

    Thought this might be useful.

    Here is a copy of an article written by myself for the Souvenir Book of the British Fantasy Convention 2007 about its Guest of Honour, Terry Brooks.

    Might be a nice summary of details.

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    It could be said that an author of 26 novels, with US sales of over 25 million and a career of 30 years might need no more introduction. However, for those who might not know, Terence Dean ‘Terry’ Brooks is a globally recognised fantasy writer whose books regularly appear on the New York Times bestseller lists. In fact, in 1977 his first published book, The Sword of Shannara, was the first fantasy book to ever appear on the lists and remained there for over five months. All of his published books remain in print. In terms of global sales, Terry ranks as the fourth bestselling Fantasy author worldwide, behind only J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling and C.S Lewis.

    The importance of The Sword of Shannara on the growth of Fantasy as a genre can’t be overstated. In my own case, back in the oh-so-barren wilderness of UK Fantasy in the seventies, there was very little Fantasy to find. As (I was then), a young teenager, frantically searching libraries and bookshops for new Fantasy to read, there was very little, certainly by today’s standards. To my recall there was Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea series, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, of course (but no Silmarillion yet, which appeared in its novel form in the same year), the new arrival of Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant and…. that was about it.

    And then there was the phenomenon of The Sword of Shannara. For fans of Fantasy, there was a lot to like. The story involved a band of heroes, (led by half-elf Shea Ohmsford), fighting for good against difficult foes, whilst searching for a mystical sword which would defeat the evil Warlock Lord. Lighter in tone than Donaldson and Tolkien, there were nevertheless all the elements of an exciting adventure, with likable (and dislikable) characters, elves, orcs, magic spells and powers, prophecies, strange places and, (perhaps most excitingly for a young adolescent male), a sense of direct action and purpose.

    Terry has said about Sword that: ‘….in 1965 I read J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and I thought that maybe I had found what I was looking for. I would set my adventure story in an imaginary world, a vast, sprawling, mythical world like that of Tolkien, filled with magic that had replaced science and races that had evolved from Man. But I was not Tolkien and did not share his background in academia or his interest in cultural study. So I would eliminate the poetry and songs, the digressions on the ways and habits of types of characters, and the appendices of language and backstory that characterized and informed Tolkien’s work. I would write the sort of straightforward adventure story that barrelled ahead, picking up speed as it went, compelling a turning of pages until there were no more pages to be turned.’ (page 188, Sometimes the Magic Works.)

    The book plot was, admittedly, similar to Tolkien, but an engagingly rewritten one – easy to read and understand. For my teenage self, the pages flew by with narrow escapes, vigorous battles and apocalyptic overtones. My hungry teenage mind saw this as a huge block of accessible, fast-moving and lively high fantasy.

    This was clearly noticed by others than myself. Marketed in the US at first as ‘a book to read after you’ve read Lord of the Rings’, the book was a global sales phenomenon. Sales of over a million were reported in the US, whilst in the UK (admittedly a much smaller market) sales were very strong. Lester Del Rey, editor at Ballantine Books, used the book to launch in the US the very successful Ballantine Del Rey imprint, still a major book publisher today, and the publisher Terry is still signed to in the US.

    With the enormous popularity of The Sword of Shannara, other Shannara books from Terry soon followed, extending and expanding the series. The Elfstones of Shannara (1982) and The Wishsong of Shannara (1985) continued the story of the Ohmsfords. In Elfstones the grandson of Shea Ohmsford, Wil, uses the eponymous stones to overcome another challenge, but by doing so, the blood of Wil’s descendants is altered, resulting in his children being born with magic in their blood. Consequently, their skills are needed repeatedly through future events. The Heritage of Shannara sequence – a continuous sequence composed of The Scions of Shannara (1990), The Druid of Shannara (1991) The Elf Queen of Shannara (1992) and The Talismans of Shannara (1993) - is a continuation of the story 300 years after the original trilogy. The First King of Shannara (1996) is a prequel to the first trilogy, dealing with the eponymous Jerle Shannara of the title.

    Later series, such as The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy - Ilse Witch (2000), Antrax (2001), Morgawr (2002) – jump ahead to continue to tell the tale of Shannara in future generations: in this case, 130 years after The Heritage of Shannara sequence. Similarly, the High Druid of Shannara trilogy (Jarka Ruus (2003), Tanequil (2004) and Straken (2005) is set 20 years after the events of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series. As the series has progressed, prehistory has been recounted and different aspects of Terry’s world developed: the history and structure of the Druids, the backstory of Terry’s Elves, Dwarves, Trolls and Gnomes as well as the expansion of the Four Lands, for example - to the point where in the last few books there have been subtle developments blurring the boundaries between SF and Fantasy.

    Throughout all of this lengthy and increasingly intricate series, fans have been introduced to Fantasy by it, enjoyed it and (perhaps most importantly) stayed, demanding more from Terry as time has gone on. The use of keystone character values and mythological events throughout, a lively pace, the detailed world-building, the smooth style and deceptively complex use of traditional epic fantasy themes have meant that, as the number of Terry’s fans have increased, his influence on the genre and other writers has been enormous.

    Other authors have also spoken of Terry’s importance. Philip Pullman, author of Northern Lights / The Golden Compass, has said of Terry, ‘Terry’s place is at the head of the fantasy world’. He has further been described as ‘the godfather of American fantasy’ and may therefore be partly responsible for the healthy growth of the field to the position it holds in fiction today. At many websites, (including SFFWorld, where I am a staff member), one of the most common recommendations by members for teenage newcomers to the Fantasy genre, alongside The Hobbit and Harry Potter, is the Shannara series.

    Throughout his writing career, Terry’s writing style has shown a number of characteristics: most prominently that his easily readable and approachable prose has also had a sense of fun running through it. A good example of this is Terry’s humorous Landover series - Magic Kingdom for Sale - Sold! (1986), The Black Unicorn (1987), Wizard at Large (1988), The Tangle Box (1994) and Witches' Brew (1995) which tell the tale of Ben Holiday, buyer of a magical kingdom with unexpected hidden complications. Part Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, part Baum’s Wizard of Oz, part Sprague de Camp / Fletcher Pratt’s Incomplete Enchanter, it was a series that was written whilst taking a sabbatical from writing the Shannara series. Introducing characters such as Abernathy, the court assistant (who also happens to be in the form of a dog), and Questor Thews, the inept court magician, it is an entertaining read. It is also perhaps an interesting glimpse into a turning point in Terry’s own life, as it was Magic Kingdom (Terry’s fourth book) that was the first book written by Terry as a full time writer. As the earlier part of Terry’s career was as a practicing attorney (before becoming a full-time author) it is possible to see Magic Kingdom as a protracted goodbye to his previous employment before embarking on following his dreams, albeit with a lot of fun. The books have been optioned for an (as yet unseen) movie. Another book in the series has been promised by Terry soon.

    At other times, Terry’s self-imposed need to broaden his resume has led to darker and more controversial works. His Word and the Void series - Running with the Demon (1997), A Knight of the Word (1998) and Angel Fire East (1999) is a series of contemporary novels initially set in the area of his birth – Illinois – where Terry spent much of his early life. Again, the theme of good against evil is prevalent. Knight of the Word John Ross and half-demon Nest Freemark use magic given to them by the Word (the embodiment of good in the world) against each other and then to prevent mankind from being overcome by the demonic forces of the Void. Here we are about as far away from the genre clichés of cute elves and cuddly dragons as we can get. The work is grittier, grimmer and very much darker than the earlier Shannara novels to this point, dealing with death, child abuse and familial and societal disintegration. At times reminiscent of the apocalyptic vision of Stephen King’s Gunslinger, but with Terry’s own vision, the work is complex and fast-paced, amalgamating fantastical magic with current (or at least Reagan-era time) society events in the US. It is my favourite series of Terry’s work to date, and predates the current popularity of urban fantasy (books by writers such as Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Tanya Huff, for example) by at least a decade.

    Terry has also written movie novelisations for major films – for Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991) and, more recently, George Lucas’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (in 1999.) This process has had a mixed reaction from Terry, though the process of novelising a key aspect of the Star Wars universe seems to have been an enjoyable one. In addition, a number of his own books have been optioned for film. Though none have yet appeared, most recently Warner Bros has bought the movie rights to the Shannara Series and may base the first movie on The Elfstones of Shannara.

    His latest series - the Genesis of Shannara Trilogy, made up (so far) of Armageddon's Children (2006) and the recently published The Elves of Cintra (2007), with another book in production, ambitiously links the Shannara series with The Word and the Void series.

    As if this wasn’t enough, Terry’s has recently been involved in developing work which has been adapted into a graphic novel due next year. Dark Wraith of Shannara will continue the story of Jair and Kimber Boh (from the Wishsong novel.)

    Though Terry’s writing is clearly very important, his influence in the genre overall must also be mentioned here. Throughout the whole of his writing career, Terry has given support to new writers (like R.A. Salvatore, Greg Keyes, Philip Pullman, Eldon Thompson, and Christopher Paolini) and been an active advocate of the Fantasy genre. His first non-fiction book, titled Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life was published in 2003 and gave advice to aspiring writers based on his own experiences. Terry teaches annually at the Maui Writers Conference & Retreat and lectures extensively on writing.

    Throughout his writing career he has regularly attended conventions, of which Fantasycon 2007 is his latest, and is a very popular convention guest and speaker. He has a reputation for being an approachable and friendly writer with a compassion for fans and a great deal of knowledge of the genre and publishing. He maintains a regular web presence at his website, where he answers fans questions every month.

    Today he lives in Seattle and Hawaii, with his wife Judine.

    Writer, nurturer, orator, genre fan – Terry Brooks embodies many of the strengths of the Fantasy genre today. Without a doubt, his importance in the Fantasy genre is such that without his efforts over the last thirty years, the broad spectrum we call Fantasy would today be a much less interesting and entertaining one. In that context, and from the personal perspective of someone who has been reading Fantasy for over thirty years, Terry’s legacy is supreme.
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    Hobbit
    Last edited by Hobbit; September 21st, 2007 at 07:00 PM.
    Mark

  2. #2
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Just received this: one of these is Terry Brooks :



    Hobbit
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  3. #3
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Funny, Terry doesn't have a beard in any other pictures I've seen of him.

  4. #4
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    Nice work Hobbit! Very droll Rob.

    Having given up on Terry after the Jerle Shannara books, I'm borderline tempted to try these new books linking Shannara to the Word and Void books, which I thought were his best work when I read them. I'm quite concerned that if I go back and read the Word and Void books the gloss will have worn off though, as I was a teenager when I read them (not to mention a whole lot less well read).

    Are the High Druid books recommended reading? The Genesis books? Or is it likely I'll get the "more of the same" feeling I experienced around the Jerle Shannara books? I was really burned by the character "template" re-use in those books and have only barely contemplated reading him since.

  5. #5
    \m/ BEER \m/ Moderator Rob B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eventine View Post
    The Genesis books? Or is it likely I'll get the "more of the same" feeling I experienced around the Jerle Shannara books? I was really burned by the character "template" re-use in those books and have only barely contemplated reading him since.
    My review of Armageddon's Children
    Hobbit's review of The Elves of Cintra (Book 2)

  6. #6
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    I actually searched back through the threads and in the one discussing the Armageddon's Children review I seemed pretty convinced I didn't want to buy it. Hobbit's Elves of Cintra review planted a seed of doubt however and this article has fertilised it with a good dose of nostalgia.

    I may as well wait it out until the conclusion and see how I'm feeling then - there's no shortage of books to read in the mean time.

    Any other opinions from jaded Brooks fans like myself?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Eventine View Post
    Any other opinions from jaded Brooks fans like myself?
    Heh, that's funny. I don't know if I'm jaded or not. It's weird, I'm not even sure how many of his books I've read. I read the first trilogy (a long time ago, like around the time they came out) and really loved Elfstones. But I'm honestly not sure if I read the second trilogy. I think that I did, but I'll be damned if I remember a thing about it. I also read at least the first 3 Landover books, but I always thought it was a trilogy, so I doubt I read the fourth. This would have also been around the time that they came out. Other than recalling that they were kind of funny, I don't remember a thing. I kind of think that the fact I remember nothing is not a ringing endorsement. I can remember bits and pieces of books by other authors that I read at the time, but I remember pretty much squadoosh about Brooks' books (except that Elfstones was really exciting, and SoS was a LotR re-hash).

    I'm amazed that he's written so many more Shannara novels. I guess I am a little intrigued, and I wouldn't mind a re-read of Elfstones. But I don't really see myself reading all 15 (or however many there are). I've never read the Word and Void series. It sounds pretty good, though.

    Back on topic, that was a nice article.

  8. #8
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Thank you for those kind words, all.

    I liked Armageddon/Elves; more than Rob, possibly. The style is straightforward and there are a lot of those characteristics/themes that I mentioned in the review that are recognisable from earlier books. The thing to remember is that if you read a lot of them together they are similar and you could become jaded. Many fans will read them as they are published, a year or so apart. (Book 3 btw is 6 chapters from finished.) The tones have become subtler over the years I think as Terry has made the Tolkienesque elements more his own. They're good, fast reads in a style thats pretty comfortable.

    It may not work for all, but Terry has a HUGE fanbase that have ideas of what they want and where to get it. I think Terry is very clear on it too. I was impressed that he was attempting to link the two.

    I think Running with the Demon would be a good place to start, but if you didn't like that one Eventine, I'm not sure you'll like the new series.

    What is apparent to me after reading/rereading lots of Terry's work recently is how much his writing has changed. The Genesis books are sleeker, slimmer and more direct.

    Hobbit
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  9. #9
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Thank you for those kind words, all.

    I liked Armageddon/Elves; more than Rob, possibly. The style is straightforward and there are a lot of those characteristics/themes that I mentioned in the review that are recognisable from earlier books. The thing to remember is that if you read a lot of them together they are similar and you could become jaded. Many fans will read them as they are published, a year or so apart. (Book 3 btw is 6 chapters from finished.) The tones have become subtler over the years I think as Terry has made the Tolkienesque elements more his own. They're good, fast reads in a style thats pretty comfortable.

    It may not work for all, but Terry has a HUGE fanbase that have ideas of what they want and where to get it. I think Terry is very clear on it too. I was impressed that he was attempting to link the two.

    I think Running with the Demon would be a good place to start, but if you didn't like that one Eventine, I'm not sure you'll like the new series.

    What is apparent to me after reading/rereading lots of Terry's work recently is how much his writing has changed. The Genesis books are sleeker, slimmer and more direct.

    Hobbit
    Mark

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