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The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Morgawr
Terry Brooks
Del Rey, 401 pages

Steve Stone
The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Morgawr
Terry Brooks
With the publication of Sword of Shannara in 1977, Terry Brooks became one of the most popular authors in the industry. He has published more than 14 consecutive bestselling novels since that first book.

Terry Brooks
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Ilse Witch
SF Site Review: A Knight of the Word
SF Site Review: Running With The Demon
Del Rey's Terry Brooks Feature Site
Terry Brooks' Landover Tribute Site
Terry Brooks Tribute Site
Terry Brooks Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

Sen Dunsidan's visitor moves like a whisper of night, his power as frightening as it is full of possibilities. He is Morgawr, mentor of the Isle Witch, and he wants a fleet of the best airships ever made, and crews to fly them. Sen is reluctant, but the promise of becoming Prime Minister, his two closet rivals to be dead by morning, is too much temptation. He finds himself in a pact with Morgawr. The Isle Witch, in previous books, betrayed Morgawr in her quest to go after the books of magic held by the Antrax. He is determined to follow her and the heroes gathered from the Four Lands, led by Druid Walker Boh, desiring to catch up with them and get both the books and his vengeance.

The Ilse Witch has already begun to pay for her crimes. In having touched the Sword of Shannara, she has revealed the true state of her soul to herself, and horrified at her deeds, she falls into a coma. Meanwhile, Rue Meridian has stolen the Black Moclips, the Ilse Witch's ship, and is trying to catch up with the airship Jerle Shannara. Bek Ohmsford and Truls Rohk are charged with taking the Ilse Witch back to the Four Lands. Along the way, Bek tries to reach her, to help her accept what she was, and what she may become.

Terry Brooks has not lost his ability to create magical places. I loved the setting... Parkasia and its politics are well drawn, and the fact that some of the story takes place on the airships lends a new perspective, as well as an fantastical feel. This feel is created by the airships which, at least for me, are not scientific, but are inherently magical. The pursuit by Morgawr's airships is very intense, for he has taken the prisoners crewing them and sucked out their souls, creating a fleet of airborne zombie ships. This Flying Dutchman curse-like twist gave the story a creepy element that I enjoyed.

Brooks has been writing the Shannara series for a long time, and he just keeps building on top of his works, relying on the framework of the past to support his stories now. This isn't a bad thing -- most people either lean too heavily on their past stories, or abandon the past altogether to spread out in a new direction. Keeping all the elements, representing all the peoples you have introduced in other books, without overdoing it, is very unwieldy. Sometimes it is much more freeing to start over from scratch. Those who rely too heavily on their past framework often lose their readers with overwhelming past context, so that only long time readers of the work will enjoy it. Terry Brooks manages to sidestep both problems nicely. While I was often grateful that I was familiar with past books, because I understood where the other sword came in, and I had a good background for understanding Walker Boh, it was more because the familiarity of these people (or, in most cases, these people's family, since most of the cast are brand new, descendants of the people we've met in earlier works) was pleasing.

That is not to say that The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Morgawr is the type of book easily experienced by itself. Even though Brooks adds subtle clues here and there, so that, if you haven't read the last two books or if it has been a while, you know where you are. Its pleasure is more in the work as a whole. All the setting work, all the hierarchies and family trees from the past lead up to this book. He also mentions, here and there, characters from the past books, who help the heroes on their quest. You get the feeling that it is almost a culmination of years of study, rather than the last book of a trilogy.

Brooks also handles the major nemesis from the first and second books in a very interesting and ironic way. As readers of the past books will know, the Ilse Witch is Bek Ohmsford's long lost sister, who was warped into becoming an evil witch by Morgawr. Her true fate unravels much of the mystery of the past books, and neatly opens the way for a new series. At least I hope so, for by stripping away the witch's self-centered knowledge and acceptance of her actions, and by forcing her into a position where the heroes must learn to accept her, even help her, there is a reversal that really creates some interesting tensions. It is my hope that we get to someday see how this woman struggles to find a place for herself among the people who once thought her an enemy, and find a way to make peace with herself and those around her.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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