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Ilse Witch: Book One of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara
Terry Brooks
Del Rey Books, 455 pages

Steve Stone
Ilse Witch:  Book One of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara
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 14 consecutive bestselling novels since that first book.

Terry Brooks
ISFDB Bibliography
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 Lisa Brunetta

The latest chapter in the Shanarra history begins with Wing Rider Hunter Predd and his Roc Obsidian discovering an elf castaway. The castaway's eyes have been gouged out and his tongue has been removed. He is carrying two items: the first, an Elfstone bracelet with the Elessedil family crest, which reveals him to be the Elf King Allardon's elder brother Kael, who set out 30 years ago on a search for a magical treasure of immeasurable worth. The second is a map leading to the treasure, which, in conjunction with Kael's condition when he was discovered, prompts the Elf King to authorize and support a new expedition to recover the treasure. The expedition is led by the Druid Walker, the last of his order. Walker assembles a travelling party that comprises a crew of rovers, a seer, elven warriors, and individuals who possess their own magic. Among those individuals are Quentin Leah, who learns to command the magical Sword of Leah; Bek Rowe, whose powers and past are revealed to him gradually by Walker (and others); and Truls Rohk, an enigma who can shape-shift at will. The voyage is undertaken in the Jerle Shannara, the airship of the title. The Jerle Shannara is tracked by the Ilse Witch (ilse means singer in fairie -- her power is in her voice), who covets the magical treasure for her own dark uses. Along the way, puzzles are solved, secrets are revealed and new powers are discovered.

To begin with, I am a Terry Brooks neophyte. Other than the first two books of the Knight of the Word series (very good, by the way -- I listened to them in audio book form), I have not read any Terry Brooks at all. Hopefully that will be an asset for me -- maybe I can point out some stuff about his writing that all you old hats have taken for granted.

The first aspect I quite admired was the way the history of Shanarra is presented. (Maybe it's just me, but every time I read the name Shanarra I get the urge to sing "Da-da da da-da da Myyyy Shanarra!") Mr. Brooks does not take a couple of paragraphs to provide you with a précis of past novels (like I did in the first paragraph of this review). Frankly, when I read a summary like that my first thought is "okay, no need to read THAT book now." Instead, the ruminations of different characters provide you with the background you need to understand the links to the past. It is presented sketchily, as the personal thoughts of an individual would be, but it provides enough information to fill you in. An interesting side effect (for those, like me, who are new to this series) is that it gives you an insatiable desire to read the other Shanarra books -- which I assume is the whole point!

Another technique I enjoyed was the character description. Each character is described through the eyes of other characters. Every new person the character meets notices something different. The descriptions are vivid, but still leave you space to form your own impressions of a character's appearance. This method left my artist fingers itching to sculpt these figures in clay, complete with leather capes and silver weapons.

The descriptive prose is also very vivid -- the battle scenes made me long to be a video game designer! Mr. Brooks also includes some wonderfully-written descriptions of the functioning of the airship, for those among you who are technically inclined.

I feel I must also comment on the presentation of the book itself. It is a beautiful hardcover book, with a full colour wrap-around cover and a vellum-like slipcover. A note to the uninitiated -- there are TWO maps in this book. The first is in the front and is a copy of the map the castaway Kael was carrying when he was found. The second is at the very back and is a map of the lands east of the Blue Divide. I am a map follower, and I wish I had found this second map sooner -- I would have liked to trace out Bek and Quentin's journey to find Truls Rohk while I was actually reading it.

My Terry Brooks initiation was a huge success: I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an epic adventure. Of course, now I'm hooked and I await the next with anticipation.

Copyright © 2001 Lisa Brunetta

Slave to the written word that she is, Lisa makes it a point to fit in reading time between working, taking care of her infant daughter, and making weird and wonderful things with stained glass and clay. Science fiction and fantasy are her poisons of choice (heavy on the fantasy).

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