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Tanequil
Terry Brooks
Del Rey, 357 pages

Tanequil
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 Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Elfstones of Shannara
SF Site Review: Sometimes The Magic Works
SF Site Review: Morgawr
SF Site Review: Ilse Witch
SF Site Review: A Knight of the Word
SF Site Review: Running With The Demon
Biography
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 Nathan Brazil

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'Overhead, the Druid warship was swinging back around, searching for movement. They were safe for the moment, but trapped. Sooner or later, those Gnome Hunters would land and begin a search of the buildings.'
Tanequil is the thirteenth book in the Shannara series, and has the mixed fortunes associated with that number. It's also the middle book in the current trilogy, which began with Jarka Ruus. Any author who takes a series this far better have something to write about, and Terry Brooks does not disappoint on that score. The fresh invention and careering story of Penderrin Ohmsford's quest to save his missing aunt, who is trapped in the Forbidding, continues onward like a runaway train. Brooks has a page turning, expressive style that, in this book, is also something of a tightrope walk. While he seems well aware of what his audience wants, it's clear that he has fiddled with some standard elements, rather than become jaded. So we have a lead character who has not inherited any of the previous magical abilities or talismans associated with his family. Pen doesn't carry the Sword of Shannara, cannot use the Elfstones, or call up the Wishsong. As Ohmsfords go, he seems like a bit of a duffer, with only a subtle magic to help him along on his near impossible journey. Pen has the ability to communicate, in a crude fashion, with animals and plant life. As expected, the author ensures this proves useful. Aside from his passive magic, Pen is very similar to those who have gone before. Just like Shea, Par, and his father, Bek, he is plucked from obscurity by the shaky logic of fate, and told he's the only one able to do the job. As with his predecessors, he is reluctant to go, doubts his ability and constantly thinks that others would be a better choice. This is Terry Brooks winning formula, and he's sticking to it like Velcro. At this point I must also warn anyone who has not read the preceding series, Jerle Shannara, that Tanequil includes frequent spoiler grade references to events which took place in that adventure.

The plot is divided between four elements; Pen's quest, the machinations of evil Druid Shadea a'Ru, Grianne Ohmsford's struggle to survive inside the Forbidding, and the decades old conflict between the Federation and Free-Born. The stalled war is where Brooks diverts most noticeably from his fantasy roots, by allowing characters to develop what is essentially a laser cannon. This devastating technological advantage is given no counter, and feels awkward. Elves and lasers are not a comfortable mix. Yet the scenes in which Shannara's first weapon of mass destruction is developed and used are written with panache, and do add to the plot. Which is more than can be said for Tagwen, the former assistant to the Ard Rhys, who spends the entire book doing nothing much. He seems to be there because quest parties always include a dwarf. By far the best elements of the quest, for my money, are the Rover girl Cinnaminson, and the assassin Aphasia Wye. Cinnaminson is the Geordie La Forge of Shannara; a blind pilot of an airship, gifted with psychic sight. Aphasia Wye is the bestial, almost unkillable assassin, sent after Pen by Shadea a'Ru. It is with these two that Brooks lands a smack to the face, by strongly suggesting sexual abuse of the blind girl. Like the laser, this was not what I'd expected, but it did have the presumably desired effect of making me care. Grianne Ohmsford finally puts in an appearance after something over a hundred pages of story, and almost immediately gets into big trouble with a demon. There's also welcome development of the character Weka Dart, from Jarka Ruus, a lying little git who comes across as Gollum on amphetamines. Meanwhile, at Paranor, Shadea a'Ru is finding out that being Ard Rhys is not all she had imagined. In fact, she's beginning to regret ever taking control. While working to defeat any rebellion among the Druid factions, she is oblivious to the real threat which comes in the form of the Moric. This is a creature released from the Forbidding in exchange for Grianne Ohmsford. The Moric prefers to sleep in sewage, and goes around wearing a skinned human, as it works to further its master's grand plan to break the Forbidding wide open.

The Tanequil itself, as readers of the previous book will know, is an enormous sentient tree. It is located in a remote area known as the Inkrim, a splendid invention said to be as old as Faerie. Pen Ohmsford must first reach the tree, then persuade it to give up one of its limbs, to be made into a Darkwand. The Darkwand is the tool to open a portal into the Forbidding, for just one person. This is what feels a little shaky, as by the end of this book Pen is positioned as the reluctant hero, but had not convinced me as a character. Plainly put, he's less interesting than most of those around him. In particular, Cinnaminson, who has real potential. Brooks sidelines her character in a way that I found particularly annoying, perhaps because he also realised his supporting cast were outshining the lead. This is the biggest flaw of Tanequil, alongside a few badly telegraphed plot twists, and the author's insistence on homogenising the various races. In the world of Shannara Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes and so on are not in and of themselves magical beings. They appear as merely divergent racial types from the human standard. The worst offenders are the Gnome Hunters, who are supposed to be a threatening force, the SAS of Paranor, but are hampered by their image. Gnomes, as most people know them, are cute little blokes that sit around fishponds with their rods extended. Only the Rock Trolls stand out as clearly being something other than large men. But, these issues aside, Terry Brooks is on entertaining form with the High Druid trilogy, and I have faith that the final book will provide a satisfying blend of climax and cleverness.

Copyright © 2005 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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