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The Elves of Cintra
Terry Brooks
Del Rey, 380 pages

The Elves of Cintra
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: Straken
SF Site Review: Tanequil
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

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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'Midnight crept out of the darkness like a wraith at haunt, a silent and stealthy creature, and the little company of conspirators followed in its wake.'
It seems like Terry Brooks has been writing what is essentially the same story for most of his career. At all times successfully, with only the occasional lull, which is a record as praiseworthy as it is mystifying.

What keeps people coming back is a mixture of comfy familiarity and the author's ability as a storyteller. In recent years, perhaps wanting to flex his creative wings a little more, Brooks has developed his Word and Void saga, which in turn has fed into the current Genesis of Shannara series. The grand plan being to weld together his two most successful creations, perhaps in some measure inspired by the grand tinkering of Stephen King. The Elves of Cintra, is the second book in this meld, and it creaks as much as it bubbles. What I mean is, being clever enough and creative enough to take the project on does not make the two ideas any easier to match up. They are not natural bedfellows, and at times the forced convergence grates and squeals like the Titanic against that iceberg.

In contradiction to the title, this book is not specifically about elves. In fact, it could be argued that what is presented are not elves as we know them. The story splits into three strands, beginning with a trek across the urban wastelands of post-apocalyptic America, continuing adventures of Knight of the Word Logan Tom, and a ragtag young band of survivors named the Ghosts. Running parallel and equal to this is the tale of another Knight of the Word, Angel Perez, and her mission to help the Elves of Cintra, a heavily forested wilderness area, whose denizens have thus far escaped the wholesale destruction of the world, as long-term engineered by demonic forces. The major characters working with Perez are noble offspring, and chosen of the Ellcrys, Kirisin and his older sister, the elven tracker Simralin. The final element of this mixed bag concerns the emergence of Hawk, a young man from the previous novel, as a major power and living key to the rebirth of civilisation.

As might reasonably be expected, the three plot lines intermix to some degree, leading to a typical cliffhanger of an ending, which sets us up nicely for the next book.

It is fortunate for Terry Brooks that he has a loyal fan base. They will lap this one up, just as they've done with his titles for the past three decades. But what about everyone else? Well, the harsh truth is that this book -- this series -- is unlikely to win Brooks many new fans. The pluses include the author's ability to imagineer intriguing peripheral elements, a credible overview of his world, and reliably entertaining action scenes. In particular a sequence where Logan Tom takes on a corrupted Knight of the Word. The minuses begin with a disappointing lack of effort when it comes to names. One major character, Kirisin, is often referred to by his sister as Little K, a diminutive which sounds as if it is supposed to be endearing, but which made me think he was fresh out of nappies. Then there's the bog standard cannon fodder, including human/frog hybrids named Croaks, human/demon forms named Once Men, and an emerging magical power referred to as a Gypsy Morph. Is this really the best a leading fantasy author can come up with? Compounding this laziness is the grinding convergence of two opposites; the worlds of failed technology and spent magic. Such a meeting has much potential, but in this book the coming together always felt to me like it was neither one or the other. In particular I was disappointed with the elves, who Brooks presents as having lost almost all their magic.

Therein lies a problem. Elves without magic are little more than pointy-eared gardeners. As usual in a Shannara title, the elf stones emerge and play a pivotal role, but in 30 years of literary use, these magical objects have become a badly jaded plot device. Much as I want to like Brooks work, ultimately, there are better, fresher ideas available to readers, from authors not content to trade on past glory.

Copyright © 2007 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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