When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him—and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.
But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.
Having never before encountered Terry Brook’s writings, I was intrigued to discover that this book was one of many involving the epic fantasy world of Shannara. I was also a little dubious as to whether it would be ok to simply jump into Shannara with this book having not read the others but I now know it can be read as a standalone series. In fact this book has stirred my interest into the history and lore of Shannara and I will no doubt seek out the rest of the books.
The story itself revolves around Paxton Leah a descendant of royalty yet living a relatively normal and uneventful life running his families shipping business. Paxton’s sister, Chrysallin on the other hand is a young and troublesome girl and it is because of this troublesome nature that she finds herself in debt to a notoriously powerful magic wielder, Arcannen. Chrysallin is then taken hostage. Paxton, armed only with a blade named the ‘Sword of Leah’, a family heirloom imbued with hidden magic, which Paxton is not aware of, sets off in pursuit. Unknowingly, during a dual with Arcannen the sorcerer, Paxton unlocks the magical power held in the sword and is able to save his sister. It is also evident from the encounter with Arcannen that he seeks the sword and to wield its power, using Chrysallin as a bargaining ploy.
You are introduced to a number of intriguing characters throughout, each with their own traits and skills. I enjoyed how a number of characters developed and some became heroes in their own right. Paxton’s character isn’t the most compelling, yet he gets the job done and by the end I found him to be a likable character. I was particularly impressed with the character Grehling due to his willingness to help those in need and his endless resourcefulness. Brook’s writing is also easy to follow and his descriptions of Shannara and its history paint a picture of an intricate and interesting world that I will continue to immerse myself in.
After the revelation of the sword, Paxton is approached by the Druid order who act as the authority regarding magical items and their use. They seek Paxton and his sword in order to train and employ him as a protector of Druids during missions when retrieving magical elements. Paxton accepts, seeing this as his chance to do something significant with his life. This is a story filled with action and threats such as wizards of the dark arts, Golems and furious beasts.
The book then tells of the training Paxton must endure including both magical and with blade, his trainer a Gnome named Oost Mondora. Paxton is quickly thrust into the fray to uncover the perpetrator of magical use and a beast that has been killing and maiming the inhabitants of a small village. The action in the book is fast-paced and edge of your seat, the use of both magical and close combat make for an imaginative and thrilling read.
Throughout the book snippets of the history and politics of Shannara are shared with the reader and although not as detailed as I would have liked being a new reader to the world, it has intrigued me enough to want to read the rest of the books to uncover more about the world and its history. As well as this, there were a number of factors that kept me reading on including the revelation of a spy within the Druid order and the return of Arcannan, powerful witch in tow. Brook’s also introduces a number of supporting characters which I would like to see more of within the next books in the series, it is also crammed full of differing races, weapons, magical abilities and history creating a world that I must know more about and ultimately follow Paxton and his development in the service of the Druid order. An enjoyable and intriguing fantasy read that I would recommend and will also be visiting Shannara again.