The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara

Morgawr, by Terry Brooks

morgawrIt will be dark in another hour.  After that, we won’t be so easy to track, especially once we get out over the water.
Maybe.  Maybe not.  The only time they had any real trouble was after you crashed.  That doesn’t sound like an evasion tactic you want to employ regularly.
-Redden Alt Mer, captain of the Jerle Shannara, and Hunter Predd, Wing Rider

Well, it sure looked as if the voyage was over.  On the one hand, Antrax was finished; the Elfstones recovered.  On the other hand, Walker’s mission-and perhaps his life-has ended in failure.  And just to add insult to injury, there’s a whole lot of airships making an appearance….

Morgawr brings the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara to a close, and does so in fine style.  The cast of characters are still somewhat scattered, but each has managed to achieve something meaningful.  Rue Meridian managed to capture the Ilse Witch’s airship, Black Moclips.  Quentin Leah managed to survive the Wronk sent to capture his sword (and possibly the arm attached to it).  The Jerle Shannara is once again in the Captain’s hands.  Ahren and Ryer recovered the Elfstones, and rescued Walker, although that victory had a terrible price.  Bek and Truls Rohk are trying to find the Witch, who has confronted Walker; and she has chosen to use the Sword of Shannara to discover the truth about Walker, the Morgawr…and herself.  That move, however, has rather potentially disastrous results; the Sword isn’t known for pulling punches when revealing truth.

The book doesn’t actually start there; it actually begins some months ago, just after the Ilse Witch began her pursuit of the Druid.  The Morgawr isn’t stupid; he knows that she’s planning to betray him, so he’s out to recruit a bit of insurance…and to make sure that all goes well, he plans to attend personally.  The Morgawr demonstrates why he should be feared early on, when he recruits the crew of those airships…and it isn’t a pretty picture.  In a way, I’m very glad that the Morgawr has Grianne figured out; you can’t have a major villain turn out to be as dumb as a turnip, after all.

Morgawr had to accomplish quite a few things to bring the trilogy to a satisfying conclusion:  it had to resolve the conflict between Bek and Grianne.  It had to deal with the conflict between Grianne and the Morgawr.  It had to bring together the crew in a manner that could be considered realistic.  And most important, it had to get the crew (or at least survivors) back to the Four Lands.  In my view, it did the job; the most difficult aspect was to get the crew together, but life is a lot easier when you have Wing Riders on your side.

Still, just because those things had to be accomplished doesn’t mean that was all there was to the book.  There’s the obligatory chase scene with Black Moclips, Jerle Shannara, and the Morgawr’s fleet; that in turn leads to a rather interesting evasion tactic which gets the crew into more trouble than it was worth.  Redden Alt Mer gets a fair amount of pages this time around, as he begins to wonder if his famous luck has finally run out on this trip.  On the other hand, he proves that he’s still got something going his way; that’s late enough in the book that I really can’t get into that for now.

There is a resolution to the story behind Truls Rohk as well, as Bek makes a decision that will change him for the rest of his life.  And the getaway isn’t destined to be quick and easy, as Ryer Ord Star and Ahren Elessedil get nabbed early.  I found myself feeling sorry for Ahren; he certainly got more than he bargained for on this voyage, and after being shot at by Castledown and hunted down to be used as a tool for Antrax, you’d think the guy would get a break….

Walker’s presence also makes itself known throughout the book, although readers of Antrax will understand that he’s not going to be a physical presence for long.  Walker does manage, though, to reveal that there is one goal that must be achieved, and it isn’t the books of magic that he sought (clever readers of Antrax, again, will recognize a parallel right out of the book Wishsong of Shannara; it had been a red flag for me when I’d finished that book).  I did regret, though, that the Druid had left much undone.

The final confrontation between the Morgawr and the crew of the Jerle Shannara is everything I could have hoped for; I especially enjoyed the use of knowledge gained in the previous books to set it up and bring it to conclusion.  Ordinarily, I would have been annoyed at the way the book ends (I’ll spare you details); however, I’ve got in on good authority that a follow-up series by Brooks in in the works, and will probably take care of some of those annoying loose ends.  Once again, I’m looking forward to it.  Until then, though, I’d say that Morgawr delivers on the promise of the first book, and wraps up the story arc in a satisfying manner.

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Antrax, by Terry Brooks


I wouldn’t put finished to the Druid if I saw him dropped six feet underground; he has more lives than a cat.
-Truls Rohk

We left the crew of the Jerle Shannara in a really bad spot.  The crew is scattered, having been sliced to pieces by the defenses of Castledown, and the Ilse Witch has captured the Jerle Shannara itself.  And that is where the story of Antrax begins (not to be confused with another word that’s been in the news lately).

Heh.  As I look at my last review, I am forced to take back my assertion that the story didn’t have much more room to go.  Trust Terry Brooks to make me eat my words.  It also seems that his time in writing the Knight of the Word books seems to have given him a decidedly more horrific bent, as this books certainly steps into darker territory than has previously been explored in any of the Shannara books.

Bek Rowe confronts the Ilse Witch, revealed to have been his sister.  While he tries desperately to convince her of the truth of their heritage, she seems quite bent on believing that this is a trick by the Druid, Walker.  However, he is quickly removed from her path by the mysterious shapeshifter, Truls Rohk.  Taking with him one of the major talismans of the Four Lands, the two attempt to elude the Witch, who abandons her hunt for Walker and the secrets of the magic at Castledown to solve this mystery.

In the meantime, Quentin Leah and a group of survivors from their airship, as they attempt to locate the missing members of the ground expedition come into contact with natives of this land, who speak of a terrible evil that takes parts of the dead and incorporates them into things called Wronks…an evil called Antrax, a thing of the Old World.  Worse yet, it is looking for Quentin and his group.

In Castledown, Ahren Elessedil is dealing with almost paralyzing fear after the slaughter there, and is joined by the seer Ryer Ord Star; the two aid each other in an attempt to locate Walker, not realizing that each step leads to the truth behind Antrax.  And on the Jerle Shannara itself, the imprisoned Rover crew decide not to stay prisoners….

There’s a lot of things happening on a lot of different fronts, and each of them seem to have a theme going through them.  Ahren and Ryer’s, for example, tend to hit a slightly horrific bent, as they are the ones who get to deal with Castledown’s secrets.  On the other hand, Quentin Leah’s has a feeling similar to that of the Terminator movies (which will be apparent as the book continues).  While Ilse Witch focused heavily on the beginnings of the journey and the journey itself, Antrax is all about the truth behind Castledown and the magic that both Walker and the Ilse Witch covet.

A strong portion of the story also is around Bek Rowe and his attempts to convince the Ilse Witch that she has been long misled by the Morgawr.  Bek still seems to be a bit of an innocent in this, as only a fruitcake would think that a simple conversation would convince the Ilse Witch of his sincerity.  Yet I was satisfied that she was affected enough to start questioning herself; not enough to believe that she is wrong, but enough to make her want to learn the truth of Bek, and by extension, Walker and the Morgawr.

It also became apparent as I hit the midpoint of the book that my early supposition that the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara would be two books was also wrong.  By the end, I hated the fact that I’ll have to wait another year for what I presume will be the finale of this series.  Certainly, the events that occur at the end will certainly surprise some readers, although I strongly expect that not all is as it seems; one major event certainly seems to echo a scene way back in Wishsong of Shannara.

Antrax continues the Voyage in style, and I was not disappointed.  Can’t wait for book three; the last two pages of this book have certainly gotten me curious as to what happens next.  Heck, the entire last chapter is full of moments of truth, and I’m eager to see the resolution.

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Ilse Witch, by Terry Brooks

Therefore, as King of the Land Elves and Sovereign Lord of the Westland, I wish this brave company success and good sailing, and I give to their ship the cherished name of one of our own, revered and loved over the years.  I give to this ship the name Jerle Shannara!
-King Elessedil

I hadn’t expected a new Shannara novel from Terry Brooks; his last set of Shannara books seemed to wrap things up pretty well…except, naturally, for one character’s new responsibilities that would take more than a single mortal lifetime.  And the last Shannara book was a prequel of sorts.  But I was pleased by the news that there would be another series set after the Heritage of Shannara quartet; Brooks rarely disappoints.

He maintains that streak with The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara:  Ilse Witch.  Set over 100 years after the Talismans of Shannara, a near dead Elf washes up near the Westland, and is discovered by one of the Elven Wing Riders.  The Wing Rider, Hunter Predd, discovers a map and a bracelet that lead him to the Elven city of Arborlon.  This begins a series of events that draw in two powerful forces of magic:  the Ilse Witch, and the Druid, Walker Boh.

Walker (who no longer uses the Boh name) “inherited” the mantle and cause of the Druids of previous books.  He’s become a little bitter in the last twenty years, as his goal of re-creating a Druid Council that would rediscover the lost sciences to share among all the races seems as far away as when he began.  When Hunter Predd asks for the Druid’s help in translating the map on the behalf of the Elven King, Walker sees a chance to make his dream a reality-or at least take it a large step forward.  The map reveals that there is a powerful magic to be discovered-more incentive.  The bad news is, this is more than enough motivation for the Ilse Witch to become involved.

A great deal of the book centers on gathering the crew of the airship Jerle Shannara, named for the Elven King who fought against the Warlock Lord during the Second War of the Races.  The crew consists of (among others) a bunch of Rovers (the equivalent of gypsies); the builder of the Jerle Shannara (considered good insurance that he didn’t sell Walker a lemon); a seer who has a curious attachment to Walker; Quentin Leah, the latest in a long line of men wielding the magical Sword of Leah; Bek Rowe, who will learn more about himself than anyone could have expected in this book; and a very interesting…person…by the name of Truls Rohk, who is at least as mysterious-if not more so-than Walker himself.

The Ilse Witch, on the other hand, doesn’t get too much time in comparison, but what is shown builds towards the conclusion at the end of the map.  The Witch is an ally of a warlock calling himself the Morgawr, and both appear to be the equal of Walker in magic.  She wants the magic, and a shot at revenge against Walker (which becomes clearer as the story progresses).

The journey itself is remarkably fast (at least in order of pages); at times, it seems almost rushed.  Some of the reasons may be explained by comments made by the crew near the end of the book.  The book spends a great deal of time on Bek Rowe and his struggle to understand not only his identity, but why Walker even bothered taking him along this journey.  There seem to be almost too many characters to keep track of, but I think that’s mostly due to the fact that so much time is spent on Bek.

Still, there are some characters who I find more interesting than others.  It shouldn’t be surprising that I was very interested in Walker.  This character never wanted to become a Druid in the first place, because he despised their manipulative tactics and their habits of keeping dark secrets…and yet in this book, he finds himself becoming exactly what he hates most!  I also found the Ilse Witch interesting, because she didn’t strike me as being as “Eeeevil” as many of Brooks’s other antagonists…just deeply misguided.

One of the big attractions to the more recent Shannara books is that Brooks is willing to expand beyond the limited borders of the map we first got to see in the Sword of Shannara; with the locales visited in Druid of Shannara and Elf Queen of Shannara, and now Ilse Witch, Brooks gives himself plenty of room to explore.  On the other hand, the next book which continues this story may be a bit more limited in territory…but then, while it may seem that this story doesn’t have too much more room to go, Brooks has never failed to deliver a great story in the Shannara books.  I’m looking forward to reading the next one-which can’t come soon enough.

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