Aug 3, 2010

[Books] The Gypsy Morph (Genesis of Shannara Book 3)

The Gypsy Morph (Genesis of Shannara Book 3)The trilogy format makes so much sense in the book world. You get a start, a middle and an end. And you can follow the original Star Wars format of a happy start, a dark middle and then a return to glory in the end. We're all very used to the comfort of this nature of storytelling and I doubt writers will overly rock the boat anytime soon. I've always felt that once you go beyond three books, your chances of remaining successful diminish since the story starts to meander around and wander into rambling and repetition.

This story has remained fairly tight in its construction and thankfully Terry Brooks hasn't fallen into the trap of repeating old story concepts. He had me scared for a bit when the second book was about the Elves but in the end he managed to keep things more or less different enough. The action remains pretty good and the end result, well, I guess this book is what really decides that.

The end of the trilogy is hard to review since it's not just reviewing a single book but how the entire trilogy is resolved. This is the final act - how the story and all the many plot points sort of pan out and ultimately become something more.

The Gypsy Morph is the third and final book in Terry Brooks' Genesis of Shannara series. The trilogy was created to somehow bridge two of his franchises - these being his widely popular Shannara series and his Word & Void series.

The book starts the Elves, siblings Kirisin and Simralin, managing to find the heavily injured Angel Perez. After a short period of rest and recovery, the three try to resume their journey back to Arborlon in order to use the Loden Elfstone to seal away the city and secure the Ellcrys from the coming Demon Army. As Angel is left behind with the blind tracker Larkin Quill, the two elves find that things are not quite as they seem at the city of Arborlon and convincing the elves to go with the plan is harder than they expected.

Meanwhile, the Ghosts are all together again once they find Hawk, Tessa and the dog Cheney. After Hawk heals Logan Tom, the other Knight of the Word, he has a vision of the Lady telling him to help the Elves escape with Loden. Thus he parts way with the Ghosts and leaves them to find Helen Rice and the children on the banks of the Columbia. All the while, Findo Gask's demon army is already camped amidst the forest of the Cintra outside Arborlon, waiting for their now-dead accomplishes to use the Arborlon and make the subjugation of the Elves that much easier.

In this final act, I found myself realizing that one of the things that made this book feel somewhat different than his other works is the fact that it seems to lack truly strong and compelling characters. Sure, we have the Knights of the Word Logan and Angel and we have the Ghosts as a collective whole but beyond that there are few others. One of the things that I've always enjoyed about the Shannara tales is the fact that there are always those dynamic and memorable characters that make things that much more fun. I felt the book fell into the pitfall of becoming a bit too serious, thus it left little to no room for fun. No matter how dark his other stories might have been, he always had lighter moments and characters you found liking instinctively.

And the Ghosts were even less relatable in this last book. Instead Brooks accelerated to his normal end game which means killing off everyone who was less than vital in order to provide greater emotional impact. Still, I would have liked to know more about a number of the characters and not just feel that their primary contribution to the plot was dying. I was wondering if the Knights themselves were doomed to dying at a few points in the story given, well, they did't feel all that vital towards the end.

The battles were fairly decent but not as intricately organized as in some of the past Shannara books. But I suppose that's understandable since the defenders didn't really have a true army that could challenge the demons nor were they defending a secure location like Arborlon. Instead they were largely on the run, constantly dodging and narrowly escaping the army closing in. And with hordes of children to boot.

The overall story ended somewhat on a whimper. As Brooks' attempt at a sort of parable of a messiah leading his flock to freedom and peace, this felt like he didn't quite map out the end very well. Once they get past the major enemies, things just sort of felt wrong and like perhaps for a moment the characters had no idea what to do anymore. Then they sort of had a notion of where to go next and then sort of just went along with it, without true passion or drive.

Was this story arc truly necessary? Well, only if the author really felt this was part of his original plan when he created Word & Void, I suppose. However like most preview tales, it had to play safe and made sure that it didn't interfere with the main stories that became central in the Shannara books. And thus by playing safe, it may have been forced to avoid truly compelling story twists and such, thus hurting the book to some degree.

The Gypsy Morph still acts as a decent end to this trilogy and has a number of key moments of interest. The book gets 3 near-death encounters with demons out of a possible 5.
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