Jan 7, 2014

[Books] The Measure of the Magic (Legends of Shannara Book 2)

As a fan of both the Shannara books and the Word & Void titles, I've been pretty interested in seeing how Terry Brooks would bridge the two franchises together. The results have been interesting but not overwhelmingly brilliant and I'm not sure if that's because my interests have moved on from Shannara or perhaps I'm expecting a lot more from Brook's writing now that I've been exposed to so many different authors.

However, The Measure of the Magic does appear to be the more interesting half of the Legends of Shannara duology. A lot of times these two-book stories fall into the trap of following the pace of a trilogy in the first book and rushing to finish everything come the second book. This novel didn't come out that bad and actually had some good plot points to cover in the second half of the story.

I'm sure there are more stories to be told in this early period just after Word & Void  and before the proper run of Shannara, but this book does leave you with a decent level of satisfaction regarding how the two worlds have been married together. I guess it will all depend on whether or not Brooks decides to explore this period more.

Synopsis: The Measure of the Magic is the second book in Terry Brook's Legends of Shannara. It takes place immediately after the events in the first book, Bearers of the Black Staff.

The last Knight of the Word, Sider Ament, is dead. And the responsibility of bearing the magic of the black staff has fallen to young tracker Panterra Qu. And this new knight has had no real training in wielding the magic of the staff - magic that will be direly needed by the residents of the valley given the many threats that they face. One is the army of trolls that is looking for a way into the valley. The other is a demon, eagerly hunting for the magic of the staff itself.

Princess Phryne Amarantyne has been accused of the murder of her father, King of the Elves. But all this is a plot by the Queen and her consort. Phryne needs to find a way to clear her name and wrest control of the Elven kingdom from her stepmother in order to rally the defensese needed to repel the troll army. At the same time, Prue Liss, Panterra's fellow tracker and best friend, has to find a way to help her longtime friend, provided she can also escape her troll captors. And there may be a way for her to do just that if she is willing to pay the price.

The book has all of our heroes in classic Terry Brooks challenges for each of them to surmount. As an author, he's always had knack for designing life-or-death situations for his characters to face and hopefully survive. And I think these individual trials went fairly well for the most part, although Prue did have a bit of a deus ex machina save at the last minute.

The part that had annoyed me the most in this story was Panterra Qu's romantic entanglement with Phryne. Brooks has always had as a weird need to have a romantic plot element thrown into the mix of things and the inexplicable connection between Panterra and Phryne was really a stretch. And I think it really took away from the greater story since it seemed like this odd distraction despite everything going on.

The demon really got a lot of "screen time" in terms of this book and this wasn't too bad a thing. He had some pretty complex plans going on here and there and he certainly had a pretty significant set of magical powers at his disposal. I kind of wish that we had someone who could truly be his equal in this story, but then that wouldn't be as fun I suppose. Brooks has always made sure that his demon characters are significantly stronger than any of the heroes and thus they act as really big challenges that can only be overcome with a lot of determination and will on top of any innate skills or abilities.

The big finish in this story was satisfactory, but not amazing. But the Elven battle certainly ended in a manner that was very different from most other Shannara books. It was certainly a visually powerful way to end things, but it may not make as much narrative sense in the long run given we never see such a display of magical power ever again in the later books.

On the whole, the joining of Word & Void and Shannara into one timeline certainly made sense from a general perspective, but there may still be more to this than was revealed. This is not a request for more stories in this period, but I think at the way things were told there's a lot left unaddressed that doesn't quite make sense. The book for now rates a good 3.5 Elven characters obsessed with the blasted Blue Elfstones out of a possible 5.

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