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And that's all that's left of those.

The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Antrax and Morgawr
Terry Brooks

Rating: 3 / 5

Music choice: Dexter soundtrack, My Chemical Romance, Carmina Burana

What ought to be remembered about these books is that the plots are interesting enough for me to keep reading in a morbid fascination with what's going to happen at the end, which is why by now I've read ten of them.

It's quite enough, really; they get better as time went on for Brooks as a writer [maybe his editor got some say in the matter? I don't know], but they're not worth buying, particularly not in the hardcover versions that seem to be so popular. I've since decided that books that one finds a lot of in used bookstores are usually there for a reason. (See also Michelle West's Sun Sword books.)

A revelation that I had about twenty pages into Morgawr was that each and every one of the characters was a Mary Sue, which tends to be the bane of every good writer and roleplayer. Near the end of the book, one of the characters manages to survive a rockslide, which is remarkable enough in and of itself, but with none of the broken bones, contusions, et cetera that would be expected—his leg was trapped under a boulder, but when he was able to dig it out, it was perfectly fine. Another character has his Sueness explained away by his "having the luck" Still another is an extraordinary tracker-fighter and whines continuously about how she wasn't allowed to join the Home Guard, the most elite elven fighting force, because she's female. Another finds out that he is a member of the legendary Ohmsford family and has the extraordinary wishsong magic, which has managed to skip through the family very weakly or not at all in most generations until it comes to his (and his sister's).

Beyond that, none of the characters are extremely likeable. What I thought was going to be a decent character got messed up by having a completely ridiculous and unnecessary romantic relationship with another one, and the other that was more tolerable was in essence killed off partway through Morgawr. The third was perhaps the least Sueish of the remaining characters—the one who "had the luck".

This book reads as if Brooks wanted to write a sci-fi novel, but partway through designing the characters realized that he simply didn't have enough scientific know-how to completely explain the things that he was inventing. Thus, he returns to the Shannara world with things like solar-powered ships and information stored in something very like a sentient computer database, the former of which is brand-new technology and the latter left over from the near-apocalyptic Great War.

His problems in writing well persist, though the most prominent one is more nitpick-y than anything else. The style changes at random intervals, at one point extremely archaic and at another almost slangy; this would be all right if it were one of those books written with each chapter being a different character's viewpoint, but they sometimes change mid-paragraph with no apparent rhyme or reason. Even the way the characters speak is different, and not just dialect-ically; they aren't exactly given dialects to begin with.

Possibly the most unfortunate thing was that the excerpted bit from his newest trilogy (Jarka Ruus or something like that) wasn't even interesting enough for me to do more than skim it. The first ten or so pages of a novel are extremely important for that reason, because otherwise they won't get sold!

However, you'll note that I've rated these higher than Dragonworld, because as poorly written and unlikeable the characters are, at least there was an interesting plot.

Next up: Things I've Learned From Girls Who've Dumped Me ed. by Ben Karlin, and Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk