Monday, April 23, 2018

Bearers of the Black Staff

Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

In the first entry of author Terry Brooks’ Legends of Shannara duology, taking place centuries after the Genesis of Shannara trilogy, an individual known as the Gray Man, ultimately identified as Sider Ament, wanders, aware that the mists that had sealed the valley since the time of the Hawk had not receded, although that would change in his lifetime. A wall seals survivors of the doomsday conflict known as the Great Wars, with the sect of Men terming themselves the Children of the Hawk awaiting the return of the leader who brought them into the valley for protection.

Sider is quickly attacked by mutant bears known as Kodens, and in the meantime, the seventeen-year-old Panterra “Pan” Qu and the fifteen-year old Prue Liss, both aspiring Trackers led by Trow Ravenlock, find corpses of their deceased companions in Glensk Wood, fighting the ursine creatures themselves. Then soon encounter Sider Ament, who warns of the wall of protection’s gradual erosion, and the Trackers talk with the Council House, their story doubted by some such as Skeal Eile.

Dreams occasionally expose tidbits of Sider’s backstory, among which is his acquisition of the eponymous black staff, wielded by descendants of the Knights of the Word, when he was a boy. Some occasional references to ancient technology such as firearms and all-terrain vehicles abound, as well. Pan and Prue journey to the country of the Elves, being greeted by one of them named Xac Wen, their King being Oparion Amarantyne, and some such as Tasha Orullian initially annoyed at their traversal into their territory.

Pan and Prue wish to check on the protective barrier, with Princess Phryne informing her father of the two Trackers’ desire to visit Aphalion Pass, with a company soon setting out. Pan is both elated and scared to see a dragon, a mythical creature in times of old. Sider Ament in his own travels meets and parts with a strong individual named Deladion Inch, and Pan and Prue find themselves captured by Lizards that call themselves Trolls, with Skaith Hounds occasionally terrorizing the characters throughout the story.

The Trolls take Pan and Prue prisoner, with a one Taureq Siq seeking to question them, being Maturen of the Drouj, and occasional backstory reference such as Hawk leading the Ghosts during the Great Wars, and the Karriak being one of the first great Troll tribes led by Panther and his mate. Another character named Arik Sarn is distrusted by some, with Phryne at one point forbidden to leave the city of Arborlon by her father the King, although she does receive occasional communication from Mistral Belloruus and meets First Minister Teonette.

The Elfstones play a role in the story, with several twists abounding towards the end that account for a satisfying introduction to the Legends of Shannara duology that fans of chronologically-prior books in the franchise are likely to appreciate, although those who are new to the series are definitely obliged to start reading with temporally-earlier entries. There is also occasional confusion regarding whom certain pronouns refer to without their explicit identities, and some of the jargon can be a tad confusing, but otherwise, this reviewer definitely enjoyed the story.

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