Warning: this post contains spoilers for Terry Brooks’s The Skaar Invasion, and previous books in his Fall of Shannara series
There’s something vaguely amusing about the fact that as I go through and read The Fall of Shannara series, I find myself most interested by, and rooting for, the invading Skaar and their hyper-competent Princess Ajin. It’s not that I don’t like the other characters (most of them, anyway), or that Brooks hasn’t done a good job at making them sympathetic. To me, though, Princess Ajin is exactly what the best characters should be. She’s hyper-competent, so that problems that seems like they should be problems are solved easily. She has a bigger plan than anyone else, including the reader, really knows. Even facing apparently insurmountable odds, she comes out on top. And she’s not a proverbial Boy Scout (all respect to the Boy Scouts – I consider my experiences in Scouting some of the most valuable I’ve had in life); she’ll get dirty, bend the rules, take risks, and do whatever it takes to win. Quite simply, she’s fascinating, and arguably the Skaar storyline is what makes this series so interesting.
Not that the other characters aren’t interesting. Drisker Arc, the semi-exiled semi-former Druid, on the surface seems to be everything that a Druid is supposed to be: magically powerful, physically imposing, confident, dedicated to the survival of the Four Lands and the preservation of magic. Yet he is also deeply conflicted, and has blind spots miles wide. His decision to step down from his role leading the Druid Order is one of the more interesting explorations that this book touches upon, and it plays to a question that I myself have wrestled with on occasion. When you’re in a position of authority, and you see things going wrong that you can’t fix, is it better to resign in protest, or to stay the course in the hopes of affecting some meaningful change?
As for the Tarsha storyline, it’s not bad, but it’s not as strong as it was in the first book (perhaps intentionally), and to my mind it is eclipsed by the other, much more interesting characters of Drisker Arc and Princess Ajin. Middles can be hard, in writing, whether that’s the middle of a book or the middle of a series, and for my it’s those two storylines that keep this book going strong. Since this is a re-read for me, I find myself sometimes skimming over the POVs that I find less interesting in favor of the more compelling ones.
Again, I can’t straight recommend reading The Skaar Invasion, because it’s the second book in a sub-series to a series that has been going for something like forty years in real-world time and hundreds of years of in-world time. However, if you’ve at least read The Black Elfstone, I highly encourage you to keep following The Fall of Shannara with The Skaar Invasion.