Warning: this post may contain spoilers for Terry Brooks’s The Fall of Shannara series
Supposedly, that’s the end of Shannara. Terry Brooks claims that The Last Druid was the latest he intends to go in the in-world timeline. This series was supposed to radically alter the Four Lands forever, and I was expecting something big. The first couple of books were promising, with the Skaar invasion and the fall of the current Druid Order (the Fifth?); the Skaar were such a compelling, dominant force that it seemed certain that they were going to be in the Four Lands to stay. Then, in the final book, they all decided to use the magic weather machine to make their land inhabitable again, and forget the past few centuries they had apparently spent as dominant conquerors. We’re left with the Four Lands basically unaltered from the beginning of the first book, with Tarsha debating whether she should found a new Druid Order, or use the black elfstone to banish Paranor until someone else calls it back. In other words, it felt like the end of any other Shannara series.
That’s not a bad thing, per se. I enjoyed the other Shannara series, and I enjoyed this one; I’ve been reading these books since I finished The Lord of the Rings in third grade and asked my dad what I was supposed to read next that could follow it up. He gave me The Sword of Shannara in an old, ragged paperback edition, and I’ve read every book in Shannara since that start (I think – it’s easy to lose track of a series or two in there). Yet for what is supposed to be the final Shannara series, I expected more. This one left me feeling like I should just wait a couple more years for the announcement of the next last Shannara series. Sometimes, Shannara series seem a little like Eagles farewell tours.
There were so many things right about this series that could have made it a great conclusion. Tarsha, although not my favorite character, was interesting and determined. There were great, complex enemies, the kinds of enemies that you almost found yourself rooting for on more than one occasion – in my case, I was actually hoping that the Skaar invaders would win the day. Clizia Porse started out as a dangerous, unpredictable, incredibly competent adversary. Drisker Arc had a compelling personal conflict that played out in how he approached the world’s conflicts. As the series went on, it pulled in legends, references, and characters from the larger Shannara world, and it was moving along to a satisfying ending. Then it stumbled.
Don’t get me wrong: they’re not bad. They’re actually very good. It’s just that it wasn’t everything that I wanted it to be. As books, they were very good. As a series, they were a good series. As a Shannara series, they were one of the more interesting and unique. As the final Shannara series ever? They left something to be desired, and not just by not making it feel like this was really the end.
I feel like I’m spending too much time ratting on these books, which I genuinely enjoyed, and I really would encourage you to read them. Please don’t get the wrong impression. It’s just a matter of managing expectations, and I guess I set mine a little too high. But that’s okay; I’ll still read Terry Books’s next book, and I won’t even laugh too much when his “new epic fantasy duology” becomes the next Shannara series.