I remember having several English teachers, especially early in my schooling, who spent a great deal of time talking about how important a good opening line is. As they likely did for many of you, they called this opening line a “hook,” and explained how the entire fate of the universe, or at least my essay, rests on having a “hook,” a first line that will draw readers in and make them desperately excited to learn more about what I have to say on such fascinating topics as Lyme’s disease, Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home, or the intelligence of dolphins.
Finally, I am undertaking my re-read of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are certain books that are always worth re-reading, no matter how many times I may have read them before, and these most definitely make that list. Since this is the first time I'm re-reading them since I started posting reviews here on the site, I think it is only appropriate that I go ahead and review them here. In the case of The Lord of the Rings, I usually try to do a re-read every four or five years, since the first time I read them back in third grade. We'll see if I decide to re-read and post a review for The Silmarillion, too.
I have made it a policy here on the site not to post reviews for books that I read in the past. That is, while there are many books that I read before starting this site and before starting weekly reviews on the site, I only intend to post reviews for those books if I actually sit down and re-read them. In some cases, like for books that are a part of ongoing series, that means that reviews for the older books will likely be posted eventually as I re-read to get caught up for a new release (like we did for the Stormlight Archive books). There are a lot of books that I would like to add to the review collection that I've already read, but with a reading list as long as mine is, it is increasingly challenging to justify spending too much of my time re-reading books.
Where do I even start with a Shannara review? Shannara is epic fantasy in the very literal sense of the word, spanning hundreds of years of in-world history across myriad series and trilogies and stand-alone novels. Perhaps Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere may eventually be larger in literary scope, but even that will likely not sprawl so much as Shannara. Where a series like Wheel of Time covers a single story arc, Shannara has era, ages, and dozens of independent arcs. Sometimes, one has to wonder if Terry Brooks can bring himself to write anything that isn't Shannara: supposedly his Knight of the Word trilogy began as something new, and morphed into a prelude to Shannara.
There are certain novels that you can read again and again, and you’ll always get something a little different out of them. It can be because you’re at a different point in your life, or because you’ve read other things and are approaching the story with a different context, or simply because the story is that intricate and beautifully written that, like any other great work of art, there are always more mysteries to be revealed. When it comes to literature, these are often the books that first got you into the genre, and that you come back to time and time again. These are the books that are thumbed through and dog-eared and well-worn. There might be pages trying to fall out, maybe even a tear here and there. These are well loved books.
Honestly, I'm not even quite sure where to begin reviewing this book (it probably doesn't help that I started reading this series years ago, long before I started consistently reviewing books on this website). I will do a full series review after reviewing Checkmate, but let's focus for now on The Ringed Castle. To put it in as few of words as possible, I loved everything about this book, and not just because my fiancee bought the series for me. It's sort of like what would happen if you took a highly educated Jack Sparrow, and plopped him into the middle of Lord of the Rings level writing, and set the entire thing to the beat of 16th century Russia, but that doesn't even begin to do it justice.
No, I'm not above using cliche titles, when they serve me. Because I'm so very fond of stirring up controversy, I'm going to talk about something that divides more people than religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin: movie/book adaptations. Fair warning: we're going to talk about some big name franchises, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Jurassic Park, and others, so if you don't want to risk potential spoilers from either the book or movie versions of any of these, you might not want to read this post. Otherwise, let's mire ourselves in controversy.
If you've been a follower of the site for awhile, you may remember the post "Written in a Corner." In that post, I mentioned that I would write another post addressing the topic of plausible impossibility, which is an important concept in speculative fiction writing. Of course, if you've been a follower of the site for awhile, you probably also have realized that I'm not always very good at following up on these post ideas that I drop in my posts in anything approaching a timely fashion. Don't worry, I'll get to it eventually. In this case, it's only taken me a couple months.
One of the distinguishing features of the speculative fiction genre in its published form is the maps. Avid readers of fantasy and science fiction are known to pour over the maps included in the books they read, maps describing fantastical worlds and universes in vivid detail. It was perhaps inevitable, therefore, that I would at some point be obliged to create maps to go along with the stories I've written or am in the process of writing.