I first read the works of Terry Brooks years ago when I entered the world of Shannara with “The Sword of Shannara” and was immediately captivated. Over the years, I fell behind on the series and then just kind of gave up in ever trying to get back into the world (which now stands at a very impressive 32 novels worth of work). When I saw that “The High Druid’s Blade” was a standalone novel, I thought that this would be my chance to try and recapture the wonder that I first felt upon reading the first Shannara books.
Paxton Leah was descended from legendary rulers the once wielded magical weapons as they ruled the Highlands. That was what legends said, at least. Paxton seemed as far from royalty as could be as he worked to keep his family’s modest shipping business afloat to provide for his mother and his sister. One day, his sister is kidnapped after losing a game with a mysterious stranger and Paxton must rescue her. Unfortunately for him, the kidnapper is a magician named Arcannen. Paxton must travel to the city of Wayford with only an old sword as his weapon. When he comes face to face with Arcannen, an ancient magic is released from the ancient weapon and Paxton is able to save his sister and return home. Home is something that Paxton is never going to be able to come home to ever again.
The magic that Paxton unwittingly released drew the attention of the Druids and they quickly sweep in and transport Paxton to Paranor, the home of the Fourth Order Druids. Paxton soon joins the Druids to become a protector and enlists to three years of service to learn how to fight as well as wield magic. Arcannen is not done with the Leah clan, however, and soon makes another move against the family. Paxton finds himself drawn into another showdown with the sorcerer as well as a traitor in the ranks of the Druids that could lead not only to the destruction of the Leah family but to the unleashing of an ancient evil upon the land.
“The High Druid’s Blade” is the first standalone novel in the Shannara series in a long time and a good place for new readers to enter into the world that Brooks has crafted. I can be daunting for a new reader to try to start reading an epic series that has been going for a long time as it requires a fair amount of investment by the reader to catch up with the story. This novel does give the reader a chance to sample the world of Shannara without making a full commitment to the saga but, unfortunately, this book does not live up to the other books in the series.
“The High Druid’s Blade” is one of the shorter novels of the series and lacks the complexity that readers have come to expect from the Shannara series. While it is a sufficient fantasy novel, it just does not live up to its predecessors and is a bit of a disappointment for longtime fans. With only one book to work with in order to develop the characters, there is little depth to them and they are not all that easy to relate to or cheer for. The action in the book comes rapidly and keeps the story flowing but this novel is more of just a simple fantasy saga rather than an epic story as the series has been in the past. While I enjoyed the novel, I did not find the sense of amazement and adventure that I have come to expect from the other novels by Brooks. “The High Druid’s Blade” is a quick and entertaining read but has little to set it above the pack of other fantasy novels. New readers can use the book as a way in which to sample the series and see if it is one to invest more time in with the caveat that this book is but a taste of the saga and not a full meal as the other books are. Longtime readers should view this novel as a sidebar to the series and hope that it is not too long before some of the old style stories of Shannara again find their way to bookstores.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Del Rey Spectra for this review copy. “The High Druid’s Blade” is available now.