Finished on 12/20/2018
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, High Fantasy, Quest Fantasy, Tolkienesque, Shannara, Dystopia, Popcorn Fiction, Sword and Sorcery, Classic
Similar books: The Lord of the Rings series, Riyria Revelations
Recommended with Reservations Tolkien-style story
This is a re-read for me. I’m reading it a) belatedly as a part of the Sword and Laser podcast bookclub and b) as a part of my quest to write reviews for influential Fantasy books.
Yeah, so this book really is inspired by the Lord of the Rings. I mean, a lot. I’m not one to throw around the ‘p’ word,* but this book’s narrative is basically identical to that of the LotR trilogy. The plot is basically a remix of Tolkien, using all the same plot points but in a different order and with different characters.
If you are a new reader to the genre, you might not know that between the ’80’s and the ’00s the Fantasy genre experienced a glut of what we… affectionately… call ‘Tolkien clones.’ Such books are basically remixes of Tolkien’s seminal work told by new authors.
Here’s the real-world history of this story as far as I remember: in the mid 1970’s, the lawyer Terry Brooks was hired by a publishing company to write a second ‘Lord of the Rings.’ As far as I am aware, this is the first of the ‘Tolkien clones’ which came out between the ’70’s and now. This legacy makes this book important in the history of the genre.
I try to keep my reviews as positive as possible, so I urge my readers to view what I have to say in a positive light. This is a Tolkien clone, and such books have a negative reputation for being low effort. That said, this book isn’t bad. The prose and characters are inoffensive, and the plot (being based on LotR) is satisfactory. This book’s uninspired by modern standards. At the time it was written, this was blazing a trail and helping found the modern Fantasy genre we know and love today.
I can still recommend this book. If you haven’t read tons and tons and tons of Fantasy like I have, chances are you’ll like this if you’re in the mood for a traditional story. In the past I’ve read a ton of books (15+) in the Shannara series, so I can recommend you read on too. ‘Sword’ is competently written and is enjoyable popcorn fiction**. And importantly, the rest of the series really isn’t very Tolkienesque at all (some of the later books go into Steampunk, skyships, Dystopia and Urban Fantasy). The series is now 30+ books long, so if you’re in the mood for something long, check this out.
The setting is the most interesting aspect of this story. Taking place on a post-nuclear apocalypse Earth which has recovered and rediscovered magic, where the monsters were horrifying fusions of machine and eldritch horror.
Anyway, have fun and go read something!
**: Popcorn fiction is light, enjoyable fiction- similar in theme to a movie where you turn your brain off when you watch it.