Review: The High Druid’s Blade by Terry Brooks

An attractive cover, even if it's a little unoriginal

An attractive cover, even if it’s a little unoriginal

Contains spoilers.

I feel relieved for the prisoners in the UK who are no longer allowed books, because no matter their crime, the torturing of men is just plain wrong. I took this punishment of my own free will.

This book is the worst book I have read in at least a decade. And it is by far the worst book I have read by Terry Brooks, and I have read every single one of his works. His last couple of books have been on a downward trend in my mind, but this one here is particularly shocking.

Simple Plot
Basically, there is no real story. At least not to the standard that there normally is in a book by Terry Brooks.

Terry is pretty good at coming up with new stories; or at least, good variations of the same sort of story. His Shannara series has been going for more than 30 years, with around a book a year over that period. They’ve all been worth reading. But basically, in this book the story is:
Bad guy wants the magic sword the good guy has, so that he can do bad things with it…even though it would be much easier to do those bad things via means already in his disposal!
That’s it. This is very odd for a Terry Brooks book. He usually comes up with something much, much, better than this.

Wooden, emotionless characters
I found the main character, Paxon Leah, boring. He is brave, if foolish. And he is good. Apart from that, I can’t really think of anything worth saying about him and these two things are pretty common (and dull) character traits in this genre. There was nothing about him that singled him out and made me care about him, like him, or want to read more about him.

One of the other characters has a fight with her father. A serious, physical fight. In the aftermath she just rationally explains why it happened without any hint of emotion. Very believable that.

Endless Cliché
At the story’s beginning, great pains are taken to tell us that although the family used to have magic in their blood, these two siblings don’t and it hasn’t been in the family for a couple of generations. So guess what happens near the end of the story? You won’t guess it…It turns out that the girl in the story…wait for it…she DOES have magic in her blood, after all! What a shocker.

But there’s more! The girl has been left in a vegetative state by some magic induced emotional trauma where she is made to believe that she’s been physically tortured till her body is a wreck, when in fact it’s all her head. This is a just a lie in her mind. So how does the writer fix this? Well, handily, the author – Terry Brooks – first ever book in this series was the best selling, “Sword of Shannara,” way back in 1977. And the Sword of Shannara, as fans will recall is the sword of truth. That’s what it does, it exposes the truth of a situation. So of course, the obvious thing that will come to Terry’s mind is to use the sword, which handily, if I recall correctly, is sitting in the same castle as the girl, just waiting to be taken up and put to good use because it is the Sword of Shannara that is the High Druid’s blade. It’s certainly not the Sword of Leah, so what on earth is the book title about because the High Druid’s blade doesn’t even make an appearance!

Instead, the writer of this book goes with a nondescript “magic potion”. Yep, that’s right. Some coloured water!

The dim-witted guard lets them in
Yes, the writer needed to get the protagonist into the baddies lair (for the THIRD time in the same book, no less) and this time, despite the obvious fact the baddie has told the guards not to let anyone in, the guard does. Sorry about that boss, I must be a one dimensional, stereotypical bouncer. Hardly my fault I was written this way…

What’s that behind you?
Yes, even this trick is used, the writer even writes that it was an old trick, blah blah blah. Oh, it’s so dull!

The love interest turns out to be the antagonist’s daughter!!! Shock…
Wow, I didn’t see that coming. Someone should make such clever ideas, illegal. No, really, they should.

Out of character reactions
“What? The character wouldn’t do that,” I found myself saying over and over. The book is littered with them. Either the writer has failed to paint their character correctly in the first place, or more likely it’s just bad story telling. They need said character to do X to fit the plot and they have been too lazy to think of a more believable way to bring that about.

Everyone has the same vocabulary
Just picking out one example here, the word precipitously is used by two characters within the space of a few pages, to describe the same circumstances but with the first instance out of earshot of the other character. It’s almost as if the dialogue was written by a single person, taking no care to carve out individual character dialogues. Hummm…

Price
306 pages for £20. That’s more than 6.5p a page. You have to write a pretty good book if you want to justify a cost like that.
There is a section of the book where what happens is completely isolated from the main story. It’s completely pointless and bizarre. It’s like a crap short story placed in the middle. And yes, the mini plot is completely predictable, too. It looks to me that the writer added this in order to flesh out the story, else the book would have been 200-250 pages instead. This just leaves me feeling taken advantage of. When I write, what I put in a book is relevant to the overall story. Apart from this being ‘training’ for the protagonist, it’s got no other relevance to the story.

I started collecting Terry Brooks work when I was a child. I now have all of his books including mint, unread first editions from before I was born. I have everything he has ever written and I’ve read them all. But this latest offering was so bad that I’m not going to find a space for it on my bookshelf. As a fan, I feel very let down and this will go on ebay with a 99p start.

The bad guy is let go
What happens to the bad guy?
The main protagonist just lets him go. He lets him go even though he kidnapped his sister (twice), striped her naked and chained her to a bed, tortured her, tried to manipulate her into becoming a murderer, tried to steal to kill the protagonist and steal his sword, murdered the protagonist’s friend and mentor and (by proxy) attempted to assassinate his leader and employer…
And he lets him go because he says he’ll trade his freedom for the potion to make his sister well. Okay, but why not either just say no, you’ll give me the potion anyway or I’ll kill you, or say Okay, but then go back on his word because frankly the evil son of a bitch hasn’t exactly earned himself a lot of good will? It’s totally unrealistic and again it highlights how weak the two main characters are.

If I were the writer then I would not have created such a weak bad guy in the first place, but having done so I still can’t understand why the writer didn’t kill him off. Two out of the three times in the book that he faces tough opposition, he runs. But apparently, the writer of this book believes he’s worth keeping around in case there’s a sequel. Well, I wont be wasting my time reading it. This brings a close to a reading, and collecting, of Terry Brooks books, that has lasted since I was a child.

Although it get’s pretty good average ratings on Goodreads I think this is probably down to a lot of fans being blindly loyal and not wanting to tell it how it really is. Or maybe I have just grown up and they haven’t? But I’m certainly not the only person to be disappointed as this sample of reviews from Goodreads show:

“I can’t believe that this is a Terry Brooks novel… It almost feels like someone ghost wrote this book.” Read Jacques‘s full review here. Interesting thought. It could be. I wrote about ghost-writing in an earlier post.

“The lack of urgency isn’t the only problem. Things are also too easy.” Read Lighthearted’s full review here.

“…this particular book (like the last 3 novels) is poor in comparison to earlier stuff. I’ve read everything, so I have good reason to be bleating on about this.” Read Stephen’s full review here.

“I found plot boring and predictable. Everything happened too easily, which I could have easily forgiven if the characters were not so flat and uninteresting. The writing style got repetitive…” Read Fury’s Cane’s full review here.

To quote a few words from the very last page of this book, “There will almost certainly be disappointments and deceptions in your life with us.”

No shit!
Another disappointed fan.

1/10 stars.

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