Oh, Shannara — Let the Quest Qommensss

Ilse Witch (Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, #1)Ilse Witch by Terry Brooks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve a mental category for books that make for reliable reading on the beach or at least outdoors when you’re having a lazy day. They’re the kind of books I probably wouldn’t use to read myself to sleep because they work so well I’d never finish it. But if you’ve ridden your bike to a park or somewhere with a view, walked to a beach or perhaps rented a cabin with lights but no U-Tube or TV, they’re ideal.

Among the Canadians I consider reliable reads in the fantasy genre I include Guy Gavriel Kay (although he’s been going through a bad patch of late with Ysabel and his China fantasy Under Heaven), Steven Ericson, Dave Duncan and, even if he was only born here, Stephen Hunt.

Internationally I particularly like Mark Chadbourn and Paul Doherty, though I stay away from his historical novels if they’re written in the first person. Although somewhat of a guilty pleasure, I’ve often turned to Terry Brooks for summer or vacation reading.

Mostly I’ve read his Magic Kingdom of Landover series. They’re light, not too moralistic, slightly quirky and standalone. I’ve been reluctant to take on his Shannara series, though For one thing there are so many of them. For another they’re put out in threesomes or foursomes.

“Isle Witch” is first book in “The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara” trilogy. The titular character is a bad person but she’s young and obviously been misled. If redemption is in store for her, which it probably is, well, it’s going to take some doing. (Guess that’s why it’s a trilogy.)

You can tell the real bad guys because they’re cold-hearted lizard sorts who speak with seriously serpentine sss-sibilance. You can also tell who the good guys are going to be straightaway, who will be providing the cannon fodder (usually the good guys. best buds) and who might survive for at least one book (they’re usually female and/or noble warriors).

It’s a creature-feature, full of predictable confrontations but the monsters are well realized and hungry. It’s magic-laden, hence also full of the seemingly mandatory elves, dwarfs, witches, warlocks and the occasional flawed precog seer, a character and an ability I generally disapprove of. Still and all it’s unchallenging entertainment; perfect for a relaxing read so long as you’re not looking for anything you’ve never seen, or read, before.

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