Jarka Ruus (High Druid of Shannara Series #1)

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Overview

More than a quarter of a century after The Sword of Shannara carved out its place in the pantheon of great epic fantasy, the magic of Terry Brooks's New York Times bestselling saga burns as brightly as ever. Three complete series have chronicled the ever-unfolding history of Shannara. But more stories are still to be told—and new adventures have yet to be undertaken. Book One of High Druid of Shannara invites both the faithful longtime reader ...
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Jarka Ruus (High Druid of Shannara Series #1)

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Overview

More than a quarter of a century after The Sword of Shannara carved out its place in the pantheon of great epic fantasy, the magic of Terry Brooks's New York Times bestselling saga burns as brightly as ever. Three complete series have chronicled the ever-unfolding history of Shannara. But more stories are still to be told—and new adventures have yet to be undertaken. Book One of High Druid of Shannara invites both the faithful longtime reader and the curious newcomer to take the first step on the next extraordinary quest.

Twenty years have passed since Grianne Ohmsford denounced her former life as the dreaded Ilse Witch—saved by the love of her brother, the magic of the Sword of Shannara, and the destruction of her evil mentor, the Morgawr. Now, fulfilling the destiny predicted for her, she has established the Third Druid Council, and dedicated herself to its goals of peace, harmony among the races, and defense of the Four Lands. But the political intrigue, secret treachery, and sinister deeds that have haunted Druid history for generations continue to thrive. And despite her devotion to the greater good as Ard Rhys—the High Druid of Paranor, Grianne still has bitter enemies.

Among the highest ranks of the Council she leads lurk those who cannot forget her reign of terror as the Ilse Witch, who covet her seat of power, and who will stop at nothing to see her deposed . . . or destroyed. Even Grianne's few allies—chief among them her trusted servant Tagwen—know of the plots against her. But they could never anticipate the sudden, ominous disappearance of the Ard Rhys, in the dead of night and without a trace. Now, barely astep ahead of the dark forces bent on stopping him, Tagwen joins Grianne's brave young nephew, Pen Ohmsford, and the wise, powerful elf Ahren Elessedil on a desperate and dangerous mission of search and rescue—to deliver the High Druid of Shannara from an unspeakable fate.

Expect no end of wonders, no shortage of adventure, exhilaration, suspense, and enchantment, as Terry Brooks demonstrates, once again, that there is no end to his magic of invention and mastery of storytelling.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Jarka Ruus, the first installment in an exciting new Shannara series, takes place 20 years after the events of the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy. Grianne Ohmsford, the former dreaded Ilse Witch, has devoted her new life to bringing peace to the Four Lands, but after so much time leading the Third Druid Council, she still has bitter enemies anxious to see her destroyed.

There are Druid members of the Council -- like Shadea a'Ru -- who openly despise Grianne and plot against her. When she mysteriously disappears, Shadea immediately points blame at Grianne's Rock Troll guards and "temporarily" takes over as Council leader while Grianne is missing.

As Grianne desperately tries to find a way out of the nightmare realm (the Forbidding) she is trapped in, family members and friends begins a quest to find her. The small company is made up of Penderrin Olmsford, Grianne's young nephew; the Dwarf Tagwen; the Elven prince Ahren Elessedil; and the prince's niece Khyber.

Grianne Ohmsford -- both as Ilse Witch and as spiritual leader of the Druid Council -- may be the most enigmatic and fascinating character in the entire Shannara sequence, but the strength of this story line is the new generation of characters. Penderrin, Khyber, and the blind airship navigator Cinnaminson Hatch inject much-needed energy and spirit into the series, and Brooks cultivates fertile new fields with the nightmare realm of the Forbidding. If you enjoy a fast-paced fantasy quest, look no further than Jarka Ruus. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
In bestseller Brooks's satisfactory conclusion to his High Druid of Shannara trilogy (after 2004's Tanequil), young Pen Ohmsford retrieves the "darkwand," whose magic will allow him to enter the Forbidding and find his aunt Grianne Ohmsford, the Ard Rhys of the lawful Druids and the Straken queen. Meanwhile, though the elven army has been defeated, Pied Sanderling leads a desperate (and well-depicted) commando-style operation to destroy a secret superweapon of the Federation. Pen's parents are simply trying to find their son. While the author may not equal the wit of his earlier Magic Kingdom of Landover series, his characterization has grown substantially more sophisticated over the years, and both his optimism about the triumph of virtue and his avoidance of graphic sex and slaughter make this series an excellent starting place for younger readers wishing to explore high fantasy. Agent, Anne Sibbald at Janklow & Nesbit. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Brooks churns out another formula fantasy to add to his large body of works in this first installment of the High Druid of Shannara series. Grianne Ohmsford, formerly the dreaded Isle Witch, finds that fulfilling her new destiny as Ard Rhys, or High Druid, of the Druid Council is not easy. She has enemies who cannot forget her evil past as the Isle Witch and others who simply covet her power. A plot is hatched against Grianne, and she vanishes without a trace. A dangerous quest ensues, led by Grianne's nephew Pen, to save Grianne from her punishment to a dark parallel world known as the Forbidding. Brooks has never made an attempt to hide the fact that his writing is heavily influenced by Tolkien. His world is populated with dwarves, elves, and trolls, and some names that he uses have a slightly familiar ring. This first series book is decently written, but it follows the highly predictable quest format of so many other fantasy novels. The book stands on its own, and those readers who have not read any of the Shannara books before will not be lost. It is clearly not, however, the author's best work. If a library does not own any novels by Brooks, this one can be skipped. An even better suggestion might be to purchase the works of Tolkien, if they are not already in the collection, guiding teens to his novels. This book is recommended only for collections with a group of patrons who are diehard Shannara fans. VOYA CODES: 3Q 2P S A/YA (Readable without serious defects; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, Del Rey, 416p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—David Goodale
Library Journal
Twenty years after renouncing her life as the feared Ilse Witch, Grainne Ohmsford, now leader of the Druid Council of the Four Lands, finds herself surrounded by enemies-fellow Druids who do not trust her or who lust for her power. When Grainne mysteriously vanishes, only her nephew, Pen Ohmsford, and a few trusted individuals dare to set out in search of her, regardless of the perils they may face. The latest entry in Brooks's popular "Shannara" series features a new generation of heroes, whose devotion and courage set them on a collision course with destiny. His fans will demand this well-written series opener; most libraries may want to consider multiple copies. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brooks finds another series to wring out of the profitable Shannara world that has been so good to him in the past. This first installment of the "High Druid of Shannara" series gives readers Grianne Ohmsford, Ard Rhys of the Third Druid Council, High Druid of Paranor, and the dreaded (now supposedly reformed) ex-Ilse Witch. At the outset, Grianne has been targeted by the various factions that honeycomb the multiracial (Elves, Dwarves, and the like) populace at Paranor, a Druid training school, which was begun as a sort of fantasy-world UN but has long since been riddled by infighting and paranoia. Grianne is banished by a traitorous Druid underling (for such a powerful Druid, she doesn't seem to have the gift to see obvious danger) to a grim netherworld called the Forbidding, filled with horrid creatures that haven't been seen in the everyday world for millennia, leaving Paranor ripe for the picking. Grianne's personal assistant dwarf, Tagwen, seeks help from Pen Ohmsford, Grianne's cousin, who fortunately has a light airship that he calls his own, all the better to escape from the evil Druids that come looking for Grianne's kin in a huge airship of their own. Brooks has obviously been over this territory more times than he can probably count, which would explain so much of the sturdy but generally lackadaisical storytelling. The only time the book really perks up is right after Grianne finds herself in the Forbidding, a nightmare spot with some well-imagined monsters and a palpable sense of danger. Otherwise, it's business as usual, with little action until well after the halfway mark, a point where it becomes obvious that readers are going to have to wait for the second High Druidouting for anything of real import to happen. Satisfying but often lamentably prosaic-but sure to be another bonanza for this one-man industry.
From the Publisher
“If Harry Potter has given you a thirst for fantasy and you have not discovered the magic of Terry Brooks, you are in for a treat.”
—Rocky Mountain News
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345435767
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/31/2004
  • Series: High Druid of Shannara Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 176,803
  • Product dimensions: 4.17 (w) x 6.89 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Terry Brooks
Terry Brooks is New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, including The Sword of Shannara, The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy: Ilse Witch, Antrax, and Morgawr, and the novel based upon the screenplay and story by George Lucas: Star Wars®: Episode I The Phantom Menace™. His novels Running with the Demon and A Knight of the Word were selected by the Rocky Mountain News as two of the best science fiction/fantasy novels of the twentieth century.

The author was a practicing attorney for many years but now writes full time. He lives with his wife, Judine, in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

Visit us online at www.shannara.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

"I found my way to fantasy/adventure. When I got there, I knew I'd found a home," said Terence Dean Brooks, creator of the blockbuster, New York Times bestselling Shannara, Landover, and Word & Void series. Not only is Brooks at home in the highly competitive realm of fantasy literature, many would call him the genre’s modern-day patriarch – Tolkien’s successor. While that title is debatable, Brooks is, without a doubt, one of the world’s most prolific and successful authors of otherworld (and our world) fantasy. Few writers in any genre can boast a more entertaining collection of work – and a more ravenous and loyal fan base -- than can Terry Brooks.

The most rewarding aspect to writing for Brooks is “when someone who never read a book reads [one of mine] and says that the experience changed everything and got them reading.” Because of his very engaging, quick-flowing writing style, countless numbers of young people have been introduced to the wonderful world of reading through Brooks’s adventures. The miraculous thing, however, is that these same fans – whether they’re now 20, 30, or 40 years old – still devour each new release like a starving man would a steak dinner. Credit Brooks’s boundless imagination, endearing characters, fresh storylines and underlying complexities for keeping his older, more discerning audience hooked.

Brooks began writing when he was just ten years old, but he did not discover fantasy until much later. As a high school student he jumped from writing science fiction to westerns to adventure to nonfiction, unable to settle on one form. That changed when, at the age of 21, Brooks was introduced to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien provided Brooks with a forum “that would allow him to release onto paper his own ideas about life, love, and the wonder that fills his world," according to his web site.

In 1977, after six trying years, Brooks published novel his first novel, The Sword of Shannara. And quickly it gave him – and his publisher (the newly created Ballantine imprint, Del Rey) – quite a thrill; the fantasy adventure featuring the young Halfling, Shea Ohmsford; the mysterious wizard Allanon; Flick, the trusty companion; and the demonic Warlock Lord, was not only well received -- it was a smash, spending over five months on The New York Times bestseller list. In 1982 Brooks released the follow-up, The Elfstones of Shannara (which Brooks says may be his favorite), to equal success. He closed out the initial trilogy in 1985 with The Wishsong of Shannara, and has since completed two more Shannara sets, The Heritage of Shannara books and the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara books.

As fans of Brooks know, the man doesn’t like to stay put. “I lived in Illinois for the first 42 years of my life, and I told myself when I left in 1986 that I would never live any one place again,” Brooks said. He now spends his time between his homes in Seattle and Hawaii; he and his wife also spend a great deal of time on the road each year connecting with the fans. These same nomadic tendencies are also apparent in his writing. Instead of staying comfortably within his proven, bestselling Shannara series, Terry frequently takes chances, steps outside, and tries something new. His marvelous Landover and Word & Void series are the results. While both are vastly different from Shannara, they are equally compelling. Word & Void – a contemporary, dark urban fantasy series set in a fantasy-touched Illinois – is quite possibly Brooks’s most acclaimed series. The Rocky Mountain News called the series’ first two books (Running with the Demon and The Knight of the Word “two of the finest science fiction/fantasy novels of the 20th century.”

Good To Know

When The Sword of Shannara hit The New York Times bestseller list, Brooks became the first modern fantasy author to achieve that pinnacle.

The Sword of Shannara was also the first work of fiction to ever hit The New York Times trade paperback bestseller list. Thanks to a faithful and growing fan base, the books continue to reach the list.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was not Terry's first novelization. He also novelized Steven Spielberg's 1991 movie, Hook.

Brooks’s The Phantom Menace novelization is also not his only connection to George Lucas. Both The Sword of Shannara and the original Star Wars novel, A New Hope, were edited by Judy Lynn del Rey and published in the same year (1977) to blockbuster success.

The Sword of Shannara was initially turned down by DAW Books. Instead, DAW sent Terry to Lester del Rey, who recognized Terry’s blockbuster potential and bought it. And the rest, they say, is history.

Brooks’s influences include: J.R.R. Tolkien, Alexander Dumas, James Fenimore Cooper, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Mallory's Morte d'Arthur.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Terence Dean Brooks (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Pacific Northwest and Hawaii
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 8, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Sterling, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Hamilton College, 1966; J.D., Washington and Lee University
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

One

She sat alone in her chambers, draped in twilight's shadows and evening's solitude, her thoughts darker than the night descending and heavier than the weight of all Paranor. She retired early these days, ostensibly to work but mostly to think, to ponder on the disappointment of today's failures and the bleakness of tomorrow's prospects. It was silent in the high tower, and the silence gave her a momentary respite from the struggle between herself and those she would lead. It lasted briefly, only so long as she remained secluded, but without its small daily comfort she sometimes thought she would have gone mad with despair.

She was no longer a girl, no longer even young, though she retained her youthful looks, her pale translucent skin still unblemished and unlined, her startling blue eyes clear, and her movements steady and certain. When she looked in the mirror, which she did infrequently now as then, she saw the girl she had been twenty years earlier, as if aging had been miraculously stayed. But while her body stayed young, her spirit grew old. Responsibility aged her more quickly than time. Only the Druid Sleep, should she avail herself of it, would stay the wearing of her heart, and she would not choose that remedy anytime soon. She could not. She was the Ard Rhys of the Third Druid Council, the High Druid of
Paranor, and while she remained in that office, sleep of any kind was in short supply.

Her gaze drifted to the windows of her chamber, looking west to where the sun was already gone behind the horizon, and the light it cast skyward in the wake of its descent a dim glow beginning to fail. She thought her own star was setting, as well, its light fading, its time passing, its chances slipping away. She would change that if she could, but she no longer believed she knew the way.

She heard Tagwen before she saw him, his footfalls light and cautious in the hallway beyond her open door, his concern for her evident in the softness of his approach.

"Come, Tagwen," she called as he neared.

He came through the door and stopped just inside, not presuming to venture farther, respecting this place that was hers and hers alone. He was growing old, as well, nearly twenty years of service behind him, the only assistant she had ever had, his time at
Paranor a mirror of her own. His stocky, gnarled body was still strong, but his movements were slowing and she could see the way he winced when his joints tightened and cramped after too much use. There was kindness in his eyes, and it had drawn her to him from the first, an indication of the nature of the man inside. Tagwen served because he respected what she was doing, what she meant to the Four Lands, and he never judged her by her successes or failures, even when there were so many more of the latter than the former.

"Mistress," he said in his rough, gravel-laced voice, his seamed,
bearded face dipping momentarily into shadow as he bowed. It was an odd, stiff gesture he had affected from the beginning. He leaned forward as if to share a confidence that others might try to overhear. "Kermadec is here."

She rose at once. "He will not come inside," she said, making it a statement of fact.

Tagwen shook his head. "He waits at the north gate and asks if you will speak with him." The Dwarf's lips tightened in somber re-
flection. "He says it is urgent."

She reached for her cloak and threw it about her shoulders.
She went by him, touching his shoulder reassuringly as she passed. She went out the door and down the hallway to begin her descent. Within the stairwell, beyond the sound of her own soft footfalls, she heard voices rise up from below, the sounds of conversations adrift on the air. She tried to make out what they said,
but could not. They would be speaking of her; they did so almost incessantly. They would be asking why she continued as their leader, why she presumed that she could achieve anything after so many failures, why she could not recognize that her time was past and another should take her place. Some would be whispering that she ought to be forced out, one way or another. Some would be advocating stronger action.

Druid intrigues. The halls of Paranor were rife with them, and she could not put a stop to it. At Walker's command, she had formed this Third Council on her return to the Four Lands from
Parkasia. She had accepted her role as leader, her destiny as guide to those she had recruited, her responsibility for rebuilding the legacy of the Druids as knowledge givers to the Races. She had formed the heart of this new order with those few sent under duress by the Elven King Kylen Elessedil at his brother Ahren's insistence. Others had come from other lands and other Races,
drawn by the prospect of exploring magic's uses. That had been twenty years ago, when there was fresh hope and everything seemed possible. Time and an inability to effect any measurable change in the thinking and attitudes of the governing bodies of those lands and Races had leeched most of that away. What remained was a desperate insistence on clinging to her belief that she was not meant to give up.

But that alone was not enough. It would never be enough. Not for someone who had come out of darkness so complete that any chance at redemption had seemed hopeless. Not for Grianne
Ohmsford, who had once been the Ilse Witch and had made herself
Ard Rhys to atone for it.

She reached the lower levels of the Keep, the great halls that connected the meeting rooms with the living quarters of those she had brought to Paranor. A handful of these Druids came into view,
shadows sliding along the walls like spilled oil in the light of the flameless lamps that lit the corridors. Some nodded to her; one or two spoke. Most simply cast hurried glances and passed on. They feared and mistrusted her, these Druids she had accepted into her order. They could not seem to help themselves, and she could not find the heart to blame them.

Terek Molt walked out of a room and grunted his unfriendly greeting, outwardly bold and challenging. But she could sense his real feelings, and she knew he feared her. Hated her more than feared her, though. It was the same with Traunt Rowan and Iridia
Eleri and one or two more. Shadea a'Ru was beyond even that, her venomous glances so openly hostile that there was no longer any communication between them, a situation that it seemed nothing could help.

Grianne closed her eyes against what she was feeling and wondered what she was going to do about these vipers--what she could do that would not have repercussions beyond anything she was prepared to accept.

Young Trefen Morys passed her with a wave and a smile, his face guileless and welcoming, his enthusiasm evident. He was a bright light in an otherwise darkened firmament, and she was grateful for his presence. Some within the order still believed in her.
She had never expected friendship or even compassion from those who came to her, but she had hoped for loyalty and a sense of responsibility toward the office she held. She had been foolish to think that way, and she no longer did so. Perhaps it was not inaccurate to say that now she merely hoped that reason might prevail.

"Mistress," Gerand Cera greeted in his soft voice as he bowed her past him, his tall form lean and sinuous, his angular features sleepy and dangerous.

There were too many of them. She could not watch out for all of them adequately. She put herself at risk every time she walked these halls--here in the one place she should be safe, in the order she had founded. It was insane.

She cleared the front hall and went out into the night, passed through a series of interconnected courtyards to the north gates,
and ordered the guard to let her through. The Trolls on watch, impassive and silent, did as they were told. She did not know their names, only that they were there at Kermadec's behest, which was enough to keep her reassured of their loyalty. Whatever else happened in this steadily eroding company of the once faithful, the
Trolls would stand with her.

Would that prove necessary? She would not have thought so a month ago. That she asked the question now demonstrated how uncertain matters had become.

She walked to the edge of the bluff, to the wall of trees that marked the beginning of the forest beyond, and stopped. An owl glided through the darkness, a silent hunter. She felt a sudden connection with him so strong that she could almost envision flying away as he did, leaving everything behind, returning to the darkness and its solitude.

She brushed the thought aside, an indulgence she could not afford, and whistled softly. Moments later, a figure detached itself from the darkness almost in front of her and came forward.

"Mistress," the Maturen greeted, dropping to one knee and bowing deeply.

"Kermadec, you great bear," she replied, stepping forward to put her arms around him. "How good it is to see you."

Of the few friends she possessed, Kermadec was perhaps the best. She had known him since the founding of the order, when she had gone into the Northland to ask for the support of the
Troll tribes. No one had ever thought to do that, and her request was cause enough for a convening of a council of the nations. She did not waste the opportunity she had been given. She told them of her mission, of her role as Ard Rhys of a new Druid Council, the third since Galaphile's time. She declared that this new order would accept members from all nations, the Trolls included. No prejudices would be allowed; the past would play no part in the present. The Druids were beginning anew, and for the order to succeed, all the Races must participate.

Kermadec had stepped forward almost at once, offering the support of his sizeable nation, of its people and resources. Prompted by her gesture and his understanding of its importance to the
Races, his decision was made even before the council of nations had met. His Rock Trolls were not imbued with a strong belief in magic, but it would be their honor to serve as her personal guard.
Give them an opportunity to demonstrate their reliability and skill,
and she would not regret it.

Nor had she ever done so. Kermadec had stayed five years, and in that time became her close friend. More than once, he had solved a problem that might otherwise have troubled her. Even after he had left for home again, his service complete, he had remained in charge of choosing the Trolls that followed in his footsteps. Some had doubted the wisdom of allowing Trolls inside the walls at all, let alone as personal guards to the Ard Rhys. But she had walked in darker places than these and had allied herself with creatures far more dangerous. She did not think of any Race as predisposed toward either good or evil; she saw them all only as being composed of creatures that might be persuaded to choose one over the other.

Just as she saw the members of her Druid order, she thought,
though she might wish it otherwise.

"Kermadec," she said again, the relief in her voice clearly evident.

"You should let me rid you of them all," he said softly, one great hand coming to rest on her slim shoulder. "You should wash them away like yesterday's sweat and start anew."

She nodded. "If it were that easy, I should call on you to help me. But I can't start over. It would be perceived as weakness by the governments of the nations I court. There can be no weakness in an Ard Rhys in these times." She patted his hand. "Rise and walk with me."

They left the bluff and moved back into the trees, perfectly comfortable with each other and the night. The sights and sounds of Paranor disappeared, and the silence of the forest wrapped them close. The air was cool and gentle, the wind a soft whisper in the new spring leaves, bearing the scent of woods and water. It would be summer before long, and the smells would change again.

"What brings you here?" she asked him finally, knowing he would wait for her to ask before speaking of it.

He shook his head. "Something troubling. Something you may understand better than I do."

Even for a Rock Troll, Kermadec was huge, towering over her at close to seven feet, his powerful body sheathed in a barklike skin. He was all muscle and bone, strong enough to rip small trees out at the roots. She had never known a Troll to possess the strength and quickness of Kermadec. But there was much more to him. A Maturen of thirty years, he was the sort of person others turned to instinctively in times of trouble. Solid and capable, he had served his nation with a distinction and compassion that belied the ferocious history of his Race. In the not so distant past, the
Trolls had marched against Men and Elves and Dwarves with the single-minded intent of smashing them back into the earth. During the Wars of the Races, ruled by their feral and warlike nature,
they had allied themselves with the darker forces in the world. But that was the past, and in the present, where it mattered most, they were no longer so easily bent to service in a cause that reason would never embrace.

"You have come a long way to see me, Kermadec," she said. "It must be something important."

"That remains for you to decide," he said softly. "I myself haven't seen what I am about to reveal, so it is hard for me to judge. I think it will be equally hard for you."

"Tell me."

He slowed to a stop in the darkness and turned to face her.

"There is strange activity in the ruins of the Skull Kingdom, mistress.
The reports come not from Rock Trolls, who will not go into that forbidden place, but from other creatures, ones who will, ones who make a living in part by telling of what they see. What they see now is reminiscent of other, darker times."

"The Warlock Lord's domain, once," she observed. "A bad place still, all broken walls and scattered bones. Traces of evil linger in the smells and taste of the land. What do these creatures tell you they see?"

"Smoke and mirrors, of a sort. Fires lit in darkness and turned cold by daylight's arrival. Small explosions of light that suggest something besides wood might be burning. Acrid smells that have no other source than the fires. Black smudges on flat stones that have the look of altars. Markings on those stones that might be symbols. Such events were sporadic at first, but now occur almost nightly. Strange things that of themselves alone do not trouble me, but taken all together do."

He breathed in and exhaled. "One thing more. Some among those who come to us say there are wraiths visible at the edges of the mist and smoke, things not of substance and not yet entirely formed, but recognizable as something more than the imagination.
They flutter like caged birds seeking to be free."

Grianne went cold, aware of the possibilities that the sightings suggested. Something was being conjured up by use of magic,
something that wasn't natural to this world and that was being summoned to serve an unknown purpose.

"How reliable are these stories?"

He shrugged. "They come from Gnomes for the most part, the only ones who go into that part of the world. They do so because they are drawn to what they perceive in their superstitions as sacred.
They perform their rituals in those places because they feel it will lend them power. How reliable are they?" He paused. "I think there is weight to what they say they see."

She thought a moment. Another strangeness to add to an already overcrowded agenda of strangenesses. She did not like the sound of this one, because if magic was at work, whatever its reason,
its source might lie uncomfortably close to home. Druids had the use of magic and were the most likely suspects, but their use of it in places beyond Paranor was forbidden. There were other possibilities,
but this was the one she could not afford to ignore.

"Is there a pattern to these happenings?" she asked. "A timing to the fires and their leavings?"

He shook his head. "None that anyone has discerned. We could ask the Gnomes to watch for it, to mark the intervals."

"Which will take time," she pointed out. "Time best spent looking into it myself." She pursed her lips. "That is what you came to ask me to do, isn't it? Take a look for myself?"

He nodded. "Yes, mistress. But I will go with you. Not alone into that country--ever--would I go. But with you beside me, I
would brave the netherworld and its shades."

Be careful of what you boast of doing, Kermadec, she thought. Boasts have a way of coming back to haunt you.

She thought of what she had committed herself to do in the days ahead. Meetings with various Druids to rework studies that members of the order would undertake. Those could wait.
Overseeing the repairs to the library that concealed the Druid
Histories--that one could not happen without her presence, but could wait, as well. A delegation from the Federation was due to arrive in three days; the Prime Minister of the Coalition was reputed to lead it. But she could be back in time for that if she left at once.

She must go, she knew. She could not afford to leave the matter unattended to. It was the sort of thing that could mushroom into trouble on a much larger scale. Even by her appearance, she might dissuade those involved from pursuing their conjuring. Once they knew that she was aware of them, they might go to ground again.

It was the best she could hope for. Besides, it gave her an opportunity to escape Paranor and its madness for a few days. In the interval, perhaps a way to contend with the intrigues might occur to her. Time and distance often triggered fresh insights; perhaps that would happen here.

"Let me tell Tagwen," she said to Kermadec, "and we'll be off."

Chapter Two

They departed Paranor at midnight, flying north out of the Druid forestlands with a full moon to light their way,
riding the edge of their expectations just ahead of their doubts and fears. They chose to use Grianne's War Shrike, Chaser,
to make the journey, rather than a Druid airship, thinking that the
Shrike would draw less attention and be less cumbersome. An airship required a crew, and a crew required explanations. Grianne preferred to keep secret what she was investigating until she better understood what it meant.

Tagwen accepted the news of her sudden and mysterious departure stoically, but she read disapproval and concern in his eyes.
He was desperate for her to tell him something more, a hint of what she was about so that if the need arose, he might be able to help. But she thought it best he know only that she would be gone for a few days and he must see to her affairs as best he could.
There would be questions, demands perhaps, but he couldn't reveal what he didn't know. She braced his shoulders firmly with her hands, smiled her approval and reassurance, and slipped away.

It went without saying that Tagwen would make no mention of Kermadec unless she failed to return; a visit from the Rock
Troll was always to be kept secret. There were too many who disapproved of the relationship, and the Dwarf understood the importance of not throwing fuel on a fire already dangerously hot.
Grianne could depend on Tagwen to use good judgment in such matters. It was one of his strongest attributes; his exercise of discretion and common sense was easily the equal of her own. Had he the inclination or the talent, he would have made a good Druid.
That accolade bestowed, she was just as happy to have him be what he was.

The flight took the rest of the night and most of the following day, a long, steady sweep out of Callahorn and across the Streleheim to the peaks of the Knife Edge and the Razors, where the ruins of the Skull Kingdom lay scattered in the valley between. As she guided Chaser onward, the rush of air in her ears wrapping her in its mindless sound, she had plenty of time to think. Her thoughts were both of what lay ahead and behind. But while the former merely intrigued, the latter haunted.

Her efforts at this new life had started so promisingly. She had returned to the Four Lands with such confidence, her identity regained,
her life remade, the lies that had misled her replaced by truths. She had found her lost brother Bek, whom she had never thought to see again. She had broken the chains that the Morgawr had forged to hold her. She had fought and destroyed the warlock with her brother at her side. She had done this so that she might be given a chance at the redemption she had never thought to find. The dying touch of a Druid, his blood on her forehead marking her as his successor, had set her on her path. It was a destiny she would never have chosen for herself but that she had come to believe was right and had therefore embraced.

Walker, a shade with a shade's vision, had reappeared to her at the Hadeshorn, and given her his blessing. Druids dead and gone passed in review, their shades materializing from the ether, rising out of the roiling waters, infusing her with their knowledge and a share of their collective power. She would rebuild their order, resuming the task that Walker had undertaken for himself and failed to complete. She would summon members of all the Races to a
Third Druid Council and from it found a new order, one in which the dictates of a single Druid would no longer be all that stood between civilization and anarchy, between reason and madness.
For too long, one Druid had been required to make the difference.
Those few who had done so--Bremen, Allanon, and Walker--had persevered because there had been no one else and no other way.
She would change that.

Such dreams. Such hopes.

Ahren Elessedil had talked his brother, the Elven King Kylen
Elessedil, into supplying the first of the new order, two handfuls of
Elves Ahren had led to Paranor personally. After Kylen discovered he had been tricked, that Walker was dead and the hated Ilse
Witch had replaced him, he had sought to recall those he had sent. But it was too late; the Elves who had come were committed to her and beyond his reach. In retaliation he attempted to poison the minds of the leaders of the other Races against her at every opportunity.
That did not prove to be too difficult with Sen Dunsidan,
by then Prime Minister of the Federation, who already feared and detested her. But the Dwarves and Trolls were less easily persuaded,
especially after she made the effort to go directly to them,
to speak in council, and to insist that she would place the order at their disposal so far as it was possible to do so. Remember what the Druids were created to do, she kept reminding them. If you seek a source of strength in the cause of peace and goodwill among all nations, the Druids are the ones to whom you should turn.

For a time, they did so. Members of both Races came to her,
and some from Callahorn, as well, for they had heard good things about her from the Rover Captain Redden Alt Mer and from the
Highlander Quentin Leah, men they respected. Besides, once they learned that the Federation did not support her, they were inclined to think that was reason enough for them to do so. The war between the Federation and the Free-born was still being fought,
mighty armies still locked in combat on the Prekkendorran, leaders still waging a war that had been waged since the passing of
Allanon--a war pitting unification against independence, territorial rights against free will. The Free-born wanted Callahorn to be its own country; the Federation wanted it to be a part of the Southland.
At times it had been both, at times neither.

There was more to it, of course, as there always is in the case of wars between nations. But that was the justification most often given by those involved, and into the breach left by the absence of any sensible attempt to examine the matter stepped the Ard Rhys.

It was a fateful decision, but one she did not see how she could avoid. The Federation-Free-born war was a ragged wound that would not heal. If the Races were ever to be brought together again, if the Druids were to be able to turn their attention to bettering the lives of the people of the Four Lands, this war must first be ended.

So, even as she struggled to strike a balance in the diversity of temperaments and needs of those who came to Paranor to study the Druid ways, she was attempting, as well, to find a way to resolve the conflict between the Federation and the Free-born. It involved dealing with the two leaders who hated her most--Kylen
Elessedil of the Elves and Sen Dunsidan of the Federation. It required that she put aside her own prejudices and find a way to get past theirs. She was able to do this in large part not through fear or intimidation but by making herself appear indispensable to them.
After all, the Druids were still in possession of knowledge denied common men, more so than ever since the events in Parkasia. Neither man knew for certain what knowledge she had gained from the Old World that might prove invaluable. Neither understood how little of that knowledge she actually possessed. But perception is often more persuasive than truth. Without the Druids to offer support, each worried that crucial ground would be lost to the other. Without her help, each believed he risked allowing the other a chance to grow more powerful at his expense. Sen Dunsidan had always been a politician. Once he understood that she did not intend to revert to her ways as the Ilse Witch or hold against him his temporary alliance with the Morgawr, he was more than willing to see what she had to offer. Kylen Elessedil followed along for no better reason than to keep pace with his enemy.

Grianne played at this game because it was the only choice she had. She was as good at it now as she had been when she was the Ilse Witch and manipulation was second nature. It was a slow process. Mostly, she settled for crumbs in exchange for the prospect of a full loaf. At times, brought close by promises made and fitfully kept, she thought she would succeed in her efforts,
her goal no more than a meeting away. Just a truce between the two would have opened the door to a more permanent solution.
Both were strong men, and a small concession by one might have been enough to encourage the other to grant the same. She maneuvered them both toward making that concession, gaining time and credibility as she did so, making herself the center of their thinking as they edged toward a resolution to a war no one really wanted.

Then Kylen Elessedil was killed on the Prekkendorran, the blame for it was laid at her doorstep, and in an instant everything she had worked for nearly six years to achieve was lost.

When they stopped at midmorning to rest Chaser, Kermadec reopened the wound.

"Has that boy King come to his senses yet, mistress?" he asked in a tone of voice that suggested he already knew the answer.

She shook her head. Kellen Elessedil was his father's son and,
if it was possible, liked her even less than his father had. Worse, he blamed her for his father's death, a mindset she seemed unable to change.

"He's a fool. He'll die in the same way, fighting for something that to right-thinking men makes no sense at all." Kermadec snorted softly. "They say Rock Trolls are warlike, but history suggests that we are no worse than Men and Elves and in these times perhaps better. At least we do not carry on wars for fifty years."

"You could argue the Federation-Free-born war has been going on for much longer than that," she said.

"However long, it is still too long." Kermadec stretched his massive arms over his head and yawned. "What is the point?"

It was a rhetorical question and she didn't bother to attempt an answer. It had been a dozen years since her efforts at finding a solution had broken down, and since then she had been preoccupied with troubles much closer to home.

"You are due for a change of guards," Kermadec offered, handing her his aleskin. "Maybe you should think about a change of
Druids at the same time."

"Dismiss them all and start over?" She had heard this argument from him before. Kermadec saw things in simple terms; he thought she would be better off if she did so, too. "I can't do that."

"So you keep saying."

"Dismissing the order now would be perceived as weakness on my part. Even dismissing the handful of troublemakers who plague me most would have that effect. The nations look for an excuse to proclaim the Druid Council a failure, especially Sen Dunsidan and
Kellen Elessedil. I cannot give them one. Besides, if I had to start over at this point, no one would come to Paranor to aid me. All would shun the Druids. I have to make do with things as they are."

Kermadec took back the aleskin and looked out over the countryside. They were just at the edge of the Streleheim, facing north toward the misty, rugged silhouette of the Knife Edge. The day was bright and warm, and it promised another clear, moonlit night in which to explore the ruins of the Skull Kingdom. "You might think about the impracticality of that before you give up on my suggestion."

She had thought about alternatives frequently of late, although her thinking was more along the lines of restructuring and reordering so as to isolate those most troublesome. But even there she had to be careful not to suggest an appearance of weakness to the others or they would begin to shift allegiance in ways that would undo her entirely.

At times, she thought it might be best if she simply gave them all what they wanted, if she resigned her position and departed for good. Let another struggle with the problem. Let someone else take on her responsibilities and her obligations as Ard Rhys. But she knew she couldn't do that. No one else had been asked to shoulder those responsibilities and obligations; they had been given to her,
and nothing had happened to change that. She could not simply walk away. She had no authority to do so. If Walker's shade should appear to tell her it was time, she would be gone in a heartbeat--
though perhaps not without disappointment at having failed to accomplish her task. But neither Walker's nor the shade of any other
Druid had come to her. Until she was discharged, she could not go. The dissatisfaction of others was not enough to set her free.

Her solution to the problem would have been much easier if she were still the Ilse Witch. She would have made an example of the more troublesome members of her order and cowed the rest by doing so. She would not have hesitated to eliminate her problems in a way that would have appalled even Kermadec. But she had lived enough of that life, and she would never go back to it. An
Ard Rhys must find other, better ways to act.

By late afternoon, they had crossed the Streleheim and flown through the lower wall of the Knife Edge into the jagged landscape of the Skull Kingdom. She felt a change in the air long before she saw one on the ground. Even aboard Chaser, several hundred feet up, she could sense it. The air became dead and old, smelling and tasting of devastation and rot. There was no life here, not of a sort anyone could recognize. The mountain was gone, brought down by cataclysmic forces on the heads of those who had worked their evil within it, reduced to a jumble of rocks within which little grew and less found shelter or forage. It was a ruined land, colorless and barren even now, a thousand years later,
and it was likely to be a thousand more before that changed. Even in the wake of a volcano's eruption, in the path of the resultant lava flow, life eventually returned, determined and resilient. But not here. Here, life was denied.

Ignoring the look and feel of the place, even though it settled about them with oppressive insistence, they circled the ruins in search of the site where the fires and the flashes had been observed.
After about an hour they found it at one end of a long shelf of rock balanced amid a cluster of spikes that jutted like bones from the earth. A ring of stones encircled a fire pit left blackened and slick from whatever had been burned. When Grianne first saw it from the air, she could not imagine how anyone could even manage to get to it, let alone make use of it. Rock barriers rose all about, the crevices between them deep and wide, the edges sharp as glass. Then she amended her thinking. It would take a Shrike or a Roc or a small, highly maneuverable airship to gain access, but access could be gained. Which had been used in this instance? She stored the question away to be pondered later.

Guiding Chaser to one end of the shelf, they dismounted and walked back for a closer look.

"Sacrifices of some sort," Kermadec observed, glancing around uneasily, his big shoulders swinging left and right, as if he were caged. He did not like being there, she knew, even with her. The place held bad memories for Trolls, even after so long. The Warlock
Lord might be dead and gone, but the feel of him lingered.
In the history of the Trolls, no one had done more damage to the nation's psyche. Trolls were not superstitious in the manner of
Gnomes, but they believed in the transference of evil from the dead to the living. They believed because they had experienced it,
and they were wary of it happening again.

She closed her eyes and cast about with her other senses for a moment, trying to read in the air what had happened here. She tracked the leavings of a powerful magic, the workings of a sorcery that was not meant to heal or succor. A summoning of some sort,
she read in the bits and pieces that remained. To what end, though?
She could not determine, though the smells told of something dying,
and not quickly. She looked down at the fire pit and read in the greasy smears dark purpose in the sacrifices clearly made.

"This isn't good," she said softly.

He stepped close. "What do you find, mistress?"

"Nothing yet. Nothing certain." She looked up at him, into his flat, expressionless features. "Perhaps tonight, when darkness cloaks the thing that finds this dead place so attractive, we shall find out."

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First Chapter

One

She sat alone in her chambers, draped in twilight's shadows and evening's solitude, her thoughts darker than the night descending and heavier than the weight of all Paranor. She retired early these days, ostensibly to work but mostly to think, to ponder on the disappointment of today's failures and the bleakness of tomorrow's prospects. It was silent in the high tower, and the silence gave her a momentary respite from the struggle between herself and those she would lead. It lasted briefly, only so long as she remained secluded, but without its small daily comfort she sometimes thought she would have gone mad with despair.

She was no longer a girl, no longer even young, though she
retained her youthful looks, her pale translucent skin still unblemished
and unlined, her startling blue eyes clear, and her movements
steady and certain. When she looked in the mirror, which
she did infrequently now as then, she saw the girl she had been
twenty years earlier, as if aging had been miraculously stayed. But
while her body stayed young, her spirit grew old. Responsibility
aged her more quickly than time. Only the Druid Sleep, should
she avail herself of it, would stay the wearing of her heart, and she
would not choose that remedy anytime soon. She could not. She
was the Ard Rhys of the Third Druid Council, the High Druid of
Paranor, and while she remained in that office, sleep of any kind
was in short supply.

Her gaze drifted to the windows of her chamber, looking west
to where the sun was already gone behind the horizon, and the
light it cast skyward in the wake of its descent a dim glow beginning
to fail. Shethought her own star was setting, as well, its
light fading, its time passing, its chances slipping away. She would
change that if she could, but she no longer believed she knew
the way.

She heard Tagwen before she saw him, his footfalls light and
cautious in the hallway beyond her open door, his concern for her
evident in the softness of his approach.

"Come, Tagwen," she called as he neared.

He came through the door and stopped just inside, not presuming
to venture farther, respecting this place that was hers and
hers alone. He was growing old, as well, nearly twenty years of
service behind him, the only assistant she had ever had, his time at
Paranor a mirror of her own. His stocky, gnarled body was still
strong, but his movements were slowing and she could see the way
he winced when his joints tightened and cramped after too much
use. There was kindness in his eyes, and it had drawn her to him
from the first, an indication of the nature of the man inside. Tagwen
served because he respected what she was doing, what she
meant to the Four Lands, and he never judged her by her successes
or failures, even when there were so many more of the latter than
the former.

"Mistress," he said in his rough, gravel-laced voice, his seamed,
bearded face dipping momentarily into shadow as he bowed. It
was an odd, stiff gesture he had affected from the beginning. He
leaned forward as if to share a confidence that others might try to
overhear. "Kermadec is here."

She rose at once. "He will not come inside," she said, making it
a statement of fact.

Tagwen shook his head. "He waits at the north gate and asks if
you will speak with him." The Dwarf's lips tightened in somber re-
flection. "He says it is urgent."

She reached for her cloak and threw it about her shoulders.
She went by him, touching his shoulder reassuringly as she
passed. She went out the door and down the hallway to begin her
descent. Within the stairwell, beyond the sound of her own soft
footfalls, she heard voices rise up from below, the sounds of conversations
adrift on the air. She tried to make out what they said,
but could not. They would be speaking of her; they did so almost
incessantly. They would be asking why she continued as their
leader, why she presumed that she could achieve anything after so
many failures, why she could not recognize that her time was past
and another should take her place. Some would be whispering that
she ought to be forced out, one way or another. Some would be
advocating stronger action.

Druid intrigues. The halls of Paranor were rife with them, and
she could not put a stop to it. At Walker's command, she had
formed this Third Council on her return to the Four Lands from
Parkasia. She had accepted her role as leader, her destiny as guide
to those she had recruited, her responsibility for rebuilding the
legacy of the Druids as knowledge givers to the Races. She had
formed the heart of this new order with those few sent under
duress by the Elven King Kylen Elessedil at his brother Ahren's
insistence. Others had come from other lands and other Races,
drawn by the prospect of exploring magic's uses. That had been
twenty years ago, when there was fresh hope and everything
seemed possible. Time and an inability to effect any measurable
change in the thinking and attitudes of the governing bodies of
those lands and Races had leeched most of that away. What remained
was a desperate insistence on clinging to her belief that
she was not meant to give up.

But that alone was not enough. It would never be enough. Not
for someone who had come out of darkness so complete that
any chance at redemption had seemed hopeless. Not for Grianne
Ohmsford, who had once been the Ilse Witch and had made herself
Ard Rhys to atone for it.

She reached the lower levels of the Keep, the great halls that
connected the meeting rooms with the living quarters of those she
had brought to Paranor. A handful of these Druids came into view,
shadows sliding along the walls like spilled oil in the light of the
flameless lamps that lit the corridors. Some nodded to her; one or
two spoke. Most simply cast hurried glances and passed on. They
feared and mistrusted her, these Druids she had accepted into her
order. They could not seem to help themselves, and she could not
find the heart to blame them.

Terek Molt walked out of a room and grunted his unfriendly
greeting, outwardly bold and challenging. But she could sense his
real feelings, and she knew he feared her. Hated her more than
feared her, though. It was the same with Traunt Rowan and Iridia
Eleri and one or two more. Shadea a'Ru was beyond even that, her
venomous glances so openly hostile that there was no longer any
communication between them, a situation that it seemed nothing
could help.

Grianne closed her eyes against what she was feeling and wondered
what she was going to do about these vipers--what she
could do that would not have repercussions beyond anything she
was prepared to accept.

Young Trefen Morys passed her with a wave and a smile, his
face guileless and welcoming, his enthusiasm evident. He was a
bright light in an otherwise darkened firmament, and she was
grateful for his presence. Some within the order still believed in her.
She had never expected friendship or even compassion from those
who came to her, but she had hoped for loyalty and a sense of responsibility
toward the office she held. She had been foolish to think
that way, and she no longer did so. Perhaps it was not inaccurate to
say that now she merely hoped that reason might prevail.

"Mistress," Gerand Cera greeted in his soft voice as he bowed
her past him, his tall form lean and sinuous, his angular features
sleepy and dangerous.

There were too many of them. She could not watch out for all
of them adequately. She put herself at risk every time she walked
these halls--here in the one place she should be safe, in the order
she had founded. It was insane.

She cleared the front hall and went out into the night, passed
through a series of interconnected courtyards to the north gates,
and ordered the guard to let her through. The Trolls on watch, impassive
and silent, did as they were told. She did not know their
names, only that they were there at Kermadec's behest, which was
enough to keep her reassured of their loyalty. Whatever else happened
in this steadily eroding company of the once faithful, the
Trolls would stand with her.

Would that prove necessary? She would not have thought so a
month ago. That she asked the question now demonstrated how
uncertain matters had become.

She walked to the edge of the bluff, to the wall of trees that
marked the beginning of the forest beyond, and stopped. An owl
glided through the darkness, a silent hunter. She felt a sudden connection
with him so strong that she could almost envision flying
away as he did, leaving everything behind, returning to the darkness
and its solitude.

She brushed the thought aside, an indulgence she could not
afford, and whistled softly. Moments later, a figure detached itself
from the darkness almost in front of her and came forward.

"Mistress," the Maturen greeted, dropping to one knee and
bowing deeply.

"Kermadec, you great bear," she replied, stepping forward to
put her arms around him. "How good it is to see you."

Of the few friends she possessed, Kermadec was perhaps the
best. She had known him since the founding of the order, when
she had gone into the Northland to ask for the support of the
Troll tribes. No one had ever thought to do that, and her request
was cause enough for a convening of a council of the nations. She
did not waste the opportunity she had been given. She told them
of her mission, of her role as Ard Rhys of a new Druid Council, the
third since Galaphile's time. She declared that this new order
would accept members from all nations, the Trolls included. No
prejudices would be allowed; the past would play no part in the
present. The Druids were beginning anew, and for the order to
succeed, all the Races must participate.

Kermadec had stepped forward almost at once, offering the
support of his sizeable nation, of its people and resources. Prompted
by her gesture and his understanding of its importance to the
Races, his decision was made even before the council of nations
had met. His Rock Trolls were not imbued with a strong belief in
magic, but it would be their honor to serve as her personal guard.
Give them an opportunity to demonstrate their reliability and skill,
and she would not regret it.

Nor had she ever done so. Kermadec had stayed five years, and
in that time became her close friend. More than once, he had
solved a problem that might otherwise have troubled her. Even
after he had left for home again, his service complete, he had
remained in charge of choosing the Trolls that followed in his
footsteps. Some had doubted the wisdom of allowing Trolls inside
the walls at all, let alone as personal guards to the Ard Rhys. But
she had walked in darker places than these and had allied herself
with creatures far more dangerous. She did not think of any Race
as predisposed toward either good or evil; she saw them all only as
being composed of creatures that might be persuaded to choose
one over the other.

Just as she saw the members of her Druid order, she thought,
though she might wish it otherwise.

"Kermadec," she said again, the relief in her voice clearly
evident.

"You should let me rid you of them all," he said softly, one
great hand coming to rest on her slim shoulder. "You should wash
them away like yesterday's sweat and start anew."

She nodded. "If it were that easy, I should call on you to help
me. But I can't start over. It would be perceived as weakness by the
governments of the nations I court. There can be no weakness in
an Ard Rhys in these times." She patted his hand. "Rise and walk
with me."

They left the bluff and moved back into the trees, perfectly
comfortable with each other and the night. The sights and sounds
of Paranor disappeared, and the silence of the forest wrapped them
close. The air was cool and gentle, the wind a soft whisper in the
new spring leaves, bearing the scent of woods and water. It would
be summer before long, and the smells would change again.

"What brings you here?" she asked him finally, knowing he
would wait for her to ask before speaking of it.

He shook his head. "Something troubling. Something you may
understand better than I do."

Even for a Rock Troll, Kermadec was huge, towering over her
at close to seven feet, his powerful body sheathed in a barklike
skin. He was all muscle and bone, strong enough to rip small trees
out at the roots. She had never known a Troll to possess the
strength and quickness of Kermadec. But there was much more to
him. A Maturen of thirty years, he was the sort of person others
turned to instinctively in times of trouble. Solid and capable, he
had served his nation with a distinction and compassion that belied
the ferocious history of his Race. In the not so distant past, the
Trolls had marched against Men and Elves and Dwarves with the
single-minded intent of smashing them back into the earth. During
the Wars of the Races, ruled by their feral and warlike nature,
they had allied themselves with the darker forces in the world. But
that was the past, and in the present, where it mattered most, they
were no longer so easily bent to service in a cause that reason
would never embrace.

"You have come a long way to see me, Kermadec," she said. "It
must be something important."

"That remains for you to decide," he said softly. "I myself
haven't seen what I am about to reveal, so it is hard for me to
judge. I think it will be equally hard for you."

"Tell me."

He slowed to a stop in the darkness and turned to face her.

"There is strange activity in the ruins of the Skull Kingdom, mistress.
The reports come not from Rock Trolls, who will not go into
that forbidden place, but from other creatures, ones who will, ones
who make a living in part by telling of what they see. What they
see now is reminiscent of other, darker times."

"The Warlock Lord's domain, once," she observed. "A bad
place still, all broken walls and scattered bones. Traces of evil
linger in the smells and taste of the land. What do these creatures
tell you they see?"

"Smoke and mirrors, of a sort. Fires lit in darkness and turned
cold by daylight's arrival. Small explosions of light that suggest
something besides wood might be burning. Acrid smells that have
no other source than the fires. Black smudges on flat stones that
have the look of altars. Markings on those stones that might be
symbols. Such events were sporadic at first, but now occur almost
nightly. Strange things that of themselves alone do not trouble
me, but taken all together do."

He breathed in and exhaled. "One thing more. Some among
those who come to us say there are wraiths visible at the edges of
the mist and smoke, things not of substance and not yet entirely
formed, but recognizable as something more than the imagination.
They flutter like caged birds seeking to be free."

Grianne went cold, aware of the possibilities that the sightings
suggested. Something was being conjured up by use of magic,
something that wasn't natural to this world and that was being
summoned to serve an unknown purpose.

"How reliable are these stories?"

He shrugged. "They come from Gnomes for the most part, the
only ones who go into that part of the world. They do so because
they are drawn to what they perceive in their superstitions as sacred.
They perform their rituals in those places because they feel it
will lend them power. How reliable are they?" He paused. "I think
there is weight to what they say they see."

She thought a moment. Another strangeness to add to an already
overcrowded agenda of strangenesses. She did not like the
sound of this one, because if magic was at work, whatever its reason,
its source might lie uncomfortably close to home. Druids had
the use of magic and were the most likely suspects, but their use of
it in places beyond Paranor was forbidden. There were other possibilities,
but this was the one she could not afford to ignore.

"Is there a pattern to these happenings?" she asked. "A timing
to the fires and their leavings?"

He shook his head. "None that anyone has discerned. We
could ask the Gnomes to watch for it, to mark the intervals."

"Which will take time," she pointed out. "Time best spent
looking into it myself." She pursed her lips. "That is what you
came to ask me to do, isn't it? Take a look for myself?"

He nodded. "Yes, mistress. But I will go with you. Not alone
into that country--ever--would I go. But with you beside me, I
would brave the netherworld and its shades."

Be careful of what you boast of doing, Kermadec, she thought. Boasts
have a way of coming back to haunt you.

She thought of what she had committed herself to do in
the days ahead. Meetings with various Druids to rework studies
that members of the order would undertake. Those could wait.
Overseeing the repairs to the library that concealed the Druid
Histories--that one could not happen without her presence, but
could wait, as well. A delegation from the Federation was due to arrive
in three days; the Prime Minister of the Coalition was reputed
to lead it. But she could be back in time for that if she left at once.

She must go, she knew. She could not afford to leave the matter
unattended to. It was the sort of thing that could mushroom into
trouble on a much larger scale. Even by her appearance, she might
dissuade those involved from pursuing their conjuring. Once they
knew that she was aware of them, they might go to ground again.

It was the best she could hope for. Besides, it gave her an opportunity
to escape Paranor and its madness for a few days. In the
interval, perhaps a way to contend with the intrigues might occur
to her. Time and distance often triggered fresh insights; perhaps
that would happen here.

"Let me tell Tagwen," she said to Kermadec, "and we'll be off."


Chapter Two

They departed Paranor at midnight, flying north out of
the Druid forestlands with a full moon to light their way,
riding the edge of their expectations just ahead of their
doubts and fears. They chose to use Grianne's War Shrike, Chaser,
to make the journey, rather than a Druid airship, thinking that the
Shrike would draw less attention and be less cumbersome. An airship
required a crew, and a crew required explanations. Grianne
preferred to keep secret what she was investigating until she better
understood what it meant.

Tagwen accepted the news of her sudden and mysterious departure
stoically, but she read disapproval and concern in his eyes.
He was desperate for her to tell him something more, a hint of
what she was about so that if the need arose, he might be able to
help. But she thought it best he know only that she would be gone
for a few days and he must see to her affairs as best he could.
There would be questions, demands perhaps, but he couldn't reveal
what he didn't know. She braced his shoulders firmly with her
hands, smiled her approval and reassurance, and slipped away.

It went without saying that Tagwen would make no mention
of Kermadec unless she failed to return; a visit from the Rock
Troll was always to be kept secret. There were too many who disapproved
of the relationship, and the Dwarf understood the importance
of not throwing fuel on a fire already dangerously hot.
Grianne could depend on Tagwen to use good judgment in such
matters. It was one of his strongest attributes; his exercise of discretion
and common sense was easily the equal of her own. Had
he the inclination or the talent, he would have made a good Druid.
That accolade bestowed, she was just as happy to have him be
what he was.

The flight took the rest of the night and most of the following
day, a long, steady sweep out of Callahorn and across the Streleheim
to the peaks of the Knife Edge and the Razors, where the
ruins of the Skull Kingdom lay scattered in the valley between. As
she guided Chaser onward, the rush of air in her ears wrapping
her in its mindless sound, she had plenty of time to think. Her
thoughts were both of what lay ahead and behind. But while the
former merely intrigued, the latter haunted.

Her efforts at this new life had started so promisingly. She had
returned to the Four Lands with such confidence, her identity regained,
her life remade, the lies that had misled her replaced by
truths. She had found her lost brother Bek, whom she had never
thought to see again. She had broken the chains that the Morgawr
had forged to hold her. She had fought and destroyed the warlock
with her brother at her side. She had done this so that she might
be given a chance at the redemption she had never thought to
find. The dying touch of a Druid, his blood on her forehead marking
her as his successor, had set her on her path. It was a destiny
she would never have chosen for herself but that she had come to
believe was right and had therefore embraced.

Walker, a shade with a shade's vision, had reappeared to her at
the Hadeshorn, and given her his blessing. Druids dead and gone
passed in review, their shades materializing from the ether, rising
out of the roiling waters, infusing her with their knowledge and a
share of their collective power. She would rebuild their order, resuming
the task that Walker had undertaken for himself and failed
to complete. She would summon members of all the Races to a
Third Druid Council and from it found a new order, one in which
the dictates of a single Druid would no longer be all that stood
between civilization and anarchy, between reason and madness.
For too long, one Druid had been required to make the difference.
Those few who had done so--Bremen, Allanon, and Walker--had
persevered because there had been no one else and no other way.
She would change that.

Such dreams. Such hopes.

Ahren Elessedil had talked his brother, the Elven King Kylen
Elessedil, into supplying the first of the new order, two handfuls of
Elves Ahren had led to Paranor personally. After Kylen discovered
he had been tricked, that Walker was dead and the hated Ilse
Witch had replaced him, he had sought to recall those he had
sent. But it was too late; the Elves who had come were committed
to her and beyond his reach. In retaliation he attempted to poison
the minds of the leaders of the other Races against her at every opportunity.
That did not prove to be too difficult with Sen Dunsidan,
by then Prime Minister of the Federation, who already feared
and detested her. But the Dwarves and Trolls were less easily persuaded,
especially after she made the effort to go directly to them,
to speak in council, and to insist that she would place the order at
their disposal so far as it was possible to do so. Remember what
the Druids were created to do, she kept reminding them. If you
seek a source of strength in the cause of peace and goodwill among
all nations, the Druids are the ones to whom you should turn.

For a time, they did so. Members of both Races came to her,
and some from Callahorn, as well, for they had heard good things
about her from the Rover Captain Redden Alt Mer and from the
Highlander Quentin Leah, men they respected. Besides, once they
learned that the Federation did not support her, they were inclined
to think that was reason enough for them to do so. The war between
the Federation and the Free-born was still being fought,
mighty armies still locked in combat on the Prekkendorran, leaders
still waging a war that had been waged since the passing of
Allanon--a war pitting unification against independence, territorial
rights against free will. The Free-born wanted Callahorn to be its
own country; the Federation wanted it to be a part of the Southland.
At times it had been both, at times neither.

There was more to it, of course, as there always is in the case
of wars between nations. But that was the justification most often
given by those involved, and into the breach left by the absence of
any sensible attempt to examine the matter stepped the Ard Rhys.

It was a fateful decision, but one she did not see how she could
avoid. The Federation-Free-born war was a ragged wound that
would not heal. If the Races were ever to be brought together
again, if the Druids were to be able to turn their attention to bettering
the lives of the people of the Four Lands, this war must first
be ended.

So, even as she struggled to strike a balance in the diversity of
temperaments and needs of those who came to Paranor to study
the Druid ways, she was attempting, as well, to find a way to resolve
the conflict between the Federation and the Free-born. It involved
dealing with the two leaders who hated her most--Kylen
Elessedil of the Elves and Sen Dunsidan of the Federation. It required
that she put aside her own prejudices and find a way to get
past theirs. She was able to do this in large part not through fear or
intimidation but by making herself appear indispensable to them.
After all, the Druids were still in possession of knowledge denied
common men, more so than ever since the events in Parkasia. Neither
man knew for certain what knowledge she had gained from
the Old World that might prove invaluable. Neither understood
how little of that knowledge she actually possessed. But perception
is often more persuasive than truth. Without the Druids to offer
support, each worried that crucial ground would be lost to the
other. Without her help, each believed he risked allowing the
other a chance to grow more powerful at his expense. Sen Dunsidan
had always been a politician. Once he understood that she did
not intend to revert to her ways as the Ilse Witch or hold against
him his temporary alliance with the Morgawr, he was more than
willing to see what she had to offer. Kylen Elessedil followed
along for no better reason than to keep pace with his enemy.

Grianne played at this game because it was the only choice
she had. She was as good at it now as she had been when she
was the Ilse Witch and manipulation was second nature. It was a
slow process. Mostly, she settled for crumbs in exchange for the
prospect of a full loaf. At times, brought close by promises made
and fitfully kept, she thought she would succeed in her efforts,
her goal no more than a meeting away. Just a truce between the
two would have opened the door to a more permanent solution.
Both were strong men, and a small concession by one might have
been enough to encourage the other to grant the same. She maneuvered
them both toward making that concession, gaining time
and credibility as she did so, making herself the center of their
thinking as they edged toward a resolution to a war no one really
wanted.

Then Kylen Elessedil was killed on the Prekkendorran, the
blame for it was laid at her doorstep, and in an instant everything
she had worked for nearly six years to achieve was lost.

When they stopped at midmorning to rest Chaser, Kermadec
reopened the wound.

"Has that boy King come to his senses yet, mistress?" he asked
in a tone of voice that suggested he already knew the answer.

She shook her head. Kellen Elessedil was his father's son and,
if it was possible, liked her even less than his father had. Worse, he
blamed her for his father's death, a mindset she seemed unable to
change.

"He's a fool. He'll die in the same way, fighting for something
that to right-thinking men makes no sense at all." Kermadec snorted
softly. "They say Rock Trolls are warlike, but history suggests that
we are no worse than Men and Elves and in these times perhaps
better. At least we do not carry on wars for fifty years."

"You could argue the Federation-Free-born war has been going
on for much longer than that," she said.

"However long, it is still too long." Kermadec stretched his
massive arms over his head and yawned. "What is the point?"

It was a rhetorical question and she didn't bother to attempt an
answer. It had been a dozen years since her efforts at finding a solution
had broken down, and since then she had been preoccupied
with troubles much closer to home.

"You are due for a change of guards," Kermadec offered, handing
her his aleskin. "Maybe you should think about a change of
Druids at the same time."

"Dismiss them all and start over?" She had heard this argument
from him before. Kermadec saw things in simple terms; he thought
she would be better off if she did so, too. "I can't do that."

"So you keep saying."

"Dismissing the order now would be perceived as weakness on
my part. Even dismissing the handful of troublemakers who plague
me most would have that effect. The nations look for an excuse to
proclaim the Druid Council a failure, especially Sen Dunsidan and
Kellen Elessedil. I cannot give them one. Besides, if I had to start
over at this point, no one would come to Paranor to aid me. All
would shun the Druids. I have to make do with things as they are."

Kermadec took back the aleskin and looked out over the
countryside. They were just at the edge of the Streleheim, facing
north toward the misty, rugged silhouette of the Knife Edge. The
day was bright and warm, and it promised another clear, moonlit
night in which to explore the ruins of the Skull Kingdom. "You
might think about the impracticality of that before you give up on
my suggestion."

She had thought about alternatives frequently of late, although
her thinking was more along the lines of restructuring and reordering
so as to isolate those most troublesome. But even there she had
to be careful not to suggest an appearance of weakness to the others
or they would begin to shift allegiance in ways that would
undo her entirely.

At times, she thought it might be best if she simply gave them
all what they wanted, if she resigned her position and departed for
good. Let another struggle with the problem. Let someone else take
on her responsibilities and her obligations as Ard Rhys. But she
knew she couldn't do that. No one else had been asked to shoulder
those responsibilities and obligations; they had been given to her,
and nothing had happened to change that. She could not simply
walk away. She had no authority to do so. If Walker's shade should
appear to tell her it was time, she would be gone in a heartbeat--
though perhaps not without disappointment at having failed to accomplish
her task. But neither Walker's nor the shade of any other
Druid had come to her. Until she was discharged, she could not
go. The dissatisfaction of others was not enough to set her free.

Her solution to the problem would have been much easier if
she were still the Ilse Witch. She would have made an example of
the more troublesome members of her order and cowed the rest by
doing so. She would not have hesitated to eliminate her problems
in a way that would have appalled even Kermadec. But she had
lived enough of that life, and she would never go back to it. An
Ard Rhys must find other, better ways to act.

By late afternoon, they had crossed the Streleheim and flown
through the lower wall of the Knife Edge into the jagged landscape
of the Skull Kingdom. She felt a change in the air long before
she saw one on the ground. Even aboard Chaser, several
hundred feet up, she could sense it. The air became dead and
old, smelling and tasting of devastation and rot. There was no life
here, not of a sort anyone could recognize. The mountain was
gone, brought down by cataclysmic forces on the heads of those
who had worked their evil within it, reduced to a jumble of rocks
within which little grew and less found shelter or forage. It was a
ruined land, colorless and barren even now, a thousand years later,
and it was likely to be a thousand more before that changed. Even
in the wake of a volcano's eruption, in the path of the resultant
lava flow, life eventually returned, determined and resilient. But
not here. Here, life was denied.

Ignoring the look and feel of the place, even though it settled
about them with oppressive insistence, they circled the ruins in
search of the site where the fires and the flashes had been observed.
After about an hour they found it at one end of a long shelf
of rock balanced amid a cluster of spikes that jutted like bones
from the earth. A ring of stones encircled a fire pit left blackened
and slick from whatever had been burned. When Grianne first saw
it from the air, she could not imagine how anyone could even
manage to get to it, let alone make use of it. Rock barriers rose all
about, the crevices between them deep and wide, the edges sharp
as glass. Then she amended her thinking. It would take a Shrike or
a Roc or a small, highly maneuverable airship to gain access, but
access could be gained. Which had been used in this instance? She
stored the question away to be pondered later.

Guiding Chaser to one end of the shelf, they dismounted and
walked back for a closer look.

"Sacrifices of some sort," Kermadec observed, glancing around
uneasily, his big shoulders swinging left and right, as if he were
caged. He did not like being there, she knew, even with her. The
place held bad memories for Trolls, even after so long. The Warlock
Lord might be dead and gone, but the feel of him lingered.
In the history of the Trolls, no one had done more damage to the
nation's psyche. Trolls were not superstitious in the manner of
Gnomes, but they believed in the transference of evil from the
dead to the living. They believed because they had experienced it,
and they were wary of it happening again.

She closed her eyes and cast about with her other senses for a
moment, trying to read in the air what had happened here. She
tracked the leavings of a powerful magic, the workings of a sorcery
that was not meant to heal or succor. A summoning of some sort,
she read in the bits and pieces that remained. To what end, though?
She could not determine, though the smells told of something dying,
and not quickly. She looked down at the fire pit and read in the
greasy smears dark purpose in the sacrifices clearly made.

"This isn't good," she said softly.

He stepped close. "What do you find, mistress?"

"Nothing yet. Nothing certain." She looked up at him, into his
flat, expressionless features. "Perhaps tonight, when darkness cloaks
the thing that finds this dead place so attractive, we shall find out."

Copyright© 2003 by Terry Brooks
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 74 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended!

    As always, Terry Brooks very easily designs an additional masterful, grasping tale in the Shannara Heritage. Doing work now in a globe that has a vast, significantly rooted historical past, the guy revolves his stories relentlessly as well as beautifully. Penderrin, another Ohmsford however minus the prodigy (at least in his individual brain) than his forerunners, he embarks over a quest no less legendary: this in order to save his aunt, the once-Ilse Witch. Out of the box Terry's talent, he generates figures utilizing persuasive subconscious angst as well as surroundings in huge, wonderful aspect. Just before reading through The High Druid of Shannara collection, however, if a person has not look into the Heritage of Shannara as well as the older books in the series, I would personally can't help but recommend heading back and reading them initially. Finding the degree of history at your disposal whilst reading through all these novels is going to tremendously improve the experience, even though possibly on their own, they may be amazing tales.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2006

    A great legacy continued

    As usual, Terry Brooks effortlessly crafts another masterful, gripping story in the Shannara Legacy. Working now in a world that has a sprawling, deeply rooted history, he spins his tales tirelessly and wonderfully. Penderrin, another Ohmsford but less the prodigy (at least in his own mind) than his predecessors, he embarks on a journey no less epic: this to save his aunt, the once-Ilse Witch. As is Terry's talent, he creates characters with convincing psychological angst and environments in stark, beautiful detail. Before reading The High Druid of Shannara series, though, if one has not read the Heritage of Shannara and the older novels in the series, I would highly recommend going back and reading them first. Having the depth of history at your fingertips while reading these novels will greatly enhance the experience, though even on their own, they are awesome stories.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    A good beginning for Brooks' latest series, maybe not quite up t

    A good beginning for Brooks' latest series, maybe not quite up to par with Voyage but still very entertaining.

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  • Posted September 28, 2011

    Great Read. Terry has done it again...

    The down side (if there is one) is the fact that it takes a trilogy to tell the entire tale. In the day of Sword of Shannara, Elf Stones of Shannara and the Wishsong of Shannara. Each book was a comlete story unto itself. If you get my drift.
    Mr. Brooks still can keep the reader spell bound with his story telling ability. I of course will read all he writes and wait for the next to come out..

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2009

    shanarra series

    i have read all the books up to this point--i love series- when you get to know the characters ,their families, through the generations!

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Jarka Ruus is a great continuation story to the Shannara saga

    Terry Brooks is a master at fantasy fiction. The story draws you in and the writing is superb. I love books where the story goes on, but stays the same. Different characters and settings with familiar themes.
    I would recommend any book Terry Brooks writes to any age group for a little escape to a time when bravery, chivaly and good vs evil consume you.
    I would also recommend Terry Goodkind, Wizards First Rule the ledgend of the seeker series. They have even made a television show based on these books

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2006

    Terry does it again!!

    When I first read the first chapters of this book online, I thought to myself: 'This book is great! I have to get it.' So my parents got this book and the next one in the series, Tanequil, for me. I could not believe how well these books were written! I eagerly await the day when my Shannara collection is complete. (Only 3 books remaining!)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2005

    A Hair Raising Good Read

    Jarka Ruus is the best Shannara book since The Druid of Shannara in the Heritage series. Terry Brooks does a great job in this story to make you believe that the protaganist has no chance at surviving the obsticles in thier way. Read it, you won't regret it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2005

    Great Book!

    I've read all the Shannara and Landover books so far, Brooks is definitely a wonderful author, and hi books are well written. Although the voyage of the Jerle Shannara series was a little slow in pace, Jarka Ruus brings him and his books roaring back to the expected Brooks style. It is undoubtable that Brooks is the 'heir' to Tolkien, and this book is just another example to prove it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2004

    A must read for Shannara fans

    This is a wonderful story filled with emotion and thrills. It's a book that will engulf you in the magical tales of Shannara.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2004

    Another good one from Terry Brooks

    I have to say that this book isn't as good as some of the others i have read of his, but in itself it is very entertaining and like the others i couldn't put it down. It had me completely caught up in the story and is a great book to pick up for fantasy fans

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2004

    As fun as the previous books!

    Ok, I'll be frank. If you're just an avearge reader, this book really isn't that great to read. Terry brooks has the same formula all over again (problem in the exposition, Ohmsford+Leah/Rover comes to solve problem, travel through majical lands, endure hardships on journey to problem, reach problem and find several plot twists, problems not solved) Yep. This is about the same pattern he's had in every 'first' book of any of series he's written. If you're like me, an avid fan, and a person who doesn't mind these cliches, then book is as great as any other Shannara book. You see, I think of these book as enetertainment, kind of like some Hollywood Blockbuster movie with dozens of cliches but nevertheless fun in the end if you don't mind the pattern. Overall grade is 93 for exciting plot, vivid lands, etc. Note: I do not like some of the characters this time, only Grianne is back, everyone else is new.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2004

    Very Enticing, But Has a Variety of Flaws

    The story in itself is quite interesting. Like always, Terry Brooks wonderfully depicted the new areas of travel and the magic that goes alone with it. A lot of recurring characters appear and do not disappoint you. It is the newer ones that give a skeptical outlook. The Dwarf that accompanies Pen had a rather large appearance at the beginning, but hardly had any showtime at all later on. Whether or not he will become revelent later on remains to be seen, but as he is in a company of small numbers, and is rarely mentioned, it is somewhat odd. Secondly, it is rather etchy on the topic of Pen's love choice and the actions he took to acquire it....I hope that is reconciled in the future as well. Other than that, it's a thrill to see how Grianne, a person of whom we've seen developed through a series of three books, pits herself against the creatures of the Forbidding. The plot itself is wonderful, even though it has a tendancy to be repetitive. In this book, Brooks shows us characters that have long been seen as extremely hard to picture and comprehend....you will not be disappointed in how he portrays them. Other then a few considerable faults, which could possibly be redeemed smoothly later on, it is a good read for Shannara fans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2004

    Leaves you wanting more

    I am an avid Terry Brooks fan, and was extrememly excited when I saw this release. It has all the makings of a great story with a very ambitious plot. Unfortunately, it only skims the surface. All of the characters seem underdeveloped with some of the more interesting ones left out or making an early departure. The characters are also lacking the richness that their predecessors have had and are frustratingly nieve, especially Grianne considering her history as the Ilse Witch. The brief visit to the Forbidding is enough to wet your appetite for book 2, but unlike most of the previous books in the Shannara sagas this one feels unfinished and leaves the reader pushing away from the dinner table still hungry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2004

    Another Hit

    I have to say, Terry Brooks outdoes himself again. This book was well written with an intriging plot and quality characthers. (That was for all you intilectuals.) In other words, this book was awsome! I highly recomend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2004

    It's okay but only if you have nothing to do.

    Ok, I really like Terry Brooks and all, but I think he's getting into that stage where writers keep writing for a series that should have ended already. The original series and Heritate were my favorites. In the third series, you can start seeing some OBVIOUS patterns that are here again in this book. Pen is so completely stupid that it's unrealistic. He can't pay attention to anything that's going on, nor can he obey clear and frank directions. Maybe it's just me, but the characters in this book just can't compare to the old ones. After reading Jarka Ruus, I'm no longer wildly excited about any new Shannara book that's coming out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2003

    Amazing but Flawed

    This book is AMAZING!!! I loved it and I have read EVERY single book that this man has written, and they were all GOOD!!! Though I really would like to see a Druid last more than one series, and Like in Jarka Ruus Brooks had the perfect opputuntity to make Pen and Bek the heros of the story!!! Also, I really didn't like the fact that he killed off Ahren Elessidil!!! He was one of the more dymanic Characters!!! Mr. Brooks, PLEASE add more to these books as in plots and characters!!! And For once can we not have some guy ohmsford fall in love with a girl where she kisses him 'hard on the mouth'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2003

    Loved the story, didn't like the cast.

    I'm a huge Brooks fan and I've read the first 2 series at least 3 times, and his new one once. So, I'm an addict. However, I have to agree with the other review about a redundant story structure. Overall, I love where the story is headed, but the individual books are getting repetitive. I just dont want Brooks to fall into the Robert Jordan category of having 5 or 6 great books and then running out of new ideas but continuing to write book after book (Is he ever going to finish Wheel of Time?). This was a great read, I just didnt feel involved with the cast as much as other Brooks' novels. So with this element missing, I thought it was lacking something very important. Hopefully Brooks will return to his writing style where you actually feel bad when a person dies. I dunno, mebbe I'm just rambling...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2003

    Not very satisfying

    Don't get me wrong, I am a huge Brooks fan and have read all of his books, but lately his Shannara series is starting to get a bit tiresome. His first triology was the best, without a doubt--Elfstones is one of my ultimate favorites. Wishsong was okay too although he killed off 2 of my favorite characters, Allanon and Garet Jax. But after those the plot just became too predictable. It seems to me he's gotten in the habit of writing formulas--the typical young hero, uncertain, afraid, with limited magical abilities, helped by a cast of vastly more powerful supporting characters must complete a quest that seems impossible. And Brooks delights in killing off nearly all of his magic wielders, begining with Allanon, Walker, Bremen, Ahren and probably Grianne too by the end of this series. That is really irritating. Just once I'd like to see a Druid live through more than 1 series. If they're so powerful, how come they're killed so easily? This time around he gives us Pen and Khyber, yet we don't get to see them do much with their abilities, Pen in particular, who seems more intent on kissing with Cinnaminson than anything else. I don't really understand the attraction there, she seems like a lackluster character. Khyber, who seems like a strong character at first, doesn't really do much either, even though she's supposed to be a Druid apprentice with some pretty good magic. And the old story line of the young hero sneaking off without his parents permission is overused. Just once I would like to see both previous and new characters in the series work together to defeat the evil things--it would be much more interesting and add more depth to the characters relationships with each other. Grianne is an interesting character and the parts with her were well done, but overall I'd say Brooks needs to interject some new life and plot lines into the story, he's getting way too predictable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2003

    I Want More!

    This edition sets-up the story-line for the next release. But, I still love Brooks

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