The Shannara Chronicles

Jeroen Steenbeeke  
I've been a fan of Terry Brooks for a long time, over two decades. I remember walking around the local library when I was 10 or 11, looking for new fantasy books to read. At this point I had already read Lord of the Rings, as well as everything David Eddings had written up until that point (mind you, this was 1993 or 1994, so he was still actively writing at that point).

So there I was, walking along those aisles, when I suddenly noticed a bunch of book covers not all that different from David Eddings' books: Terry Brooks' Shannara and Heritage series (the last installment of which had only recently been released). I remember seeing all those books and wondering "where the hell do I start?", and then figuring out I should start with Sword of Shannara. As I picked it up, a lady, who had been watching me, suddenly spoke up:

Lady: You shouldn't read those
Me, giving her a skeptical look: Why not?
Lady, smiling: You'll never be able to stop reading them
Me: I think I'll be fine
Lady, smile growing wider: Well I did warn you

Well, she was right though. I've read the vast majority of what Terry has written over the years (I haven't gotten around to his most recent releases), and my bookcase has a dedicated Terry Brooks shelf (which isn't even large enough to fit all of his books I own, and a few of them I only have as e-books):

Anyway, fast-forward two decades. I've been following what Terry's been up to on a regular basis, when suddenly I find an announcement that 2nd book Elfstones of Shannara is getting turned into a series, by none other than MTV. My responses, in order:

  • MTV!? WTF?!?
  • At least they didn't start with Sword of Shannara, it's basically Lord of the Rings wearing a different coat (don't get me wrong, there's plenty of original material in there and I quite like the book, but the similarities are quite painful)
  • Hold on, it's being done my Miles Millar and Alfred Gough? The Smallville and I am Number Four guys? This should be interesting (disclaimer: I'm a pretty big Smallville fan and have I am Number Four on Blu-Ray)

In short: my response was part excited, and part skeptical, a feeling that stayed with me throughout the series' production. I hadn't heard of most of the cast members as they were announced (the most notable exceptions being Manu Bennett—who I think is a great pick for Allanon, because he's so not Gandalf—and John Rhys-Davies), but could easily imagine them in the roles they were cast for.

And so production continued, and aside from the occasional tweet on Terry Brooks' Twitter I didn't really keep up with the series. I saw a teaser trailer (and thought it looked awesome), but otherwise didn't really keep up.

And then, earlier this week, the series launched, and I managed to watch the first few episodes. I'm mostly positive about the series, and have been laughing quite hard at some of the remarks made by characters that are foreshadowing of later events, but my most obvious problem with the series is that I'm probably not its intended audience, and it's probably more suitable for teenagers. With that in mind, I think the series is quite promising.

What the series is not, is a 100% faithful adaptation of Elfstones of Shannara. Quite a few things were changed, either to fit the pacing of a series or perhaps for no reason at all. Some changes are quite telling, such as the harmful effects of magic that aren't quite as visible in the Shannara series. The change I liked least:

The Dagda Mor being portrayed as a former Druid. In the books, the Forbidding is older than the Druid Order by several millennia, so having him be a former Druid implies that the Forbidding came into being after the Druids did, or that it can somehow grow to entrap creatures later designated as being demons. But if that is the case, that would invalidate the story from Sword of Shannara, where another fallen Druid (Brona/The Warlock Lord) is causing havoc.

It seems to me that they've added elements of The Warlock Lord's character to the Dagda Mor, even going as far as stating he was corrupted by the Ildatch.

But other than that, I'm quite excited to see how the series progresses. I didn't have quite as much trouble suspending my disbelief of John Rhys-Davies playing an Elf than I thought I would, and target audience issues aside, I'm actually quite enjoying this. The scene where Will first uses the Elfstones actually gave me goosebumps.

And if Mr. Millar and Mr. Gough are ever in need of new material to turn into a series, they can have a look at my Unbound series. They're experts at catering to those books' target audience, and I'd love to see what they'd make of my work.