I’ve never been a fan of Shannara. From the very first books, it seemed to me not only an obvious copy of Tolkien, but a fairly weak one. After a couple of books in the series, I gave up. I liked a few of Brooks’ other books – the first Landover books, before they got tired, and thought the first of his Word & Void series was adequate, but didn’t see a reason to follow on.
Obviously, many others have disagreed. Brooks has sold a lot of his Shannara books, and turned the series into a complex world. Unfortunately, it’s still not one I like very much. This book, the third in a sub-trilogy, takes place long after the original books, in a time when magic and science attempt to co-exist. However, Brooks’ attempt to graft steampunk onto his Tolkien-inspired magic universe doesn’t work, especially with tools that are only thinly disguised from their real-life inspirations.
Content aside, I’ve always thought of Brooks as a decent writer. Here, however, he seems to hardly even try, with what feels like rote deployment of tropes and techniques. Most of the book is an uninspired and slow-moving chase. Things proceed almost entirely as expected, even when the detail of the events is thinly credible at best. I can recommend this only for existing Shannara fans.