The book cover for 'Magic Kingdom' didn't look very promising to me, but I was inspired by its reviews, its comical premise, and the fact that Terry Brooks wrote it--hey, one of fantasy's best supposedly, though I never really made it through the first book of Shannara. The name itself suggests a fun, light-weight, humor filled adventure and that's what I went in expecting.
I was disappointed. Almost all elements of Landover follow standard fairy-tale cliches. Granted, that is pretty much what was promised, but the book did little to make up for its lack of originality, in humor or otherwise. It's actually quite serious and dry, and too much of it is just plain boring. Sometimes I found myself taking in the words as quickly as possible without bothering to visualize the scenes or soak it in, just to get on with it. Strange since usually when a book doesn't interest me I'll hardly finish it, I guess in this case, like Ben, I was stubborn.
It starts slow enough, introducing us to Ben Holiday's normal life preceding the purchase of Landover, and doesn't really pick up that much once he moves into the Kingdom and we are introduced to his four companions: bumbling wizard Questor, the talking dog squire Abernathy, and a couple of fierce monkeyish warrior kinda guys.
One major gripe I have is that Landover feels so barren, like endless plains of uninhabited earth. For the most part it fails to give us a sense of a real, living world. "Where are all the people?" I asked myself at one point. There was no sense of things happening, until of course the fivesome journey forth to wherever they must be for the story to progress and people seem to appear. At some points you'd think they're living on the moon or something.
It's really the last 100 pages that save my impression of the book, it turns into a real page-turner with some surprising and captivating elements. The character of Strabo the dragon is awesome, very well done, my favorite in the entire book. Most of the characters throughout are quite well done I think, if not outstanding. I take that back. They serve their purpose I should say, though some of the scenes between them strike me as cringe-worthily melodramatic. Let me quickly inject a complaint that the constant quibbling of Questor and the dog wore swiftly thin. I didn't care much for Willow, she seemed thrown in just to serve the "necessary" romance portion, which I didn't care for at all. It's forgivable since it wasn't the focus of the book but it was pretty straightforward and cringe-worthy. Throwing in a fairy-tale creature more-or-less reserved for Ben just seems like the easy route, and it kinda annoyed me adding to the "substanceless fantasy" feel. For being the only other female character can't say I'm too impressed.
Now I realize this review is starting to drag on so I'll sum it up. Terry Brooks still has work to do to esteem himself in my eyes, from what I've read of him he doesn't strike me as that creative and his writing lacks that... grandeur. I will pick up book two of this series because, even though it's far from the best out there, somehow it managed to keep me reading to the end and I came to enjoy Landover and its tiny group of mismatched characters. I wish to stick around a little longer.