The High Druid of Shannara Trilogy (2011) is a Fantasy omnibus of the High Druid subseries in the Shannara sequence. It contains Jarka Ruus, Tanequil, and Straken. The initial work in this sequence is First King of Shannara.
Jarka Ruus is the first novel in this subseries. A decade after the events of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, Grianne Ohmsford has fulfilled the wishes of Walker Boh and the other Druid shades by founding the Third Druid Council with herself as Ard Rhys. Ignoring some heated objections, she has welcomed people of all races into the Council. Many persons with magical talents have come to learn and to disseminate such learning among the Four Lands.
Despite these accomplishments, the High Druid has some heavy problems. Many on the Council and elsewhere cannot forget that she was once the Ilse Witch. Conspiracies are forming within the Council itself. Moreover, the leader of the Federation fears her and plans her downfall and the Elf King blames her for the deaths of his grandfather and father.
Grianne refuses to listen to advice from her closest associates regarding the conspirators, for she is afraid that she will revert to the persona of the Ilse Witch. She has turned her back on her previous behavior to the extent of denial of even reasonable suspicions and precautions. As a result, she is caught in a magical trap that transfers her to Jarka Ruus.
When she disappears, the conspirators move to take over the Council. Tagwen, the High Druid's administrative associate, leaves to find her brother, Bek Ohmsford, but instead gains the help of Pen Ohmsford, the teenage son of Bek and Rue Meridian. As Tagwen and Pen flee the conspirators, their airboat is blown into the land of the King of the Silver River, who saves them from their pursuers and sets them on a quest to rescue Grianne from her exile. Pen worries about his role in this quest, for he has only a minor magical talent, but apparently his abilities are the key to the release of his aunt.
Tanequil (2004) is the second Fantasy novel in this subseries.
Dunsidan returns to his quarters to relax, but his guard captain knocks on the door to announce a visitor. Etan has something to show the Prime Minister back in his lab. Dunsidan watches him use a series of diaspon crystals to produce a powerful beam of energy. Dunsidan immediately puts him back to work on the weapons.
Shadea receives a note by message bird from Wye. He says that the Galaphile was destroyed and that Terek Molt and Ahren Elessedil are dead. He is tracking Pen. Shadea shares this information with Rowan and Wence.
Later Rowan and Wence inform her that the spies have found Pen's parents. They are camping in the Eastlands. Shadea sends Rowan to bring back Bek and Rue.
Tagwen, Pen and Khyber are aware that Wye is hunting them in the Rover airship Skatelow. Pen knows that Cinnaminson had been alive earlier and may be on the Skatelow. He insists on trying to separate the thing chasing them from the ship so that they can steal the airship and free Cinnaminson.
Their plan goes awry. Khyber sees the thing ignore the stuffed cloaks and go after Tagwen and Pen. Wye is scurrying faster than they can travel. Then a moor cat attacks the twisted man.
Khyber runs toward the Skatelow. Pen and Tagwen manage to board the airship. Pen takes the airship up, but Wye catches the rope ladder. Physical efforts and a bit of magic dislodge the anchoring pins and Wye falls away from the airship.
Pen searches the Skatelow and finds Cinnaminson. He releases her from the gag and bonds and then holds her while she cries for her murdered family. They try to be strong for each other.
Rowan finds Bek and Rue. He tells them that Grianne has vanished and Pen has gone into the bush with Tagwen and Ahren. The Ohmsfords agree to return him to the Druid Keep on their airship. Both distrust the big Druid.
The next morning, Bek calls the wishsong and searches the lands. He hides a small ripple, but later rechecks that spot. As he brings his hands back toward himself, they pass over Paranor and the scry pool boils and then geysers up into the air. Bek is knocked down by the erupting waters.
Straken (2005) is the third novel in this trilogy. Pen travels back from the Tanequil to the bridge, only to find that his friends have been captured by Gnome Hunters. The Druid leaders, Truant Rowan and Pyson Wence, try to talk him into surrendering and Pen agrees provided that his companions are released without harm. After all, he still has to get back to Panador with the darkwand.
Khyber Elessedil hides on another of the ships returning to Panador. She wears a Gnome Hunter cloak and forages through the ship only at night. She is seen once, but distracts the Gnome and glides away before he can identify her.
Grianne makes an agreement to take Weka Dart back to her world if some way can be found. He releases her and removes the conjure collar from her neck. They slip away through the tunnels beneath Kraal Reach. The journey is interrupted only once, but she uses the wishsong magic to destroy a Graumth chasing them; she is frightened more by the strength and insistence of the magic than by the Graumth.
Bek Ohmsford and Rue Meridan escape from their cells with the aid of Trefen Morys, a young Druid faithful to the Ard Rhys. They sneak through Druid's Keep to the courtyard where the Swiftsure is moored. Trefen's companion Bellizen has prepared the airship for launching, but first the escapees must pass through the deadly arrows and bolts shot by Gnomes on the outer walls.
Pied Sanderling rallies the Elves after the fire launcher destroys their airships and kills the King and his sons. Driven from their fortifications, the survivors withdraw into the hills. There Pied sets up an ambush and defeats the Federation pursuers. Then he leads his Elves east to the enclave held by Varden Wick and his Free-Born troops.
Shadea a'Ru comes to believe that all her henchmen are failing in their responsibilities. She is surrounded by shirkers and losers. If she wants it done right, she must do it herself!
This subseries contains many familiar trappings of the Shannara series, including the wishsong and the Elfstones. There is even a cameo appearance by the shade of the Warlock Lord. However, the realm of Jarka Ruus is new scenery to the reader, with the High Druid stranded amidst dangers only mentioned in old legends.
Grianne and Shadea have similar experiences with untrustworthy subordinates, but Shadea seems incapable of learning anything from her failures. Grianne, however, shows her ability to adapt by changing the Druid Order.
This trilogy ends in a rather muddled way. The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy ended in much the same open-ended manner. However, it leaves plenty of room for another subseries, which may answer some outstanding questions. The following installment in this sequence is the Legends of Shannara duology.
Highly recommended for Brooks fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of various magics, political intrigue, and a touch of romance. Read and enjoy!
-Arthur W. Jordin