Much as I love this genre and enjoy Brooks' expository, soul-searching style, it takes a lot of faith to go on reading his books when they all begin sounding the same. A mysterious, reclusive druid covers distance in amazingly short time to recruit reluctant members to go on an equally mysterious and vague quest to recover/destroy ancient and powerful magic items that this world is seemingly brimful of. The questors will be the resident Ohmsford, his best friend/sibling, a Dwarf, an Elf, a Borderman, the Druid, and possibly a bunch of Elven Hunters to provide fodder for the various denizens since Brooks cannot afford to sacrifice the main characters, even if they are useless.
I liked this in sword of shannara but brooks has worn this strategy a bit thin. The characters are cardboard cutouts that appear comical even in grave situations. Its only the Ohmsford and the Druid that are developed and interesting because their characters have a direct impact on the plot. This is the essence of Brooks' problem. Most of his characters contribute nothing to the plot. For example, take Panax the dwarf. He does NOTHING! He doesn't even get off the airship until Castledown. Mostly you can't even remember he's there. Yet he was handpicked by Walker to go on the quest. And does anybody find it funny how the Elven Hunters are named and described moments before they are ripped mercilessly apart by a sudden explosion that miraculouly does not affect anybody else. And somehow the Hunter's companions are always helpless to prevent it.
It is the quest itself that holds the reader to the story. The airship is an interesting and innovative touch. The adventure is suspenseful and there is sufficiently enough going on to keep the reader's attention at all times. There are hints that the world before the Great Wars was close to ours and its interesting to see our technology from Walker's viewpoint. That said, I found it annoying that everytime the narrative shifted to Walker's point of view, Brooks would again painstakingly explore Walker's resentment at being secretive, and how he doesn't want it to be that way. Honestly, he could have saved a lot of paper by not repeating how angry everyone is with Walker for keeping secrets and how angry he is at himeself at having to keep those secrets.
For those who have read Brooks before, you can probably enjoy the finer points of his writing, so it is worthwile to read this. For those new to the writer or genre, start with the Landover series that is refreshing and at least different everytime.
Have you ever watched Star Trek and noticed that the security officers tend to get killed? The 20 or so elven rangers in this book keep getting picked off one by one in various mishaps because they are expendable, meaningless characters. If they are not needed, why are they there in the first place? I certainly got tired of the "They all got away from its grasping tentacles except one of the elven rangers. He didn't even have a chance to scream before he was ripped into pieces and the other members of the group didn't especially care." These rangers that die so easily are supposedly expert woodsmen and warriors while the same cannot be said of all the other members who make it out alive every time.
The journey was terribly slow because each time they land on a new island, they wonder if there's any bad dudes there as if to keep me in suspense. Of course there's bad dudes there! Especially with all those extras to kill.
The new Ohmsford character was *gasp* the standard issue boy scout goody goody kid. C'mon, just cause they share a common lineage doesn't mean they all have to be clones.
One of the few redemptive qualities was the character of Truhls Rohk, whose mysteriousness intrigued me. I enjoyed his presence throughout the series.
Oh, yes. There was an awful lot of talk about the mechanics of skyships. For some reason, even the best radian draw lines have a way of snapping ALL THE TIME.
There were some parts where when I almost put this book down and only continued with the series at the recommendation of a friend. The other two books, especially Antrax, are much better.