Is there a certain book, author, series, genre that you love because of the time or place that you were introduced to it? What circumstances external to the actual story can contribute to a reader's experience, good or bad?
This has been on my mind since I read a book recommended by a friend who randomly found a paperback copy of the book (Shake Down the Stars) while she was living in Alaska for a time, and the story of the discovery seems to add to the romance of it--(but that may just be melodramatic me, I didn't ask if that's how she feels about it). My love for the Shannara series by Terry Brooks began my senior year of high school when it was recommended to me by Jeremy T. who was in my art class--and who, as you may have guessed, I had a little crush on, but woe was me, he was in love with Natalie or Natalia or something like that :-(. I got over him, but continued to read the series as new books came out, and am now trying to read the ones I missed while I was busy populating the earth with my offspring. And Brooks is still adding to the series with The Gypsy Morph, third of the Genesis of Shannara trilogy, due to come out in August.
Whatever influence the (romantic?) circumstances of my introduction to this fantasy world filled with elves, swords, and druids, I find that these are the books I turn to when my purpose in reading is to unwind or relax. I think it takes me back to those carefree days of high school, unrequited love notwithstanding.
Which leads me to the review of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, a trilogy including Ilse Witch, Antrax, and Morgawr. I am even more brain dead then usual, and my eyes are actually crossing as I look at the computer screen, so I am quoting material from Brooks' website for summaries:
When the mutilated body of a half-drowned elf is found floating in the seas of the Blue Divide, an old mystery resurfaces. Thirty years ago, the elven prince Kael Elessedil -- brother to the current king -- led an expedition in search of a legendary magic said to be more ancient, more powerful, than any in the world. Of all those who set out on that ill-fated voyage, not one ever returned...
Until now. For the rescued elf carries a map covered with mysterious symbols only one man has the skill to decipher. That man is Walker Boh, the last of the Druids. But someone else understands the map's significance, someone dark and ruthless: the Ilse Witch, a beautiful but twisted young woman who wields a magic as potent as his own. She will stop at nothing to possess the map -- and the magic it leads to. To stop her, Walker must find the magic first.
So begins the voyage of the Jerle Shannara. Aboard the sleek, swift airship are an elven prince; a Rover girl; a monstrous creature part man, part enigma; and a young man named Bek Rowe, who may unknowingly hold the key to the success of the mission -- or to its cataclysmic failure. Now, as old secrets come to light, sowing seeds of mistrust and suspicion among the crew, the Jerle Shannara flies into the face of unknown terrors while the Ilse Witch and her dark allies follow, waiting to strike...
Now in Antrax, as the crew aboard the airship Jerle Shannara is attacked by evil forces, the Druid’s protégé Bek Rowe and his companions are pursued by the mysterious Ilse Witch. Meanwhile, Boh is alone, caught in a dark maze beneath the ruined city of Castledown, stalked by a hungry, unseen enemy.
For there is something alive in Castledown. Something not human. Something old beyond reckoning that covets the magic of Druids, elves, even the Ilse Witch. Something that hunts men for its own designs: Antrax. It is a spirit that commands ancient technologies and mechanical monsters, feeds off enchantment, and traps the souls of men.
With the Jerle Shannara under siege and Antrax threatening the bold and unwary, the Ilse Witch finds herself face-to-face with a boy who claims to be the brother she last saw as an infant. Now a young man, Bek wields the magic of the wishsong and carries the Sword of Shannara upon his back. Unsure whether to trust Bek or to slay him, the Ilse Witch takes him prisoner. One has come pursuing truth, the other revenge. Yet both seek Walker Boh with the fate of the Four Lands hanging in the balance.
Now in Morgawr, the quest at last draws to its climactic conclusion, as the forces of good and evil vying against each other to possess an ancient magic race towards an explosive clash--and whatever fate awaits the victor... and the vanquished. Harrowing confrontations with the merciless Ilse Witch and the monstrous Antrax have already taken their toll on the intrepid heroes of the Four Lands. But their darkest adversary now snaps at their heels, in the form of the Morgawr--master of the Ilse Witch, feeder upon the souls of his enemies, and centuries-old sorceror of unimaginable might.
And the most eloquent review I can give right now is that I really, really liked all three. They include the same good versus evil story lines, but introduce some new themes about redemption and forgiveness. I found them to be a bit more gruesome than the others, but nothing too bad.