Legend has it that Paxon Leah is descended from the royals and warriors who once ruled the Highlands and waged war with magical weapons. But those kings, queens, and heroes are long gone, and there is nothing enchanted about the antique sword that hangs above Paxon’s fireplace. Running his family’s modest shipping business, Paxon leads a quiet life—until extraordinary circumstances overturn his simple world . . . and rewrite his destiny.
When his brash young sister is abducted by a menacing stranger, Paxon races to her rescue with the only weapon he can find. And in a harrowing duel, he is stunned to discover powerful magic unleashed within him—and within his ancestors’ ancient blade. But his formidable new ability is dangerous in untrained hands, and Paxon must master it quickly because his nearly fatal clash with the dark sorcerer Arcannen won’t be his last. Leaving behind home and hearth, he journeys to the keep of the fabled Druid order to learn the secrets of magic and earn the right to become their sworn protector.
But treachery is afoot deep in the Druids’ ranks. And the blackest of sorcery is twisting a helpless innocent into a murderous agent of evil. To halt an insidious plot that threatens not only the Druid order but all the Four Lands, Paxon Leah must summon the profound magic in his blood and the legendary mettle of his elders in the battle fate has chosen him to fight.
The High Druid’s Blade (Book one of The Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks is the first book in the second last trilogy of the Shannara series. Reading this novel with that knowledge made it bittersweet. For over a decade now, I’ve been following this series, there’s always been another book to look forward to, another adventure of the Ohmsfords, Leahs, Elessedils, and the druids. However, the world has moved on past the Ohmsfords — a family which has been the focal point for the series, yet, besides for being mentioned in passing, none make an appearance, and they’ve all died, and/or moved away; no longer residing in their homelands. As well, the Leah’s are no longer kings, queens, nobles or have any sort of distinctions such as that either.
That being said, The High Druid’s Blade takes place around 150 years after The Dark Legacy of Shannara, and follows Paxon Leah, a descendant of both the Ohmsford and Leah families. This novel is very much a coming-of-age story, with Paxon being a hero in the making.
My feelings toward this latest installment in the Shannara world are mixed. As aforementioned, this is going to be a bittersweet trilogy to get through. Brooks’ novel was an engrossing read, and he managed once again to make the world seem alive. The High Druid’s Blade is an action-packed read, filled with magic, intrigue, twists and turns (some of which were a tad predictable). In this installment, Brooks’ seems to have taken a step back from the complex plots and instead focuses more on the two main characters — Chrys and Paxon. However, the new villain — Arcannan is wonderfully complex, and I’m hoping we see much more of him in the next two books.
This story in many ways felt like it was targeted more towards readers new to the Shannara series, as well as to those a bit younger. To me, it had the feel of a story on the brink of being YA. While I did enjoy it, for me, it certainly doesn’t rank among my favourites in the series. The first 1/3 or so of the story is pretty slow-going, and it lacks some of the edginess that earlier novels contained (it does have some dark moments though), and seemed to even fall flat at times. It was never boring, just it wasn’t particularly a spectacular read either.
I do believe that readers both new, and those familiar to his prior books will enjoy reading The High Druid’s Blade. Those new to his series should have no issue starting with this book, though, there are many allusions to events in past books.
Already, I eagerly look forward to The Darkling Child (Book two of The Defenders of Shannara), and I’ll undoubtedly be reviewing that as well.
The High Druid’s Blade is set to be released July 8th by Del Rey
I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.