I’ve been a reading fiend lately—my new library card is beginning to wear down under the abuse. I’m trying to catch up on several years’ worth of not-having-consistent-time-to-read, and have especially been trying to reacquaint myself with both what’s new and what classics I haven’t read from the genres I love. Because of this, in the last two weeks I’ve found myself reading two different books that are set on an Earth so post-apocalyptic as to be unrecognizable. These books are both ostensibly fantasy—they include magic items, fantastical locales, and creatures of legend—but the fact that they’re supposedly set on our Earth gives me pause. If there wasn’t magic before the apocalypse, where did this magic come from?
Fantasy is big money now. Everyone is looking to the hefty fantasy tomes of the past for inspiration for the next Game of Thrones, with mixed success. The appearance of Terry Brooks’s world of Shannara on the small screen thanks to MTV is just one example of this.
When I first heard that the show was being made, I decided it was time to finally reread The Sword of Shannara, the 1977 book that introduced me to Brooks’s expansive world, and which I first read in my grade school’s library. Real life intervened, however; a season of the show has come and gone, and I only just sat down with my battered old copy of the book last week. Unfortunately, my reread left me mostly confused and concerned for the tastes of my elementary school self, as The Sword of Shannara is an odd mix of utter tedium and story beats lifted directly from its more celebrated contemporary, The Lord of the Rings.
Spoilers for the novel below.