Entertainment Weekly published an interview with author Terry Brooks this week in which he announced that the quadrilogy of books he’s currently writing will be his last in the world of Shannara. These final four books will mean that Brooks will have written 32 novels in that world over the course of more than 40 years. The first, Sword of Shannara, was released in 1977; the final book should be published in 2019 or 2020. The second book in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara, was produced as a TV series by MTV; a second season of the show is due to premiere next summer.
It’s rare to have a book series span that kind of time frame–a literal lifetime for many readers. For many of us, the books have been such an integral part of our lives that it’s going to be hard to see it go. Below are a few of my thoughts on them, followed by GeekMom Samantha Fisher.
My best friend in seventh grade was a boy named Al. I think I sort of remember his last name, but not really, which is why I’ve never been able to track him down on social media, even though I’ve tried. (And believe me, I’ve tried.) Anyway, for Christmas that year–it would have been 1982 or ’83–my friend asked that I get him a novel he’d heard about but hadn’t read: The Sword of Shannara. This being the early ’80s, I had to go to a bookstore in the mall (Waldenbooks, to be specific). But in the day or so between my mom taking me to the store and buying the book and me wrapping it and giving it to Al, I picked it up and started reading, since I was curious why my friend wanted it. And I was hooked.
The book’s author, Terry Brooks, isn’t a Stephen King-like prolific author who seemingly pumps out a book or three every hour. But thankfully, he also isn’t George R.R. Martin, either. Instead, Brooks steadily, reliably writes one book a year. While he has done a few other things over the years, including the novelization of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the vast majority of those annual novels have existed in the world he first introduced with 1977’s The Sword of Shannara.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Brooks on more than one occasion when he’s toured to do book signings. I’m actually quite proud of the fact that almost all of my copies of his books are signed. I’ve met other authors, and other celebrities, but few have been as gracious and generous as Brooks. No matter how big the crowd, no matter how many books he has to sign, no matter how many other signings he’s done before this one or has yet to do on this tour, he always takes a few moments to chat with whichever fan is currently standing in front of him.
My favorite story of these signings was from one of the early ones, at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. (The old one in Cherry Creek, for you Denverites.) I had a new copy of whichever latest book he was signing, but I also had my original copy of Sword. It’s a paperback, with a spine broken in multiple places, the corners of pages turned down, the cover coming off (you can see it in the picture above). I sheepishly handed it to him, apologizing as I did so for the book’s condition. And his reply has always stuck with me. “That’s okay,” he said. “I actually prefer signing these. This is a book that you’ve obviously loved. And that means a lot to me.”
The Elfstones of Shannara was my first fantasy novel. I found a battered paperback of it in a box of books I’d bought sight unseen at a yard sale when I was a young teen and, from the first chapter, I was hooked. It was the start to a lifelong love of all things fantasy, and I’ve never looked back. I read that book several times before I was able to get my hands on more books in the series, reading The Sword of Shannara several years later, then The Wishsong of Shannara. I’ve read all of the Shannara books by now and some were not the best novels I would ever read, but many of them were quite good and each one I read brought me back into the first fantastic realm I ever entered and fanned a little that flame of excitement all over again.
I know the saying “all good things must come to an end” is true. But this series seems more an institution to me than a thing and I am saddened to see it end. I will treasure each of my memories of that land all the more now that I know the final book in the series is being released. And I will look forward to what Terry Brooks has for us in the future.