Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Review - The Elves of Cintra, by Terry Brooks

The Elves of Cintra is the second book in the three book Genesis ofShannara series by Terry Brooks. It is probably classified as young adult because the majority of the characters are teenagers, and the series has as its overarching theme that adults destroyed the Earth, so it is up to children/teens to save it.

A review in The Age of the first book in the series, Children of Armageddon, caught my interest. As readers of this blog would be aware, I am a fan of apocalyptic fiction, so a novel set in an environmentally and technologically ravaged US was bound to catch my attention. The review suggested the book was slipstream – a combination of fantasy and science-fiction - but I have come to the conclusion that the series is fantasy, tending towards high fantasy, with guns replacing swords.

As in the first book, the second novel’s action is split between a number of different groups who are destined, if they survive, to meet up somewhere in the third book. There is a group of homeless kids being lead by a Knight of the Word in his solar powered SUV; a young Elf, who holds the key to the future of the elves survival, his tracker sister and another Knight of the Word; and a third group of two children and a huge dog, one of the children being the human equivalent of the young elf destined to save the world.

Chasing after them are demons. The demons control the human world and are mopping up human pockets of resistance while positioning themselves to destroy the elves. The Elves have lived in secret in US forests for centuries and, like in LOR, resisted helping the humans in their fight with the demons.

The first book was all set-up and basically just piqued my interest enough for me to decide to read the second. The second book got more into the action. The novel is basically a good versus evil with the not unusual concept of children finding out they have some skill with magic, then learning how to use it and, I assume in the third book, becoming masters of their magic. This type of story has been written many times and will probably be written many more. So why did I enjoy it so much?

I like the implication from the books that humans destroyed the environment under direction of demons, so environmental destruction is evil. This doesn’t imply humans had no freewill in the destruction of environment, it just means that they rolled over and did what evil told them to do.

I could also empathise with the characters, marvelling at their resilience and their hopes for the future even thought everything around them had been totally stuffed by the greed of adults. It seems, with our current lack of action on climate change, that children in the future might have to overcome similar massive obstacles to survive.

The second book is better written than the first. I didn’t find myself regularly thinking “not another cliché”, either in simile or stereotyped character, like I did while reading the first book. What I found most pleasing about the second book was the various trials of the three groups being brought to a mini-conclusion: Brooks resisted leaving all three groups in very nasty situations. They still have alot to do to survive and win, which I have no doubt they will, but I am still looking forward to pulling the third book from my shelves and reading it.

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