A great set of books by Terry Brooks, the author of the Star Wars novelizations among other things.

    Books in the Series:
  • The First King of Shannara
  • The Sword of Shannara
  • The Elfstones of Shannara
  • The Wishsong of Shannara
  • The Scions of Shannara
  • The Druid of Shannara
  • The Elf Queen of Shannara
  • The Talismans of Shannara
I read some of the Shannara books after reading Tolkien, and my impression is that it is pure commercial pap, pandering to the escapist.
The pattern is terribly simple: unlikely hero-big trouble happens-big dude arrives, drags unlikely hero into big trouble-unlikely hero triumphs over adversity.
Repeat with the following generations of unlikely hero's offspring, write a zillion book.

I mean, could we have something that does not quite lend itself so much to formula analisis (and formulaic repetition) ? If I want to read finite state automata I can write myself one based on Propp's work and run it until my CPU explodes.

After all this bitterness, some hope: go and read Gene Wolfe. He is not innocent of the sin of repetition, but at least he is colorful.
The Shannara books are pretty repetitive, but having read them all I did enjoy how subsequent books return to some locations and scenarios from previous books and cast different angles on them. I also like how artifacts such as the elfstones and the sword show up again in later books.

I enjoyed reading the Heritage of Shannara series the most, as I thought it had the most character development of any of the Shannara stories.

However mid-way through the fourth book, The Talismans of Shannara, I realized that what was going on in the plot was really ridiculous. Each of the main characters (and we're talking four or five main characters) had somehow managed to avoid major death at least four or five times over the course of the story. For me, it was laughable how many times each person would come so close to getting killed and then be saved through some miraculous circumstance. This really hurt my suspension of disbelief. Brooks also seems to rely on a small handful of major plot devices, and just uses them over and over again when faced with which direction the story is going to go. After seven books, it gets tired.

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