Terry Brooks seems to thrive in a post-apocalyptic setting. Either that, or his change of venue for the Shannara series has re-energized him a bit. Whatever the case, The Elves of Cintra, the second book in the ďGenesis of ShannaraĒ series (now re-subtitled to indicate that it is indeed a Shannara book) continues the strong qualities of Armageddonís Children. It also revisits the faults of that book, along with being a bit slower and less interesting. Still, itís a pretty good book, and leaves the reader waiting intently for the final volume.
In an Earth that has been devastated by environmental collapse and horrible wars, humans have retreated to enclaves and allowed the monsters and demons to roam. But the possibility of magic still exists, centered on the Elven race which has hidden away in the mountains for thousands of years. A Knight of the Word (the force of Good in the world, as opposed to the Void) named Angel Perez has been tasked with aiding the Elves in finding the mystical Elfstones, lost for those same thousands of years, in an attempt to save the Elven nation by moving it away from this desolation. Meanwhile, Logan Tom, another Knight, has to escort a band of children known as the Ghosts to follow the destiny of their leader (Hawk), who has a much more mystical past than he ever knew about. Destiny looms large in this story, and the various characters must overcome great obstacles and evil to make sure their destiny comes to pass.
You can tell that this is a Terry Brooks book because his style never seems to change. His characters brood a lot, and Brooks regales us with numerous internal monologues as the characters try and decide what to do. Sometimes that decision is taken out of their hands (perhaps because they spent too much time brooding?) and circumstances force them to take an action that they didnít necessarily want to take. Thankfully, Brooks has created a cast of characters that is actually fairly interesting, at least for the most part. Thatís the main saving grace of the novel, as otherwise the book would be quite oppressive.
Headlining the cast is Logan, and his interaction with the children is well done, though I could have done without his constant ďshould I abandon them or should I stay with them?Ē agonizing. I had a lot of fun picturing this ragtag group of children (of all ages) walking behind this extremely slow-moving vehicle as they walk down what remains of the I-5 around Seattle. Even better was the confrontation with the rogue Knight and how heís forced to do something he doesnít want to do in order to survive. Yes, coming to that decision becomes exceedingly annoying, but once he gets there, the writing shines.
As for the rest of the cast, probably the best I can say is that theyíre better than Brooksí story people usually are. I liked the interaction between Angel and the Elves, and while the identity of the Elven traitor is obvious from miles away, itís still told in an interesting fashion. Brooks also provides us with flashbacks for those Ghosts whose story he didnít tell in Armageddonís Children, but since there are fewer, they donít get as irritating. Also, they are quite varied and interesting, with some details regarding how the children became who they are. Two missteps, however, mar the otherwise good characterization. First, Panther is too much the stereotypical hothead, though itís nice that heís beginning to learn something as the book goes on. Secondly, Hawkís girlfriend, Tessa, is little more than a cheerleader, somebody who seems to be there only to encourage Hawk to do what must be done. I hope Brooks builds up her character in the third book, or she could become exasperating.
Once again, Brooks is the master of the action scene. There are a few more fights than in the first book, and Brooks writes them in a riveting fashion. He also manages to capture the tense atmosphere when one of the characters is sneaking around. Itís enjoyable to have much of the action take place in a desolate Seattle and its environs, and Brooks does a good enough job of description that itís easy for somebody who has lived there to picture the action. This adds to the readerís immersion, though admittedly it only helps a small portion of his readership.
There are a couple of irritating things in The Elves of Cintra, in addition to the introspection. First, I have trouble believing that the Elves could have an entire city hidden in the dense forests of the Rocky Mountains in Oregon. Thereís probably a magical solution to this, but Brooks makes a big deal of the fact that the Elves donít have much, if any, magic left. The Ellcrys, the tree that keeps the demons of old locked up in the Forbidding, may shelter the city, but Brooks never says (or if he does, itís in such a passing manner that I missed it). That much of a heat source would have been picked up long before the environment destroyed everything. Secondly, the pace of the book plods at times. Itís not too bad, but itís enough that I started to lose interest a couple of times. Iím not an action junkie, but Brooksí rendition of the slower scenes didnít always keep me entranced.
Still, I have to give Brooks credit. The Elves of Cintra is almost as strong as the first book in the series, and itís definitely good enough to warrant finding the third book when it comes out. He also avoids heavy-handedness with the environmental message, letting the world speak for itself and only occasionally actually mentioning the calamities that created the current world. Thatís another thing in the bookís favor, and I heartily recommend it for any Brooks fan. Even the non-Brooks fan may find something of interest here; itís just a lot less certain.