I've been an avid reader of Terry Brooks for a long time, though most of the time his books are more like candy than anything else. He's revitalized my interest in his writing with the "Genesis of Shannara" trilogy, though the final book (The Gypsy Morph) is a letdown after the first two books. The quality of this trilogy rapidly deteriorated, and I'm not quite sure why. It's still an interesting read at times, but there are problems with it as well.
The Earth has succumbed to massive environmental damage and the onslaught of demons, and the Pacific Northwest is crawling with them. A young boy named Hawk, who has just found out that he's really a magical creature called a "gypsy morph," has been born and bred to lead an exodus of humans and other creatures to a safe haven before the world as they know it is completely destroyed. Logan Tom, a "Knight of the Word," has been tasked with protecting him. He's also helping Kirisin, an Elf who has to protect the entire Elven civilization and move it to safety before the cataclysm hits. With a demon army on all of their heels, will their quest end before it has a chance to finish as fate intended it?
Brooks' writing hasn't changed a bit throughout the many novels that I've read, and The Gypsy Morph exhibits the same problems: massive character brooding, huge internal monologues that often repeat information we already know, and lackluster prose. Unfortunately, The Gypsy Morph adds a few new hitches as well. The plot is overly predictable, much more so than Brooks usually is. I was surprised only once in this novel, and in retrospect it was something that was truly obvious, thus more astute readers will probably pick up on that one as well.
Also, the book is filled with coincidences that shattered my suspension of disbelief. Characters stumble upon other characters through apparently blind luck (especially egregious is how Simralin just happens to find Logan when she's searching for him, though they are many miles apart). The timing of the final battle is also too convenient, with a character delaying the inevitable just long enough for somebody else to come and rescue them. There's just too much that's "convenient" in this book. Don't get me started on how somebody can fall madly and deeply in love with a character after spending about eight hours with her.
Along the same lines is the over-reliance on "destiny" and the use of magic to move the plot along. Too many times, for example, Logan Tom has an owl guide him to the person he needs to find. Or Hawk has to lead the caravan to their sanctuary, but he doesn't know where it is so he has to be guided by his instinct and faith that his magical power will show him the way. This makes the characters seem like they’re being led around by the author's hook in their noses. None of the actions in The Gypsy Morph (and, in thinking back, the two previous novels as well) seem to come from the characters' free will. Yes, the tactical decisions (how will I fight the demons?) are their own choices, but the decisions as to what needs to be done next on a strategic level are never in their hands.
From the middle of the first book and throughout the second book, there are references to the environmental damage that humans have caused, the lack of proper caretaking of the planet, but the references have been rather mild. In the last few pages of this book, Brooks takes out his "message mallet" and slams it into the reader's face through a long internal monologue (but of course it's internal!) from somebody who hasn't figured in the book thus far. After almost an entire trilogy of letting the setting broadcast Brooks' environmental message, he takes one last opportunity to make sure the reader gets his point. It brings the book to a screeching halt, adding to the annoyance I was feeling as my frustrations were already mounting from due to other problems.
However, Brooks deserves kudos for his action scenes. While he does rely a bit too heavily on the "small force fights a holding action against a huge army to give time to somebody else" trope (he does it twice in The Gypsy Morph), the prose during the fight scenes is excellent. He's also not afraid to kill off characters. While some characters are completely safe (Hawk has the book named after him, for example), many of the characters we have grown to like throughout this trilogy end up dying. You're never sure who's going to survive, and I like that tension.
Logan Tom remains an interesting Knight of the Word, as well as Angel Lopez. The Ghost children are excellently done, though I occasionally had trouble remembering who was who. Sadly, the only character ends up lacking is Tessa, Hawk's girlfriend, Much as in The Elves of Cintra, she feels more like a cheerleader than anything else. Thankfully, she's the only character with this problem.
The Gypsy Morph is not a bad book, just a typical Terry Brooks book with a few more problems than usual. If you find Brooks unreadable, you won't change your mind based on this one. However, it is the weakest book in the trilogy and completes the spiral from the relatively lofty heights of the first book.