Tor.com content by

Aidan Moher

Fran Wilde’s The Jewel and Her Lapidary is a Rough-edged Gem

Fran Wilde’s The Jewel and Her Lapidary opens in the wake of pure chaos. The king is dead, and his greatest lapidary, a sort of sorcerer who can control the kingdom’s great magic gems, has betrayed everyone he knows and loves. The Western Mountain forces, led by their ferocious Commander, Nal, are arriving en masse, an invasion so large that the remaining people of the Jewel Valley have no choice but to surrender. The Star Cabochon, the last gem remaining to the Jewel Kingdom, and the only thing with the power to save (or doom) the people of the valley, is missing. Lin, heir to the throne, and Sima, her lapidary, are imprisoned, threatened by death, or worse, if they do not turn the Star Cabochon over to Nal.

If that sounds like a lot to take in all at once: it is. There’s a tremendous sense of tension and frenetic anxiety as the Jewel Valley is invaded and Lin and Sima recognize the betrayal that has occurred—but rather than being pulled into the story, I felt pulled under, drowning in details and struggling to keep up with the various politics, social complexities, and personal conflicts. A story must start with conflict, always, but conflict also requires empathy from the reader if they’re to invest in the story. Because Wilde throws us right in the deep end without water wings, I found myself focusing more on my inability to stay afloat—to understand the political and magical implications of the Western Mountains’ invasion of the Jewel Valley—than the personal journeys of Lin and Sima.

[Read more]

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 53 and 54

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to the final installment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, the the Dagda Mor was defeated in an epic final confrontation between the Elves and Demons, and the Ellcrys was reborn at great cost!

This week, the Elves begin to rebuild, Eventine passes away and Ander becomes King, Allanon disappears into the darkness, Wil mourns the loss of a friend, and Eretria finally gets what she’s been after.

[Click to become King of the Elves]

Series: Rereading Shannara

MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles is a Modern Take on an Old Classic

It might have taken decades for Shannara fans to finally get their hands on a screen adaptation of Terry Brooks’ classic fantasy series, but it took only a few hours for them to devour the first four episodes (available now on the official website) and begin debating its merits online and around the water cooler. The Shannara Chronicles, which debuted on MTV on January 5th, is an adaptation of Brooks’ second novel, The Elfstones of Shannara, regarded by many readers as his finest work. It might seem odd to begin with an author’s second novel, but, as I discuss in Rereading Shannara, it’s actually the perfect introductory point for new fans to the series.

As a tried-and-true Shannara fan, with a close personal history with Elfstones, I was particularly keen—and concerned—for this adaptation. There’s a lot to be excited about, of course (Brooks’ character-driven narratives are perfect for television, and Elfstones is a terrific story), but also some areas of concern (MTV? Really?) So, as I’ve learned to do over the years, I approached The Shannara Chronicles cautiously but optimistically.

[Click to summon the magic of the Elfstones]

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 50-52

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s installment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, Amberle woke the Bloodfire, and Perk came to the rescue as night fell over the Wilderun.

This week, the Elves prepare for their final showdown with the Demon army, the Dagda Mor is defeated, and the Ellcrys is reborn!

[Click to become the Ellcrys]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 48 and 49

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s installment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, the Witch sisters met their fiery end, Amberle woke the Bloodfire, and Wil defeated the Reaper with the help of his friends!

This week, Amberle wakens the Ellcrys seed, and Perk comes to the rescue!

[Click to bathe the Ellcrys seed in the Bloodfire]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 45–47

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s installment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last Week, the Eventine was attacked by a close friend, Ander stepped into the spotlight, Mallenroh stole the Elfstones, and Amberle was reunited with Wil and Eretria.

This week, the Witch sisters set the world aflame, Hebel lives, Amberle wakens the Bloodfire, and Wil faces the Reaper!

[Click to throttle Wisp]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Waking the Giant: Rereading Leviathan Wakes

It’s been just four-and-a-half years since James S.A. Corey — a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham, author of The Long Price Quartet and The Dagger and the Coin (both fantasy series), and Ty Franck, who was George R.R. Martin’s personal assistant at the time the series debuted — released his ‘debut’ novel, Leviathan Wakes, to both popular and critical acclaim.

Leviathan Wakes was nominated for both the Hugo and Locus Awards, and, with each subsequent volume of The Expanse, the series’ fan-base has grown larger, cementing it as one of Orbit Books’ best selling series. Corey immediately won over fans clamouring for accessible and hip science fiction. While it owes much inspiration to the golden age of Science Fiction — from Poul Anderson and Judith Merril, to Arthur C. Clarke and Alfred Bester — it’s also undeniably modern, featuring a rich, diverse cast of characters, relevant politics, and a snappy prose style that’s perfect for tugging readers from one chapter to the next even in this age of distractions.

[Click to poke the Protomolecule]

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 42–44

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s installment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last Week, Cephelo stole the Elfstones, Wil got them back, the siege of Arborlon began, and we had our first glimpse of Mallenroh.

This week, the King is attacked, Ander comes into his own, Mallenroh desires the Elfstones, and our trio of heroes are reunited.

[Click to whittle a man and his dog]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 38-41

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s installment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, the Elven army limped into Arborlon, the King awoke, and Amberle and Wil met an old foe and a new friend.

This week, the Elfstones are stolen and regained, the siege of Arborlon begins, and Mallenroh makes a dramatic entrance.

[Click to pry open Cephelo’s hands]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 35–37

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s instalment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, Amberle and Wil discovered that Grimpen Ward is just as dangerous as they were led to believe.

This week, the Elven army limps into Arborlon, the King awakens, and Amberle and Wil meet an old foe, and learn about the location of Safehold.

[Click to wake up Eventine]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 33 and 34

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s instalment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last Week, the Forbidding collapsed, the Crown Prince fell, Stee Jans saved the day, and the true Demon army revealed itself.

This week, Amberle and Wil discover that Grimpen Ward is just as dangerous as they were led to believe.

[Read more]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 30-32

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s instalment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, the Free Corps arrived, the Elves marched from Arborlon, we learned of Stee Jans’ heroic past, and the Forbidding threatened full collapse.

This week, the Forbidding collapses, the Crown Prince falls, Stee Jans saves the day, and a new threat shows its face.

[Click to lift the Ellcrys staff]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 27–29

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s instalment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, the company dwindled, the Reaper stalked the Pykon, Amberle and Wil met a Wind Rider, and the Ellcrys gave a gift to the Elves.

This week, the Free Corps arrives, the Elves march from Arborlon, and the Forbidding threatens full collapse.

[Click to have Allanon give you a hint]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 23–26

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s instalment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last Week, a Chosen faced her destiny, and the quest for the Bloodfire began in earnest, and a trap was sprung at Drey Wood.

This week, the company dwindles, the Reaper haunts the Pykon, Amberle and Wil meet a Wind Rider, and the Ellcrys gifts a staff.

[Click to hug Crispin]

Series: Rereading Shannara

Rereading The Elfstones of Shannara, Chapters 19-22

Welcome, readers of Shady Vale, to this week’s instalment in our reread of Terry Brooks’ classic epic fantasy, The Elfstones of Shannara. If you’re unfamiliar with Elfstones, Brooks, or this reread, be sure to check out the introductory post, in which we all become acquainted.

Last week, the King of the Silver River pulls Amberle and Wil from the fire, they have a heart-to-heart, Artaq disappears, and a love triangle finds its third point.

This week, a Chosen faces her destiny, the Ellcrys speaks, and the quest for the Bloodfire begins in earnest.

[Click to pick up the Ellcrys seed]

Series: Rereading Shannara