Terry Brooks hasn’t written about the kingdom of Landover for 14 years. But this fall he has dropped by for a short visit with Mistaya Holiday, the mostly human princess of the realm. For those who don’t remember or weren’t around as the series began in 1986, it all started when depressed millionaire Ben Holiday answered a come-on in a Christmas wish book advertising a magic kingdom.
In Magic Kingdom for Sale (Sold) Holiday discovers that the ad is not a ruse, and he buys the kingdom. In the first novel and the four ensuing books, Holiday interacts with a host of fantastic characters, many of them stereotypes, but some really fun and original. The saga kind of ran out of gas with Witches Brew in 1996.
The following year saw the publication of Running with the Demon, for my money, the author’s finest novel, and the Word and Void series commenced, followed by six more Shannara books and then the Genesis of Shanna trilogy, which combined Shannara with Word and Void.
When Brooks wrapped up that story line, it seemed the perfect time to spend a whimsical year in a fairy kingdom, and, thus this year’s offering, A Princess of Landover.
Mistaya is fifteen years old and her father, the King, thinks it is time she learned a bit of what life is like in other worlds, so he has sent her to a girls’ finishing school in New England. Unfortunately, the Princess doesn’t fit in well with the other girls, and she has just been sent to the office of the headmistress for harassing one of the students (she made a dragon appear and sent the poor child into hysterics). Mistaya is suspended from the school and makes her way back home through a secret passage to confront her father and mother, a supernatural Landover native.
In their first none-too-pleasant meeting nothing much is settled. But after discussing the problem with his advisors, one of whom is a talking dog, Holiday decides it would be a good idea to let his daughter continue her education by reorganizing the long-neglected Landover library. Rather than succumb to her parents wishes, Mistaya, in typical petulant teenager fashion, runs away.
Eventually, after several adventures with some quarrelsome gnomes, a very special cat, and various other fantastical beings, the Princess ends up at the library after all. There she meets some nefarious characters and a handsome boy. Count on romance and other kinds of magic occurrences in this lighthearted tale.
There is always a problem in presenting a new book in a series that has been on the shelf for a long time. Most readers have forgotten what took place nearly a decade and a half ago. Obviously, this is a good opportunity to reread the original books. But what of new readers and those who don’t want to take the time?
Authors are left with three choices: they can just start the new adventure and hope that readers will be willing to accept it; they can provide a short summary in the form of a prologue; or they can try to blend in enough back story in the new book that former readers will remember and new ones will be able to figure out what is going on.
My preference is for the prologue. With nothing to go on, I have tried to read books in mid-series and given up because I don’t know what happened at the beginning. With some background I might have continued.
Terry Brooks chooses to blend in details from earlier novels as he narrates A Princess of Landover. This works reasonably well, but, at times, it detracts from the flow of the story. And fans who remember the first five books well or have recently read them, will probably find this tactic annoying. I can hear them saying, “Get on with it.”
By the time the next Landover novel arrives, Brooks will be faced with this problem again. He will probably go back, but he is not sure when yet.
In a recent Email interview he told me his future plans: “I will be writing a two-book set next for Genesis of Shannara. One is complete and I am writing the second now. After that, I will either write something in the future of Shannara or write something new. I’m not talking about what that is yet, but I’ve been thinking about it for some time. I have to see how I feel when I get there.
“There are no plans for another Magic Kingdom book right away. Unless they green light the movie in the next year, but there is another fantasy I’m not ready to buy into (just yet).”
Note: On October 14, Terry and Chris Paolini (Eragon) will be doing an online chat at suduvu.com from 7:00-8:00 EDT (that’s 5:00-6:00 Mountain Time—we Denverites never get any respect). According to the publicity release, “The authors will discuss the worlds of fantasy, film, and literature and take questions from fans.” The authors have been friends since Brooks invited Paolini to attend invited him to attend Maui Writers Conference several years ago. How could you not be friends with someone who invites you to come to Maui?
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly in the paper since 1988. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools.