The High Druid's Blade is a fast paced and fun novel that both younger readers and longtime fans will appreciate. While it lacks the complexities of some of Brooks more recent Shannara series, it is still filled with delicate morsels of intriguing lore and enough references to past events in the series to satisfy any Shannara lover’s sweet tooth and peek a new reader’s curiosity, making them quickly seek out other tales from this world. All in all, what Mr. Brooks has gifted fantasy readers with is just the right kind of feel good fantasy that is sorely missing from bookshelves right now.
The story itself revolves around Paxon Leah, a young man who is tied down by responsibility to his family and doesn’t even realize how much he longs to leave his home and find his own life path. Unfortunately, it takes the kidnaping of his sister, Chrys, for him to realize running the family air freight business is not enough for him.
After discovering that his sister has been taken by Arcannen, a sorcerer of some renown in the Southlands, Paxon impetuously follows without any plan other that to bust some heads and retrieve her. Obviously, that doesn’t work out so well for him. So after the sorcerer departs Leah by airship for the city of Wayford, our young hot-head grabs the only weapon he can get his hands on– the legendary Sword of Leah – and sets off to reclaim Chrys from the den of the enemy.
Once in Wayford, Paxon immediately finds someone willing to help him. He is thus able to infiltrate the sorcerer’s lair fairly easily before confronting his sister’s abductor. The struggle that ensues is brief, obviously won by our impetuous Leah, and Chrys retrieved. The two returning home wiser and more wary but not damaged in any major way.
But that is not the end of it. For the clash between Paxon and Arcannen has draws the interest of the Fourth Druid Order, who decide that someone of Paxon’s pedigree (He is the descendant of the marriage of the Ohmsfords and the Leahs.) should return with them to Paranor and train to become a Knight-errant of the Druids. An opportunity that Paxon is startled by but which opens up a future he never knew he wanted so badly. And so off the bearer of the Sword of Leah goes to the citadel of the Druids for training and service for three years; his new life one of danger and adventure as he travels the lands with druids, protecting their backs while they investigate incidents involving magical relics or sorcerer’s causing issues in the Four Lands.
But wait, Paxon has forgotten about something. Arcannen, the sorcerer from Wayford. That slippery scoundrel isn’t finished with our young Leah – neither of them. Not by a long shot. And soon, he strikes again. To deadly effect. And the real story begins.
Most people, I know, either adore Terry Brooks’ Shannara series or dislike it. Doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. As a wayward reader (I really enjoyed the original trilogy when I read it back in the 1980s but have not tried anything since.) I found this reintroduction to Mr. Brooks’ world both enjoyable and intriguing. One of the major reasons why is that I clearly saw that this is a living, growing world that has definitely evolved since The Wishsong of Shannara so long ago. Plus, I must admit, that the addition of airships, magical guns, and all the rest really hinted at an almost "steampunk-like" setting, which really peaked my interest.
As for the tale of Paxon Leah itself, I know that many of my fellow reviewers have said The High Druid’s Blade is somewhat trite, in that, it follows the same old fantasy pattern of simple boy discovers he has powers he did not know about, receives training, and goes on to greater things. I can’t disagree that Mr. Brooks does indeed use that familiar plot. However, that fact alone does not in and of itself make this a simple story, not worthy of a read. Actually, this straight-forward coming-of-age tale about Paxon quickly evolves into one brimming with Shannara lore, containing much political intrigue, and filled with a lot of foreshadowing for future events. More than enough to keep a reader’s attention and develop this into more than just an old-fashioned fantasy romp.
With all that being said, I do believe this novel was targeted toward readers who have no attachment to Shannara. It reads that way with all its references to past stories. And if Mr. Brooks wrote this tale to tempt people into trying additional Shannara stories, it worked with me, because once I finished this book I immediately dropped by my local used bookstore to see if I could find any other tales from the Four Lands. And lots of new readers or young fantasy fans will most definitely follow my lead and use The High Druid’s Blade as a jump off point for their investigation of the living, breathing world of Shannara.
Netgalley and the publisher provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.