cover image The Black Elfstone: The Fall of Shannara, Book 1

The Black Elfstone: The Fall of Shannara, Book 1

Terry Brooks. Del Rey, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-553-39148-0

The first volume of Brooks’s quartet, which will bring this decades-old Shannara epic fantasy saga to a close, works best for readers at opposite poles: series devotees who are conversant with the lengthy backstory, and newcomers who can focus on the three major plot threads. Two of the three are mysteries: Who is the stranger who seeks out master assassin Tigueron to contract for the murder of Drisker Arc, a skilled druid who left his order? And who are the powerful scarlet-robed forces that can make themselves invisible, massacre an army of mighty trolls, and follow that shocking event with more devastation? But it’s the third, less familiar, story line that works best, and is most emotionally engaging: a teenage girl, Tarsha Kaynin, must deal with her older brother’s violent use of magic and balance her own safety, and that of others, with her feelings for her sibling. The conclusion will have most readers eager for the sequel. Agent: Anne Sibbald, Janklow & Nesbit. (June)