cover image The Stiehl Assassin

The Stiehl Assassin

Terry Brooks. Del Rey, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-553-39154-1

The penultimate chapter of Brooks’s venerable Shannara epic fantasy series (after 2018’s The Skaar Invasion) doesn’t suggest that the wrap-up will justify fans’ investment. Both the storyline and characters fail to engage, despite the high stakes involved, as the people of the Four Lands try to fend off an invasion by the Skaar, whose own homeworld has been devastated by climate change. The hopes for salvation rest with one boy, Shea Ohmsford, and a weather-changing machine distractingly named Annabelle. The action centers on Druid Drisker Arc and his allies—who include his apprentice, Tarsha Kaynin—as they search for Shea. The highly derivative nature of the story is exemplified by the opening scene: as Tarsha avoids being killed by her brother, who’s wielding the magical Stiehl blade, Drisker works some magic that will feel all too familiar to Star Wars fans. The shift from Tolkien pastiche in the series’ early years to the current style, which is ersatz George R.R. Martin complete with political betrayals and beheadings, does not feel organic. Shannara seems poised to go out with a whimper. (June)