For over 30 years, Terry Brooks has been entertaining readers of fantasy with the epic tales of the world of the Four Lands and, specifically, of the family line of Shannara. Within the many pages of histories he lays down, fans have followed the Third War of the Races, trans-oceanic quests, and have been taken back to our modern world and seen its destruction and transformation into the Four Lands. With THE MEASURE OF THE MAGIC, Brooks completes the Legends of Shannara duology and continues to show the melding of the Old World into the world of the Four Lands.
"Brooks still regales the reader with a sense of wonder, mystery and magic. He just keeps doing it better."
The book picks up exactly where the prior installment, THE BEARER OF THE BLACK STAFF, left off. Sider Ament, the aforementioned Bearer and wielder of the power of the Black Staff, is dead. With his dying breath, he has given possession of the Black Staff over to Panterra Qu, a young Tracker. Panterra, though, doesn't know how to unlock the power of the Staff. Time is not on his side, however. The Elf king of Arborlon has been assassinated, and Trolls are massing for an invasion. Elsewhere, Panterra's companion, Prue Liss, is desperately trying to find her way back to safety. Trolls hunt her, but if that were all, it would be bad enough. Coming in their wake is a darker and more sinister foe: The Ragpicker, a Demon bent on locating magic. In particular he seeks the Black Staff, and whomever happens to possess it will fall under his assault.
The main storyline Brooks weaves with Panterra is extraordinarily fun. The tension is ramped up as Panterra struggles to understand the Staff and how to control it. Throw in the mystery and the conspiracy surrounding the death of the King of the Elves, and you have more than enough excitement and intrigue. The scales tip further with the pursuit of the Demon. What you're left with is a page-turner full of action and magic. Watching Panterra earn his stripes as the newest Knight of the Word is worth the adventure alone.
Brooks has written dozens of books in the Shannara line, and they are bricked into snippets of time with gaps between the installments. That actually serves this duology well. It would not be impossible to pick it up and begin to immerse oneself in the world of Shannara. There's enough of a gap between these and the pre-history and post-history that from here you could easily slide in either direction. At the same time, a reader would not be lost in starting with this two-book segment.
Over the past several books, Terry Brooks has really come to take charge of his craft, to hone it and refine it. While still immensely entertaining, he has found a way to make his work more literary. But it never loses its soul. With THE MEASURE OF THE MAGIC, Brooks still regales the reader with a sense of wonder, mystery and magic. He just keeps doing it better.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on August 25, 2011