The Black Elfstone is the first book in the Fall of Shannara series by Terry Brooks.
A brief disclaimer up front, this is the first book by Terry Brooks that I have read. I snagged an ARC copy of The Stiehl Assassin to review and so I’m going back and reading the previous books in the series first.
From what I understand, this is the final series in the Shannara timeline, though Brooks himself has not said whether it will be the last Shannara books he ever writes. There is still open opportunity for books earlier in the timeline.
This series is planned to have four books of which two are already published and the third launches later in 2019.
I have been eyeing up this book for some time. That cover is so attractive, it’s been enticing me for far too long. I’m glad to have finally had the opportunity.
Review of The Black Elfstone
The Black Elfstone is a classic epic fantasy adventure in what is sure to be the crowning jewel of the Shannara series.
All right, that tagline is a little grandiose of a statement for someone who’s never read the previous books in the series, I know. But from all of the other reviews of The Black Elfstone that I’ve read, from what I can tell this is a return to greatness for Brooks from what had been a rather lackluster past couple of books.
I’m not speaking for myself there, just telling you what I’ve heard from others.
My own impressions of The Black Elfstone were that it started out a bit bland, but then built as the story went along and actually had been intrigued by the end. I won’t say that I was over obsessed with this book or absolutely had to read it, but it was a solid read.
At times, it seemed a bit too much tell and not enough show. There were plenty of times where Brooks told me about a character and what they were like rather than letting me make my own determination from the way they behaved.
And some of the early action in the story was over in a matter of seconds with a simple statement like “He fired off his magic and three died instantly.”
That type of action is not very fun. In fact, the whole book was surprisingly lacking in action, but that’s all right. I don’t absolutely need action, though it really does help.
Where The Black Elfstone shines is with its characters, which I’ll talk about in just a minute.
The story starts off with Drisker Arc, once the High Druid, now an exile living in a cottage in the woods away from prying eyes. We also meet Tarsha Kaynin really quickly who is a young girl with a special magic called wishsong that is activated by singing.
Tarsha leaves home to find Drisker in order to train her. The problem is, someone wants Drisker dead and has hired assassins to kill him. Tarsha will of course get wrapped up in all the excitement.
But that’s not all, there’s a mysterious group of invaders that has appeared and is wiping out Troll clans in the north. They can make themselves go invisible and can also create images of themselves where where they aren’t.
The Druid order learns about this and really doesn’t do anything, so it’s up to Drisker and Tarsha to figure it all out.
On top of all of that, Tarsha’s brother, Tavo, also has the wishsong, but something is mentally wrong with him and Tarsha is desperately looking for a cure.
I would daresay The Black Elfstone primarily follows Tarsha. This really seems to be about her and not Drisker, though Drisker is important.
When we first meet Tarsha she’s only 12 or something like that. We get the first few years of her life given to us in bitesize form and before long, Tarsha’s parents have sent her brother Tavo away for being too unruly.
It doesn’t take Tarsha long to find out that her brother is being abused by their uncle and she fears he’ll do something dangerous if she doesn’t get him help.
Her whole story centers on Tavo and learning to control her magic so she can use it to help her brother. She plainly cares for her brother and she’s willing to defy her parents and chart off all by herself when she’s around 17 years old or so to find Drisker and beg him to help her.
Through the book, Tarsha is consumed with Tavo, even when there are more important things going on. Whether this is unswerving loyalty or plain foolishness is yet to be seen.
Aside from Drisker, we have another character, Darcon Leah, or just Dar. Dar is the most highly decorated protector of the Druids. Though he doesn’t have magic, he seems to have a better head for politics and strategy than even the current High Druid himself.
This will land Dar in some hot water with the order pertaining to the invaders.
The book was so so. There was times where I felt like giving it up, and other times where it was an enjoyable read.
I liked the character development from our three main characters and am eager to see where the story takes them in the next installment.
But I wouldn’t say this book is one that you need to drop everything that you’re doing in order to read it. It’s not that ground breaking or unique.
The ending, while giving us some minor closure on a few things, really left a lot unsaid and unanswered that left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.
We don’t even find out why the book is called “The Black Elfstone” until the last like 10% of the book. That’s the first time the term is even used.
Thankfully, if you want the most pressing question answered: “Who are these invaders?” Then go read the sample on Amazon as it’s answered in the first chapter of Book 2, The Skaar Invasion.
Since I have an ARC of Book 3, I’ll continue reading, but honestly, if I didn’t have the ARC, I probably would have just left the series alone. Again, it’s a decent read, but not particularly engaging where I have to know what happens next.
I give The Black Elfstone a 3.5/5
If you enjoy The Shannara series, then of course this book is a must read for you. Even if you haven’t read any of Brooks’ previous books, this is a decent place to jump on board.
Update: My review of The Skaar Invasion is live.
Interested in more reviews? Check out my review of The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty.