Tag Archives: terry brooks

The Shannara Chronicles Ruined the Book

ShannaraНавес из дерева своими руками

Well, not everyone thinks so. But the split seems to be that readers of the book hate it, and those who haven’t read it don’t mind it. Just like Legend of the Seeker.

Not like Game of Thrones. With Game of Thrones, not only do readers and non-readers alike love it, but a great many readers like the TV series better. So what’s the difference?

Staying true to the story. Although Game of Thrones has been embellished, at the heart of it, it remains true to GRRM’s plot. It is an excellent adaptation of the books.

The Shannara Chronicles is more… ‘inspired by’ The Elfstones of Shannara than it is an on-screen adaptation.

Oh, how can I list the ways in which this TV show just ‘makes shit up’? (that’s technical jargon by the way—oh, also, spoiler alert if you haven’t read the book and intend to do so, or haven’t watched the series and intend to):

Dagda Mor

I only made it to the fifth episode before I got over the ‘just making stuff up’ thing, but I persevered out of some weird obligatory feeling.

So what did I like?

Well, they changed Amberle. She was a bit whiny and pathetic in the books, so I’m totally on board with empowering her and making her more interesting. Her motivations didn’t really stack up all that well in the book.

The Dagda Mor. I loved the way they made him look. I am not sure how I would have imagined it, but it will now always be just like this.

Allanon was commercially acceptable, if not exactly as described.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

Allanon

And the thing I absolutely, absolutely hated? This is the one that broke the show for me too.

The Reaper. In the TV show, it’s more like the Horseman of War from Sleepy Hollow, or even bit like the Balrog in Lord of the Rings. That’s kind of cool and impressive and visually exciting, but it’s not right.

You know what the Reaper should have been? More like Predator.

This thing is a natural-born killer. You don’t see it, not ever. People just die. One minute they are there, and then they are gone. You don’t see it, but you know it’s there. You know it is stalking you. You know it is coming for you.

And you know you can’t stop it.

It was the scariest and creepiest thing in the whole book, and they ruined it.

Game of Thrones has shown us how it should be done, so why are people still breaking good fantasy books???

P.S. As a side note, there are scenes where you can see that the weapon props clearly don’t have anything resembling an edge on them! You couldn’t cut a loaf of bread with Eretria’s knife, much less someone’s throat.

Fantasy Writer and Lawyer: Oxymoron or Perfectly Natural?

Fantasy Writer and Lawyer: Oxymoron or Perfectly Natural?

A significant number of people have remarked it’s an unusual combination to be both a fantasy writer and lawyer. Others, who perhaps have more first-hand experience with the field of law, think it’s perfectly natural. 

Some of you may have now jumped to the conclusion that lawyers always deal with fantasies because lawyer means liar. Believe me; I’ve heard all the clichés. I enjoy a good lawyer joke. In fact I admit to being partial to this one:
An Engineer died and went to see St. Peter.

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t let you in,’ says St. Peter.

The engineer instead goes to hell where conditions are atrocious. After a while, the engineer started to make improvements. He added an escalator, running water, and after a couple of months even air conditioning. Of course eventually God heard about the changes down below. God phoned up the devil and explained that a mistake had been made and the engineer would have to be moved up to heaven.

“No, I don’t think so,” says the devil.

“This is your last chance. Send that engineer up here or I’ll sue you!”

The devil laughed “Ha, where are you going to find a lawyer?”
But as funny as the good jokes are, the tired old misconceptions wear thin real fast. And it is a common misconception that lawyers are liars. 

I’m not going to go into the role lawyers play in the justice system except to say lawyers are officers of the court. A lawyer’s first duty is to the court, even before their duty to the client. A good lawyer doesn’t lie and a good lawyer won’t behave dishonestly in the defence of a client. I won’t say there aren’t lawyers out there who do neither of those things. The point is they’re not supposed to and there are plenty who maintain that standard. I have personally refused to act for clients who lied to me about their activities in breach of the law. Last year I tried to fire a client who wanted me to act in a way I considered unethical. Fortunately – or unfortunately – the client saw the error of his ways (after only three abortive attempts by me to fire him!).

So what is the connection between fantasy and lawyers? It’s not that lawyers are creating the fantasies, oh no. It’s the clients who come to us with their fantasies! If you were so inclined you would have endless inspiration. If nothing else, the profession leaves you with a good sense of human creativity. 

Terry Brooks – lawyer and fantasy writer
My personal favourite was not a client of mine but was described to me by a colleague. This client used what she called the ‘heart of heart’ tests. If he believed in his heart of heart that the company wasn’t doing anything wrong, then they could go ahead and do it – even if strictly speaking it was breaching some law. I expect a lot of things were OK in his hearts of hearts! I sympathise with my colleague. Keeping that client on the straight and narrow was a full-time job!

A client of mine came to me seeking an appointment to a regulator-sanctioned position. It requires the person to be of good fame and character. I won’t tell you his name, but let’s call him John Smith. When I asked him about his industry experience (in selling life insurance, no less) he proudly declared he was the number one seller. While John waxed lyrical about his achievements I privately considered how the regulator might view someone who achieved high sales at the expense of his clients. 

Shortly afterwards I saw an advertisement for an air conditioner. It said something to the effect of ‘We make the most air conditioners’. I immediately thought of my client, John. Having more of them doesn’t make your product better! The fantasy that it does I now call the ‘John Smith school of thought’. 

I have had any number of other deluded clients. Clients who think they don’t have a conflict of interest when they are remunerated by the insurer to advise the insured. Clients who think regulators give a sh*t about their high-flying but totally irrelevant qualifications. Clients who think we overcharge (ha! They should see what they charge at the big-end of town).  Clients who think it’s OK to say one thing and do another. Clients who think I can magically divine their intention or facts about their business and I should just work in isolation without ever pestering them. Clients who think I can do things by yesterday or by 5pm today when they ask at 4pm. 

I got news for them. That ain’t fact. That’s fantasy.
 
In fact, here is a list of 8 lawyers who became science fiction or fantasy writers. I even only knew of one of them! But there are others floating around, I’ve read a few ‘About the Author’ blurbs for authors who were or had been lawyers. 

So there you have it. Law and fantasy are not all that incompatible after all, although on my most trying days I certainly wish they were!


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Fantasy Horses – Gypsy Gold Does Not Chink or Glitter

Fantasy Horses

My post on the types of ‘so-called’ dragons and other fantastical reptilian creatures was well-received so I thought I’d do a series of posts devoted to the various traditional creatures of fantasy. If you missed it, please do stop by A Dragon By Any Other Name.

This is the second post of this series, devoted to fantastical equines of all kinds. I admitted to being a crazy dragon lady. I’m also a little bit of a crazy horse lady. Of course, it’s much easier for me to find a horse to ride than a dragon, although I think I would prefer the latter. Some of the horse’s fantasy cousins, though, are not so easy to find. 

So here are the equines of the fantasy world!

Gypsy Vanner
Horse

Yes, the good old horse often features in fantasy. It is a common means of transport, often the fastest short of magic. For some fantasy cultures, the horse is of pre-eminent importance. As the Claddagh Gypsies of Galway, Ireland, say Gypsy gold does notchink and glitter…it gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark” and this is often true of many fantasy cultures as well. Check out this Gypsy Vanner horse! I. Want. Of course if I had one, it would need to be my gold because I would sure be poor. To import one of these to Australia will set you back about A$20,000. It’s a little cheaper to buy one here but we don’t have many breeders yet. 

Unicorn

Traditionally depicted as a horse’s body, with a spiralled ivory-type horn, hairy fetlocks, cloven feet, a beard and a lion’s tail. Surprisingly, it was very difficult to find a picture of this old-school type unicorn (hence the slightly cartoony image we have here). 

Traditional unicorn in the heraldic style
The unicorn has more recently morphed into a more typical horse, with a horn on its head. Sometimes the beard or the cloven hooves remain, and often the hairy fetlocks – after all, feathers on a horse’s feet are beautiful! Just check out the feathering on the Gypsy Vanner above! I wouldn’t want to be washing it though… The lion’s tail often seems to be ditched in favour of a more traditional horse’s tail. I suppose it makes the unicorn more aesthetically pleasing. 

Traditionally unicorns were always white, associated with purity and thus could only be lured by a virgin. These days you will often find black unicorns as well. I admit to being partial to this variety. Pretty…
Belief in unicorns was widespread among historians, alchemists, writers, poets, naturalists, physicians, and theologians until the 19th century. As such it was a part of their natural history and not mythology! It was described as an extremely wild woodland creature. 

Its horn, and the substance it was made of, is called alicorn and was said to have the power to render poisoned water potable and to heal sickness. Alleged alicorns were probably the tusks of narwhals.

The unicorn is depicted in heraldry in its traditional form. It was popular from the 15th century. Though sometimes shown collared, it is more usually with a broken chain attached, showing that it has broken free from its bondage and cannot be taken again.

White and black unicorns feature in Terry Brooks’s ‘Kingdom of Landover’ series. 

More modern unicorn
Pegasus

A horse with wings. Also usually white but now also seen in other colours and varieties. I even found a paint Pegasus while looking for this picture. The fantasy pegasus is based on the Greek myth of Pegasus, who was a winged divine horse, usually white in colour. He was sired by Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by Medusa. Pegasus is a friend of the Muses – and perhaps, therefore, also a friend to writers? He can be my friend!

Pegasus was captured by the Greek hero, Bellerophon. Pegasus allows Bellerophon to ride him to defeat the Chimera (the subject of a later post). Later, while trying to reach Mount Olympus, Bellerophon falls off Pegasus’s back and Zeus transforms him into the constellation Pegasus. 

Pegasus
The plural of pegasus (in the fantasy context obviously, because there was only one Pegasus) is pegasi.

I have used pegasi in my book The Blood Infernal. They are in fact genetically corrupted horses. For the most part their wings are stunted and they are flightless. Pure horses have almost ceased to exist and their bloodlines are jealously guarded. The Rohmani (descendants of our Romany) have traded their gypsy horses for flighted pegasi and breed and own some of the most amazing flight-capable pegasi. 
  
Winged unicorn

Kind of self-explanatory. Typically modelled on the horse-like unicorn, not the heraldic unicorn. As far as I know this one has no mythical origins beyond the fact it is a fantastical hybrid of the mythical Pegasus and the unicorn. She-Ra, Princess of Power, rode Swift Wind, who was a flying unicorn. I desperately wanted one of these when I was a little girl!

Disturbingly, a Google search of ‘flying unicorn’ produced a search result I didn’t know, could have done without knowing, and which certainly isn’t suitable for this blog or any conversation involving children’s cartoons. 
Winged unicorn
Centaur

A human/horse hybrid, featuring the body of a horse and a human from the waist up. The centaur is the subject of Greek and Roman mythology. The exact origins of the myth is unknown but the most common theory is that the idea of centausr originated when the Greeks, a non-riding culture first encountered nomads mounted on horses i.e. that to such a non-riding culture, horsemen would appear as a hybrid man/horse creature. A similar misapprehension by the Aztecs about Spanish horsemen has been historically reported. 
Male and female centaurs

Female centaurs appear later in Greek mythology. The proper term for a female centaur was Kentaurides and they rate a mention in Shakespeare’s King Lear. 
 
The starsign, Sagittarius the Archer, is represented as a centaur. When Chiron, the centaur, was mistakenly killed by Hercules, Zeus gave him this place among the stars. Centaurs feature in Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. 

I have also used centaurs in my book The Blood Infernal. They live in an isolated forest and only appear to come in the female variety. I basically took the mermaid myth – often there are no mermen and mermaids capture sailors in order to make more mermaids – and used it with centaurs. There is a reason, being that it challenges the protagonist’s prudish ways and beliefs. 

While I don’t have as many unicorn statues as I have dragons, I admit to owning a few. People just seem to keep buying this stuff for me… Honest! Now I just need to add a Pegasus and a centaur….
The obligatory dragon…


You can find other posts in mythical creatures series here – DragonsCreatures of the Sky, Mythical Creatures of the Sea – Part 1 and Part 2, and Spirits of Inland Waterways

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Down Memory Lane: The Sword of Shannara

The Sword of Shannara

I don’t recall when I first read the Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks or how many times I have read it now. 

The original cover art in Australia
It can’t have been any later than 1992 because I gave a speech in my final year at primary school (elementary school) about the Shannara books – however many of them existed at that point. I forgot I was supposed to do a speech that week and had to write one in a hurry. I must have been reading the books at the time and it was flavour of the month. 

Like many other books I picked up in my early years, I read these out of order. The Elfstones of Shannara was the first in the series I read and I’m not sure when I went back and read the Sword of Shannara.

This book is very classic fantasy – or you might even say formulaic, but I enjoy it nevertheless. Think Lord of the Rings. Allanon (Gandalf) arrives to rescue Shea Ohmsford (Frodo) who is the only person who can wield (carry) the Sword of Shannara (the One Ring) and is being hunted by Skull Bearers (Ringwraiths). He must take the Sword of Shannara to confront and destroy the Warlock Lord (Sauron). Looks very familiar doesn’t it?

Shea is also joined by a company of heroes to help him along his way, including two elves (OK, we get two of Legolas) and a dwarf (Gimli). We don’t get three hobbit companions, but we do get Flick Ohmsford (Shea’s adopted brother) and Menion Leah (a close family friend of the Ohmsfords and filling in for Aragorn). 

Shea is also superficially very much like Frodo. He comes from Shady Vale (the Shire), an isolated community of hard-working but unworldly people called Valemen (hobbits). He’s never been out into the world and is ill-equipped to defend himself, especially against dark and magical creatures like the Skull Bearers. OK, not the most original name, but this wasa first book and dates back to the 70s. Be kind.

Of all the Shannara books, this is not my favourite. It is possibly my least favourite. Looking at it against Lord of the Rings I now wonder if that’s why. I know it has been criticised for its resemblance to Lord of the Rings. But it is still an enjoyable read, although possibly a bit slow in places. More so on re-reads I think, though it’s been a while for me. It isa first book and I don’t think Brooks’s later books are so obviously unoriginal. Brooks freely admits he was heavily influenced by Tolkien when he wrote this book. 

It is worth reading for the scene-setting it does for the later books – understanding the fact that Shea is a half-elf and the last surviving descendent of the Elven royal house of Shannara. Only a descendant of Jerle Shannara can wield the Sword, and this is important in later books as well. Also Shea is given the blue Elfstones, might weapons of magic, which can only be wielded by those of Elven blood. This also becomes an important plot point later in the series. It’s also useful to understand some of the history. The Shannara series is set in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a chemical or nuclear holocaust. The survivors have warily turned to magic as a source of power in the new world. Science is almost completely shunned, its knowledge lost.

Way cooler cover art! I want this one. Presumably that’s Paranor.
Well, I guess now I’ve told you, you don’t need to read it for those reasons, but reading the book is still a fun way to really understand how these things are important, instead of being just backstory to a later book. I should know. I read the books out of order, remember?

The most intriguing character in my opinion is Allanon. He is the last of the Druids, and he sleeps the Druid Sleep at Paranor, the Druid’s Keep, unless things are terribly wrong in the world. Tough gig, huh? You’d hope the pay is good. 

Unfortunately it’s not. Instead he is the object of suspicion, mistrust and downright hatred in many quarters, particularly human lands. Things are a bit better among the Elves and Dwarves. Flick in particular distrusts Allanon’s motives. He has good cause – Allanon is charged to protect the Four Lands as a whole and sacrifices must be made. 

Despite that, I feel more sympathy for Allanon than Flick. The Valeman is a dour stick in the mud and Allanon is a tormented, conflicted figure of myth and legend trying his best to save a bunch of ungrateful louts who do nothing but ostracise him in return. That takes some serious dedication and qualifies you for ‘way cool’ status in my opinion. He’s also about 7 feet tall and nearly always shrouded in black robes. This is a character who is just awesome without being invincible. 

Allanon is also the only character with a significant repeat appearance in the first three books, as Terry Brooks move onto successive generations of Ohmsfords with each book. If you haven’t read them, don’t panic! I’ve read some books where sequels were significant disappointments because of this, but if there is a master of getting it right, it is Terry Brooks. He masterfully engages the reader in the new Omhsford without making us feel we have lost our connection with the previous ones. 

This isn’t the most original book, and it’s not Terry Brooks’s best book either. When is a first book ever an author’s best effort? I should like to think we all improve with time and I will write about some of his other books in the future. But it is an enjoyable read and if you’re looking for something your kids can read (like my Dad was) this book qualifies. No sex, no drugs, no graphic violence. I’m assuming if you’re reading this blog you don’t have an issue with magical and supernatural themes! 

Oh, one other downside. It has no dragons. Can you believe that? Got Trolls though.