Cover image for First king of Shannara
First king of Shannara
Brooks, Terry.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 1997.

Physical Description:
439 pages ; 18 cm
General Note:
"A Del Rey book."

Reading Level:
910 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.9 30.0 28469.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.9 36 Quiz: 23036 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Mass Market Paperback Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Horrified by the misuse of magic they had witnessed during the First War of the Races, the Druids at Paranor devoted themselves to the study of the old sciences, from the period before the collapse of civilization a thousand years before. Only the Bremen and a few trusted associates still studied the arcane arts. And for his persistence, Bremen found himself outcast, avoided by all but the few free-thinkers among the Druids.

But his removal from Paranor was not altogether a terrible thing, for Bremen learned that dark forces were on the move from the Northlands. That seemingly invincible armies of trolls were fast conquering all that lay to their south. That the scouts for the army--and its principal assassins--were Skull Bearers, disfigured and transformed Druids who had fallen prey to the seductions of the magic arts. And that at the heart of the evil tide was an archmage and former Druid named Brona!

Using the special skills he had acquired through his own study of Magic, Bremen was able to penetrate the huge camp of the Troll army and learn many of its secrets. And he immediately understood that if the peoples of the Four Lands were to escape eternal subjugation they would need to unite. But, even united, they would need a weapon, something so powerful that the evil magic of Brona, the Warlock Lord, would fail before its might...

Author Notes

Terry Brooks was born in Sterling, Illinois on January 8, 1944. He received a bachelor's degree in English literature from Hamilton College and a graduate degree from the School of Law at Washington and Lee University. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a practicing attorney for many years. His first book The Sword of Shannara (1977) was the first work of fiction to appear on the New York Times Trade Paperback Bestseller List. He made the list again with his title The High Druid'd Blade: The Defenders of Shannara. His other works include the Word and Void trilogy, The Heritage of Shannara series, Magic Kingdom of Landover series, The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series, High Druid of Shannara series, Genesis of Shannara series, and the novelization to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

With this volume, Brooks seems to launch yet another subsaga within the larger saga of Shannara, an undertaking rapidly approaching its twentieth anniversary. The story opens at an indeterminate but considerable time after the conclusion of The Talismans of Shannara (1993), with the Druids having abandoned magic (too dangerous) in favor of reviving science (long lost). One renegade Druid believes magic and science are both needed and conclusively proves the truth of this when he needs to face yet another host of the Dark Forces--this time, trolls led by magic-corrupted former Druids serving an archimagical potentate named Brona. The Shannara books continue to contain a singular mixture of classic fantasy elements, slabs of narrative long enough to become boring, and scenes of great power. Fortunately, there are more of the latter here than there have been in many Shannara yarns; Brooks' craftsmanship is undeniably improving. True Brooks fans may still feel that the Magic Kingdom books constitute his most lasting legacy, but there are hordes of faithful Shannara readers out there ready to make this helping sell best, too. (Reviewed Feb. 15, 1996)0345396529Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

You can't find the Four Lands on any map of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth; but, given all the elves, dwarves, warlocks, trolls and gnomes that run rampant in the setting of Brooks's many Shannara novels (The Talismans of Shannara, etc.), readers can be forgiven for trying. Tolkien's influence is so strong in this prequel to The Sword of Shannara (1977), which launched the series, that many of the events here seem predictable or repetitive. Set 500 years before the events of Sword, the novel chronicles the destruction of ivory-towered Paranor and its Druid scholars, tracing the subsequent adventures of the outcast Druid-magician Bremen. With a handful of companions, he must find and hide the Black Elfstone from the Warlock Lord and forge a magic sword for Elven King Jerle Shannara to wield against the warlock. Brooks's prose generates a breakneck pace, but it lacks depth of characterization and also the wealth of linguistic invention that the most satisfying high fantasy offers. As an allegory of the eternal struggle between good and evil, the vital basis of fantasy, Brooks's mythical universe also suffers from a crucial dearth of those magical moments of heart-stopping revelation when, against all hope, against all reason, against all the forces of evil, salvation comes at last. Author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

To defend his followers and escape subjugation from the evil Warlock Lord, Druid Bremen must possess the magical Black Elfstone. Set 500 years before The Sword of Shannara (1977), this latest in the series answers fans' questions about the early history of the Shannara family. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1   The old man just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. The Borderman was watching for him, sitting well back within the concealing shadows of a spreading hardwood high on a hillside overlooking the whole of the Streleheim and the trails leading out of it, everything clearly visible in the light of a full moon for at least ten miles, and he still didn't see him. It was unnerving and vaguely embarrassing, and the fact that it happened this way every time didn't make it any more palatable. How did the old man do it? The Borderman had spent almost the whole of his life in this country, kept alive by his wits and experience. He saw things that others did not even know were there. He could read the movements of animals from their passage through tall grass. He could tell you how far ahead of him they were and how fast they were traveling. But he could not spy out the old man on the clearest night and the broadest plain, even when he knew to look for him.   It did not help matters that the old man easily found him. Moving quite deliberately off the trail, he came toward the Borderman with slow, measured strides, head lowered slightly, eyes tilted up out of the shadow of his cowl. He wore black, like all the Druids, cloaked and hooded, wrapped darker than the shadows he passed through. He was not a big man, neither tall nor well muscled, but he gave the impression of being hard and fixed of purpose. His eyes, when visible, were vaguely green. But at times they seemed as white as bone, too--now, especially, when night stole away colors and reduced all things to shades of gray. They gleamed like an animal's caught in a fragment of light--feral, piercing, hypnotic. Light illuminated the old man's face as well, carving out the deep lines that creased it from forehead to chin, playing across the ridges and valleys of the ancient skin. The old man's hair and beard were gray going fast toward white, the strands wispy and thin like tangled spiderwebs.   The Borderman gave it up and climbed slowly to his feet. He was tall, rangy, and broad-shouldered, his dark hair worn long and tied back, his brown eyes sharp and steady, his lean face all planes and angles, but handsome in a rough sort of way.   A smile crossed the old man's face as he came up. "How are you, Kinson?" he greeted.   The familiar sound of his voice swept away Kinson Ravenlock's irritation as if it were dust on the wind. "I am well, Bremen," he answered, and held out his hand in response.   The old man took it and clasped it firmly in his own. The skin was dry and rough with age, but the hand beneath was strong. "How long have you been waiting?"   "Three weeks. Not as long as I had expected. I am surprised. But then I am always surprised by you."   Bremen laughed. He had left the Borderman six months earlier with instructions to meet him again on the first full moon of the quarter season directly north of Paranor where the forests gave way to the Plains of Streleheim. The time and place of the meeting were set, but hardly written in stone. Both appreciated the uncertainties the old man faced. Bremen had gone north into forbidden country. The time and place of his return would be dictated by events not yet known to either of them. It was nothing to Kinson that he had been forced to wait three weeks. It could just as easily have been three months.   The Druid looked at him with those piercing eyes, white now in the moonlight, drained of any other color. "Have you learned much in my absence? Have you put your time to good use?"   The Borderman shrugged. "Some of it. Sit down with me and rest. Have you eaten?"   He gave the old man some bread and ale, and they sat hunched close together in the dark, staring out across the broad sweep of the plains. It was silent out there, empty and depthless and vast beneath the night's moonlit dome. The old man chewed absently, taking his time. The Borderman had built no fire that night or on any other since he had begun his vigil. A fire was too dangerous to chance.   "The Trolls move east," Kinson offered after a moment. "Thousands of them, more than I could count accurately, though I went down into their camp on the new moon several weeks back when they were closer to where we sit. Their numbers grow as others are sent to serve. They control everything from the Streleheim north as far as I can determine." He paused. "Have you discovered otherwise?"   The Druid shook his head. He had pushed back his cowl, and his gray head was etched in moonlight. "No, all of it belongs now to him."   Kinson gave him a sharp look. "Then ..."   "What else have you seen?" the old man urged, ignoring him.   The Borderman took the aleskin and drank from it. "The leaders of the army stay closed away in their tents. No one sees them. The Trolls are afraid even to speak their names. This should not be. Nothing frightens Rock Trolls. Except this, it seems."   He looked at the other. "But at night, sometimes, at watch for you, I see strange shadows flit across the sky in the light of moon and stars. Winged black things sweep across the void, hunting or scouting or simply surveying what they have taken--I can't tell and don't want to know. I feel them, though. Even now. They are out there, circling. I feel their presence like an itch. No, not like an itch--like a shiver, the sort that comes to you when you feel eyes watching and the owner of those eyes has bad intentions. My skin crawls. They do not see me; I know if they did I would be dead."   Bremen nodded. "Skull Bearers, bound in service to him."   "So he is alive?" Kinson could not help himself. "You know it to be so? You have made certain?"   The Druid put aside the ale and bread and faced him squarely. The eyes were distant and filled with dark memories.   "He is alive, Kinson. As alive as you and I. I tracked him to his lair, deep in the shadow of the Knife Edge, where the Skull Kingdom puts down its roots. I was not sure at first, as you know. I suspected it, believed it to be so, but lacked evidence that could stand as proof. So I traveled north as we had planned, across the plains and into the mountains. I saw the winged hunters as I went, emerging only at night, great birds of prey that patrolled and kept watch for living things. I made myself as invisible as the air through which they flew. They saw me and saw nothing. I kept myself shrouded in magic, but not of such significance that they would notice it in the presence of their own. I passed west of the Trolls, but found the whole of their land subdued. All who resisted have been put to death. All who could manage to do so have fled. The rest now serve him."   Kinson nodded. It had been six months since the Troll marauders had swept down out of the Charnals east and begun a systematic subjugation of their people. Their army was vast and swift, and in less than three months all resistance was crushed. The Northland was placed under rule of the conquering army's mysterious and still unknown leader. There were rumors concerning his identity, but they remained unconfirmed. In truth, few even knew he existed. No word of this army and its leader had penetrated farther south than the border settlements of Varfleet and Tyrsis, fledgling outposts for the Race of Man, though it had spread east and west to the Dwarves and Elves. But the Dwarves and Elves were tied more closely to the Trolls. Man was the outcast race, the more recent enemy of the others. Memories of the First War of the Races still lingered, three hundred and fifty years later. Man lived apart in his distant Southland cities, the rabbit sent scurrying to earth, timid and toothless and of no consequence in the greater scheme of things, food for predators and little more.   But not me, Kinson thought darkly. Never me. I am no rabbit. I have escaped that fate. I have become one of the hunters.   Bremen stirred, shifting his weight to make himself more comfortable. "I went deep into the mountains, searching," he continued, lost again in his tale. "The farther I went, the more convinced I became. The Skull Bearers were everywhere. There were other beings as well, creatures summoned out of the spirit world, dead things brought to life, evil given form. I kept clear of them all, watchful and cautious. I knew that if I was discovered my magic would probably not be enough to save me. The darkness of this region was overwhelming. It was oppressive and tainted with the smell and taste of death. I went into Skull Mountain finally--one brief visit, for that was all I could chance. I supped into the passageways and found what I had been searching for."   He paused, his brow wrinkling. "And more, Kinson. Much more, and none of it good." "But he was there?" Kinson pressed anxiously, his hunter's face intense, his eyes glittering.   Excerpted from First King of Shannara by Terry Brooks All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.