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The Darkling Child: The Defenders of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Cover Artist: Bastien Lecouffe Deharme
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345540799
Date: 09 June 2015 List Price $28.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Paxon Leah has grown into his role as the Blade of the Druid Order, their protector and guardian. But a young man with a strange (but familiar) magic pits Paxon against an old enemy, and aggravates his own self-doubts. This may be a problem even his magic sword cannot cut through.

In The Darkling Child: The Defenders of Shannara, Terry Brooks continues the story of Paxon Leah. Five years into his tenure as the Druids' champion, he is no closer to helping his sister Chrysallin recover her memories and her magic--both lost in a trauma years past--or to reconciling himself with the loss of a close friend and mentor. But even though times have changed, the mission has not.

A young Druid named Avelene has caught traces of a strong magic employed in the magic-hating Southland. The High Druid bids Paxon and Avelene find this magic and bring it to Paranor, the Druid's Keep.

Meanwhile, musician Reyn Frosch struggles with his dark secret: he holds a power of magic that can entrance...or destroy. The sorcerer Arcannen and his new assistant Lariana set out to find Reyn and use him to gain revenge for an atrocity. However, it soon becomes clear that there's more than one secret in play here, and ultimately the question arises: who is playing who?

When a sneak attack endangers Avelene, Paxon must choose between bad options: chase after Reyn or save the Druid's life? The outcome of that decision helps both heroes and villains toward their destiny, in which the scion of a vanished lineage holds a fateful choice in his hands. When a group of killers closes in, Reyn's values will be put to an ultimate test, even as Paxon discovers a fateful choice of his own.p>

Brooks fields a strong entry with this volume, where the theme is largely "who do I want to be when I grow up?" It's a theme he's visited previously but contrasting Reyn and Paxon makes for sharp contrasts, where he can shade the distinctions more finely than perhaps with other protagonists. Reyn is a youth whose power is much more burden than blessing, while Paxon's magic lies in his wondrous sword. That may be a suitable metaphor for their different needs: Reyn's reflect his heart, while Paxon's reflect his struggles against all the things outside himself.

Arcannen is, fittingly, a complex and interesting villain. He wanted to seize the Druid Order once upon a time, but his fortunes were overthrown by Paxon and now he is hunted, hated and desperate. His refuge among a village of outcasts and pirates ended in horror, such that his driving urge now is revenge against the Federation's Red Slash elite military unit--but he hasn't forgotten his larger ambitions either. Those schemes provide the driving force of this tale, as he wages a one-man war against Dallen Usurient and his soldiers.

Lariana, Arcannen's assistant, is an enigma from the beginning. Her true history is shrouded in deception, until the truth must be told and her honest desires made plain.

As the shape of vengeance, move and counter-move, are revealed, the characters face sharp moral choices and costs for their actions. Brooks displays his authorly skills with great dexterity, while also couching deeper moral questions in this narrative. Is revenge ultimately worth it? What are we willing to do in the name of love or duty? How much is too much to pay?

Darkling Child is a strong addition to the legendary Shannara canon and Brooks' legions of readers will be delighted to share this journey.

Recommended.

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