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The Sorcerer's Daughter (Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks
Cover Artist: Bastien Lecouffle Deharme
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345540829
Date: 24 May 2016 List Price $28.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Read an excerpt / Show Official Info /

When a meeting between the Druid Order and the Federation goes horribly wrong, Paxon Leah faces getting the surviving Druids to safety. Meanwhile, his sister Chrysallin has been kidnapped, with only Leofur (daughter of sorcerer Arcannen Rai) and a mysterious tracker to help.

In The Sorcerer's Daughter, Terry Brooks closes out the Defenders of Shannara trilogy. Paxon, now under the guidance of new Ard Rhys (High Druid) Isaturin, is in charge of protecting the Druids as they meet with their longtime enemy: the Southland Federation. Peace between the two would bring tremendous benefits, which is why Arcannen Rai--sworn foe of both--will do all he can to destroy these peace talks.

Paxon leaves Chrysallin, only just starting to recover the use of her wishsong magic, in the care of his life partner, Leofur. The two young women forge a strong bond in Paxon's absence, one that is put to an ultimate test when Chrysallin is kidnapped. Seeking any aid she can find, Leofur ends up trying to convince a stablehand named Imric Holt to help her quest. Once she discovers why he is so reluctant to do so, she realizes that his help will come at a very heavy cost.

Chrysallin, meanwhile, is in the custody of a hellish witch, who seeks to play games and toy with her hopes. Deprived of her voice (and its magic), she is forced to wait and see what tomorrow might bring: death or renewed slavery in the hands of Rai.

A catastrophic betrayal ends with the Druids fleeing the capitol city of Arishaig, stealing a flying vessel and keeping barely ahead of the city's soldiers. A terrible storm forces them to crash and continue on foot, even as the Federation's own security chief, Fero Darz, leads a small fleet in pursuit. Paxon is concerned by Isaturin's own shellshocked demeanor, as the group is winnowed by predators and hostile terrain, but has no time to consider the problem. Aided by Miriya, a warrior Druid, and the oracular Karlin Ryl, Paxon tries to keep everyone alive--but the appearance of a terrible demonic force is devastating, as is a harrowing transition of a cliff side.

Leofur and Imric find they are not as unalike as they first thought. Leofur had to discern her father's mercurial moods, while Imric discovered as a child that he was under a death sentence of sorts from his own father. His remarkable magic gives him the ability to do many things, but he needs Leofur's help to keep it reined in. It is this struggle that becomes the core of their story, as they get closer to Chrysallin but farther from the lives that brought them together.

Ultimately, Paxon makes a stunning discovery that changes everything, Arcannen Rai stands at the precipice of all his dreams coming true, Leofur makes a decision that will save or destroy Imric, and Chrysallin has one chance to trust her magic or forsake it. In each case, the fate of many rides on the choices of the very few...and the stakes are high indeed.

With a narrative split three ways--Paxon, Leofur, and Chrysallin take turns being viewpoint characters--the story could easily falter into confusion but Brooks is far too skilled a writer to let that happen. If anything, the interweaving narratives support each other, by contrasting motivations and dangers. Paxon, Leofur, and Chrysallin have very different journeys to make and Brooks creates a sweeping story where all does not go according to plan for anyone.

Oddly, this book breaks from several traditions and patterns Brooks has established in past tales. Readers may find themselves surprised at the emotional ambiguity of the ending, with a story where the empowerment of one character especially changes the equation for all rather drastically. If you have become used to the Shannara books ending in a certain way, this will be a bracing surprise.

I found myself liking The Sorcerer's Daughter a great deal, given how Brooks is taking some chances and breaking away from what might be his comfort zone as a writer. It's a great experiment, and even better to see an established, bestselling novelist ready to try something different. In my opinion, this is the best Shannara novel in quite a while.

Highly recommended.

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