Terry Brooks Discusses The Black Elfstone and The Fall of Shannara


Cover detail from The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks.

The end of Shannara begins today.

Because today is the publication of The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks, the first novel of a four-book set that will chronicle the end of the Shannara series. Brooks has written many Shannara novels over his 40 years of publishing and all of them have been leading up to this moment where he concludes the series that began with 1977’s The Sword of Shannara. It will take him at least four books — maybe even five — to do it with absolute justice.

Brooks has started it off the right way with The Black Elfstone. Set about a hundred years after The Sorcerer’s Daughter, he has returned to the large sweeping stories written earlier in the series. Several points of view. High stakes. A looming threat of devastating proportions. And a cast of characters that are increasingly complex and fraught with peril. If people don’t finish this book loving the Druid Drisker Arc and his apprentice Tarsha Kaynin, I will be quite surprised.

This is also a bittersweet time for Brooks fans. The series has a lasting place in the fantasy genre, those first three novels the first many of us read. I have been an avid fan of his work for almost thirty years. There has always been Shannara during that time.

I decided to ask Brooks some questions about this new series and how he looks at it.

From the Master himself. Read below.

Unbound Worlds: The Black Elfstone publishes today. It is the first book in The Fall of Shannara, a four-book series that will be the chronological end of Shannara. What is The Fall of Shannara about and why was it time to tell this story?

Terry Brooks: If I were to tell you this, I would have to kill you. So unnecessary. So painful. So I will say simply that this four book set is intended to give readers new and old, but especially those who have stayed with me all these years, one last look at the Four Lands and a cast of characters who will write the final story to how things turn out in my lifetime, anyway, for this world. It does not tie up all the loose ends nor does it answer all questions. But it does look forward, it does hearken back, and it does spin one last tale of characters that will hopefully resonate with readers. Much of what you will read will remind you of things that happened in early books and of what I think were my strengths in writing epic fantasy for 50 years.

UW: This story has obviously been in your mind for some time. You have finished the second book in The Fall of Shannara and have begun outlining the third book. Are you happy so far with the work you’ve done in wrapping up one of the most beloved fantasy series?

TB: I am happy with what I have done so far and happy with where I see it all going. There are challenges, of course. Many of them involve changes. There are changes every day in what I thought might happen, but that’s how the creative process works. You plan and then you change. You imagine and then you re-imagine.

UW: Drisker Arc will undoubtedly become a fan favorite, a former Ard Rhys of the Druid Order who now lives in exile. Other Druids like Allanon, Walker, and Grianne are favorites as well. Then there is Tarsha Kaynin, a wonderful wishsong-wielder carrying a great weight of guilt. How do you go about creating such vivid characters? What process does character creation take?

TB: Hard to explain the nuts and bolts of the creative process for any of it, especially the choosing and forming up of characters. I usually start with a plot that splits off into subplots. Then I think about the characters I need to make it come to life. Drisker was there from the beginning and Tarsha shortly after. I wanted to put the Druid Order in peril right from the first. But I also wanted to find a finish to the legacy of the Wishsong. There’s quite a bit of drama coming out of the past. The blue Elfstones – the Seeking Stones – will resurface, along with a number of other talismans, good and bad. An epic war will be fought. Airships and flashrips will do battle with spears and swords and bows and arrows – and don’t be too sure you know which will prevail.

UW: The Black Elfstone introduces a great threat to the Four Lands, one that answers a long-running question with readers. You’ve also managed to tie the book back in several ways to previous Shannara stories. How do you manage to write the familiar and yet write something new in the series?

TB: At the risk of over-simplifying, you write the old in a new way. You give it a sharp twist or two; you reconfigure it. So much of the books will look at recognizable characters – some with familiar names – in order to show how things might have worked out two thousand years later. It’s actually a good deal of fun to play around like this, one of the perks of writing fantasy fiction.

UW: What does the chronological end of the Shannara series mean for you, someone who has spent over 40 years writing in it?

TB: It means I can start writing something else. It means that I have finished what I started all those years ago and don’t have to worry that I will leave readers hanging. It means the grand adventure of Shannara will be over in terms of forward progress and now I can fulfill my promise to go back and finish the pre-history. Onward, ever onward!

There you have it! From the man himself. The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks is published today. You can pick up a copy from your favorite retailer in hardcover or ebook.

The end of the Four Lands begins now!