Series: The Defenders of Shannara #3
Publisher: Del Rey (May 24, 2016)
Length: 352 pages
My Rating: 2.5 stars
The Sorcerer’s Daughter is the latest installment in The Defenders of Shannara series by Terry Brooks. Each novel a self-contained story with the same group of characters, chronicling their life struggle over years not days or weeks, but able to be fully enjoyed without any prior knowledge of the other thirty-two Shannara stories. It even has a stronger young adult lean to it than past books with a more modern tone, relationship diversity, and angst front and center. All of which means Defenders is tailored made to be accessible to new fans drawn to it by MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles.
As the title declares, The Sorcerer’s Daughter’s main character is Leofur, who just happens to be the daughter of the rogue sorcerer Arcannen Rai; this mysterious villain having been the center of attention for two books. Lefour herself first introduced in The High Druid’s Blade, where she played an important role in the story of Paxon Leah. She quickly disappeared thereafter, only mentioned in passing in The Darkling Child. Now, though, she is back, having reentered Paxon’s life as his life partner between books. The two of them residing in the Druid’s Keep to allow Paxon to continue his duties as the High Druid’s Blade. Leofur’s time spent attempting to heal Chrysallin, Paxon’s emotionally scarred sister, from the damage done by Arcannen as well as help train her in the use of the wishsong.
The seemingly peaceful contentment of Leofur’s new life is an illusion however. Paxon’s long absences and her feelings of being unneeded slowly building a wall between the couple. Only the strong bond between Leofur and Chrysallin holding things together. And when someone kidnaps Chrys, Leofur immediately leaps into action, assuming her father is up to no good yet again. Her drive to save her friend causing her to seek out aid from other residents of the Druid’s Keep, then set out to track down Paxon’s sister herself, because (as usual) he is off on an important mission with the Druids. But even the sorcerer’s daughter is not prepared for the dangers (both physical and emotional) she is about to encounter.
Oblivious to both Leofur’s unhappiness and his sister’s disappearance, Paxon Leah is in the human Southlands, leading the security force protecting the Druid’s delegation to a grand summit of peace. His hopes that the growing rift between the two lands can be bridged, but his every instinct telling him that something horrible is going to occur. As in someone dies. Or lots of someones die. Or even worse. And when his foreboding begins to come true, Paxon is no more prepared for what is about to happen than Leofur.
On the surface, The Sorcerer’s Daughter seems to have every essential requirement for a compelling young adult fantasy. Strong female lead. Sensitive yet oblivious male lead. Young adult couple in love but with problems. A tragic event followed by a daring mission. Unexpected treachery. Action and adventure. A brewing love triangle. Philosophical commentary about life. Diverse relationships. A steampunk-esque world. Flying crafts. Magically powered guns. Arcane beings. Twists and turn. And a surprise ending. But even with all those things going for it, this book was merely an “okay” read, missing the mark for one important reason: characters.
For me, interesting characters is the key feature of every good, or great, novel. You have to have them or even the most amazing plot will die a quick death. Without someone to empathize with or like, there isn’t any burning need to see what happens in a story. And, unfortunately, The Sorcerer’s Daughter really struggles in this most important area. None of the characters here really leaping off the pages at you. All of them fairly one dimensional, cookie cutter individuals, who react exactly as you expect without any variation. The lack of investment in their fates causing all the adventure to be fairly pedestrian affairs; none of it capturing your attention or causing you to want to keep flipping the pages to see what happens to them. And the worst of the lot were our two main characters: Paxon Leah and Leofur.
Paxon Leah was especially disappointing for me, because he had shown a lot of personal growth between the first two books. The dissatisfied country boy from book one transformed into a dedicated, young man in book two, one who is committed to a cause, self-assured in a non-arrogant way, and willing to brave dangers to help advance that cause. In this novel though, Paxon has turned back into a very one dimensional good guy, who never gets upset, never shows any real emotions, never seems out of his element no matter the crisis thrown at him, and never has a clue what is going on inside his life partner’s head. This portrayal of him not ringing true at all to me, especially because all the emotional trauma which supposedly caused this regression is not shown in this narrative. Rather, it is related to the reader through Lefour’s very self-centered recollection of it, which brings me to our main character.
How can one describe Leofur in this novel? Unlikeable. Self-centered. Needy. Annoying. Overpowered. I could call her other names, but the simple fact is reading about her was as cringe worthy as listening to someone scratch their nails across a chalkboard. Her every word, action and thought amazingly irritating. As the tale went along, I really questioned how I had liked this person when she appeared in The High Druid’s Blade. There she was confident, interesting, and helpful. But now she was none of those things, though she constantly tells herself otherwise in her internal monologue. Eventually, I ceased to care, praying the focus would shift back to the one-dimensional Paxon, where, at least, the action was fairly non-stop.
The Sorcerer’s Daughter is another step in the evolution of the Shannara series; the transformation of this classic fantasy into a more modern, steampunk-esque story gaining speed with every novel. Leofur’s time in the spotlight is a very logical progression of The Defenders of Shannara, as it attempts to entice fans of MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles into becoming frequent readers, and while it delivers in main ways (plot, world building, action), the characters were the main stumbling block for me, especially our resident sorcerer’s daughter who turned from a rising star into a falling meteor.
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.