This is a poorly written review I wrote on 6/15/06 of the Terry Brooks book Armageddon’s Children, which was the last time I read a book by Brooks. It was previously published on StaticMultimedia.com. I am posting it here to provide context for my review of the book’s sequel.
Terry Brooks has been a master of modern fantasy since before the genre became popular or widely accepted. Over the years, his Shannara series has offered breathtaking action and epic escapism. His Landover series provided more lighthearted fantasy tales. Less than a decade ago, he wrote the tentatively titled Word and Void books, three contemporary fantasy novels darker and more real than anything he wrote before. Now, in a trilogy set hundreds of the years in the future, he offers a sequel of sorts in the form of another trilogy. The first book of that trilogy is Armageddon’s Children, and it is a fine start to what could be a landmark story.
It takes place in an apocalyptic future, where the remains of humanity live in compounds to prolong their inevitable extinction. In Word and Void books, the forces of good—the Word—and the forces of evil—the Void—were locked in an age-old struggle. In Armageddon’s Children, the Void has all but won. The characters of this book are locked in a seemingly hopeless struggle against darkness.
In this first act of a three-part story, we are introduced to the cast of this fragmented tale. In Seattle, a boy named Hawk leads a gang of abandoned children and pines after his forbidden love, Tessa, who lives in one of Seattle’s compounds. Logan Tom, in central America, is a Knight of the Word charged with the duty of finding a Gypsy Morph, a creature of wild magic that has been missing for many decades. In San Francisco, Angel Perez, another Knight of the Word, flees the forces of the Void, only to be confronted with a seemingly impossible mission: to find and aid the long lost Elves.
In such an apocalyptic novel, one might expect a dark, almost repulsive style of writing, one that delves into the horrors and monstrosities that have taken over the world. Brooks avoids this, steering clear of a gritty prose. In fact, he sidesteps any adult content. The prospect of pregnancy is brought up between two characters, but their love is given no sexual tension. One character uses the word “frickin’” instead of actually swearing. Instead of describing them to any extent, Brooks simply states that atrocities were committed in the past. Characters walk by bodies without noticing what they really look like. These details—or lack thereof—detract from the reality of a novel that should have been steeped in it.
Also, the characters sometimes seem underdeveloped. Brooks has always had problems with his dialogue, and Armageddon’s Children is no exception. He is a structured novelist, and as a result, his dialogue is sometimes forced to suit the plot. Also, Brooks develops his characters through exposition and flashback rather than through their actions. The result works—we know these characters—but we are told who they are, rather than shown.
Still, Armageddon’s Children can hardly be considered a bad novel. While the word “gritty” cannot be used to describe Brooks’ style in this book, there is another word that can describe it, and it is every bit as suited to describe an apocalyptic book: biblical. In Armageddon’s Children, Brooks’s prose is grandiose and fantastic in traditional biblical style. As if to reinforce this interpretation, one character tells the story of Moses and the Israelites. Another character encounters a preacher and his followers.
Still, it is not in the language but complex plot and in the action sequences that Brooks’s talents shine. Armageddon’s Children features no fewer than four interweaving plot threads, and, while only two of them meet up, the rest of the series promises to link together in a wild, majestic adventure. The book is also dotted with a number of intense action scenes sure to thrill even the most demanding of readers.
Terry Brooks has always been an expert at crafting plot. The only question is if his prose will carry him through the dense story he crafts for himself. In Armageddon’s Children it does, though not in a way commonly expected from a book with Armageddon in the title. This is a fine novel from a master of his craft. The rest of the trilogy promises to be even better.