“It is the Power We Wield that Commands Our Loyalty…”
As the second book in the HIGH DRUID OF SHANNARA trilogy, Brooks picks up right where he left off; with his heroes in dire straights. Betrayed by the treachery of her fellow Druids, Grianne Ohmsford has found herself transported into the Forbidding, the dimension that all the demons and monsters of the world were banished into thousands of years ago. Despite making a somewhat flimsy alliance with a create called Weka Dart, Grianne has now been captured by the terrible Straken Lord Tael Riverine, who has a terrible future in store for her — as well as plans for her world.
Only her niece Penderrin “Pen” Ohmsford and a small band allies carry the hope of releasing her from her prison, traveling to the region of Inkrim in order to find the magical tree tanequil and request from it the use of one of its boughs in order to make a talisman through which Pen may retrieve Grianne. Despite the fact they have managed to destroy a Druid airship hunting them, they still have to content with the frightening figure of Aphasia Wye, a monstrous Druid assassin who has taken over their airship and holding Cinnaminson — Pen’s beloved — hostage. All this is under the orders of Shadea a’Ru, who has taken over as Ard Rhys of the Druid Council and taking drastic measures to prevent any chance of her rival’s return.
As well as this, Brooks explores several other storylines within the context of the book; a new weapon has been created that could tip the balance of war in favor of the Federation, Shadea is still juggling the loyalties of the Druids now under her command, and — as in the previous book — an even darker plan is at work, that threatens to undermine everyone’s plans for the future.
There is also a welcome return from Pen’s parents, Bek Ohmsford and Rue Meridian, who were the protagonists of THE VOYAGE OF THE JERLE SHANNARA. Though I disliked their all-too-sudden romance in that previous trilogy, they are much more enjoyable here as a husband and wife team who react precisely as one would except over the disappearance of their son. Endangered by the Druids who see them as leverage against Pen, it should come as no surprise when the duo sense betrayal among the Druid ranks and decide to take matters into their own hands.
Tanequil is a solid follow-up to Jarka Ruus, building on the previous storylines and expanding the scope of the adventure as Penn nears his destination, Grianne fights for survival and the Druids scramble to see their own plans put into action. The stakes are raised, several underlying mysteries are revealed and the story once again ends on a cliff-hanger for the third installment Straken. Brooks does a wonderful job of creating the mysterious beauty of the tanequil’s island, the setting for the book’s climax; a place that calls for a great sacrifice on Pen’s behalf.
However, there are several chapters that drag, particularly because they aren’t really all that important within the context of the story, or at least could have been condensed down considerably. Most obviously is Brooks’s introduction of a new character called Pied Sanderling, who commands the Elves against the Federation. Though the Freeborn/Federation War and the importance of Arborlon (particularly the Ellcrys) is crucial to the underlying arc of the trilogy, it didn’t really justify the inclusion of a brand new character with his own little romantic subplot when the proceedings could have just as easily been recorded through the eyes of Sen Dunsidan.
Likewise, Grianne’s experiences in the Forbidding are somewhat needless what with a failed escape attempt and a fight taking place in a gladiatorial arena. I would have been more interested if Brooks had spent more time exploring the mind-struggle she faces between her true self and her past persona of the Ilse Witch — perhaps if she had tried aligning herself with her captors in an attempt to escape and becoming overwhelmed by her newfound sense of power…? As it was, it simply felt as though Brooks was just twiddling his thumbs with regard to Grianne, waiting for Pen to come rescue her.
A lengthy attack on a troll village goes on a bit longer than necessary, though the troll Kermadec and his tempestuous relationship with his brother Atalan is an interesting component to Brook’s treatment of trolls, who up till now in the series, have been treated as little more than mindless thugs. Overall, the pluses outweigh the minuses, and despite the story heading in a few needless directions, everything is in place for the final part of the trilogy, in what may be Brooks’s best SHANNARA-based work since THE HERITAGE OF SHANNARA.