Following the success of The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks immediately started working on a sequel to it. And after five years we got what was, in my opinion, the greatest of the Shannara books, The Elfstones of Shannara.
Taking place fifty years after Sword the book starts in the Elven capital of Arborlon where it is revealed that the magical Ellcrys tree is dying, loosening the spell that bars demons from the world. In order to restore this tree, the Druid Allanon recruits Wil Ohmsford, grandson of Shea Ohmsford to guard an Elvin girl named Amberle as she carries one of the Ellcrys' seeds to a mysterious place where it can be shaped into a powerful new force with a Demon known as the Reaper hot on their trail.
Their isn't much to say about it other then it is a great improvement over Sword. The characters are more real, the battles are just as epic, the villains are far better, and the chase with the Reaper was well done.
Wil was a much sharper protagonist then Shea and was all around more believable. He is initially distrustful of Allanon and never looses this distrust, wary of the druid's plans. Amberle was a great, dynamic and believable character. She doesn’t want the responsibility of carrying this seed and I doubt many people would either.
The Dagda Mor was fascinating as the leader of the Demons, if a little cliched. The Changeling kept you scanning the characters for any suspicious activity and kept the tension up away from Wil and Amberle. The chase with the Reaper made it the best of the three as it killed anything in its path in order to kill its target.
Even the druid, Allanon, had improved from the first book. The fact that the Ellcrys is dying makes him confront his own mortality, and causes him to seriously think about about a successor to his work. He is much more involved with the story and the deceptions he uses have greater impact on the characters then they did in Sword.
Terry Brooks has often said that The Elfstones of Shannara is his favorite of the Shannara books and most fans, including myself, agree. The idea of magic barring demons from the world would be used countless times after this book was released and eventually became a cliche of its own. Unfortunately, it still has that same campy, cliched feel to it that Sword had. The ending was heart breaking, but at the same time made you hopeful for the future of these characters and leaves you eager for more. This is a good fantasy book and I recommend it to any fantasy reader.