Literature / The Word and the Void
A trilogy of urban fantasy novels by noted author Terry Brooks
, that deals with several recurring characters caught up in the ongoing war between The Word, which created all life, and The Void, which seeks to destroy it.
The Knights of the Word walk the earth
performing missions for The Lady
, and each night they dream of what will happen if they fail. They are locked in a secret conflict with the demons of the void, once-human shape shifters
dedicated to the destruction of all things.
The books are as follows:
- Running With The Demon
- A Knight Of The Word
- Angel Fire East
In Running with the Demon
, Cute Witch
Nest Freemark finds her life thrown into chaos when the titular demon arrives in her hometown of Hopewell, pursued by Knight of the Word, John Ross. Both want something from her, though Nest isn't sure what that could be, and seem to have ties to her family's past, specifically her mother, who committed suicide some years earlier. The demon also goes out of his way to stir up trouble around the town, which is in the middle of a long and bitter strike, putting in motion numerous plans which, if successful, will lead to Nest's subversion, and the end of the world as they know it. A Magical Native American
named O'olish Amaneh is also in the area, and provides Nest and Ross with some important, if cryptic guidance as the story moves towards a violent climax.
Several years later, in A Knight of the Word
, John Ross, following a personal tragedy, has renounced his position as a Knight, and is now working for a mundane charity. Concerned that the demons will attempt to turn him, O'olish Amaneh recruits Nest to do for John what John did for her, charging her with saving the fallen Knight before it is too late. Unbeknownst to John though, one of the demons is already closing in.
After another Time Skip
, both John and the demons return to Hopewell in Angel Fire East
, hunting a fairy of enormous potential.
The books were retconned into the backstory of Brooks' ongoing Shannara
series (see The Genesis of Shannara
for details). One of the author's few ventures outside the world of High Fantasy, The Word and the Void
paints a disturbing image of a world caught up in an ongoing war that it isn't even aware of.
The character sheet for this series, and the Shannara
books can be found here
This series provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Jared Scott's mother and boyfriends. Many others are alluded to.
- Action Girl: Nest Freemark.
- After the End: Ross' dreams show him wandering through a post-apocalyptic future that is very much this trope.
- Always Chaotic Evil: Demons. The feeders are a variation, since they're evil but necessary, while the demons are aberrations in every sense of the word.
- Asshole Victim: The boy who the demon kills in Running With The Demon.
- Awesome McCool Name: Nest and Hawk Freemark.
- Badass Grandpa: It's not an over-the-top example, but Nest's grandfather gets points for willingly attacking a bomb and gun-toting nutjob who'd been influenced by the demon.
- Findo Gask probably counts too, as does O'olish Amaneh, who is so Badass even Gask would rather not face him.
- Bad Dreams: of a Bad Future. They provide clues for Knights to defeat the demons in the present.
- Bad Future: Ross and the other Knights of the Word are working overtime to prevent one.
- Big Bad: The unnamed demon in the first book, Stefanie in the second, and Findo Gask in the third.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The demon and Stefanie.
- Book Ends: The death of Bennett Scott in "Angel Fire East" mirrors the near-fatal incident at the beginning of "Running With the Demon".
- The Bully: Danny Abbott and the unnamed victim of the demon in Running With The Demon.
- The Chosen One: Hawk Freemark.
- The Corrupter: The demons, and in particular, the demon (of Running With The Demon) are this trope.
- Council of Angels: The Lady comes close.
- Creepy Blue Eyes: The demon again. His are pale, washed out, and unsettling.
- Darker and Edgier: Than Brooks' writing in general. These books are very cynical to say the least.
- Dark Messiah: If the demon had succeeded in touching Nest, she would have become one of these.
- Demon Lords And Arch Devils: Findo Gask.
- Down on the Farm: Hopewell is the cynical version of this, being a dried up, poor Midwestern town with no future, and residents whose morals are slowly decaying at best. The steel mill is the only source of income, and farming just doesn't pay like it used to. The town slogan of "We're Growing Your Way" is a bad joke at best.
- The Dragon: In Running With The Demon the demon invokes the trope's inspiration by loosing the maentwrog on John Ross.
- Driven to Suicide: The demon did this to Nest's mother, Catelyn.
- Dungeon Master: The Lady.
- Dying Town: Hopewell. Most of the population is older, the people left behind are desperate and/or poor, and the only real source of income is the steel mill. Brooks paints a very sad picture with it of a town dying a slow death.
- God: The Word.
- Greater Scope Villain: The never confronted Void, which is The Man Behind the Man to each book's Big Bad (though even then, it only seems to have been directly controlling Gask).
- Handicapped Badass: John Ross; justified, he acquired his limp as the price of his magic staff, and his badassness.
- The Heartless: The feeders, mindless living shadows that eat your emotions or drive you into a frenzy. The demons themselves are a borderline case.
- Hellhound: Stefanie, the Big Bad of Knight Of The Word uses this form for hunting and combat.
- Hero of Another Story: O'olish Amaneh, one of the Lady's other servants, definitely gives off this vibe. It's not hard to imagine him out there contributing in ways that are every bit as important as those of Nest and Ross.
- Hero Killer: Findo Gask specializes in hunting Knights of the Word.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Ross before the beginning of Knight Of The Word.
- Heroic Fire Rescue: Stefanie subverts this in A Knight of the Word as a cover for the bumps and bruises that she had endured during her fight with Nest; despite her shapeshifting abilities, she couldn't hide those injuries completely.
- Human Mom, Non-Human Dad: Nest.
- In the Blood: All the Freemark women have had the magic. There also seems to be a certain stubborn streak that shows up regardless of gender...
- Ill Boy: Jared Scott in Running With The Demon.
- Knight in Sour Armour: John Ross to a degree.
- Lack of Empathy: The demons are very close to being magically created sociopaths.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: The demon to Nest. And for the worst possible reasons. He fathered her in order to get revenge on her grandmother and drive her mother to suicide.
- Magical Native American: Two Bears/O'olish Amaneh. He does get genuine characterization though; in some ways he's almost a Hero of Another Story. It's also Justified as the Lady won't let him interfere in the main plot, sending him as an observer only.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Stefanie. Who is also the villain.
- Meaningful Name: Nest Freemark and her son, The Chosen One, Hawk.
- Mugging the Monster: In the first book, a boy demands a toll from anyone who crosses his street, using his dog as the threat. He tries it on the demon. The demon makes the boy smell like a rabbit and the whole affair ends very badly for the bully.
- Mutants: Ross runs into a few of these "once-men" in the future.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Jared gets one from George Paulsen in Running With The Demon.
- Not So Different: The demons are fond of this one.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Hopewell. Beyond the drinking, the strikes, the feeders, and the odd demon attack, they're right.
- Older Than They Look: In both the sequels, Ross returns after being away for years, and Nest notes that he doesn't appear to have aged.
- Omnicidal Maniac: The Void seeks to destroy everything created by The Word, making all of its servants this by default.
- Our Demons Are Different: Specifically, they're soulless former humans corrupted by The Void. They manifest a number of powers, including spellcasting, mind control, and Shapeshifting, and exist only to serve The Void's will by erasing all of creation.
- Really Gets Around: Enid Scott, who has five different children by five different men.
- Revenge by Proxy: Nest's existence is the result of this. When the demon was spurned by her grandmother, he went away for years, then came back and seduced her daughter Catelyn, got her pregnant and then revealed the truth, driving Catelyn to suicide shortly after Nest's birth.
- Satan: The Void, which only speaks once (in Angel Fire East) could be considered the setting's Satan analogue.
- Shape Shifter: Most demons can alter their appearance in one way or another. Stefanie is the most obvious example.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: The maentwrog in Running With The Demon. Or more accurately Sealed Evil In A Tree.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Derry Howe from Running With The Demon is what happens when this character is dumb, easily manipulated, and dropped into the middle of a town that's in the middle of a strike. Ross and O'olish Amaneh both have aspects of this.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Each book's demon is more dangerous than the last one, most pronounced with the jump from Stefanie to Gask. Definitely justified by John Ross' epic level of badassery. Most demons go around sowing general chaos and are a roughly even match for a Knight of the Word, but by the third book they figure out that for Ross they need the demon (Gask) who specializes in hunting Knights. And even he recruits two more demons to help him.
- The Soulless: All demons. They're the remains of humans who sold their souls to The Void in return for more power.
- Shout-Out: A Knight of the Word has numerous Shout Outs to The Wizard of Oz.
- 10-Minute Retirement: Ross, for most of Knight of the Word, following My Greatest Failure and a Heroic B.S.O.D..
- Terrible Trio: Gask's henchmen in Angel Fire East. Unusually, all three are quite dangerous.
- Ultimate Evil: The Void is less a character than it is raw Chaotic Evil. It seeks to eradicate all creation, reducing everything to the primordial state from whence it came.
- Urban Fantasy
- Villain Exit Stage Left: Gask gets this, but it's justified; Nest knows she can't beat him mano a mano, so she tricks him into thinking the Gypsy Morph is gone and his mission has failed.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Some of the demons can do this; the main villain in Knight Of The Word is a good example.
- It's implied that all demons are actually capable of adopting any form they want, it's just for most of them it takes weeks for them create a new form, Knight's Big Bad was special in that it could change forms in mere minutes.
- Walking the Earth: The Knights of the Word.
- Was Once a Man: All the demons were once human, and gave up their souls for power.
- World Half Full: It's a cynical, depressing setting, in which the war between The Word and The Void can never be ended, but it is possible to make a small difference in peoples' lives. That's what keeps Nest and Ross going.