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Literature / The Defenders of Shannara

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The penultimate entry in the Terry Brooks' long-running Shannara series, Defenders of Shannara is a loosely-connected trilogy of novels, set 100 years after the end of Dark Legacy of Shannara. Unlike previous entries in the series, which have followed the same protagonists from start to finish, Defenders features a different protagonist in each book, with the overarching narrative held together by the trilogy's Big Bad, Arcannen.

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The first novel, The High Druid's Blade was released in July of 2014. It follows Paxon Leah, the current heir to the Sword of Leah. Unlike his ancestors, Paxon isn't a prince, or even a nobleman—he's an airship freighter who is barely holding his family together. When Arcannen kidnaps his younger sister, Chrysallin, and demands the Sword of Leah in return, Paxon is forced to take up the mystic blade to save her, in the process, drawing the attention of the Druid Order. Recruited by current High Druid, Aphenglow Elessedil, Paxon finds himself serving as High Druid's Blade, protecting the members of the Druid Order from the evils that stalk the Four Lands. Arcannen isn't done with Paxon or Chrysallin though, and when he makes his move against them, Paxon will find himself fighting for his life.

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Tropes associated with this trilogy include:

  • Absurd Cutting Power: The Sword of Leah is one example. The Stiehl, a knife which can cut through anything, and which was once owned by Psycho for Hire Pe Ell makes a reappearance her as well.
  • The Big Bad: Arcannen. He's the one thing all the novels have in common, and in a way the story is about him.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Paxon Leah's defining trait.
  • Big Good: Aphenglow Elessedil, Ard Rhys of the Fifth Druid Council.
  • Break the Cutie: Arcannen's plan in High Druid's Blade actually hinges on this. His goal is to have Mischa leave Chrysallin Leah so shattered that she'll attack Aphenglow Elessedil when the High Druid tries to help her. Since the illusion Mischa uses to torment Chrys looks like Aphenglow it works, though to Arcannen's annoyance, Aphenglow survives.
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  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Mischa uses her illusions to make Chrysallin think she's been tortured to the point of being permanently disfigured and crippled.
  • Cool Sword: The Sword of Leah plays a central role in High Druid's Blade. Since it's still a black swords with antimagic powers, it is a very cool sword.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted this time around, as science and industry continue to be rediscovered. The existence of hand-held "flash rips" in particular reflect the return of firearms to the world.
  • The Federation: The Southland Federation is still around, still opposed to all forms of magic, and still a thorn in everybody's side. That said, they've dialed back their expansionist policies, and the current Prime Minister appears to be making a real effort to get along with the Druids.
  • It's Personal: Arcannen manages to offend a wide variety of people, giving them all personal grudges against him.
  • Last of Her Kind: Aphenglow is the last member of the Elessedil family left. Her death marks the end of that bloodline.
  • Magic Versus Science: A major theme in the series. Many of the old sciences have been rediscovered, and The Federation makes improving them official policy.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Aphenglow Elessedil and Mischa are both very old, and very dangerous women.
  • President Evil: Averted for the first time in the franchise. The current Federation Prime Minister is certainly ruthless—you have to be to succeed in the Federation—but he's also willing to reach out to Aphenglow, and is militantly opposed to taking any action against the Druids.
  • Protagonist Title: The High Druid's Blade is named for Paxon Leah.
  • Sword Fight: The climax of High Druid's Blade has one between Paxon Leah and Arcannen. Paxon wins, but Arcannen manages to escape.
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