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Literature / The Sword of Shannara Trilogy

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Often referred to as the "classic trilogy" or simply the "Shannara trilogy", these three loosely-linked Doorstopper High Fantasy novels launched Terry Brooks' writing career. Set in Brooks' now famous Shannara universe, the three novels deal with three different generations of the Ohmsford family, their ties to the Elven House of Shannara and its magic, and their relationship with the enigmatic Druid, Allanon.

In Sword Of Shannara, Allanon arrives in the sleepy hamlet of Shady Vale with the news that The Warlock Lord, Brona, an evil former Druid, has returned to life. Only the fabled (and eponymous) Sword of Shannara can rid the world of his threat for good, and only a member of the House of Shannara can wield the sword. As it turns out, Shea Ohmsford is the last living heir of the house. Along with his brother Flick, their friend Menion Leah, and diverse others, Shea and Allanon set out to look for the Sword.

On their way to Paranor, home of the Druids, disaster strikes. Shea is separated from the group. Forced to team with thieves Panamon Creel and Keltset, Shea sets off to recover the sword on his own, while his friends attempt to avert Brona's conquest of the Four Lands. Many adventures and one Hell of a twist ending later, Shea recovers the Sword and puts Brona in his grave permanently.


Flashforward fifty years to Elfstones of Shannara. The Ellcrys, the tree that keeps the Demons of legend sealed up within the Forbidding, is dying, and her Chosen are massacred by the escaping Demons. The sole Chosen remaining, Elven Princess Amberle, must travel to the mythical Bloodfire and resurrect the Ellcrys. Realising that he will be needed to help the Elves defend their home from the Demons, Allanon visits the Gnome town of Storlock, intent on strong-arming Shea's grandson Wil into serving as Amberle's bodyguard, since he inherited his grandfather's magic-destroying Elfstones.

Wil soon agrees. He and Amberle set off, with the Nightmare Fuel-inspiring Reaper in hot pursuit. In the meantime, Allanon, Elf King Eventine, and Eventine's son Ander gather what few allies they have and prepare to fight a delaying action against the armies of the Demon Lord known as The Dagda Mor. In the end, a new Ellcrys is created, the Demons are banished, and all is well.


Twenty years after that, in The Wishsong of Shannara, the Mord Wraiths appear. In possession of the Ildatch, the same Tome of Eldritch Lore that corrupted Brona, they seem poised to destroy the Four Lands. Even Allanon cannot penetrate the defences they have raised around the book, and all seems hopeless. Falling back into his old habits, Allanon calls upon Brin Ohmsford, who, thanks to her father's use of the Elfstones, possesses the Reality Warping Wishsong. Unlike Allanon, Brin will be able to use the Wishsong to enter the Maelmord and destroy the Ildatch; she and her Love Interest Rone Leah set off with Allanon in order to do so.

Meanwhile, her brother Jair, who possesses a lesser version of the Wishsong, is told by The King of The Silver River that Brin will fail if he does not go to her aid. Alongside reluctant Gnome Tracker Slanter, and uber-badass Garet Jax, as well as numerous others, Jair goes after Brin. In the end, Brin is saved, and the Ildatch destroyed, albeit at tremendous cost. The Magic Goes least until the next series.

While the first book has been criticised for being too similar to The Lord of the Rings, the later books are generally regarded as better, and the trilogy as a whole was very successful. It's best described as good quality pop-fantasy. There are now a number of stories set within, just before, or just after the books in the trilogy. They include the short stories Allanon's Quest, The Weapon Master's Choice, and The Black Irix (collectively known as Paladins of Shannara), the novella Indomitable, and the graphic novel Dark Wraith of Shannara.

For those interested in the history of the fantasy genre, it should be noted that The Sword of Shannara was the first high fantasy novel not written for children to be a commercial success in its own time (that's right; The Lord of the Rings was not a commercial success until many years after it was published), and Elfstones and Wishsong were numbers two and three, respectively; all three spent weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. This was largely what convinced publishers that fantasy could be a commercially viable genre separate from sci-fi, causing an explosion in the publication of fantasy.

See here for the character sheet.

Tropes associated with the original trilogy (separated due to the loose nature of the series) include:

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    The Sword of Shannara 
  • After the End: The book's universe is implied to be our world after a World War III that had destroyed human civilization and caused the creation of new races. The heroes even stumble upon metal ruins of an old city and fight an insectoid cyborg.
  • The Alliance: The Border Legion, and the Elven and Dwarven armies form the bulk of the alliance against Brona.
  • As You Know: To truly epic levels at the start, where the entire history of the world is monologued to the main character.
    • Though not entirely played straight, while everyone knew the general gist of what was told, this is the first time anyone but Allanon had heard the whole story, unaltered by propaganda and bias.
  • The Atoner: Allanon reveals that he's been working to correct his father's failure to defeat the Warlock Lord.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: The Swamp monster in the first book is a Type 1.
  • Badass Normal: Panamon Creel, Balinor and Hendel. Menion Leah above all.
  • Battle Amongst the Flames: Variation, Allanon and a Skull Bearer fight above the flames, on a catwalk in the furnace beneath Paranor (albeit with the added danger of eventually being surrounded, as the furnace is kicking into full heating mode as the castle wakes above them). And it is indeed epic.
  • Big Bad: The Warlock Lord
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The giant bug monster they meet in the ruins of the old city.
  • Cain and Abel: Balinor and Palance. It's largely because of the latter's raging inferiority complex.
  • Character Death: Palance Buckhannah, Hendel, Stenmin (good riddance), Orl Fane, Brona, Keltset.
  • Character Tic: Stenmin tends to stroke his Beard of Evil. Unfortunately for him, this helps Menion recognize him as the one who kidnapped Shirl and tried to sell her to the Warlock Lord.
  • Citadel City: Tyrsis, being built into a mountain, walled with a thick gate, and Border Legion of Callahorn defending the place.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Only a Shannara heir can use the Sword, because the legends say only a Shannara heir can use the Sword.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Several, but the two biggest have to be Panamon, Shea, and Keltset happening to come upon Orl Fane after he has stolen the Sword of Shannara from the Warlock Lord's Gnome party and Menion traveling to Kern to warn Callahorn about the invading army at just the right time to see Shirl's kidnapping and rescue her.
  • Cyborg: The insectoid monster they meet in the ruins is at least half machine. Might be a Creeper actually, going from the description.
  • Dead All Along: Brona is revealed to be this, in one of the biggest twists in Fantasy Literature.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The Black Oaks are avoided by anyone with half a brain. Unfortunately, avoiding them sends Shea, Menion, and Flick into the Mist Marsh.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Allanon disguises Flick as a Gnome and sends him to infiltrate Brona's army in hopes of getting some information; he ends up freeing the captured Elven king, Eventine, a sequence which is both hysterically funny, and very awesome.
  • Evil Chancellor: Stenmin, to Balinor's brother, Palance.
  • Freudian Trio: Shea (Ego), Panamon Creel (Id), and Keltset (Superego)
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: The Skull Bearers have leathery, batlike wings.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Shea is part human, part Elf.
  • Happy Ending: The only unambiguously happy ending in the whole blasted franchise.
  • Honour Among Thieves: Panamon Creel's belief that he owes Shea for saving his life is the reason he agrees to assist him in finding the Sword. And given Creel's peculiar sense of honour that means he'll take him to the ends of the earth to do it.
  • Informed Ability: Stenmin, the Evil Chancellor, is said to be a mystic. He never shows any sign of magical powers, though it's possible he was some sort of astrologer/fortuneteller/alchemist, and consequently didn't have any (or at least, not that would have helped him against the heroes). To be fair, however, it is very possible to infer that Stenmin's influence over Palance might have some partly mystical cause. Also, the word "mystic" technically does not mean the same thing as "magician."
  • Keystone Army: The Skull Bearers exist only through Brona's magic. When it goes, so do they.
  • Last Stand: Aside from the larger conflict between Callahorn and the Warlock Lord's army during The Siege of Tyrsis, there's one for Menion and Hendel in the cellars of the palace, keeping the army from overrunning them after Stenmin lets them in. It costs Hendel his life.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Brona.
  • Load-Bearing Hero: Keltset.
  • The Lost Woods: The Black Oaks.
  • Love Triangle: Of a sort between Menion, Shirl, and Palance. Made more complicated by Menion saving Shirl's life (and falling for her) while also becoming Palance's (only) friend. The triangle is actually based solely on Shirl having been promised to Palance as part of an Arranged Marriage, since Shirl only feels affection and sympathy for the prince and by the time the reader meets Palance any genuine feelings he may once have had have turned into borderline obsession. Thankfully, Stenmin is not aware of this or else he would surely have tried to reveal it to turn Palance against Menion. In the end Palance ends up fatally stabbed, dying in Menion's arms, still loving Shirl, but eventually dies without ever learning the truth, freeing Shirl to be with Menion.
  • McGuffin: The eponymous Sword, which obsesses most of the characters for the duration of the book.
  • Missing Mom: The Ohmsfords and Menion Leah.
  • The Mole: Stenmin, who not only succeeds in drugging and manipulating the weak-willed Palance into disbanding the Legion and leaving Callahorn defenseless but actually lets the army of the Warlock Lord in through the sewers and tunnels beneath the city, directly into the basement of the palace. He also had poisoned the old king and, when Palance loses his mind completely and breaks free of his hold, he fatally stabs him.
  • Mordor: The Skull Kingdom is a wreck, with a skull-faced mountain at its core, and is surrounded by poisonous rivers, lethal deserts, and a mountain range filled with poisonous spiders.
  • Near-Villain Victory:
    • The Warlock Lord's massive army nearly succeeds in capturing Callahorn, annihilating the Border Legion and invading the Southlands. Only Shea destroying the Warlock Lord prevents this.
    • Deconstructed in the later books as this near victory has far-reaching consequences. The following book Elfstones describes how the Southlanders panicked over the near capture of Callahorn and formed the Federation. Initially meant as a defensive alliance, they become a major antagonist in later Shannara books.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: The tiny village of Shady Vale apparently managed to miss the fact that a Third War of the Races was fought that summer. When Shea and Flick make it back home, their father shows absolutely no knowledge of the fact that his biological son saved the life of the Elven King or that his adoptive son killed the most evil wizard in recorded history. All he has to say is "You boys have been acting strange since you got back from that hunting trip in Leah."
  • No One Could Survive That!: Several times characters are thought to be dead due to the circumstances, only for them to turn out to be very much alive—Allanon, falling off the catwalk into the Paranor furnace with the Skull Bearer (he caught hold of a rung out of Flick's sight, and the latter couldn't hear him yelling because of the sound of the flames), Shea falling off the Dragon's Crease into a raging river, and Hendel seemingly torn apart by Gnomes in the Pass of Jade. The second one is immediately subverted however since Allanon uses Bremen's prophecy to prove Shea is still alive, and Hendel turns up alive while the party is waiting at the Valley of Shale. Hendel doesn't make it the second time his life is in danger, however.
  • Odd Friendship: Hendel (gruff, taciturn Dwarf) and Menion Leah (irresponsible hothead).
  • Off with His Head!: Stenmin's extremely satisfying fate.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Valg, the giant, fire and poison breathing serpent that haunts the Hall of the Kings is essentially a wingless, water-dwelling Dragon, despite never being identified as such.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Subverted, in that Hendel dislikes being underground, preferring to be out in the woodlands.
  • Prophetic Fallacy: Bremen's shade tells Allanon that in a few days' time, the party would stand before the Sword of Shannara, yet it would be the one member who would not make it to Paranor who would first lay hands on the blade. Turns out when they "stand before the sword" it's just an illusion trap created by the Warlock Lord, and the real sword has been carried away by the Gnomes where it will eventually be found by Shea in Orl Fane's possession.
  • Prophecy Twist: When Allanon first learns from Bremen that one of the party will not make it to Paranor, Shea thinks this must mean Hendel, since he was presumed killed by the Gnomes at the Pass of Jade. But not only does Hendel show up alive, Allanon tells him Bremen specifically pointed to one of them in the valley as being the prophecy's target, and it ends up being Shea after he falls off the Dragon's Crease.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Allanon.
  • Rescue Sex: Menion and Shirl Ravenlock, in a PG-rated sort of way.
  • Seers: Although they can also be used to defend against/destroy evil like the Skull Bearers, the main purpose of the blue Elfstones is as "seeking stones" that can show the bearer the path to/from a place or an item. They only get used once in this manner, to help Shea, Flick, and Menion make it out of the Lowlands of Clete; the seeking function doesn't turn up again until Elfstones (interestingly in combination with combat, when it destroys the Reaper by "seeking its face"), after which it isn't seen again until Heritage (used by Par's wishsong to find the Sword's vault in Scions, then by Wren in Elf Queen to find the way out of Eden's Murk.
  • Single Line of Descent: Shea is the sole living descendant of Jerle Shannara, a king who had three daughters and two adoptive sons who lived 500 years previously. Justified in that Brona had apparently spent quite some time removing all the others before the start of the book.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Shirl Ravenlock is almost literally the only female character to appear in the novel. This is something Brooks made sure to avert in the next books, especially Elfstones.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Brona
  • Spotting the Thread: When a Skull Bearer confronts Panamon, Keltset, and Shea, it insists it can feel the Sword of Shannara nearby so they must have it, which confuses all of them. Orl Fane was hiding in the underbrush nearby and had the sword in his sack. Subverted, however, in that they don't realize the significance of this until after Orl Fane has already fled with the sword.
  • Stay on the Path: Variation in the Hall of Kings—in order to make it through alive and sane, travelers must refuse to look in the eyes of the Sphinxes (no matter how much their voices beg and demand that they do so) or else they will be Taken for Granite, and they must have their ears blocked to keep from being driven mad by the cries of the Banshees.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: The Warlock Lord, Brona, attacks Shea's mind with fear, nearly shattering the young man's psyche with vision after vision of Brona breaking or killing him.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The Mist Marsh. It's miserably damp, filled with pools of brackish water, and oh yeah, there's the Mist Wraith, a Kraken-esque spirit that would desperately like to eat you.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Shea is understandably distressed when he learns that the Sword's power is to make any living being it touches accept the truth about itself. Of course since Brona is Dead All Along...
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!:
    • The party from Culhaven (sans Shea, Flick, and Allanon) make their way to the tower where the Sword of Shannara has been moved and find it glowing on its pedestal, just as Bremen had predicted. But then it vanishes, just an illusion to trap them, since the real sword had been taken north by the Gnomes.
    • Both Menion and Flick rescue people thinking/hoping they are Shea; Menion has saved Shirl Ravenlock instead, while Flick has found the missing Elven King Eventine. Played with in that while they are both disappointed not to have found Shea, these rescues are not pointless but actually extremely critical to the story, since without Shirl Palance could not have been broken free of Stenmin's control and without Eventine the leaderless Elves would have been paralyzed and not helped until it was too late for Callahorn.

    The Elfstones of Shannara 
  • The Alliance: The army arrayed against the Demons ultimately includes the Elven Army, Allanon, the Wing Riders (Sky Elves), the Border Legion (Men), numerous Dwarven engineers and sappers, and 1500 Kershalt Trolls. The latter's arrival at Arborlon and agreement to lend aid is particularly cheerworthy, both in-story to Ander and considering the enmity there had been between the Trolls and the other Races as seen in the previous book.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The Demons are led by the most brutal among their ranks, with The Dagda Mor, The Changeling, and The Reaper at the very top.
  • Badass Army: The Legion Free Corps is made up entirely of men who would rather that their pasts not be questioned too closely. In exchange they serve as a sort of expendable unit of desperate fighters. Then there's the Trolls, the Elves, and yes, the Demons. Not a lot of un-Badass armies in this book actually.
  • Badass Normal: Stee Jans, the leader of the Border Legion Free Corps.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The Dagda Mor's method of transport.
  • Beast Man: Many of the Demons are part animal, including Lizard Folk, Cat Girls, and many more.
  • The Berserker: The Furies are utterly crazed with rage, hatred, and bloodlust.
  • Big Bad: The Dagda Mor.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Sure, the Demons get sealed up again. But Eventine is dead and Amberle is transformed into the Ellcrys, with Wil being left devastated by her loss and damaged from his use of the Elfstones.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Wil may have had one on Amberle. It's never made entirely clear just what his feelings are about her.
  • Cain and Abel: Morag and Mallenroh, the twin witches of the Wilderun. Also to some degree a colder and more understated version of this has existed between Arion and Ander since the death of Aine, Amberle's father.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Those Demons that don't go unarmed, either loot the bodies of the Elven dead, or arm themselves with clubs. There are mentions of everything from Goblins to Ogres carrying them, rating the placement of this trope here.
  • Cat Girl: The Furies. Half human, half cat, with human faces and bodies, but cat muzzles, claws, and limbs.
    • Also, Cats Are Mean: Or at least batshit insane. The Furies are psycho-killers, with Berserker tendencies and no regard for their own safety. The Dagda Mor uses them as his personal killers when The Reaper is absent.
  • The Cavalry: Personified by the Legion Free Corps.
  • Character Death: The Chosen, Arion Elessedil, Kael Pindannon, Cephelo and his band, Morag and Mallenroh, The Changeling, The Reaper, The Dagda Mor, Eventine Elessedil.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Wil's initial difficulties with the Stones cause him to form a psychological block that prevents him from using them; he effectively convinces himself that he can't use them, and so they stop responding.
  • Co-Dragons: The Reaper and the Changeling to the Dagda Mor.
  • Delaying Action: The entire War of the Forbidding is a delaying action, meant to give Wil and Amberle enough time to save the Ellcrys.
  • Demon Lords And Arch Devils: The Dagda Mor, leader of the Demon army is described as a Demon Lord, in an Asskicking Equals Authority sort of way.
  • Deus ex Machina: Wil, Amberle, Hebel, and Eretria escape Safehold, only to find the sun is already setting—on the last day Perk said he would fly over the Wilderun. Wil, worn out from overuse of the Elfstones, tells Eretria to blow the whistle. Nothing seems to happen...then, at last, just when the sun has vanished and it seems they can never make it back to Arborlon, Genewen appears: Perk just couldn't leave them, especially after he saw the smoke from Mallenroh's tower, so he waited an extra day, and even past sunset. This rescue, in turn, allows them to be the Deus ex Machina for the defenders of Arborlon, winging in just as they're about to succumb to the Demon horde.
  • Dwindling Party: The Reaper does this to Wil and Amberle's party, ending with Crispin.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Elven Hunter Crispin's futile Last Stand against The Reaper. He actually manages to slow down the unstoppable monster for a few moments, enabling Wil and Amberle to escape it.
  • Elite Mooks: The Furies, who are The Dagda Mor's best killers after The Reaper. A large group of them almost manage to kill Allanon.
  • Femme Fatale: Eretria. At first it isn't clear whether she is a villain (her anger at being spurned almost costs them the Elfstones when she doesn't warn Wil of Cephelo's plan to steal them), a Spanner in the Works, or just an annoyance during the Rover sideplot. By the end it's clear that she is the heroic version of this trope.
  • Femme Fatalons: The Furies.
  • Final Battle: The Demon assault on Arborlon is shaping up to be this. The Ellcrys is reborn just in time.
  • Foreshadowing: The vision/dream the King of the Silver River gives to Wil and Amberle respectively: he finds himself in a gorgeous garden, but when he turns to show it to Amberle she is nowhere to be found; she finds herself standing in an empty darkness, desperately calling out to Wil, but he is unable to see or hear her.
  • Giant Flyer: The Wing Riders and their Rocs make their first appearance in this book.
  • Giant Mook: The Ogres, and a huge, lizard-headed Demon all serve this roll on occasion, breaking through the Elven lines and inflicting serious damage until they encounter one of the main characters. The Dragon may actually be the closest example, relying solely on brute force and utterly destroying the Elves until Allanon confronts it.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: And is eventually answered by Trolls, Dwarves, and The Free Corps.
  • Hellhounds: The Demon Wolves. The Dagda Mor uses them as scouts for his army.
  • Heroic Resolve: After killing the Dagda Mor Allanon appears to calmly mount up and ride back to the Elven lines. The fight had taken every last bit of energy he had and it was only through sheer force of will that he stayed upright, because he knew the only thing keeping the Demons from swarming over the outnumbered Elves at that point was their fear of him.
  • Hero Secret Service: Wil to Amberle, Crispin and his Elven Hunters to both of them.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Amberle gives up everything in order to become the next Ellcrys. Sniff...
  • High-Altitude Battle: Between Allanon and Dancer on the one hand, and the Dagda Mor and his bat on the other.
  • Kill and Replace: The Changeling's M.O., naturally. It does this first to the gardener Went, then Eventine's trusted wolfhound, Manx.
  • Leave Him to Me!: Allanon about The Dragon, and then The Dagda Mor.
  • The Legions of Hell: The description of the Demon army is pretty close to this. There are dozens of types too.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Possibly Wil and Amberle. They certainly use it as their cover often enough.
  • The Mole: The Changeling serves as the Dagda Mor's, replacing Eventine's dog, Manx and listening on every conversation the Elven High Command has.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Part of what makes The Reaper so frightening, as it is utterly silent (and most likely cannot even speak), has a hood which may very well be completely empty, and it will always inexorably pursue until it catches you—but you will never know where or when it is coming. Crossing this with the silent, empty darkness of the Pykon may explain why that chapter is so subtly terrifying to some.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Although Wil Ohmsford doesn't say the trope name, he does pretty much ignore poor little Wisp, who keeps trying to tell him something—but he's so set on getting the Elfstones back from Mallenroh so he can prove himself Amberle's protector that he doesn't even pay attention to the hysterical shrieking. Cue Eretria finally grabbing his arm and jerking him back, revealing that the box the Elfstones were in was trapped with a deadly viper inside:
    Eretria: He was trying to warn you! [She] pointed to Wisp. The little fellow had collapsed in tears.
  • One-Man Army: With the Ellcrys staff neutralising the Demons' powers, Allanon is able to become one, as only The Dagda Mor (who has Druidic powers in addition to his own innate magic) is able to challenge him magically.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Evil beings of Faerie exiled before the modern world began, they've been corrupted by hatred into various types of monster:
    • Our Dragons Are Different: The one Allanon fights has six legs, one eye, and can't fly or breathe fire.
    • Our Goblins Are Different: A species of Demon, described as lean, black, and armed with razor-sharp talons. Fairly numerous, their physical description is pretty close to that usually associated with Orcs.
    • Our Monsters Are Different: In addition to Ogres, Goblins, and the Dragon, many other mythical and fairy tale beings, including Imps, Gremlins, Ghouls, Harpies, and of course, the Furies, are mentioned as being a part of the Demon army, although only a few are described in detail.
    • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Another Demon species, used as the brute force of the Dagda Mor's army on several occasions. All we're really told is that they're big, scaly, and that it took the presence of the Trolls to successfully repel them.
  • Power Nullifier/Brought Down to Normal: The Ellcrys equips the Elves with a staff that both renders the Demons mortal, and turns off their innate powers. Only The Dagda Mor is left with any workable magic. Sadly it doesn't do anything about their physical advantages (eg, armoured hides, superstrength, sheer size and bulk).
  • The Power of Hate: The Demon army is made of this trope. Years trapped within the Forbidding have completely warped the minds and bodies of the dark Fae, with their numbers, powers, and mutations only increasing as their loathing of all life (and the Elves and the Ellcrys in particular) grow. The Dagda Mor and Allanon both reference the trope on occasion, stating flat out that it is the power of their hatred/rage and not their superior numbers that truly makes the Demons dangerous.
  • Redshirt Army: Basically the point of the Free Corps in the eyes of the Border Legions, and they suffer the usual fate of one as well. Over the course of a two-week war, they suffer 98% casualties.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Many demons are scaled. One of them, a huge monster with the head of a lizard, nearly breaks into Arborlon before Stee Jans stops it.
  • Riddle Me This: Completely unintentional, but because of the Ellcrys' poor memory and the many changes in the world since the Great Wars, Wil and Amberle are left not knowing where Safehold can be found (until Allanon finds the location in the Druid Histories) and even then they still need to find the Bloodfire's exact location behind "a door make of glass that will not break"—which turns out to be a waterfall.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Elessedils are very active. Between Amberle being sent on the quest for the Bloodfire, Eventine, Arion, and Ander acting as war leaders, and in Ander's case, more or less holding the alliance together, they're more involved in the events of the story than anyone else.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Demons were sealed up by the good Fairies long before the series ever began. As long as the Ellcrys tree lives, they remain sealed.
  • Second Love: Possibly Wil and Eretria. We're not sure what he thought of Amberle.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: The Reaper follows Wil and Amberle across the entire Westland, never losing them for more than a few days at a time.
  • Slasher Movie: The Reaper's pursuit of Wil, Amberle and Crispin's men through the Pykon is so very much this. The horrific discovery and chase at Drey Wood also counts.
  • Sleep Cute: Amberle and Wil get a moment like this in the Matted Brakes.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Reaper is somewhere between this and the more human Implacable Man, refusing to give up even after Wil and Amberle cross a whole mountain range on Roc-back.
  • Super Strength: Many Demons have this in one form or another, even with their powers turned off. The examples aren't ludcriously unbelievable, but even average Demons are able to inflict a great deal of punishment on armoured men using only clubs or their bare hands. The Ogres, the Dragon, and various other monsters can of course do even more. And then there's The Reaper.
  • Supporting Leader: Ander and Allanon.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The Matted Brakes, a godforsaken tangle of swampland, deadwood forest, scrub, and stagnant water, populated by some of the most unpleasant creatures imaginable, including The Things, which kills two members of Amberle's bodyguard.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Amberle and Eretria have some of this going on.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Cephelo, leader of the Rover caravan, demonstrates both stupidity and Genre Blindness when he steals the Elfstones from Wil. He is killed soon after by The Reaper.
  • The Un-Favourite: Ander's position as this is a huge plot point.
  • Vain Sorceress: Morag and Mallenroh are identical twin Vain Sorceresses. Each is convinced that she is the most beautiful and the other is a hag; this is the source of their rivalry and leads to the death of a human who got between them and eventually their own Mutual Kill.
  • Voluntary Shape Shifting: The Changeling.
  • Wham Chapter: Chapter 24, the flight through the Pykon.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Wil gives quite the example of this speech to Allanon after Amberle has become the Ellcrys.
  • Wicked Witch: Morag and Mallenroh again.
  • Wizard Duel: Between Allanon and The Dagda Mor. It's epic.
  • Wretched Hive: Grimpen Ward. Although the innkeeper Wil and Amberle meet is nice enough once he heals her bad leg, the ultimate result of the attention this brings is the two of them almost being robbed and murdered, forcing them to flee the town. If Perk being warned to stay out of it by his grandfather calling it this isn't clear enough, the fact they end up needing to be rescued by Eretria and the Rovers should do the job.
  • You Are in Command Now: Happens to Ander multiple times, after first his brother and then Kael Pindanon are killed, then after his father is badly injured and has to be relieved of duty.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Not Amberle, but the Bloodfire—the group finds the room within Safehold where the Bloodfire is supposed to be, only it's empty. But then Amberle senses its magic, pushes aside a boulder, and suddenly the flames burst upward and turn red.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Elven guardsman Crispin pulls what he knows will be a futile one against The Reaper. He manages to buy enough time for Wil and Amberle to destroy the bridge it's standing on though. Easily his Dying Moment of Awesome.

    The Wishsong of Shannara 
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Beneath Graymark. Although the fortress was originally built by Gnomes at the order of the Mwellrets, who are Troll relatives, the latter are not hugely larger than the other Races the way regular Trolls are, so such size being needed seems a bit excessive. Then again, it is the Mwellrets.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Ildatch is very close to this.
  • Badass Normal: Garet Jax may well have been Batman in another life. Helt is also a tank, briefly holding his own against almost all of the Gnomes in Greymark.
  • Big Bad: We're set up to believe that it's the Mord Wraiths, but it's really The Ildatch itself.
  • The Big Guy: Helt.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The heroes win. They really, really do. But pretty much everyone dies to make it happen.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Inverted. Rone Leah volunteers to be Brin's bodyguard because of his crush on her.
  • Bond One-Liner: Brin, after using the wishsong to destroy the Ildatch: "Here is your dark child."
  • Cassandra Truth: None of the Dwarven Council of Culhaven believes Jair's story thanks to a bit of Arbitrary Skepticism (yes, Allanon hasn't been seen in twenty years, but they know as a Druid and practitioner of magic he is long-lived, and legends of the King of the Silver River have been around for a very long time) and Allanon taking Rone and Brin a different route. It takes a demonstration of Jair's magic, revealing that he has seen Allanon's image, to prove he is telling the truth.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: This is pretty much Slanter's MO after Garet Jax rescues Jair from the other Gnomes and he is free to go at any time (although Jair begging him to help and Garet idly threatening him make it a bit less clear-cut this is the case). The very first chance Slanter gets to leave (and Jair and Garet both think he has), he shows back up having gone to hunt down breakfast for them—something the reader knows to be an outright lie from a previous POV section where the Gnome was intending to leave. The second time is after Capaal, when being separated from Jair after the latter has been captured by Stythys leads him to consider leaving both to save his own skin and because he thinks there's nothing he can do; here his decision is left far more uncertain, making it less of a surprise when he shows up with the others for the rescue at Dun Fee Aran. The first time a case could be made he was "persuaded" to return by the King of the Silver River who had just visited the night before, but the second time seems far more likely to be due to Slanter's genuine caring for the Valeman.
  • Character Death: See Kill 'Em All.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: Both Jachyras are hardwired by the magic to be this. It makes them very, very dangerous.
  • Cool Sword: This is the one where Allanon changes the Sword of Leah into the anti-magic weapon we all know and love.
  • The Corrupter: The Ildatch of whoever uses it.
    • The Wishsong has the potential to be this as well, if the user becomes too dependent on it or uses it for malicious ends. The "savior vs. destroyer" dichotomy is a huge part of the plot, and is only mirrored with Par in Heritage.
  • Covers Always Spoil: The blurb on the soft cover gives away The Ildatch's identity as The Big Bad.
  • Darkest Hour: Things look pretty bleak about mid-book. On the one hand, Allanon has been killed, the Sword of Leah has been lost, and Brin is left alone trying to nurse the poisoned and dying Rone back to health. On the other hand, Capaal falls to the Gnomes thanks to the Mord Wraiths calling a Kraken (which seems to kill Garet Jax); Foraker, Edain, and Helt all seem to die; Jair gets separated from Slanter, who seems to abandon him; and he's captured by Stythys and taken to the prisons at Dun Fee Aran. The latter is subverted, however, when all the party members turn up alive and rescue Jair, and even Brin is able to heal Rone, then get her quest back on track by finding Cogline and Kimber Boh.
  • Death Seeker: Garet Jax accompanies Jair because a prophecy promises him that if he does so he will meet his ultimate opponent; namely someone who can kill him.
  • Defector from Decadence: Slanter.
  • Driven to Suicide: Helt, due to the poison of the winged creature in the cellars of Graymark, brings down the gate to cut the rest of the party off from the Mord Wraiths and their forces, a You Shall Not Pass! brought on by incipient Body Horror.
  • Dwindling Party: Jair's party is reduced to him and Slanter by the end. Played with at first, however—Brooks makes it look like each of the party members have died fighting the Kraken or the Gnomes at Capaal, thus leaving Jair alone as he ends up captured by Stythys and taken to Dun Fee Aran. Then all of them show up alive to break him out of prison. It isn't until the final assault on Graymark that the trope is Double Subverted. The trope was somewhat lampshaded by Word of God when Brooks noted in a foreword that his intention with Jair's party was to make a Shout-Out to both the Magnificent Seven and the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral.
  • Enemy Mine: Even aside from Slanter having once been working for the Gnomes serving the Mord Wraiths, he (and his people) is considered an enemy by the Dwarves of Culhaven and Elb Foraker in particular, but his knowledge of the territory makes it necessary to work with him to reach Heaven's Well, and he in turn is compelled to help by threats to his life (and his growing caring for Jair). By the end of the journey, though, he is at least no longer an enemy to Jair and Garet, if not the others. Played absolutely straight with Stythys, who is captured during the rescue of Jair from Dun Fee Aran and forced to come along as insurance, then to take them through the Caves of Night so they can reach Graymark in time. He, of course, betrays them at the first opportunity...and pays for it.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Of a sorts. The King of the Silver River asks for the Elfstones from Jair (since having stolen them he cannot use them), and gives him the Silver Dust (which is of no use to the King) so he can take it to purify the river. Taken a step further however when, because there were three Elfstones, the King gives Jair three magics in return for each of the things the Stones symbolize: mind (the vision crystal), body (strength in each of his companions, but especially Garet who "will always come for you"), and heart (a true wish in which his wishsong brings not illusion but reality). And on top of that, after the quest is successfully completed, and since all the King's magics were used as intended, the King even brings the Elfstones back to Shady Vale.
  • The Faceless: The Mord Wraiths, due to a combination of Black Cloak and In the Hood.
  • Fighting Down Memory Lane: To restore Brin to herself.
  • Garden of Evil: The Maelmord is a sentient garden that protects the Ildatch.
  • Green Aesop: The King of the Silver River sends Jair on a quest to stop the Mord Wraiths from polluting the Silver River.
  • Hero Killer: Jachyras. Only two of them show up, and each of them ends up killing an established badass: Allanon and Garet Jax, respectively.
  • Hero Secret Service: Jair's party.
  • I Owe You My Life: Because Browork and the Dwarf sappers were so instrumental in saving Arborlon from the Demons, King Ander sends his son Edain to help the Dwarves in defending against the Gnomes; Edain takes this even further by choosing to go to Heaven's Well to protect Jair, since it was his father protecting Amberle that even more directly saved the Elves. Sadly, the trope becomes a true trade, since Edain ends up giving his life to protect Jair.
  • Ironic Name: After seeing how the Mord Wraiths have polluted it, Jair comments on how the name Heaven's Well seems "horribly perverse." Of course after he uses the Silver Dust, the name is absolutely fitting.
  • Kill 'Em All: Not quite, but the last half of the book makes a valiant effort. Stythys, Helt, Edain Elessedil, Elb Foraker, Garet Jax, Allanon, and pretty much every other named character bite the dust.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: The Mord Wraiths summon a Kraken to help them take Capaal. Garet Jax kills it with a spear.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Using magic created by another race, when you've only got maybe one-quarter blood of the creator race in the first place, can cause some problems. Wil Ohmsford was actually damaged by use of the Elfstones, along with passing on some of the magic to his children in the form of the Wishsong. Justified, since this is magic we're dealing with.
  • The Lancer: Slanter slowly evolves into Jair's.
  • Leave Him to Me!: Allanon and Garet Jax both say this when confronted by the Jachyras.
  • Lizard Folk: The Mwellrets are first introduced in this book, as a species of reptillian Troll that survived in the swamps instead of the mountains.
  • The Magic Goes Away: The finale. The Ildatch is dust, Allanon is dead, Paranor is sealed away, and Brin and Jair are told to never use the Wishsong again.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Turns out the the Warlock Lord, Big Bad of the first book was actually the puppet of his sentient Tome of Eldritch Lore cum Artifact of Doom, the Ildatch. Whether he was aware of this is unknown.
  • More Than Mind Control: The Big Bad pulls this on Brin. It takes The Power of Love to fix things.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Kraken of course.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: Seemingly the only explanation for Cogline's behavior in this book versus the Heritage trilogy (and actually stated in-universe by Kimber). Also makes for a huge number of Funny Moments, a rarity in this sort of High Fantasy. According to Word of God, however, he really was insane, courtesy of a screw-up with the Druid Sleep. By the time Heritage rolls around, he's back to normal and considers that time period his Old Shame/Once Done, Never Forgotten moment. Makes it even funnier in a way.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The climactic duel between Garet Jax and the second Jachyra.
    • Taking You with Me: It is believed that this was the end result of said duel. It can't be proven because the Jachyra, dead or alive, disappeared when the Ildatch was destroyed, but Jair and Slanter refuse to believe that Garet Jax could be killed without mortally wounding his enemy first.
  • Panthera Awesome: Whisper, Cogline and Kimber Boh's moor cat, who attacks the Mord Wraiths and their monsters with only his teeth and claws. He may be more badass than any of the human characters.
  • Playing with Fire: The Mord Wraiths' usual attack involves red flames.
  • Plot Parallel: Jair's growing friendship with Edain Elessedil is mirrored by Brin's with Kimber Boh. Edain eventually gives his life to save Jair so he can get to Heaven's Well; Kimber would have done the same, and even tried to, only to be tricked by Brin into being separated and left behind in a hopeless fight with her grandfather and Rone against the Mord Wraiths. The choices the Ohmsford siblings make, and the different results, are telling.
  • The Power of Love: How Jair brings his sister back to her senses after The Big Bad's More Than Mind Control leads to a bit of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Lampshaded by Allanon when his Shade visits Brin.
  • Reality Warper: Brin's Wishsong allows her to force the world around her to comply with how she wants it to be. See the main page for more details.
  • Refuge in Audacity: During the Culhaven company's encounter with the Gnome army at Capaal, Slanter and Helt accidentally tumble off a cliffside and land right in the middle of the enemy troops. What do they do? Dress Helt up in dark robes like a Mord Wraith, with Slanter as his Gnome attendant, then walk right through the camp until they can get to the fortress walls and reveal their identities to be let inside. And it works.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The first book to introduce the Mwellrets, in the form of the treacherous Stythys.
  • Seers: Aside from the King of the Silver River foreseeing what will happen to Brin if Jair is not there to save her, the Grimpond can see the future too, although it either tauntingly refuses to reveal it or couches all its information in riddles and half-truths. It is Brin forcing it to tell her the truth outright about the location of the Sword of Leah and how to get to the Maelmord unseen that earns the spirit's enmity and desire for Revenge on the Shannara/Ohmsford line that carries all the way to Walker Boh in Heritage—and also shows how she is already Slowly Slipping Into Evil, of course.
  • Suicide Mission: Jair's quest is effectively this. Of the six men who leave Culhaven to go to Heaven's Well and halt the pollution of the Silver River, four of them die on the way.
  • Take Up My Sword: Allanon does this to Brin after he dies, charging one of her descendents with becoming the next Druid and rebuilding the order.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Believing this is why Brin uses the wishsong to trick Kimber and the others into going a different direction in the sewers of Graymark so she can go into the Maelmord alone (although Allanon's shade implies, and Brin does not deny, that some part of her also knew what the Ildatch was doing to her and so was just trying to protect her friends from herself, not just the Mord Wraiths).
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Ildatch is an ancient book, surviving from the time of Faerie, and containing the secrets of many of their darker magics. Reading it subverted Brona, the Skull Bearers, and the Mord Wraiths; as such, Allanon has decided it must be destroyed.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Unlike Sword, which had one party that got split up by circumstances in a parallel to Tolkien, or Elfstones where the action switched between the adventuring heroes (Wil and Amberle) and the home front fighting Delaying Action, this book has two independent plotlines with Brin's quest to the Maelmord (diverted several times) and Jair's quest to Heaven's Well to save her (also diverted a few times).
  • Unusual Euphemism: Rone Leah's "...for cat's sake!" which he says frequently enough for it to be considered his catchphrase.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Jair and Slanter evolve into the Type II version.
  • Worthy Opponent: Garet Jax's entire life has been a search for one. He agrees to join on Jair's quest because the King of the Silver River promised that he would one during his quest, which he ultimately does against the Jachyra at Heaven's Well. It kills him, but Jair and Slanter choose to believe that he took it down with him, though they can't prove it because the Jachyra's body was dispelled when the Ildatch was destroyed.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Jair's party do a number of these; the most notable is Helt's Last Stand against an entire Gnome army.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Allanon is informed in advance by Bremen that he will not live to see the outcome of the quest. Allanon's obviously not too thrilled with this news, but it doesn't deter him from continuing on the quest.

Alternative Title(s): The Sword Of Shannara, Elfstones Of Shannara, The Wishsong Of Shannara, The Elfstones Of Shannara