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Literature / The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara

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The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara is a three book installment in Terry Brooks's best-selling Shannara series. It concerns itself with a voyage of discovery made by the Elven airship, the Jerle Shannara.

The first book, Ilse Witch opens when a man washes up on a beach. He is revealed to be the only survivor of a voyage across the Blue Divide, and a member of the ruling Elven Elessedil family to boot. His memories reveal information about supposedly lost books of magic, and old world sciences. Seeing in this a way to benefit all the races, the Druid Walker strikes a deal with the current Elven King, and gathers a crew to sail across the Blue Divide and retrieve the books. The airship is the Jerle Shannara, captained by Rover mercenary Redden Alt Mer and his sister, Rue Meridian, and the crew includes Panax the Dwarf, Highland Prince Quentin Leah and his cousin Bek Rowe, seer Ryer Ord Star, Elven Prince Ahren Elessedil, enigmatic Shapeshifter Truls Rohk, and a complement of Elven Hunters under the command of former Home Guard Captain, Ard Patrinell.

The ship stops on three islands along the way, retrieving the keys that will allow them into the fortress of Castledown where the books are concealed, and battling threats like giant eels, living plants, and a haunted castle. Unfortunately, Walker's Arch-Enemy, the Ilse Witch, is in hot pursuit, aboard the Federation ship Black Moclips, with a crew of bloodthirsty Mwellrets under the command of Cree Bega. Determined to claim the books for herself and kill Walker for supposedly murdering her family, she dogs the protagonists every step of the way.

In Antrax both Walker and the Ilse Witch's crews find themselves hunted through Castledown by a psychopathic computer system named Antrax. Programmed to guard the books from any outside interference, Antrax pursues both crews with equal ferocity, sending lasers, Killer Robots, and Undead Cyborgs to kill them. Bek having discovered that he is an Ohmsford, spends most of the book trying to find and save his sister Grianne, even as Walker, Quentin, Ahren and the others do everything in their power to simply stay alive.

As the book reaches its climax, Walker and Ahren destroy Antrax, while Quentin and Elven Hunter Tamis eliminate its most dangerous servant, which was formerly one of their allies. In the end, Walker is confronted by the Ilse Witch, and uses the power of the Sword Of Shannara to reveal the truth about her past to her.

As Morgawr begins, the Ilse Witch is in a coma, the books of magic have been revealed to be a dead end, and the broken, battered crew of The Jerle Shannara just want to get off the island. But even as they struggle to rebuild their ship, and rescue their flight crystals from the Crake rainforest, a new threat approaches in the form of the Ilse Witch's former mentor, The Morgawr. Introduced in the first book, but not seen since, The Morgawr believes the Ilse Witch has betrayed him, and arrives with the intent of eliminating both her, and Walker's allies. With most of their number dead, and no magic with which to confront him, it appears as though time may be up for the crew of The Jerle Shannara...

Considerably darker, and on a much smaller scale than both The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, and The Heritage of Shannara. The character sheet can be found here. Also notable for introducing the character Grianne Ohmsford, the subject of a Myth Arc that follows until the chronological end of the Shannara canon.

Tropes found in this series include...
  • Action Girl: Tamis, Rue Meridian
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Subverted. Antrax, though monstrous, is doing exactly what it was programmed to do.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: In a way, Antrax. It was never malicious, just following its programming as best it could. Its death, as its systems shut down and it tries desperately to figure out what is happening to it, slowly losing functionality, and even knowledge of who it is, is rather sad.
  • Antagonist Title: Each book is named for its main threat.
  • Appropriated Appelation: Antrax isn't its original designation, but a name - itself from a corrupted form of English - given at some point by wanderers in the distant past.
  • Bad Boss: The Ilse Witch and The Morgawr.
  • Bastard Understudy: The Ilse Witch to The Morgawr, and both of them know it. It forms a big part of the plot and their individual interactions.
  • Big Bad: The Ilse Witch, Antrax, and The Morgawr all compete for this title, and each one is definitely the main antagonist of their respective novel. The Morgawr is closest in a story sense though.
    • Big Bad Duumvirate: The Ilse Witch and The Morgawr, with both of them trying constantly to assert their authority upon the other.
    • Big Bad Ensemble: The Ilse Witch wants revenge on Walker. Antrax wants to fulfill its programming by protecting its knowledge from intruders. The Morgawr wants the books of magic and the ability to abuse his power limitlessly. Needless to say, they really get in one another's way at times.
    • Big Bad Wannabe: The Ilse Witch, who just isn't up to the standards of Antrax and The Morgawr in power or ruthlessness. While undeniably dangerous, she's effectively sidelined in Antrax, is a puppet of The Morgawr, and in their final confrontation after her Heel–Face Turn, proves to be less than his match in combat.
  • Blessed with Suck: Bek, Quentin, Ahren, and The Ilse Witch. The first three have magic, but it only makes them targets for Antrax, who wants to feed off their power; moreover it got them hauled along on this adventure in the first place and into the psychological torture that followed. As for the latter, her powers are why The Morgawr came for her in the first place. And then there's Ryer Ord Star, whose empathic abilities get her bonded to Walker, and saddled with all his inner pain.
  • Body Horror: Truls Rohk. About half his body is constantly shape-shifting. Half...isn't.
  • Book Ends: The first book starts with someone/thing being found washed up at the shore of the ocean; the last book ends the same way.
  • Born Lucky: Redden Alt Mer, known in-series as "the man with the luck." No matter how awful things are going, fortune always seems to favour Big Red.
  • Break the Cutie: Ahren gets it courtesy of Cree Bega and The Morgawr; Quentin from his experiences in Castledown in general, transforming from a Jumped at the Call character to Failure Knight. Even Bek goes through this to a degree.
  • Character Death: Furl Hawken, Ard Patrinell, Tamis, Walker, Truls Rohk (although a part of him is supposedly still alive), Ryer Ord Star, Kian, Cree Bega, The Morgawr. Good riddance to those last two.
  • The Chessmaster: Antrax. The entire plot is essentially the result of its desire for more magic to feed on.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Mwellrets subject Ryer Ord Star and Ahren to it.
  • Cool Airship: The Jerle Shanarra.
  • Darker and Edgier: Hell yes! Heritage was dark enough, but Voyage is in a class of its own. For those who are interested, as Brooks's writing goes, it's roughly comparable to The Word and the Void.
  • Deal with the Devil: Sen Dunsidan, War Minister and then President of The Federation's Coalition Council, makes several; first with the Ilse Witch and then with The Morgawr. Witnessing the latter's horrors essentially costs him his soul.
  • Dinosaurs Are Dragons: The Graak, the giant lizard monster that lives in the Crake rainforest, is somewhere between a dinosaur and a flightless dragon. And it doesn't make things better. Oh no...
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Antrax. It's got all the powers, abilities, and threat value of a genuine Big Bad, but isn't the Big Bad of the story.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Ahren killing Cree Bega.
  • The Dragon: Cree Bega is the closest that the Morgawr has in story terms, being the toughest of the Mwellrets and his Number Two. Antrax has the Patrinell wronk.
  • Driven to Suicide: The turnkey from the opening of Morgawr also kills himself after bearing witness to the titular character's atrocities. The first mate of the Black Moclips does the same, as soon as he sees what the Morgawr does to his captain. The Morgawr's power has the tendency to do this.
  • Elite Mooks: The Mwellrets, especially when compared to regular Federation infantry.
  • Empty Shell/Soulless Shell: The Morgawr's victims are left in this state.
  • Energy Weapon: Many of Antrax's defenses incorporate laser weapons, which the cast identifies as "fire threads". Only Antrax itself knows what to call them.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Morgawr tends to cause this reaction in others. Sen Dunsidan and the turnkey are horrified by what they see him do, and even the Ilse Witch finds him repulsive. Cree Bega engenders a similar reaction in her.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The turnkey in Morgawr. "Everyone called him turnkey, as though that were more than name enough for a man who did what he did."
  • Evil Mentor: The Morgawr to the Ilse Witch.
  • Exact Words: Antrax has been following its final programmed orders to protect the data it contains, no matter the cost. And it's been doing so, with horrific results.
  • Expy: Panax might well be a more developed version of Hendel.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Becoming a wronk; having one's mind devoured by The Morgawr.
  • Feathered Fiend: The Ilse Witch's War Shrike.
  • Garden of Evil: The living forest on Shatterstone.
  • Genius Loci: Shatterstone's living forest; the haunted castle on Mephitic. Castledown seems like one to the main characters as they are unfamiliar with the nature of Antrax.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Truls Rohk has a human father and a non-human mother.
  • The Heavy: The Ilse Witch in Book 1, Antrax in Book 2, and The Morgawr in Book 3.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Ryer Ord Star.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Ilse Witch.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Bek and Rue Meridian.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Walker dies shutting down Antrax; Ryer Ord Star allows the Morgawr to keep her captive so Ahren can escape.
  • High-Altitude Battle: Many, between airships, Rocs, and Shrikes/War Shrikes.
  • Hollywood Cyborg: Antrax's wronks, which consist of mechanical bodies with human minds and limbs bonded onto them for skills and muscle memory. It should be noted that the human mind is still very aware of what is happening to it; it just can't do anything about it.
  • Hungry Jungle: The Crake rainforest may not be alive and hungry, but the Graak certainly is. There's a reason why the Rindge avoid the place as much as possible.
  • Implacable Man: The wronks. They just keep coming and coming until one of you is dead.
  • Jumped at the Call: Quentin, Bek, and Ahren. They won't do that again.
    • We Are Not Going Through That Again: Implied. Quentin and Ahren in particular state that they just want to forget what happened on the Voyage and, in the former's case, never plan to leave home again.
    • Bek and Ahren didn't really Jump at the Call. Bek was more like "eh, i've really got nothing better to do," while Ahren was just going because his brother effectively made him go. Quentin was the only one on the voyage who seemed really energetic and eager, at least initially.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted. Sen Dunsidan looks like one (aside from the whole, "never sleeping again" thing). Then High Druid roles around and he get eaten by the Moric.
  • Killer Robot: Lots of them, all working for Antrax. They come in Spider Tank and Hollywood Cyborg varieties.
  • Knife Fight: Between Cree Bega and Ahren. It's awesome.
  • Knight Templar: Antrax. Its job was to safeguard its information, and survive at all costs. It's interpreted this to mean: "lure humans in, kidnap the ones with magic, drain them in order to keep the capacitors running, and kill everyone else".
  • Lizard Folk: The Mwellrets play a major role in this series, providing the physical muscle for both The Morgawr and The Ilse Witch.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Truls Rohk.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War: Invoked by the conflict between the party and Antrax. Both are portrayed as being extremely dangerous, although the heroes are at a disadvantage due to their limited understanding of Antrax's abilities. The computer's actual defeat is due less to underestimating magic, and more to underestimating people.
  • Magitek: Antrax's need for magical fuel to run its burnt out capacitors is the reason the entire story happens in the first place.
  • Mercy Kill: Quentin Leah and Tamis spend most of Antrax trying to perform one for Ard Patrinell, who has been transformed into one of Antrax's killing machines, despite remaining fully conscious and horrified by what he's doing.
  • More than Mind Control: How Antrax controls the wronks.
  • Mutual Kill: Tamis and the Ard Patrinell wronk.
  • Offing the Offspring: After seeing what he had created, Truls Rohk's father killed his mother and tried to kill him.
  • People Puppets: When The Morgawr eats your brain all that's left is an Empty Shell drone that retains the victim's skills, but has no free will of its own.
  • Plot Coupon: Almost literally with the three keys the party must find to get into Castledown. Turn out to be more Mac Guffins in the end, since they were not actually necessary to open the way; rather, the dangers the party had to fight past to obtain them were tests Antrax used to prove the strength of their magical abilities (and thus usefulness for its needs).
  • Primal Fear: The Graak. It's a lost dinosaur that manages to be utterly terrifying in-series and out. It actually frightens Redden Alt Mer into a Heroic BSoD, kills several members of the company, and nearly takes Quentin Leah with it when it dies.
  • Raised by Orcs: Grianne Ohmsford, aka the Ilse Witch.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Cree Bega's Mwellrets, and the reptilian Morgawr himself, are among the most evil characters to come out of Brooks's work. And then there's the Graak, the only creature to frighten Redden Alt Mer out of his mind.
  • Savage Wolves: The caulls, which were reshaped by The Ilse Witch and The Morgawr into twisted Super Persistent Predators modelled on the Jachyras. The one the Ilse Witch creates is especially bad and continues to mutate long after she is done with it, eventually coming after her in revenge for what was done to it. It's powerful enough to kill Truls Rohk.
  • Science Fantasy: Druids, magic swords, and The Wishsong meet undead cyborgs, robotic attack drones, lasers, and a magically-powered supercomputer.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Truls Rohk killed his father after the man murdered his mother.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The books of magic and science are revealed to have been computer discs, unusable by anyone with the series's current technology levels. Admittedly, Antrax is destroyed, Grianne pulls a Heel–Face Turn, the Morgawr is killed, and a new Druid Council will be established per Walker's agreement with the Elven King, but was it really worth all that (and the death and suffering it took to achieve it)?
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The turnkey from the opening chapters of Morgawr is a hulking ex-soldier who did seven-turns of duty on the frontlines in the Federation/Free-born war. He's now a mute, almost mindless freak described as "scarred inside and out" who works as jailer, warden, and Torture Technician in the Federation prisons. Even he can't take what he sees The Morgawr and Sen Dunsidan do.
  • Slave Mooks: The Morgawr's airships are crewed by braindead, mind-controlled Federation sailors and soldiers, whose souls he has consumed.
  • The Soulless: The Morgawr's Slave Mooks, who have had their minds and souls devoured.
  • Spider Tank: Antrax's creepers are multilegged laser armed Killer Robots that served as the inspiration for the Hollywood Cyborg Creepers used by the Shadowen in The Heritage of Shannara. They were originally manned vehicles but have been supplanted by Antrax's automated versions.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: The Graak, which continues to hunt and kill members of Big Red's party long after it no longer needs to.
  • Supervillain Lair/Eldritch Location: What Castledown comes across for the main characters, given how it was originally designed to house Antrax and subsequently modified by the supercomputer over the generations.
  • Time Skip: It's been over a century since The Heritage of Shannara.
  • Together in Death: Tamis and Ard Patrinell are implied to end up this way; possibly Walker and Ryer Ord Star.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Ilse Witch gets at least as much attention as the heroic part of the cast.
  • Wizard Duel: Grianne vs The Morgawr, with an assist from Bek.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The Jerle Shannara and the other airships, despite more closely resembling a flying boat.