Monday, January 16, 2017

Witch Wraith

Well, here it is.  The final book in Terry Brooks' Dark Legacy of Shannara series, Witch Wraith.  I finished it about a half hour ago and needed some time to think about what I was going to say about it.  The problem was that the book was all over the place.  It was predictable at times, boring at others.  Sometimes bewildering, other times trying to convince me to care.  But the good parts were so very good. 

Witch Wraith started off with the boring.  Railing Ohmsford is on his way to the Tanequil, intent on discovering the fate of his great-aunt Grianne Ohmsford (previously the Ilse Witch, later the Ard Rhys of the Third Druid Order).  He sits on the airship feeling sorry for himself for keeping his visitation with the King of the Silver River a secret from his companions (especially Mirai Leah).  The King of the Silver River had given him a warning that Grianne would not be the same person she was when she became an aerid 100 years ago.  Railing is then summoned by the Grimpond, a shade that gives visions of the future (often without speaking plainly).  The Grimpond insists that it speaks plainly, saying Railing can succeed, but says so in such a way that its words echo the warning of the King of the Silver River.  Railing keeps this meeting a secret as well.  He and his companions are attacked and his mentor is gravely wounded in said attack; the older man passes away.  They find a place to bury him and Railing hangs back to confess his secrets over the grave.  Mirai hears some of it.  She then gets Railing to have sex with her in an effort to bring him back to himself (she says he has become a different person since he got separated from his brother).  This story line was finally getting a bit interesting, then it cut to Aphenglow.

Aphenglow and Cymrian get horses and chase after Arlingfant, who has been brought to the Federation capital city, Arishag.  Arling awakes to find herself in Edinja Orle's tower in Arishag.  Edinja drugs Arling with some sort of truth potion to find out what the heck the elves have been up to.  She then brings her down to see her crazy mutant creations.  Edinja leaves to address the Federation people (after much backstabbing from behind the scenes, she is the Federation Prime Minister).  Arling escapes (because Edinja apparently set her up to escape?) and tries to get out of the city but the gates are closed because the demon horde has appeared outside of the city.  She doesn't know that Aphen and Cymrian are there, and so the three elves spend a few days chasing each other around the city (explained in summary when they finally find each other) while we get several chapters about some guy who was given command of the city defences (and is fighting a horribly outnumbered, losing battle).  The elves reunite and are confronted by Edinja, who gives them a small aircraft to get out of the city, saying she doesn't want them to fail in their quest.  They escape just before the city is overrun and sacked by the demons.  For their part, the demons then turn to march on Arborlon. 

I completely skimmed over it in that summary, but there was a really fun scene where Cymrian has Aphen pretend to be his wife so they can get into the Federation city.  At the end of it all, they're together on a bed in an inn and he admits he would like it if she was his wife.  It was sweet.

Anyway, while all of this is going on, Oriantha and Tesla Dart have been trying to free Redden Ohmsford from the cage he's been stuck in by Tael Riverine (the Stracken Lord).  Oriantha eventually gets him free.  The three then have to outrun pursuit and decide that their best chance is to run back into the Forbidding, then cross back into the Four Lands closer to Arborlon.  I don't remember why, but they decided that was the best place for them to go.

Railing during this time has found the ruins of Stridegate (which is where the Tanequil lives).  He is determined to face the Tanequil alone, even though Mirai wants to go with him; Railing doesn't want her to come in case the Tanequil wants to trade her for Grianne Ohmsford.  Railing meets with Grianne Ohmsford, who tells him she cannot help him.  Railing insists on speaking with the Tanequil.  He offers nothing to trade with the Tanequil, but is insistent that he won't go away until the Tanequil gives him what he wants.  Father Tanequil (the upper part of the tree, with whom Railing speaks) warns him yet again (the same warning he's already gotten twice before), then tells him the matter is up to Mother Tanequil (the roots).  For some completely unknown reason (seriously, I don't understand at all why Mother Tanequil agrees), Grianne Ohmsford is returned to them.  But it isn't the Grianne Ohmsford who was the Ard Rhys.  No, it's the Ilse Witch who is returned, because she is the one who will be able to stand up to the Stracken Lord (or so Mother Tanequil decided?).

I found this part of the story very, very tragic, but it wasn't given its due respect.  Grianne refused to help Railing.  She had chosen her life as an aerid and was very happy there.  But because of Railing's demands, Mother Tanequil decided to give Grianne up to help the boy.  As far as I can tell, Grianne was given no say in the matter.  And worse than that, she was turned back into the Ilse Witch, the very thing she spent YEARS of her life trying to atone for.  Yeah.

I have to say, this part was in many ways predictable, except I really thought the Tanequil was going to demand Mirai Leah in exchange for Grianne.  The fact that the Tanequil gave her up pretty much without a problem was really odd.

So from there on, Railing now broods over how he brought the Ilse Witch back and how selfish he was in going on this quest in the first place.  He finally comes clean with the rest of his companions, but there's nothing that can really be done about this now.  So they travel on, terrified of what the Ilse Witch is going to do.  She has admitted that she will go and face Tael Riverine, but she cares nothing for what happens to the rest of them (or of the Redden Ohmsford's fate).

Oh yeah, and Seersha and Crace Coram are doing things.  They fly to Arishag just in time to see the remains of the city and the army already on the march to Arborlon.  Seersha sends Crace to muster the dwarves and border cities while she will go to Arborlon to warn the elves.  The king had previously been assassinated (and his brother implicated in the murder) so Phaedon has declared himself king.  Phaedon has been the most difficult person for everyone to deal with, so Seersha incapacitated him in order to get the army mustered to defend the city.

Aphen and Arling get the Ellcrys seed back from that guy who took it (this doesn't need any more explaining because it was a weird and rather dumb waste of time).  They find the Bloodfire and Arling quickens the seed.  But then Edinja appears and kidnaps Arling with the intention of bringing her to the elves herself so she would be the hero who saved the Four Lands.  She leaves her moor cat to stall Aphen and Cymrian.  Cymrian is mortally wounded, but manages to kill the cat.  They then take off after Edinja.  They kill her, but Cymrian is killed in turn.

That was a very sad and unexpected moment.  I really liked Cymrian.

So battle is happening outside of Arborlon.  Seersha wounds Tael Riverine's dragon but is badly wounded herself.  She's back in Arborlon being healed and discovers the weird shape shifter traitor in their midst (Edinja's magic creation/spy).  She manages to kill it but is even more badly hurt.

Redden and Oriantha discover that Tesla Dart knows where the missing Elfstones are!  They go to recover them, but get trapped by their pursuers.  Redden combines the power of the Wishsong with the Red Elfstones, shredding their pursuers.  He knows something is badly changed within him.

Railing and company arrive with the Ilse Witch who challenges Tael Riverine.  She manages to defeat him (that was a super cool scene - she surprised everyone by her unexpected victory), and then takes his place as leader of the Jarka Ruus.  She is about to continue the assault on Arborlon and attacks the Ohmsford boys (who reunited there on the battlefield).  Redden again combines the Wishsong with the Red Elfstones and becomes catatonic.   They are saved when Aphen and Arling make it to the Ellcrys and Arling becomes the new Ellcrys, thereby returning the Forbidding to full strength.  All the demons get sucked back inside.  So does the Ilse Witch, because she became their leader.  The unfortunate side effect is that Tesla Dart is sucked back into the Forbidding, too. :(

Aphen then has to decide whether to remain in Arborlon or return to Paranor.  Meanwhile, Railing and Mirai take Redden home.  Thanks to the ring the King of the Silver River gave Railing (and a crap load of time), Railing is able to bring Redden back.  The end.

So if that plot summary felt all over the place, don't feel bad.  It was a lot worse reading it.  Every time something that I cared about started happening, the book would skip to several chapters of boring fluff.  The demon attack on Arishag was all boring fluff in my opinion; rather than seeing the elf trio trying to find each other through a city in lockdown, we got the city's commander fighting a losing battle.  I think it would have been far more relevant to miss that and just cut the elves finding each other and escaping the city, then to Seersha and Crace finding the city in ruins.  Railing's chapters were also super boring because pretty much all he was doing was feeling sorry for himself.  I would have loved something from Grianne's perspective as she evolved back into the Ilse Witch.  But no.

So what was the good?  Honestly, most of the stuff with Aphenglow, Arlingfant, and Cymrian.  Arlingfant didn't sit around and wait to be rescued.  And we got to see how she slowly came to accept her destiny to become the new Ellcrys.  Aphenglow and Cymrian were super cute while also incredibly capable.  As I said, the Tael Riverine vs the Ilse Witch moment was awesome.  I had a feeling that she would win, but how she did it really surprised me.  Oh, and I was super sad that Tesla Dart was sucked back into the Forbidding.  I really liked her and was sad that she didn't get a happy ending.  But really, this whole story wasn't a happy ending. 

Oh yeah, especially since Tesla Dart had the remaining three Elfstone sets in hand.  So they all went back into the Forbidding too.

So this entire story seemed completely pointless overall.  There was no reason to go on this quest in the first place.  Everyone was warning them not to go.  Then everyone seemed to forget about it anyway because more important things were happening (like the Ellcrys dying).   The Federation politicians were doing crazy things because they were basically hellbent on being mustache-twiddling bad guys.  Edinja was the most fleshed out (barely) and she just wanted to rule the entire world (and make mutant monster things?). 

While reading this trilogy, I kept feeling like maybe I'm done with Terry Brooks and Shannara.  I looked back on Goodreads, and I've rated most of his new books in the 2-3 star range (Bloodfire Quest is the only 4 star book, and I'm still thinking I only gave it that because it was so much better than Wards of Faerie and not because it actually deserved the 4 star rating).  And Witch Wraith was no exception to this rule.  But I have all three books in The Defenders of Shannara series, AND I just found out there are going to be four more books that will be the chronological end to the entire Shannara series.  So most likely I will keep reading (and hope the books improve from here!!!!)

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