Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

Roughly 500 years have passed since Hawk led his ragged group of survivors to the valley and a shield of magic was put in place to protect them from the waves of destruction outside.  Over the centuries, the humans, elves, and mutants living in this safe haven have apparently forgotten the shared struggle of their ancestors as they choose to live separated from one another, with little contact.

Sider Ament, the last Knight of the Word, is the first to discover that the barriers are dissolving.  Trackers Panterra Qu and Prue Liss are the next.  Unfortunately, few want to believe them:  the weakening of the barriers goes against everything they’ve been taught, Sider has long been a recluse, and the trackers are teenagers.  The three have some idea of what will eventually find its way inside the valley though, so, with the help of two Elven trackers (Tasha and Tenerife) and one Elven princess (Phryne) they venture into the dangerous land beyond the barrier to gather proof.

The basic storyline is solid but, diehard Terry Brooks fan that I am, I have a few criticisms.  Phryne was just too scattered for me—I actually had trouble believing her as a character.  She hates her stepmother, she thinks maybe she’s misjudged her stepmother, she never visits her grandmother, she loves her grandmother, etc.  I know she’s a teenager but many of her actions simply did not seem to agree with her intelligence or temperament.  Another detail that jarred me out of the story was the scene in which Phryne convinces her father to let her accompany the trackers—I have a difficult time believing he would agree.  Even if he truly didn’t believe there was any danger, her stated interest in Pan seems like something that would have raised concerns.

Now on to the aspects of the story that make this a recommended read!  Deladion Inch is an intriguing character and, considering his situation, I really hope we discover how he came to be the man we meet.  I do question the equipment he’s managed to restore to working condition, despite the fact that the technology is over 500 years old.  I was able to suspend my disbelief a bit though, simply because he is such an engaging character.

I love Sider and Aislinne.  I can’t say that I love Arik but he’s certainly noteworthy.  I’m curious to learn more of Bonnasaint.

Criticisms aside, I like meeting the new characters that Brooks creates and I love his descriptive writing style.  I do miss the old days when each book was a complete adventure (as opposed to a part of the adventure) but c’est la vie.  As a bridge between the various series, Bearers of the Black Staff provides enough backstory that newcomers won’t be lost, but not so much that the story is bogged down.  Looking forward to The Measure of Magic!!!

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