I missed reading the The Sword of Shannara when it first came out nearly 30 years ago, so when I saw it on the library shelf I had to pick it up.
Thirty years ago I would have enjoyed the book a lot more. It does have some fun bits, especially the parts where it’s more like a RPG than a takeoff of Lord of the Rings, as in these sections:
The black-garbed figures were immobile at the edge of the furnace, statues frozen in place with the great strain of their battle, dark faces only inches apart, the lean arms of the giant Druid holding firm the claw-tipped limbs of the deadly spirit creature. The Skull Bearer was attempting to bring his razor-sharp hands close enough to the mystic’s unprotected throat to rip the life out of him and end the battle quickly. The black wings heaved with the exertion, flapping in fury to add momentum to the assault, the unmistakable rasp of its breathing cutting the heated air with ragged desperation. Then suddenly the Northland creature’s wiry leg shot out, tripping the Druid so that he fell backward onto the stone floor at the edge of the pit. Like a shot, the attacker was upon him, one clawed hand sweeping downward for the kill. But the victim was too quick, rolling deftly away from the deadly talons and free from the creature’s grasp. Nevertheless, Flick saw the blow catch a portion of the shoulder and heard the distinct rending of cloth as first blood was drawn. Flick gave a gasp of dismay, but a moment later the Druid was on his feet, showing no sign of injury. Twin bolts of blue flame shot out of the extended fingers of his hands, striking the rising Skull Bearer with shattering force, throwing the infuriated creature back against the railing. But while the mystic bolts had visibly hurt the serpent during the battle in the Hall of Kings, they did little more than slow the Northland creature for a few brief seconds. Roaring in fury, it counterattacked. Blazing red bolts shot from its burning eyes. Allanon brought his cloak up in a sweeping movement, and the bolts appeared to deflect into the stone walls of the chamber. For a moment, the creature hesitated, and the two opponents circled warily in the manner of two beasts of the forest, locked in a life-and-death struggle which only one could survive.
I couldn’t resist bolding my favorite lines. Two and a half similarly long paragraphs later:
The fire-red eyes burned with the fury of the furnace pit itself, shooting forth bolts of fire that tore into the stone walls, leaving gaping, blackened holes. … Twin bolts of flame shot out of the burning eyes, shattering the stone blocks of the staircase into deadly fragments which flew in all directions like little knives.
In the next paragraph, the Druid proves the flaming eyes are a long-range weapon only:
… somehow the dazed mystic was on his feet again, the blue bolts from the lean hands flashing fiercely as they struck the unprotected head of the attacker. Powerful fists rained resounding blows on both sides of the creature’s black head, turning the battered figure about once again as the great arms wound with crushing force about its chesting, pinning the wings and claw-tipped hands back against the writhing body. Holding the creature thus, the steel-eyed Druid gritted his gleaming teeth in fury and squeezed.
A few pages later we return to the rest of the party.
[Durin’s and Dayel’s] lithe Elven limbs carried them up the flight of stairs in gliding, bounding leaps, barely touching the stone as they ran. Hendel, Menion, and Balinor came in a rush behind, their progress partially impeded by their heavy weapons and greater weight, and partially by each other as they tried to avoid stumbling over one another in the narrow, winding staircase.
After battling Gnomes and climbing a[nother] winding staircase:
Then Menion sprang the first hidden trap. A series of long, barbed spikes shot out of the stone wall, triggered by the pressure of Menion’s foot on the stone stairway. Had Menion still been on the step, they would have cut into his unprotected legs, crippling him and forcing him over the edge of the open stairwell in the black abyss below. But Hendel had heard the click of the released spring an instant before the trap opened.
And more traps!
Quickly Hendel found a second trap of the same type and triggered it, breaking the spikes and moving on.
Dayel called out sharply. His keen Elven hearing had caught something that the others had missed, a small click that signaled the triggering of still another trap.
Doesn’t this sound like a terrific game?