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The High Druid's Blade: The Defenders of Shannara    by Terry Brooks order for
High Druid's Blade
by Terry Brooks
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's another exciting Shannara sequence from Terry Brooks. An ordinary (or so he believes) young man grows up in Leah in the Highlands, managing the family shipping business. He occasionally yearns for something different. Paxon Leah's ancestors (once Kings and Queens) certainly led more adventurous lives than his has been so far. All the current family retains from their past is an old sword hung over the mantel. But of course, readers know that Paxon's life will change soon, and drastically.

As The High Druid's Blade opens, Paxon's younger (and very headstrong) sister Chrysallin is in trouble again. Chrys's friend Jayet rushes from her job at the local tavern to inform Paxon that Chrys lost a reckless wager and that the man she made it with has taken her with him as payment. Paxon rushes to save her and ends up with a beating for his pains as sorcerer Arcannen takes Chrys by airship to his Dark House ('a pleasure house specializing in exotic and forbidden acts') in Wayford. Of course, Paxon follows, Sword of Leah in hand.

Jayet insists on accompanying him and helps him gain entry to Dark House. They find Chrys but Arcannen is there too. He offers her freedom in return for the sword. But Paxon fights his way out instead. When the sorceror uses magic against him, the Sword of Leah flares to life in his hands and gives him what he needs to escape. This use of magic brings Paxon to the attention of Aphenglow Elessedil, Ard Rhys of the Druid Order in Paranor. When she offers him the opportunity to train to be a Druid paladin, he accepts.

Paxon develops both martial and magical abilities in Paranor and assists in several quests, during which it becomes clear that Arcannen has a spy amongst the Druids. Then, Chrys (who had been watched over by the Druids in Paxon's absence) is taken again. She suffers terribly on Arcannen's orders, a preparation for her involvement in a larger plot to bring down the Druid order - will it succeed and will Arcannen acquire the Sword of Leah?

Brooks tosses in other brave characters - Grehling, a boy in Wayford who helps Chrys, and his friend Leofur who owns a powerful weapon - to defeat the sorceror - at least this time. And Chrys's suffering unleashes a powerful talent, which we can be sure she will need in further episodes. As always, Terry Brooks gives his multitude of fans rousing entertainment in The High Druid's Blade, and I look forward to more of Paxon's and Chrys's exploits.

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