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Antrax: The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara    by Terry Brooks order for
by Terry Brooks
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the second in the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara epic, following Ilse Witch, which began with the devastating discovery of a maimed elf, lost on an expedition after legendary treasure. It introduced to us the last of the Druids, Walker Boh, and his enemy, the powerful and vengeful Ilse Witch. Walker assembled a crew to go after the treasure including elves, a seer, two young men - Bek and his friend Quentin Leah, each carrying a legendary sword - and a group of Rovers. After many perilous adventures, they reached the ruins of Castledown on the airship Jerle Shannara with the Ilse Witch in hot pursuit.

It was revealed at the end of Ilse Witch, that the sorceress is really Bek's lost sister Grianne Ohmsford. Antrax begins by revealing to the reader what happened to Grianne at age six 'on the last day of her childhood', how she was kidnapped by reptilian Mwellrets and raised by the Morgawr to blame Walker for the destruction of her family. Then we see a confrontation between Bek and Grianne. She doesn't believe his claim to be her brother and he flees her wrath (and wishsong magic) into the mountains with help from shape shifter Truls Rohk, who has been gradually teaching Bek to use his own magic.

This story shifts between cliffhanging situations for its various characters. Rue Meridien literally hangs off a rope from an airship drifting towards destruction, but manages to save herself and her friends at a cost. The Druid is pursued through an underground maze and steadily drained of his magic. Elf Prince Ahren Elessedil fled the battle that ended Ilse Witch, but is shamed by seer Ryer Ord Starr into helping her search for Walker underground. There the artificial intelligence Antrax seeks sources of power and fights hard for its survival, wielding nightmare creatures combined from machine and human parts, one of which chases Quentin relentlessly.

This episode moves the epic along at breathtaking speed, ruthlessly (and realistically) disposing of some characters, while developing others (especially Rue Meridien and Ahren Elessedil) in intriguing directions. I continue to be in awe of the author's imagination, which reveals to us a fantastic post-holocaust world, combining technology and magic in novel ways. Antrax ended with a confrontation between Grianne and Walker. I look forward to the final entry, Morgawr, now released in hardcover.

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