Believe it or not, I don’t spend ALL my time reading dense, serious classics. After finishing “Faust” this past weekend, I decided it was time to read something a little easier…namely Terry Brooks’ latest “Magic Kingdom of Landover” novel – “A Princess of Landover.”
Terry Brooks has been one of my favorite fantasy writers since I was eleven. His “Shannara” series, spanning seventeen volumes, is undeniably one of the great masterworks of fantasy. As I grew older, I found his “Word and Void” novels both haunting and thought-provoking. However, he’s also written another series – one without the high-fantasy overtones of “Shannara” or the dark intensity of “Word and Void.”
Informally known as the “Magic Kingdom” novels, these five books – now six – follow the adventures of Ben Holiday, a Chicago lawyer who purchases the deed to a magical kingdom from the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog. The first volume “Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold!” chronicled his initial foray into the kingdom of Landover and his acquisition of the throne. Further volumes – “The Black Unicorn” “Wizard at Large” “The Tangle Box” and “Witches’ Brew” – sent Ben all across Landover, battling evil forces and searching for hidden secrets.
The world of Landover isn’t nearly as complex or structured as Tolkien’s Middle-earth, LeGuin’s Earthsea, or even Brooks’ own Four Lands. It’s a little reminiscent of the Chronicles of Narnia – everything isn’t fully explained, yet there’s a definite internal consistency underlying it all. Most of the characters show up in every book – the evil witch Nightshade, the unpredictable dragon Strabo, the dysfunctional wizard Questor Thews, and the beautiful sylph Willow are regular cast members. While it has its dramatic moments, the series as a whole has a “don’t-take-this-too-seriously” attitude – a breath of fresh air in a genre that seems to be getting grimmer and grimmer.
“A Princess of Landover” is set ten years after the fifth book, “Witches’ Brew.” Ben is the King of Landover and has a fifteen-year-old daughter, Mistaya, who happens to be part sylph. Her magical heritage gives her a remarkable intelligence, which makes it difficult for her to fit in at her preparatory school back on Earth. After an incident that gets her indefinitely suspended and sent back to Landover, Mistaya is assigned a punitive task by her father: refurbishing the decrepit library of Liberis and turning it into a useful resource for the kingdom.
Thus begins the adventure.
Brooks writes with wit, warmth, and intensity, blending these disparate concepts into a brilliant whole. Even after having authored twenty-five previous books, “A Princess of Landover” feels fresh and fluid. The plot is clever and sophisticated, holding readers’ interest until the very last page. Both longtime fans and newcomers will find much to like here – there’s plenty of magic, suspense, action, and a touch of romance.
(A note on the magic: Anyone who isn’t offended by “The Chronicles of Narnia” won’t have a problem with the “Magic Kingdom” series.)
Objectionable content? Negligible. The violence is restrained, there’s no innuendo, and there’s only one d-word. It’s also worth noting that “A Princess of Landover” contains a very positive message regarding parenthood and individual responsibility that many conservatives will find especially gratifying. In my opinion, any fans of fantasy who aren’t familiar with Terry Brooks have been seriously deprived. His books are some of the cleanest and best-written around, with the remarkable ability to haunt the reader long after the final page is turned.
“A Princess of Landover” is the first new “Magic Kingdom” novel in over ten years. I hope the next one arrives a little more quickly. 🙂
Brooks’ best novel since 2006’s “Armageddon’s Children.” Well worth the wait.
(Anyone interested in the “Shannara” or “Word and Void” sagas, send me a PM or comment on this post. There’s a lot to discuss. 🙂 )