The Black Elfstone: The Fall of Shannara
The Fall of Shannara by Terry Brooks has all the elements that have made his Shannara world a popular series. It starts with an aging wizard, disgusted with Druidical politics and inaction, living apart and alone. There are two young people, just coming into their inherited, unfathomed magical power–one creative and controlled, one powerful and destructive–who happen to be brother and sister. There are mysterious invaders none can stand against. Add to this assassins, treachery, smoldering romance, honor, airships, strange creatures of magic and half-magic, an obscure prophecy only meant to be understood as it unfolds, and the wonderful land of Shannara itself. What’s not to like?
The author’s approach to magic is a two-edged sword: the reader is never quite sure what it can or cannot do, but it is not all-powerful, so normal mortals sometimes carry the day. The characters are dimensional enough to be interesting; the plot is twisted enough to be opaque until the end. This is clearly the first of a storyline–the ending leaves almost all the plot threads loose, and by the end of the book you have begun to care about the fate of the characters and Shannara. In this the author succeeds well, and I look forward to the next in the series.