A Knight of the Word, the second instalment or Terry Brooks‘s Word and Void trilogy, takes place several years after the events of Running With the Demon. Nest Freemark is now in college. Her grandfather has recently passed away and she’s thinking of leaving Hopewell, and the park and Pick along with it for good. She hasn’t used her magic in years and is not even sure that she still has it, especially since Wraith, her mysterious protector, also seems to have disappeared.
Then she is visited by a tatterdemalion, a messenger of the Word. John Ross, the Knight of the Word who had helped her defeat her father years ago, is in trouble. He has forsaken his calling as a Knight of the Word, and the servants of the Void are trying to turn him and his magic to their ends. He is already being subverted by a demon and it may already be too late. Nest must go to Seattle and confront him, give him one more chance to take up the black staff again. Should she fail, his life will be forfeit, and possibly hers as well.
I did not enjoy this novel as much as it’s predecessor. To start with, the novel didn’t. Start, that is. The first hundred pages or so are mainly devoted to back story with large sections repeated almost verbatim from the first novel.
Added to that, both Nest and John Ross are a bit wearisome, each one caught up in their own angst. Nest can’t decide whether she should heed the tatterdemalion’s message and go see Ross or not, can’t decide whether she should sell her house and leave Sinnissippi Park and Pick or not, she can’t decide whether she should try use her magic again or not… Ross is still plagued by his dreams of the future, but now he tries his best to ignore them while at the same time agonising about his past failures that drove him to forsake his calling in the first place.
Nest has had almost no character development since the previous novel and comes across rather one-dimensional. Ross has changed some from the first time we met them, but within the scope of this novel that’s not taken much further, not until the very end. Of the remaining characters the demon is by far the most interesting, but as a being of pure evil there’s not much room for multi-dimensionality there either.
Around a third of the way through the novel things start picking up and Brooks succeeds reasonably well in building up the tension. However, the “twist” was glaringly obvious and I had it figured out already by the half-way mark. I kinda hoped the author was dragging a red herring across my path, but no such luck. There was a rather big surprise regarding Nest’s magic, but it’s impact was ruined somewhat by the anti-climax of figuring out the ending so far in advance.
The “Word” and the “Void” in this series are not-so-veiled references to God and the devil and are the two powers of good and evil fighting for humanity. It bothered me that a central idea in this novel seems to be that human beings are mere pawns in the battle between these two forces, with no actual ability to make choices themselves. The central theme revolved around accepting one’s past, forgiving yourself and being true to who you are…I think. These ideas could have been brought across more effectively and clearly.
On a more positive note, Brooks’s descriptions of the setting are as vivid as I’ve come to expect from him, and I feel I know Seattle quite a bit better after having read this, even though I’ve never been there.
I’m developing a theory that Brooks can’t write a series without at least one dud – in the Sword of Shannara trilogy it was the titular volume, in the Scions of Shannara quadrilogy (?) it was The Druid of Shannara, and in the Word and Void trilogy it appears to be A Knight of the Word. Towards the end I got the feeling that this novel was merely setting the stage for the next one, Angel Fire East.
A novel has to be really bad before I’d actually call it bad, but A Knight of the Word wasn’t good, especially compared to its predecessor. However, I have hope for the finale – with the new manifestation of Nest’s magic the expectation for an epic battle between good and evil has been created. We’ll see if Brooks delivers on that promise.
To be continued…