KokkieH Reviews A Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks

A Knight of the Word - Terry Brooks
Cover illustration by Brom
Publisher: http://www.randomhouse.com/delrey/

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…

9 thoughts on “KokkieH Reviews A Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks

  1. I read a bit of Terry Pratchett years ago, but generally tend to the more weighty, thought-provoking books such as those by Guy Gavriel Kay. However, I have a good friend in Tasmania and just emailed her the link to this post (in case she missed it!) She’s a big Pratchett fan. We both found you through Mr. 23Thorns’ blog post for the Blog Hop. Lots of food for thought here, too, and humour, which I love. I’ll be back! ~ Linne


    1. I love Pratchett. His stories are actually quite deep, but one doesn’t always spot it on the first pass. As a result the Discworld novels also re-read well.

      I’m glad you decided to visit, but, erm (this is a bit embarrassing), what put you onto Pratchett? It’s just that I don’t mention him once in this review on a novel by Terry Brooks 😉

      I’ll go read up on Kay. Always on the lookout for new authors whose work I can collect excessively until my bookshelves are stacked three deep.


  2. I had a similar experience with his Landover series. “Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold” was a fun read, well written. “The Black Unicorn”, book 2 in the series, was … meh. Not so good, but not bad enough that I didn’t want to touch him again. Book 3, “Wizard At Large”, was almost as good as the first, which I why I picked up “The Tangle Box” (4) …. which was so bad I just don’t want to read him again. He left me feeling that he’d had a great idea for a book, but someone has told him that he has to write a series to be taken seriously (which may be true for all I know – certainly there are an awful lot of series out there), and so he plodded along without really having a great deal to add. A pity, because he is quite capable of writing well.


    1. He is capable of writing well, yes. He wouldn’t have built up such a devoted following if he wasn’t. But he’s not consistent. I never managed to get into the Landover series.

      I’m rather curious to see what the Elfstones television series is going to be like.


  3. I read Brooks’ “Sword of Shannara” when it came out. To me it was wholly derivative – it read like he’d written up a role-playing game replay of The Lord Of The Rings. Or something. Plot, characters and settings all seemed awfully familiar. I’m not the only one to notice: http://www.scifimoviepage.com/upcoming/previews/shannara-preview.html Suffice to say, after I’d read it, I never touched another Brooks novel again.


    1. The single biggest criticism consistently levelled against Brooks is that his works are too derivative of The Lord Of The Rings. Yet, others hail him as the master of epic fantasy.

      I enjoy his novels, but as I said, each trilogy appears to have a dud. He does have a knack for battle scenes. His Landover series, which is supposed to be comic fantasy, left me cold, though.


      1. Ouch! I never saw that movie…possibly fortuitously. The original Star Wars trilogy was stunningly good, but the ‘prequel’ one seemed bit too – er – derivative… 🙂 And we knew where it was always going to have to go…


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