Talk about coincidence! I planned to read the Word & Void trilogy early this year as it’s been on my shelf for far too long and a coworker from my last job (3+ years ago) recommended it. Add that we recently started to watch The Shannara Chronicles (IMDB link) and my interest in Brooks’ work increased. So when I started reading this and found out it’s a distant part of the Shannara universe my mind was blown!
I asked advice on whether to even consider the Shannara super-series and I find out I’ve backed myself into it inadvertently. Again, Mind. Blown. Although this is the eleventh book published connected to Shannara, it is the first in story chronology. I have no idea how many I will read, but I will most definitely finish out this trilogy as I was sucked in within the first few pages!
I’m wondering what it would’ve been like to read these as they were published. Would I have gone back and read the prequels. The good news is,according to Brooks site (direct link) there is a specific order to read the entire series, but this trilogy isn’t on there, so I might be okay. Brooks is still writing books (Brooks’ site) in the series too! So many books, so little time!
I really enjoyed this book, but I am struggling because I already know a little about the original trilogy (The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara) from the MTV adaptation. It is very hard to reconcile this pre-apocalyptic world with the seeming utopia of that series! At the same time, though, knowing that it happens at some point is REALLY pushing me forward. Quotes like this are driving me insane because I just want to know!
“With the passage of time the balance will shift back again, and the world will begin anew. But it is too late for civilization. Civilization is finished. Men are diminished, reduced to the level of animals. Rebirth, when it comes, will be a crapshoot.” (120)
I want to know how we go from 14-year-old Nest Freemark and Knight of the Word John Ross to the elves, druids and demons of the original series. I’m so excited to find out I just hope I can temper my expectations accordingly.
The entire story of Running with the Demon takes place over three days. Three days! It’s crazy how much Brooks fit into this snapshot of time. There were times when I struggled because his descriptions got in the way. What is it with fantasy authors and the need to over-describe things? The book could’ve been just as great with 25-50 fewer pages cut out from over-description. I did enjoy his use of colloquialisms though, especially around dim-witted individuals. (I really want to use the first one!)
“…if brains were dynamite he didn’t have enough to blow his nose.” (38)
“…those who knew him best thought he wasn’t rowing with all his oars in the water.” (39)
The most enjoyable part of the story was the characters. I was immediately invested in Nest’s life and her future and John Ross provided a great counter/co-point to this and I want to know so much more about him! Ross’ visions/dream/future life confused me at first but became the moment of the story I longed for to find out Nest’s potential future. There’s so much that I want to know about Nest, but more so about Ross and when everything happens as a result of knowing a bit about Shannara already.
Recommendation: If you like fantasy then read it! I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of “today” and a dystopic future. Little actions that could change the entire fate of the human race is a fascinating premise on which to build an entire series. I can’t wait to dive more into the Shannara series.
Opening Line: “He stands alone in the center of another of America’s burned-out towns.”
Closing Line: “John Ross closed his eyes, a warrior traveling through time, and drived away to dream of a future he hoped would never be.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Running with the Demon
“The world was a scary place for little girls, but the scariest things in it weren’t always feeders and they didn’t live only in the dark.” (19)
“The demon’s life was wedded to his cause and his cause required great patience. He had sacrificed everything to become what he was, but he knew from his transformation at the hands of the Void that sacrifice was required. After he had embraced the Void he had concealed himself until his conscience had rotted and fallen away and left him free. His name had been lost. His history had faded. His humanity had dissipated and turned to dust. All that he had been had disappeared with the change, so that now he was reborn into his present life and made over into his higher form. It had been hard in the beginning, and once, in a moment of great weakness and despair, he had even thought to reject what he had so readily embraced. But in the end reason had prevailed, and he had forsaken all.” (52)
“The park had become a vast arena, carpeted with grass, walled by trees, empty of sound. Magic raced through the air with savage grace and reckless need, but no one except Nest could sense its presence.” (77)
“It is the way the world is now, the way it has been for more than seven years. All of the cities of America are either armed camps or ruins. Nuclear missiles and poison gas and defoliant were used early, when there were still governments and armies to wield them. Then the missiles and gas and defoliant were discarded in favor of more personal, rudimentary weapons as the governments and armies disintegrated and the level of savagery rose.” (118-119)
“The war between us is as old as time and as endless. You know of it, for it is revealed by every tongue and written in every language. It is the confrontation between good and evil, between creation and destruction, between life and death. There are warriors that serve each of us, but only a handful like you.” (185)
“The destruction of the world isn’t going to happen in the way people think. Nope. It isn’t going to happen in a flood or a fire. It isn’t going to happen all at once, brought about by some unexpected catastrophe. It won’t be any one thing you can point to. That’s not how it works. The Bible had it wrong. It will happen because of a lot of little things, an accumulation of seemingly insignificant events. Like dominoes tipped over, one against the other—that’s how it will happen. One thing here, another there, next thing you know it all comes tumbling down.” (234-235)
“I have tried never to lie to you. There are things that I haven’t told you. Some you don’t need to know. Some I can’t tell you. We all have secrets in our lives. We are entitled to that. Not everything about us should be known. I expect you understand that, being who you are. Secrets allow us space in which to grow and change as we must. Secrets give us privacy where privacy is necessary if we are to survive.” (246)
“Yes, she was odd, and it wasn’t really any surprise that she had died of a heart attack blasting away at shadows with a shotgun, because Evelyn Freemark had done stranger things. But in the back of their minds was the conviction that she really wasn’t so different than they were, and that if it could happen to her, it could happen to them. Truth was you shared an uneasy sense of kinship with even the most unfortunate, disaffected souls; you felt you had known at least a few of them during your life. You had all been children together, with children’s hopes and dreams. The dark future that had claimed those few was never more than an arm’s length away from everyone else. You knew that. You knew that a single misfortune could change your life forever, that you were vulnerable and to protect yourself you wanted to know everything you could about why it had touched another and passed you by.” (382-383)
“In a world in which so much of what he encountered only served to reinforce his fears that the future of his dreams was an inevitability, Nest gave him home. When so many others might have succumbed to their fear and despair, Nest had not. She represented a little victory when measured against the enormity of the battle being fought by the Word and the Void, but sometimes little victories made the difference. Little victories, like the small events that tipped the scales in the balance of life, really could change the world.” (434)