Picking up five years after the action in Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Word takes off at a fast pace and keeps going. If you could skip the first book of the Word & Void trilogy I would recommend it. This one was a huge step forward and I think the 80 fewer pages in this book were all description from the first book, making this one better. I mean you should read both, but know if you make it through the first one, you’ve got this great one to look forward to!
I wasn’t sure how I would like this book with the five years between the two stories and taking the action away from Nest and putting it solely on John Ross. Brooks didn’t let me down though, the story moved quickly to include Nest. It was a bit sad hearing about everything that happened since the end of Running with the Demon, but it was great to be back in the world again so quickly.
This book is about John Ross’ fall from/rejection of the Word/good. He decided he no longer wants to be a Knight of the Word and as such demons/the Void/bad are now battling for his soul and magic. I still have no idea how these connect to the Shannara series, but the more I read the more I find that they’re distantly related and I will find the missing link when I read the Genesis of Shannara trilogy!
Brooks’ characters once again carried the story. I immediately became invested in Nest’s need to help John Ross and was even invested in Ross’s new attempts at solving the future Void problems without his magic. Nest appeared to be more introspective as she’d aged, but I guess Ross was fighting an internal battle as well as the external to-do and I actually enjoyed this new facet to Brooks’ work.
“What we have in life that we can count our own is who we are and where we come from, she thought absently. For better or worse, that’s what we have to sustain us in our endeavors, to buttress us in our darker moments, and to remind us of our identity. Without those things we are adrift.” (281)
I spent part of the book wondering if perhaps the new demon was the same from the first book returning for vengeance. The deception and labyrinths are even thicker in this book than the last and I spent most of the book knowing exactly who the new demon was while simultaneously questioning my belief. In the end I was correct, but even up to the last 20 pages I wasn’t 100% certain.
If there’s one thing that irked me about the book it was Brooks’ use of the almost exact same quote in Running with the Demon and this novel. On page 118 in Demon and 97 in this novel, he compared Ross’ journey and the futility of the cause to Cervantes’ Don Quixote. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but he chose to use the same imagery about “tilting at windmills.” Perhaps I’m just too close of a reader, but it really stood out to me and I just shook my head and noted it down. It didn’t affect the story at all, but it was just such a unique phrase/image that it stood out he used it twice.
Recommendation: This was such a great book! I read it in about two days with work and everything else in between. I know I’ll be sad when I finish Angel Fire East, but I also know there will be more for me in the Shannara series later. I’m honestly super excited about where this will go and how it will eventually get to where I know it’s going.
Opening Line: “He stands on a hillside south of the city looking back at the carnage.”
Closing Line: “It wasn’t the worst sort of way to live one’s life. In his case, he concluded hopefully, perhaps it was the best.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from A Knight of the Word
“Small towns were supposed to be stable and unchanging. It was part of their charm, one of their virtues, that while larger communities would almost certainly undergo some form of upheaval, they would remain the same.” (28)
“It despised the weakness of flesh and blood and bone it had long ago discarded. It despised the humanity that it had shed like a snake’s skin. It was not burdened by moral codes or emotional balance or innate sensibility or anything even approaching responsibility. The demon function in his service to the Void without any restrictions save one—to survive. It did not question that it served the Void; it did so because it could not conceive of any other way to be and because the Void’s interests were a perfect fit with his own. The demon’s purpose in life was to destroy the humans of whom it had once been part. Its purpose was to wipe them from the face of the earth. That it served the Void in doing so seemed mostly chance.” (135)
“You can be homeless in different ways. You can be homeless like those of my people you see here, living on the streets, surviving on handouts, marking time between the seasons. But you can be homeless in your heart, too. You can be empty inside yourself because you have no spiritual center. You can wander through life without any real sense of who you are or where you belong. You can exist without purpose or cause.” (194)
“You are one man serving a cause in which many have given their lives. You are one man in a long line of men and women, one only, and not so special that you could ever afford to hope you might make a significant difference. But you have done the best you could, and no more was ever asked. The war between the Word and the Void is a long and difficult one, and it has been waged since the beginning of time. It is in the nature of all life that it must be waged. That you were chosen to take up the Word’s cause is an honor. It should be enough that you have been given a chance to serve.” (207)