April 23, 1990 12:00 PM

by Terry Brooks

How fare the inhabitants of the Four Lands?

Three hundred years have flown by in this fantasy realm since Brooks’s last cloak-and-sorcery epic, The Wishsong of Shannara, was published in 1985. As the author kicks off a massive new trilogy (this novel is book one of The Heritage of Shannara), things do not bode well. The Druids are gone; the Elves have vanished; the Dwarves have been enslaved and the Gnomes subjugated by the oppressive Federation. Magic is now strictly forbidden and assiduously persecuted. Only the Trolls remain free.

The oppressed descendants of the ancient Elven line of Shannara are set an impossible task by the ghost of the powerful Druid Allanon. If they fail to perform it, baleful creatures called Shadowen will poison the world and all who live in it. There follow 463 pages of heroism, formidable foes, narrow escapes and, of course, magic.

Brooks, who had been getting a little word-weary around the time of Wishsong (his third Shannara tome), seems to have caught a second wind as he launched his new undertaking. The prose and storytelling are fresher and more inviting. It’s not Tolkien, but it’s about the best we’ve got. (Del Rey, $19.95)

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