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The Darkling Child: The Defenders of Shannara
by Terry Brooks
Del Rey; $28; 320pp
Published: June 2015

This novel picks up after “The High Druid’s Blade” (click here for review) where Paxon Leah recovered his family’s sword and his heritage, went to Paranor, was trained and finally confronted a nasty sorcerer named Arcannen.

Arcannen, after his very dastardly deeds in the previous tale, is still on the loose.

Paxon has gone back to Paranor and hones his skills with the Sword of Leah.

But this novel really deals with Revenge (with a capital “R”) and a young man named Reyn Frosch, a troubadour with amazing singing skills. Unbeknownst to him, he is a scion of the House of Ohmsford and has inherited the mighty gift of the wishsong. So here we have an orphan with uncanny hitherto unknown ability being sought out by both the dark and the light sides. A rather common theme in fantasy.

Arcannen sitting in the back of a village tavern one night hears Reyn’s singing and knows instantly what talent Reyn has. Arcannen wants to control and use this raw, wonderful and untrained young man. Of course, because Reyn is the perfect tool for his plans.

For while Arcannen was recuperating from his earlier confrontation with Paxon Leah he lived in a small coastal village named Arbrox inhabited by pirates. But the Federation’s elite guard, called the Red Slash set out to find him for his previous misdeeds and they track him to Arbrox where they kill every man, woman and child---but the slippery Arcannen gets away.

Even a vicious wizard has feelings though and he swears revenge on the leader Dallen Usurient and his company of soldiers.

Paxon is sent by the new Ard Rhys, Isaturin (head of Paranor and the Druids) to track down an unusual surge of magic their scrying glass reveals. A surge that might be a sign to the Druids that Arcannen has resurfaced.

Paxon is assigned a Druid named Avelene and the two of them trace the power surge to Reyn and attempt to help him. Reyn, terrified by his ability to kill with his voice, decides to leave town after having defended himself from attack and gruesomely slaughtering his attackers. But Arcannen convinces him to stay put---while he runs an errand.  Arcannen will return to help Reyn with controlling is ability.

When Arcannen returns to the village, he finds Paxon trying to talk to Reyn. In the ensuing melee, while Paxon tried to convince Reyn of his good intentions and avoid Arcannen, Avelene is ensorcelled by Arcannen. Reyn and the sorcerer escape.

While Avelene is recuperating from Arcannen’s nasty magic in Paranor, Arcannen convinces Reyn to let him be his mentor and teach him how to control the power of his wishsong. Arcannen also elicits the help of a young woman named Lariana he finds at a place called The House of Rare Flowers. She is willing to go with Arcannen to escape the life at the House which she finds too constricting. She’ll be instrumental in persuading Reyn to hone his skill for the sorcerer’s benefit. It does not hurt at all that Reyn falls in love with her.

Meanwhile, Paxon Leah and Avelene are back on the road (well, actually in an airship) searching for Arcannen and Reyn.

Annnd….this tale of Revenge would not be complete without Dallin Usurient thrown back into the mix determined to trap Arcannen and finish him off because Arcannen sent a taunt to the commander for a rematch--fittingly enough in the ruins of Arbrox.

Of course nothing falls out the way it’s planned. Revenge as a motivator always twists in the hands of the wielder. And it certainly does here. As I said, Arcannen is a slippery fellow.

The story moves along briskly and the final confrontation is spectacularly vivid and terrible, with unexpected results.

But there is still more to be resolved, in another novel. ~~ Sue Martin

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