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Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks
Review by Drew Bittner
Del Rey Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 0345484088
Date: 29 August, 2006 List Price $26.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Logan Tom had lost everything: his family, friends, and reason for living. But, reborn as a Knight of the Word, pledged to defend humanity from demons and their once-men hordes, he has found a purpose in his life once again. He knows that his struggle is a futile one, however, as more human enclaves fall to the demon armies. All he wants is the chance to destroy the demon he knows as "the old man", whose attack on his family's compound cost him so dearly.

In the ruins of Seattle, Hawk leads his "family" of outcast children--the self-named Ghosts, who include crippled Owl, angry Panther, wise Candle and scrappy Sparrow -- in their fight to survive. They scour the ruins for supplies, battling mutant monsters and bargaining with other tribes. They follow him because Hawk has had a vision, wherein his tribe is shown the way to a place of safety, but only Candle wholeheartedly believes.

Angel Perez, a Knight of the Word from the Los Angeles barrios, fights the demons in her own way. She has made it her mission to save the children of the compound-dwellers, who refuse to believe her dire warnings even as the demon armies approach. She manages to get the children of a Southern California compound to safety, but attracts the attention of the old man and his hideous she-demon lieutenant; the she-demon sets out after Angel to kill her and prove herself to the old man.

Beset by hopelessness, Logan is given a task by O'Olish Amaneh (also known as Two Bears, the last Sinissippi Indian): he must find the child of Nest Freemark -- a mystic creature called a gypsy morph that has assumed human form -- and give it Nest's finger bones. This will awaken the gypsy morph and show it what it must do... because the gypsy morph is the key to humanity's survival. And Logan is the key to the gypsy morph's awakening.

Meanwhile, a secret kingdom of Elves in Oregon is stirred up when the Ellcrys (the magical tree that seals the demons of Faerie outside the world, seen first in Elfstones of Shannara) pleads with headstrong and dreamy Kirisin for help. Although he asks his cousin Erisha, leader of the Ellcrys-serving Chosen, for support, she refuses... until Kirisin makes some fateful discoveries, which may mean extinction for the Elves if they delay.

Logan hurries to find the gypsy morph, while Hawk deals with the agonies of first love; his girlfriend, Tessa, lives in the compound and sneaks them medicine. Their relationship (not to mention their lives) would be doomed if the compound's leaders found them out. Angel makes the acquaintance of a faerie friend but learns the reptilian she-demon is still on her trail, as Logan meets the Ghosts and tries to earn their trust. But when Hawk is captured, it may take more power than that of one Knight of the Word to set him free.

Armageddon's Children is set in a bleak hellscape, where the familiar places of our world are broken and desolate. Brooks revisits characters and places that are familiar from his The Word and The Void trilogy while incorporating elements that will be well-known to Shannara fans. This new series promises to bridge the two series, showing readers what major events took place that transformed our world into a magic-riddled realm of high fantasy.

Brooks continues to grow and evolve as a writer. Children carries more weight, emotionally, than much of his early work; the characters exist in a world that is nearly as hellish as the land beyond the Forbidding, where the demons are imprisoned. They know their time is short and that the demon armies will inevitably come for them. Their existence is hand-to-mouth and survival itself is a neverending battle. Brooks doesn't shy away from showing the hardships of their lives or the suffering they undergo simply by enduring when their friends and families don't. In many ways, this book seems a transformative work for Brooks, because it marks a passage into deeper and darker territory. This is The Empire Strikes Back of his fictional meta-arc, the low point between the wonders of the modern age and the marvels of far-future magical Earth.

Hawk is a terrific character, young and yet heavily burdened by responsibility for his Ghosts. He chooses to help when he can, even facing great risks, because he refuses to let the darkness win in even the smallest ways. Aided by a massive guard dog named Cheney (draw your own political conclusions), Hawk's love for his family and Tessa is always foremost in his deeds and words. Brooks has created another young, worthy hero akin to Shea Ohmsford, whose burdens transcend his limits and compel him to grow up faster than he should.

Logan Tom has little in common with the Druid Allanon or John Ross; he is more bitter and vengeful, hating the demons and destroying their camps with his Word-granted magic. He has not been consumed by hatred but flashbacks show it was close--especially when he saw a close friend consumed by madness and despair. His personal salvation may lie in this quest. At the same time, finding Nest's child becomes a travelogue through future America, showing how widespread the horror has become.

Angel and Ailie, her faerie guide, are likewise strong characters, particularly when beset by the demonic Delloreen, lieutenant of "the old man" Findo Gask (who may be familiar to longtime Brooks readers). There is much that could be said about the Ghosts, the Preacher and many other characters-- the novel is populated by that many interesting people-- but it may be wiser to leave off here.

Fans of high fantasy will enjoy the book, while longtime readers of Shannara and The Word and The Void will see a much-desired story finally being told.

Strongly recommended.

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