Let me begin by offering my opinion as to why this adaptation has started with the second book of the original Shannara trilogy: The first book had an uncomfortable number of parallels with the Lord of the Rings. I won’t go into more detail than that, because the world of Shannara evolved into something vastly different after that first book, and became an entity that can easily be differentiated from Tolkien’s classic.
Spoilers (and profanity) after the warning image. Fair warning: This review mentions a lot of stuff about the books. It may not make sense if you’ve never read them.
My first impressions, verbatim are: No. No no no no no. That is NOT how the fucking choosing ceremony works. It’s not the fucking Hunger Games. It may make for a good opening scene, but that just ruins the feel of the books. Hell Fucking No. Shannara has always been a slow build to a crescendo, and the magic is often understated rather than flashy. The Choosing ceremony illustrated the sentience of the Ellcrys better than anything I’ve seen so far here. To add insult to injury, they’ve turned Allanon into bloody Mad Max with magic. Allanon does not crack wise, he does not show off his muscles. He silences people with a look, rather than a fucking snappy comeback. What the fuck is this shit?
After giving it some more time (meaning I went for a walk), I feel that at least the rest of the characters are reasonably faithful to the book, especially Eretria, but having Allanon’s broody, chilling presence replaced by an action hero is just wrong on so many levels.
Also, Wil is now Shea’s son rather than grandson? And Shea, the goody-two-shoes hero of the damned Four Lands becomes a drunk?
Okay, this thing is a huge departure from the books. So many things out of order, so many changes. I’ll just have to start reviewing this thing as a TV show that mildly resembles a favourite book series rather than an actual dramatisation, because This is the MTV-I-A (bonus points to anyone who remembers that reference ;)).
As the show begins, it’s all very exciting and full of beautiful people, as is expected from an MTV show. There are some wonderful touches in the opening credits that set up the world visually. The end of the world is seen, then through blood we see that the Gnomes, Dwarves, and Trolls are mutations of the original human race. We also see an elven person after the blood trail ends. This is not an oversight. In the world of Shannara, the Elves have always existed alongside, and hidden from, the human race. They only reveal themselves after the great war. I thought it was a nice touch.
In this re-imagining, the Dagda-Mor is now a fallen Druid, and there’s also an early reference to the Illdatch. This means that it’s likely that, as the seasons progress (if it gets renewed), young Will Ohmsford is going to take on the burdens of his descendants and go on their journeys, too, which will be tricky unless there are more features of the world added from later books. My theory is reinforced because Wing Hove also gets an early mention, and the elves of Wing Hove only appear from the fourth book onward. I’m guessing airships will come in at some point soon if they’re going that way, but they may wait for a second season for that, as their availability would break the Elfstones story. Tegging back to the Dagda-Mor, he was originally a demon imprisoned in the Forbidding millennia before the great war, so he pre-dated any of the Druids. Changing him to become a Druid who got sent there by the Illdatch (the darker counterpart of the Ellcrys) would also fit with the complete and utter fucking-up of Allanon, especially if he’s meant to be more like Walker Boh (The guy who became the next Druid after Allanon). With that observation, I can maybe forgive them a tiny little bit for that. Walker was a little more relaxed than Allanon, and would more frequently show his face.
The Shannara Chronicles is good television. It’s just not a faithful reproduction of the Shannara books. It’s going for immediate thrills and abandoning the slow build approach that Terry Brooks is so good at. The problem with television is that the slow build type of storytelling doesn’t work unless it’s a Netflix show.
As a Shannara story, I give this show 1 out of 5, but as a TV show, I’ll give it a tentative 4 out of 5. Tentative mainly because there are a few lines in there that really seem out of place with the language used in the rest of the story. Yes, the heroes are teens, but they’re not teens from this era, so they shouldn’t be using phrases from this era.
We’ll see how it goes.
Have you seen it yet? If you haven’t read the books, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!