Thursday, August 30, 2012
Review: The Word And The Void Omnibus
The Word And The Void Omnibus by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Please note: I originally wrote and posted this review 3/12/2008, so please do not judge it based upon my current format.
When I received this omnibus I thought there had to be a mistake; it was my understanding that it contained three books but it appeared too slender a volume to have that much inside. Then I picked it up - OOF! Through some mysterious method and unusual type of paper or something they packed over 700 pages into a book that isn't much over an inch thick - but you can definitely feel the weight to it! Enough about the technicalities of the book - on to the review!
This volume contains three books - Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Word and Angel Fire East. I had forgotten ... it had been so long, I had forgotten what it is like reading a book by Terry Brooks. I had forgotten that he creates worlds that hold such dark things; that he isn't afraid to kill characters, traumatize characters, forge them into weapons in the hottest fires of testing. I had forgotten what an ... almost tactile experience it could be reading a book by Terry Brooks, who describes things in such detail, in such living color, that it is like you are THERE.
In Running with the Demon when Nest saves Bennett Scott from the Feeders one night in the park, it seems pretty normal - she's been a Caretaker of the park ever since she was old enough to understand that she carried the magic inside her to do so - the 5th of her family's women in a line to do so - and was paired with Pick, a Sylvan, who only those with the magic can see. However, she can't help but notice that the Feeders are becoming more bold, and there are more of them than ever. Pick tells her the balance is off, that something seems to be going on, but he doesn't know what.
Meanwhile, her grandfather meets with former co-employees who are currently on strike from MidCon, the area's largest employer - the strike has gone on for a long time now, and tempers are getting high; especially since scabs are being brought in, and managers are working the lines themselves in order to keep the plant operational. Derry and Junior, two of the men affected by the strike, are becoming especially upset about it, and swear they will "do something about it," leaving the meeting in a huff. A mysterious man, who Old Bob (Nest's grandfather) can't quite place but is quite sure he knows, leaves as well.
Nest's grandmother, shattered by the death of Nest's mother, Caitlin, but nonetheless holding herself responsible for Nest's training in magic, spends her days drinking and smoking. Nest believes that there is something that Gran isn't telling her, but she cannot figure out exactly what it is. It seems to revolve around her mysterious father, of whom no one will speak.
A mysterious Native American named Two Bears (O'olish Amaneh) arrives out of nowhere - Nest befriends him and joins him when he calls up the spirits of his ancestors, the ancient tribe of the Sinnissippi people, of whom he is the last. What she learns further strains her relations with Gran.
The final piece of the puzzle arrives in town when John Ross, a Knight of the Word, shows up. He receives dark dreams of the future, of what it will hold if he fails in his duties to the Word, if he fails to stop the Void from destroying humankind.
In A Knight of the Word fate and destiny intertwine to trap John Ross. Devastated by his failure to completely prevent a tragedy at a grammar school, John decides he is not able to continue as a Knight of the Word and stops. Stops using his magic, stops following his nightmarish dreams of the future ... and eventually - seemingly - the dreams go away, eventually his link to the magic appears to go away. He is still crippled, he still requires his black staff - the token of his Knighthood - in order to walk, but he no longer utilizes it for anything else but a walking staff. He meets the woman of his dreams - a stunningly beautiful woman named Stefanie Winslow - and together they move to Seattle and begin to work for a man called Simon Lawrence - a man of extraordinary vision who works to help homeless women and children - and a man who, according to the only dream John still has, John is fated to kill.
But the Word is not so willing to give John up; despite the fact that he has renounced his place as a Knight, he still holds the magic of the Word and if a demon can twist that magic to the use of the Void, that would be a giant blow struck in the war against the Word. Nest is contacted by O'olish Amaneh - the last of the Sinnissippi - and asked to go and try to get John to take up his part as a Knight of the Word, to try to get him to believe that he is up close and personal with a demon, because one is already close to turning him to the Void's purposes.
Although the identity of the demon didn't come as much of a surprise to me - having figured it out fairly early - it was nonetheless revealed in a rather startling manner. Watching John Ross go through what he did in this book was painful in the extreme, because it is easy to understand the isolation and loneliness that he underwent as a Knight of the Word as compared to the happy life he had built for himself in Seattle, where he had a job he loved, a girlfriend he loved and a thriving social network. To watch all that come apart under the machinations of a demon AND the Word - it was quite painful. And to watch his determination to make things right anyway was somewhat awe-inspiring.
Terry Brooks can break your heart over and over and you still keep coming back because his characters speak to you in so many ways. This story was about growing up, in more ways than one.
In Angel Fire East John Ross dreams of a crucified man telling him the location of a rare gypsy morph, and that the loss of that magic led to the downfall of the human race - then glimpses his own face upon that crucified man. He determines to find the gypsy morph and solve the secrets of its magic no matter what. Finding it will be the first task - although he knows it will be in a cave on the Oregon coast and what town it will be near, that doesn't necessarily narrow it down. Then capturing it will be a problem. Then the hardest part will be maintaining his hold on it without it being captured by demons, who will be attracted to it like bees to honey.
He finds the cave with the help of a resident of the area who knew all the caves around. He captures the morph with a net provided by the Lady. And he keeps one step ahead of the demons by remaining constantly on the run. Discovering what the secret of the gypsy morph is, and what it wants to become, however, seems to be impossible - until it finally assumes the form of a little boy and utters the word "Nest" and nothing more.
Nest is warned of their impending arrival by a demon named Findo Gask, who shows up on her doorstep and warns her to not help John Ross or take in the gypsy morph, or she will have only herself to blame for the results. Nest is unaware of this, but Findo did not come to town alone - he brought along three more demons because he has been thwarted repeatedly in his attempts to capture John Ross and the gypsy morph over the past weeks.
To complicate matters more, Bennett Harper turns up on her doorsteps with her daughter. Bennett is an addict and is looking for help and a place to stay. Of course Nest takes her in - but the demons see Bennett as a way to get to Nest.
By the time John Ross arrives with the gypsy morph in the form of a little boy, Nest has a full house.
What happens over the course of the next few days is alternately terrifying, horrifying, heart-rending and heart-warming. It shows the depths to which people can sink, as well as the heights to which they can ascend, all the while doing their best to pull others up with them. This made a satisfying end-cap to the trilogy, while leaving enough of an open end for additional books set in this world if the mood should strike Mr. Brooks (and we all know how he is!).
I can definitely recommend this trilogy to anyone who enjoys classic themes of good vs. evil, especially those with particularly thought-provoking ideas involved. These were very good books - read them!
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