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Having finished reading the first volume in this Trilogy, I can state safely that yes, the author " Borrowed " a considerable number of plot points and Monsters from Tolkien in a very unsubtle way. However, it was also his first book, and not everyone springs forth into this world fully formed as a good writer. It was rife with some very bizarre word choices, words like " Quadrant " and " Sector " and " Mechanically " bring to mind Sci-Fi, not Fantasy worlds. They are anachronistic, every bit as much as if he purposefully used words like Micle(much) or Weeds (woman's clothing) to give his writing a more Tolkien like feel.. Following the bizarre choices of words, is also his very strange naming conventions.. some of the character names like Allanon, Balinor, Padamon Creel, Menion Leah and even Hendel are pretty good fantasy novel names, Ohmsford is a decent enough name, but names like Shea, Flick, Palance, Buckhannah are very distracting.
My other major problem in the Sword of Shannara was the problem of conveying distance traveled, the main measurement of distances in the four lands seems to be the Yard, everything seems to be no more than several hundred yards away from wherever our main characters are.. This would make the cross map journey from Culhaven to Paranor no more than a few hours long at most.. which is of course ridiculous.. He might as well have measured the journey in Ells. Its distracting, but again I'd be willing to forgive it if he had not continued to do it in the second book which brings us to the point of this.
I started reading "Elfstones" almost immediately after finishing "Sword" the odd naming choices are also still prevalent.. naming a male main character Lauren, Shea at least is a Masculine name in the Gaelic-o-sphere but Lauren is strictly a feminine name. Its just an invitation for ass beatings. Its neither particularly exotic, nor fantastical.. and it just makes me think of the half dozen Laurens I went to school with.. The Pros of the book are that its got a better flow to the writing, showing that the author improved after his freshmen offering. Its got better villains in the form of The Dagda Mor( I'm guessing he read some Rollenston at some point.. But I'd have named the evil demon Balor rather than after Dagda the Good..) The Reaper and the Changling. I don't think Brona had a single line in Sword, he had no real motivation except " To be evil " .. at least the Dagda and his henchmen have the motivation of having been locked up for a really long time in a really sucky phantom zone like forbidding courtesy of the Ellcrys ( a talking tree, kinda cool.. not encountered one of those since Wizard of Oz and then later The Last Unicorn... So not something that gets used a whole lot.. the aspect of the tree picking the chosen also echoes through the ages into the Naming Hat from a certain Boy Wizard series..
So far the second book in the series is off to a better start than the first one, it seems to have the bonus of being written by a more confident Terry Brooks.