Witches' Brew

Terry Brooks

Ballantine Books. $22.00
(paper $6.99)

The wicked witch Nightshade has conceived the perfect plan to destroy Ben Holiday, the king of Landover: she'll let his daughter do it. Even though the girl is only two years old, she looks and behaves like a ten-year-old, and has a definite talent for witchcraft. Nightshade kidnaps Mistaya in order to train her for the evil deed.

Ben Holiday only knows someone has kidnapped Mistaya, and he searches from one end of Landover to the other trying to find her. Meanwhile, a hostile king, Rydall of Marnhull, has demanded Landover's surrender, or else Ben must face Rydall's invincible champions. Ben knows there is a pattern to it all, if he could only see it!

Witches' Brew is a light-hearted fantasy adventure set in Terry Brooks' popular Magic Kingdom of Landover. Like the others before it, this is a free-standing novel, although still best appreciated as part of the Landover series. When background history is necessary, Brooks sufficiently explains most of it as he goes along, allowing each book to be read individually, without committing the reader to the entire series.

Despite the popularity of his books, both the Landover and the Shannara series, Brooks is not a graceful writer. He maintains a good humor throughout, but his tone is often uneven, as if he cannot quite take his own story-telling seriously. One persistent failing is his insistence on belaboring a point: if a character has doubts or preoccupations, Brooks makes certain the reader knows -- over and over again. He also has a tendency to summarize some scenes rather than present what could have been interesting action. The worst violations of this "show, don't tell" rule are Ben's six-page (and rather forced) reflection on Mistaya's growth and precocity, and Mistaya's magic lessons with Nightshade; in both cases, Brooks should have presented by example or left the scenes out altogether.

Mistaya herself is a disappointment as well. True, she is supposed to be a child prodigy, but what Brooks has created is a peculiarly immature adult whose only vestige of true childhood is her friendship with the wizard Questor Thews.

Although generally entertaining, Witches' Brew is not one of Brooks' better efforts.


Read a sample chapter from Witches' Brew at the Del Rey Internet site.

Other books set in the Magic Kingdom of Landover:

Magic Kingdom For Sale -- Sold! Del Rey, 1986
The Black Unicorn. Del Rey, 1987
Wizard At Large. Del Rey, 1988
The Tangle Box. Del Rey, 1994
Witches' Brew. Del Rey, 1995


This review copyright 1996 by Wendy Morris
Information last updated March 22, 1998

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