Paxon took his family sword, the famous Sword of Leah, and discovered it had powers beyond his imagination. Now, as protector to the Ard Rhys and the Druids of Paranor, he must master it to its full abilities, because the Ard Rhys’ time is coming to an end. Paxon knew it would come, eventually, but perhaps had not realised how much would fall on his young shoulders when it did.
Reyn Frosch, the young musician, takes his place in the tavern, disappointed when he notices the Fortren brothers are here, which can surely only spell trouble for Reyn. Nonetheless, he begins to play his elleryn as usual, despite the threat hanging over him. Reyn has a gift, but it is not one that is easy to control, especially on a busy night like this, and there is another, besides the Fortren’s, watching him extra closely.
The Darkling Child follows Paxon’s story after the events in the previous book, a brutal opening reminding us that this is a modern Brooks we are reading, despite The Defenders of Shannara series being richly steeped in the historical elements of Shannara. The dark undertone remains throughout Paxon’s tale as it interweaves with the schemes of his old adversary, the sorcerer Arcannen, and new character Reyn.
As with all books in this world this reads easily and is a pleasurable foray into a favourite fantasy world. Good and bad collide, romance blossoms and another Shannara tale is told with a sense of sentimentality. This volume felt a little short, the action racing towards the end, with a neat, epilogue-like final chapter rounding things off. It perhaps could have used a slower finish, giving more time for the reader to take in the full scale of events, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The narrative is contained enough that this could actually be read as a stand alone book – there is enough background explanation about Paxon’s previous encounter delivered in the opening chapters and the primary elements do come to a conclusion at the end. There are, of course, references to characters and magics from far back in the Shannara saga to please regular Brooks readers, that may also perhaps tempt the newcomers to read more after this one.