Small Magic – Short Fiction 1977- 2020 by Terry Brooks
Del Rey, £14.99, HB.
Reviewed by Steve Dean
I imagine most of you are familiar with Terry Brooks and his long (long!) form fiction. This book is a collection of some of his shorter works, somewhere between long short stories and novellas. They’re mostly set in Shannara, of course, and one of them is set in the world of Landover. The world of Shannara is deep and complex, with a full history, much like Middle Earth. The Landover stuff I’m not so keen on, although I’m not its intended audience.
Those of you familiar with the Shannara setting will recognise some of the characters, such as Allanon the druid and Shea Ohmsford, and places like Shady Vale. Most of the stories are set before or after the events in one of the novels, either as a filler between two books, explaining what happened to a character after the books, or just a side story involving a lesser-known character.
I’ve read many but not all of Terry’s books, and there are no spoilers here, as far as I could tell. Neither is there’s anything here you have to read, nothing that explains something crucial about one of the novels; the book is just like the extras or deleted scenes on a DVD.
As you would expect, the stories themselves are well written, the characters fully-formed and seem to have a life of their own that continues when you stop reading. Unfortunately for me, the stories didn’t really work. They’re more like news items about a character or situation than a dramatic re-telling of an event. There’s a lot of telling, not much showing, and the action is scant to non-existent.
For anyone not familiar with the world, this is not a good introduction. Nothing is added to the mythos by reading this. Indeed, people might get the wrong impression of the Shannara novels, which are really quite good. Overall, I’d say this book is for die-hard fans of Mr Brooks, those people who want to read everything he’s ever written. These stories might not be available anywhere else, so this is an opportunity to add them to your collection.