In The Four Lands, twenty years have passed since the events of The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy. A Third Druid Council is rife with politicking, allies and enemies are setting plots in motion and the politics outside of Paranor are no less intense.
When the Ard Rhys, head of the Druid Council, disappears without a trace, another generation of Ohmsford is called upon to aid The Four Lands, Penderrin Ohmsford, son of Bek, who teams with Khyber Elessedil and others to find and return the Ard Rhys.
Now, this is the beginning of a trilogy, so even without spoilers, I can tell you that this is a three-book arc, because at the end of Jarka Ruus the stage is set for Tanequil, the middle book in, this High Druid of Shannara trilogy.
What I will say is that, once again, Terry Brooks has managed to make this book relevant for all, for generations to come with universal truths that are, as always, either well stated or well-intentioned.
“Responsibility aged her more quickly than time.”
This is something that I agree with. And it might also be why so many people fight against responsibility for so long.
“The past was the past, but it was always with you.”
I expect that later in the trilogy, Brooks will build upon this by stating that the past makes us who we are, but it’s important to remember that while we may not be who we were, the things that we did make up who we are.
“Peace of mind was a benefit that did not accrue to those who lacked moral restraint.”
This is absolutely one of my favorite turns of phrase in the entire book. If for no other reason than on a daily basis this proves to be more fiction than nonfiction, though I wish it weren’t so.
“Smooth landings are for undamaged ships.”
And who among us is completely undamaged? We would do well to remember that landing at all is sometimes not a matter of style.
“Better to allow a little light into a darkened room than to worry about what would happen once it faded.”
What would a Shannara book be if there wasn’t some deep philosophy mixed in with everything else. The applications for this are limitless, so I’ll let you decide how and when to deploy it with whatever you thought of when you read the line.
Honestly, I don’t know if you can read Jarka Ruus in a vacuum. Of course, I write that having been the one who read the series that preceded it. And in my opinion, this great book needs to be read after The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy, because even when Brooks gives nods back to that series, you need the full story to understand what’s going on. And at that, they’re all connected, so you’d want to start at the beginning with The Sword of Shannara trilogy and go forward.
That said if you decide to go rogue, let me know what you thought, but I love this series. And while at times it can seem derivative, Brooks does just enough to make sure you can’t presume zigs or zags. And that’s been the case through all of his work. It’s why I continue to pick up his books, not just because the series is great, but because it isn’t always as you expect, and the unexpected is to be welcomed, especially on the pages of a good book. Jarka Ruus is just one more exemplary example.