As you all know, The Elfstones of Shannara, the book on which The Shannara Chronicles is based, is one of my all-time favorite books.
I was really hoping to be able to separate this show from the book, and for the most part I was able to, but while watching the premiere there were times when the deviation from the source material filled me with some serious nerd rage. Still, I will do my best to be as neutral as possible and review this show on its own merits rather than as an adaptation. To be perfectly honest, it’s been a while since I read the book, so I’m sure once we really get into the show, I won’t even notice the changes.
First of all, I can say without question the cinematography is extraordinary. You wouldn’t think this was an MTV show based solely on the production values. The sets are exquisite, and the effects are pretty good (especially when you compare it to certain other MTV shows). I’m also a big fan of the makeup and the costuming. This really is a gorgeous show. The score is also beautiful, and since this is MTV they have to have music, but I felt that they chose the select few songs well; they fit with the tone of the show.
The sequences at Paranor were very well done. In the books, the Druid Sleep is something that is only ever alluded to, so it was really great getting to see what it entailed. Allanon’s display of magic to find the Codex seemed overly dramatic (in the books you touch a specific spot on the wall) but I suppose such a performance was necessary when you have an entire cast of characters determined to believe that magic no longer exists.
Something that really bothered me was the dialogue, because this is a fantasy show that takes place in a world that’s far off in our future, yet they still speak the way we do in modern times. This is an MTV show, and it sounds like an MTV show. I half-expected someone to call someone else “dude”. It is especially frustrating to hear the Elves use the same speech patterns, because they would have their own language and culture. In the books, Gnomes and Trolls and Dwarves evolved from Humans, but Elves were always separate from the rest of the races. The Elves talking as though they are on an MTV show was very off-putting; if the Druids could have their own language, surely the Elves could as well?
The revelation that Eventine’s beloved dog Mags is actually the Changeling should have happened much later in the season. It robs the reveal of its punch and completely eliminates the mystery that plagues the Elves for the entire story as they attempt to uncover the traitor.
The Shannara Chronicles gets major points for introducing diversity in a story that didn’t have much to start out with. It was great to see Elves who aren’t white, and it was fantastic seeing more female characters. Continue to do that, please and thank you.
There are some deviations that I must mention, only because I wonder how they will affect the characters and their motivations. The Chosen are called so because they are literally chosen by the Ellcrys, though I suppose a blindfolded race through the forest with your hands tied behind your back makes for more interesting television. Amberle being chosen was a big deal because the Ellcrys had never chosen a girl before, though it does do a lot for Amberle’s character development that she volunteered for the Gauntlet; in the book she is more hesitant about her duties. Her abandoning her role as Chosen was seen as a great source of shame for her family, and that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
Eritrea is introduced much earlier, and her interactions with both Wil and Amberle are much different than they are in the book, which will undoubtedly influence future plotlines. I suspect this was to help expand on the slight love triangle that existed in the books. Though introducing her earlier does give them a chance to flesh out her character a bit more, which is always a plus.
It seems that they have made Shea Ohmsford Wil’s father instead of his grandfather; I suppose that’s not something that’s extremely important, at least for this season, but Shea was the half-Elf, not Wil. It was actually a plot point in the book that the Elfstones might not work for Wil because his Elven blood was too thin. Mostly this makes me wonder how they will handle the War of the Races arc, should they choose to do so. Elfstones only covers the first season. Should the show be renewed, I imagine they would choose one of the other books to adapt; although, I suppose it makes sense to continue forward and go with the third book in the trilogy, The Wishsong of Shannara.
Bouts of nerd rage aside, I do feel that this was a well-done adaptation. If you haven’t read the book, or you have read the book and you’re not nit-picky like I am, you will probably really enjoy these first two episodes. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story progresses with the changes that they’ve made, and it really is wonderful getting to see this story and these characters that I was so in love with as a teenager.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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