I didn't think that there could be a more serious threat to the world after the Warlock Lord, but I was wrong. A giant demon army is more dangerous than a corrupted druid.
Wil, the grandson of Shea, is a healer. Inspired by the death of his parents by a fever, he has been studying at Storlock, and he is the first non-gnome to be taught there. He is knowledgeable about the workings of other cultures in the world, but is still gullible enough to fall for their tricks. He knows that he is good at healing, having learned from the best, but he has very little confidence in his ability to protect Amberle. Even though he doesn't trust himself to protect Amberle, Wil does take his responsibilities to her very seriously.
Amberle is sweet and innocent, and so full of fear. She was delighted and honored to be one of the Chosen, the first woman in centuries, and proud that the Ellcrys spoke to her far more than to the others, but she started to feel that the tree was stealing her identity, or sense of self. While Amberle's sacrifice was very moving, I couldn't help but think that it would have been more so if she had undertaken the quest with the knowledge of what she would be giving up. If, in her fear of losing herself, she had still been willing to go on the quest, knowing what the cost would be. She has a great deal of sweetness in her, and becomes emotional easily.
Eretria is strong, able and full of herself, yet she still manages to be somewhat vulnerable. When you learn what Cephelo has planned for her you can't help but feel bad for her, and even more so when you learn how she came to be in Cephelo's camp. I loved how protective she was of Wisp and I wish Wisp would have survived to learn to live without is strange and somewhat evil mistress. Eretria's morals weren't as strong as Amberle's or even Wil's, but given the fact that she was raised among thieves and cutthroats, it's surprising that she had as strong of morals as she did. When we were first introduced to the Rovers I was not thrilled. It was obvious, with their colorful clothes, travelling wagons and even their name--Rovers--that they were meant to be a new version of the Roma people. Haven't the Roma experienced enough stereotyping without it showing up even in a fantasy book? None the less, I still did find myself enjoying their strange culture, and the way Eretria was trying to escape from it.
Allanon, as before, was the puppet master, getting people to do what he wanted to save the world. Oh, in some ways I like Allanon, and he does seem to love the world. He will do anything to save the races,but if you are the instrument he chooses to use to save them, don't count on him trying to save you. He would sacrifice any person to save the world, though he doesn't seem to care much for the individual person.
I found the way that Eventine favored his older son to be very annoying. Why couldn't he love both his children? This one flaw made him seem far less heroic then he might have otherwise. Especially because of how obnoxious Arion is. Arion is arrogant and condescending. He begins to damage his relationship with Ander because Amberle turned more to Ander for comfort after the death of her father, rather than to Arion. From there Arion continued to try to diminish Ander's part in the kingdom, and is stupid enough to be angry at Ander for standing with Amberle when she was the best hope the world had, and she disliked that even more than any of the others. Sadly, Eventine's behavior even managed to throw a shadow over his legacy from the last book.
I was saddened to learn that Balinor had no children, though I did like Stee Jans a lot, and he probably wouldn't have come, or at the very least, he wouldn't have been so prominent a character, had Balinor had children who were willing to come to the aid of the elves. I was also somewhat disappointed that we didn't learn what happened to Panamon Creel, or what happened to Menion, especially after the big deal that the Sword of Shannara made of his instalove with Shirl Ravenlock. I was disappointed that we didn't see Durin and Dayel again. We were in their home after all. I was also somewhat taken aback when we didn't get to see Shea again, though I was delighted we got to see Flick. Poor Flick, he knew that Allanon couldn't be trusted to take care of Wil, but Wil went with him anyway. Not that he really had much of a choice since otherwise they likely would have had only a few more months or maybe a year 'til they were all killed by demons, but still, Flick was right when he told Wil not to trust Allanon.
I was glad to see that Keltset's sacrifice was not in vain and the trolls came to the aid of the elves, though from the looks of the trailers, the TV show probably ruined that.
The plot was more unique--or at least less obviously pulled from the Lord of the Rings then was that of the Sword, and I was glad to see some strong women for main characters, but I thought there were more points where the plot was weak in this book than in the Sword.
One thing that I forgot to mention in my review of the Sword is that I really like the way that all the races (except for the elves) are referred to as men or as mankind, even the gnomes, even when they are fighting for an evil cause and willing to wipe out everyone else, their humanity is still acknowledged.
Overall I still really like this series, though as with the last book, I don't know how a conflict could possibly be more dangerous than this one was.