This is by far the best of the Shannara Chronicles. It took me a while to warm up to it. Afterall, Allanon had said that the Mord Wraiths were not as bad as the Warlock Lord of the Sword, who was not as threatening as the demons of the Elfstones. I truly did not know how the antagonists could beat those who came before. But they did. Or rather, it did. The Ildatch was worse than any of the other antagonists because it attacked Brin's integrety, and, like the Ring from The Lord of the Rings, it had the ability to take the hero's goodness from them.
Another reason why this book managed to impress me more than the previous books was that I was upset over the deaths of characters. In the previous books, only two characters that I knew well and liked had died (Keltset and Amberle, and Amberle did even die, exactly.) <spoiler>I have never been able to decide whether or not I liked Allanon, but I was still saddened by his death.</spoiler> Most of the other characters I had not gotten to know well enough to feel more than a little regret over their deaths. <spoiler>I suspected that Garet Jax would die fairly quickly after meeting him, and his arrogant, almost indifferent attitude prevented me from getting too attached to him. I was somewhat saddened when Foraker and Helt died, but they weren't as close to Jair. I was unreasonably upset over the death of Edain Elessedil. I don't know if if it was because he and Jair seemed to have become such good friends, or because I truly expected him to survive, or because he was Ander's son and Ander had already lossed so many people in The Wishsong, but even as Jair, Slanter and Garet Jax left him and Foraker, I still truly expected Edain to survive. Learning, almost in passing that Brin, Jair, Rone, Kimber and Cogline had "put them to rest" had me, not crying, but moaning with unhappiness.</spoiler>
Both Jair and Brin were tested almost beyond their endurance. They were both likeable characters, even if it did take me a bit to warm up to Jair. What's more is that most of the side characters were quite likeable as well. Allanon was almost typical Allanon, but for some reason Brin had more sympathy for him, even though she understood his manipulative ways far more than either Shea or Wil before her, and through her, I found that I liked Allanon more than I had before. Rone Leah was a bit arrogant and annoying (particularly after Allanon magicked his sword) but he loved Brin, and cared for Jair as a brother. Kimber, Cogline and Whisper were introduced too late in the story for me to really learn to love them, but they were interesting. I was really attached to Edain Elessedil for some reason, and he seemed to be a very good friend to Jair, almost like a brother. We didn't know Helt all that well, but he was kind to Jair, reassuring him when Slanter was a jerk. And Slanter. Slanter was incredible. I loved him even as I was annoyed with him for being a jerk. After the first two books where we were told that gnomes were human, finally we were shone that they were human through Slanter. Slanter was irritable, irrascible, frustrating, and far more loveable than he wanted anyone to know. If Keltset could allow the trolls to be able to make peace with the elves, than surely, seeing Slanter would allow the dwarves, elves and men to see that gnomes are not all evil? And then we saw that half the time when the gnomes were fighting against the free peoples, they were doing it at the command of their slavers the Mwellrets. I understand that the gnomes saw Slanter as a traitor and he won't be able to lead them to peace, but because the other races knew Slanter and saw him as human, perhaps they would make an effort with the other gnomes. I do hope so, at any rate. <spoiler>I was very grateful when Slanter survived the story.</spoiler>
There was one major plot point that was not resolved. Brin sensed, and the Grimpond said that Rone was too attached to the magic of the Sword of Leah, but it was never really addressed at the end of the book. <spoiler>The Ohmsfords and the elfstones were apparently the only beings/objects left with magic (y'know, except for Amberle/the Elcrys, but they were the only ones left with magic useable by normal beings) and we weren't even sure about the elfstones. Was the magic in the sword destroyed? With Rone's apparent addiction to it, how did he deal with that? If it was not destroyed, how did Brin persuade Rone to give it up?
There was also a moment when Brin was shone a vision of her mother and described her as being 'gentle' which made me laugh a bit because, even if she has a husband and children who she loves, and who she can be gentle with, 'gentle' is not a word overall that I would ever have thought to use to describe Eretria.
Even with the points I addressed in the last two paragraphs, I really, really liked this book overall. It was better than the two first books. I plan on taking a break from Shannara, and then continuing with the first spin-off series the Heritage of Shannara.