The series tells the generational saga of the Shannara family, an Elven noble family that plays an important role in the struggles that ensue. The series blends magic and primitive technology, set in the Four Lands in a distant future long after civilization as we know it was destroyed in a chemical and nuclear holocaust called the Great Wars, and the world has reverted to a medieval state and magic has reemerged to supplement science as humans live among other races. Further into the novels, science starts to become more advanced.
History of the Shannara World
Age of Faerie
At the beginning of time, in what was known as the "Age of Faerie", the Earth was inhabited only by Faerie creatures; most or all wielded magic. Like any power (be it wealth, technology, or physical strength), magic was used by some for good and some for evil. For example, the Elves used their magic to care for the earth, while the hateful Demons used theirs to dominate and destroy. When the Demons tried to eradicate the rival Elves altogether, the Elves proved victorious by creating a magical prison called the Forbidding, to which they banished the Demons. The Forbidding locked the demons away in an alternate universe from which they could not attack the Elves. The integrity of the prison was upheld by a magical tree known as the Ellcrys. As long as the Ellcrys lived, the Demons would remain locked away. (See The Elfstones of Shannara)
Age of Man
Thousands of years later, the age of man came into being. The Elves still existed, but quickly found themselves few in numbers compared to the quickly growing human race and decided to go into hiding. Thousands of years passed while man and science ruled. The Elves and their magic remained hidden, as memories of their existence become nothing more than “Fairy Tales”.
The Great Wars
Sometime in the early 22nd century, mankind all but destroyed itself through nuclear, biological, and chemical holocaust. The nations of man were destroyed, and the environment and climate in many places was made entirely barren.
Birth of the Four Lands and The First Council
After an extremely long amount of time, the Earth had more or less recovered from the cataclysm of the Great Wars. Except for the ruins of man’s greatest cities and monuments, the world as everyone had known it had disappeared. New races appeared, genetically mutated by radiation from the Great Wars. These mutant human races were given names from man's ancient fairy tales: Troll, Dwarf, and Gnome. The surviving Elves also appeared from their concealment, now that the threat from the quickly multiplying men was gone. Unfortunately, chaos ensued as the four races each tried to declare their power over the other.
Fearing that the chaos would lead to the end for all of them, a group of learned men and women from all the races formed the Druid Council. Under the order of the Druids, the earth was divided up into the Four Lands, one territory for each race. The Druids then sought out all the information they could on the arts, sciences, and history of the Old World, attempting to understand what had brought about such a terrible apocalypse, so that they might learn from those mistakes and bring lasting peace and order to the land. As time progressed, the council’s plan seemed to be working and they hoped that, in time, all that was known of the Old World would eventually exist again. However, several powerful members of the Druids became convinced that magic, not science, should be the guiding force of the new world, and that it was their destiny as Elves and magic-wielders to shape the future of the races. These Elves left the Druids to form their own group, consisting of all races and led by a Druid named Brona, who took with him the Ildatch, a book of unparalleled evil power that once belonged to the Demon leader in the Age of Faerie.
The Wars of the Races
After years of growing his power, Brona, who had become known as the "Warlock Lord", orchestrated a rebellion against the Druids. Started by Men attacking out of the Southland at Brona's urging, the rebellion soon widened into what became known as the First War of the Races, with Men against all the races that were supported by the Druids—mainly the Elves and the Dwarves. Eventually, the combined power of the Council crushed the humans, but the Warlock Lord escaped to rebuild his legion, leaving the human countries to rebuild their shattered lives. Indirectly, this war led to the isolationist policy of the men of the deep Southland.
Once he recovered, the Warlock Lord and his armies returned twice more (in the Second War of the Races and the Third War of the Races) in the space of a century with years of peace in between (the equivalent of the World Wars during the time of man), until finally the Warlock Lord was killed.
The Shannara Family
Involved in nearly every key moment throughout the history of the Four Lands is some member of the Shannara family. Their mixed heritage of man and Elf left them both blessed and cursed, as this feature was part of the reason that they could wield magic. Over the years, descendants of the Shannara bloodline, now with the surname Ohmsford, have continuously been called upon to fight to defend the Four Lands and the lives of its inhabitants.
The familial relationships between the main characters can be seen on the Shannara family tree page.
Chronological list of novels
The Word/Void trilogy
The Word/Void trilogy (also called The Word and The Void and Word & Void) consists of Running with the Demon, A Knight of the Word', and Angel Fire East' and is predominantly set in present-day Illinois. It follows John Ross and Nest Freemark, forced acquaintances who use magic given to them from the Word to prevent mankind from being overcome by the demonic forces of the Void.
Before the publication of Armageddon's Children, it was unclear whether this trilogy existed within the Shannara universe. It has since been revealed as the "ultimate prequel" to the Shannara novels.
The Genesis of Shannara trilogy
The Genesis of Shannara series connects the Word/Void series with the Shannara novels. The trilogy consists of Armageddon's Children, The Elves of Cintra and The Gypsy Morph. It takes place eighty years after the Word/Void story, and approximately 1500 years before the events of The First King of Shannara.
Legends of Shannara duology
The Legends of Shannara series consists of Bearers of the Black Staff, set 500 years after the end of The Gypsy Morph, and The Measure of the Magic—both of which continued to connect the Old World with the world of the Four Lands.
The prequel to the Original Shannara Trilogy about 500 years before its first book, The First King of Shannara is set during the lifetime of Jerle Shannara, a predecessor of Shea and chronicling the Second War of the Races.
The series follows Shea Ohmsford and his brother Flick Ohmsford, Shea's grandson Wil Ohmsford, and Wil's children Brin Ohmsford and Jair Ohmsford during the times of the third war of the races and the War of the Forbidding.
The Heritage of Shannara tetralogy
The next four books, known as The Heritage of Shannara, are set 300 years after The Original Shannara Trilogy. This series consists of The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The Elf Queen of Shannara and The Talismans of Shannara. They follow four of Shea Ohmsford's descendants: Walker Boh, Par Ohmsford, Coll Ohmsford, and Wren Elessedil.
The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy
The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara trilogy consists of the books Ilse Witch, Antrax, and Morgawr. Set aboard the airship Jerle Shannara (named after the olden king), the story follows Walker Boh as he guides the crew across the ocean in search of an ancient source of power. This is set 130 years after The Heritage of Shannara.
High Druid of Shannara trilogy
The High Druid of Shannara trilogy focuses on the disappearance of the High Druid Grianne Ohmsford and is set twenty years after The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara. It consists of the novels Jarka Ruus, Tanequil, and Straken.
Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy
Terry Brooks release another trilogy that takes place 100-120 years after the events in Straken. These three books were published in September 2012, Spring and Summer of 2013 respectively, under the titles Wards of Faerie, Bloodfire Quest and finally Witch Wraith. This trilogy follows the adventures of Redden and Railing Ohmsford, descendants of Penderrin Ohmsford from the High Druid of Shannara series.
The Defenders of Shannara trilogy
Set 100 years after the events in The Dark Legacy of Shannara trilogy. Like the original trilogy, these installments are loosely connected, stand-alone novels, namely: The High Druid's Blade, The Darkling Child, and The Sorcerer's Daughter.
Untitled ending trilogy
Paladins of Shannara
- Paladins of Shannara 01 – Allanon's Quest
- Paladins of Shannara 03 – The Black Irix
- Paladins of Shannara 02 – The Weapons Master's Choice
In 2007, Warner Bros. optioned the film rights to the Shannara universe for producer Dan Farah, but the rights deal expired in 2010 and all rights reverted to Terry Brooks. The plan was to make The Elfstones of Shannara the first movie, with Mike Newell attached as the director.
- Main page: The Shannara Chronicles (TV series)
Farah Films partnered with Sonar Entertainment to acquire TV rights to the Shannara universe in 2012. In December, 2013 it was announced an epic TV series based on the books was being produced for MTV. First looks were released in 2015, and the series premiered on January 5, 2016.