Mass Market of Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry BrooksI often overlook mass market paperback releases.

It’s not because I hate paperbacks. They definitely serve their masters well. It’s mostly, I think, because I am a hardcover collector and paperbacks hold no interest for me. I buy what I want in hardcover, read it in hardcover, and keep it in hardcover. There is just something about a hardcover—the romantic ideal of an ever-expanding and permanent library that will stand the test of time, perhaps—that keeps me focused on the longer lived of the two formats.

But today, I can’t ignore them.

Because today, Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks is published in paperback.

This might seem like an odd post. After all, Bearers of the Black Staff has been selling from bookstores as a hardcover for almost a year. There is more, however, that needs to be explained. You see, today is a first for Terry. After his three stand-alone Shannara novels in the 1980’s, he has primarily worked in a three-book series format. It allowed him to write larger stories that normally would not physical fit into a cost-effective, single hardcover. For years, fans have asked whether or not he would go back to writing stand-alone novels; for years, Terry has said perhaps when he is older and begins to slow down.

Then he wrote Bearers of the Black Staff and the forthcoming The Measure of the Magic—a two-book set!

In short, this is the first year in his career where a reader can pick up the paperback, first book in a Terry Brooks series and actually have a conclusion to that story in the same year.

That might not seem like a big deal but I see it differently. I receive the mail from Terry’s fans and it is most definitely on their minds. People hate waiting a total of two years to read all three books in a trilogy. That, at least, is getting a reprieve. With The Measure of the Magic publishing on August 23, 2011, a fantasy fan can read Bearers of the Black Staff today and within a month have a conclusion for the entire story!

If that intrigues you—and why wouldn’t it?—here is what Terry has to say about Bearers of the Black Staff and the opening of the duology:

Terry Brooks PictureBearers of the Black Staff begins a new chapter in the pre-history of the Shannara world – now revealed to be our own at a time in the distant future. I got started on this with the Genesis of Shannara trilogy which chronicled the destruction of civilization in the Old World and the efforts of a handful of survivors to escape what would prove to be an even greater cataclysm. Having gotten past that, we now pick up on their descendants some five hundred years later and find – I am sure, to no one’s great surprise – that things haven’t yet been resolved and that survival of those who remain is not yet assured.

What’s both interesting and difficult is that having written the Shannara books early on, I now have to find ways to make this current series dovetail into all the stories we already know while at the same time making everything seem new and interesting and revealing secrets that to this point I haven’t. For example, how did the various Races come to be? How did the magic evolve? We have Knights of the Word in the pre-history, so what happened to them? Did they end up becoming the Druids in the Shannara world of the future? And there is a lot more, so I have to spend some time thinking about when and how to address each of these points.

At the same time, I am just beginning work on a new trilogy in Shannara that takes place in the future following the events in High Druid of Shannara. Think that isn’t confusing? I spend half my time trying to keep straight which of the time periods I am writing in and who belongs in each. Some of this gets resolved by good old fashioned research, which means going back or forward and reading in the relevant books to see what’s what. Some of it gets settled by calling up people who know the books better than I do. At least it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars.

But I think you’ll find Bearers worth the effort, and I personally feel very connected to the two main characters, 17-year-old Panterra Qu and 15-year-old Prue Liss, Trackers and friends who are tested in ways that none of us ever hope to be.

Good reading to you all!

Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks is released in paperback on July 26, 2011. The concluding part of the duology, The Measure of the Magic, will be released on August 23, 2011!

Written by Shawn Speakman
I am the long-time friend and webmaster for Terry Brooks as well as the author of The Dark Thorn, an urban/epic fantasy hybrid novel Terry calls "a fine tale by a talented writer." Join me on Facebook and Twitter (@shawnspeakman)!