Small Magic

Small Magic by Terry Brooks
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  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey Books
  • In Stores: March 2, 2021
  • Series: Shannara, Landover, Word/Void, Cloudmoor

Escape to worlds full of adventure and magic in the first-ever Terry Brooks short-story collection, featuring both new and fan-favorite stories from all three of his major literary worlds: Shannara, Magic Kingdom, and The Word and the Void.

Here are heroes fighting new battles and struggling to conquer the ghosts of the past. Here are quests both small and far reaching; heroism both intimate and vast. Here we learn of Garet Jax’s childhood, see how Allanon first located Shea Ohmsford, and follow an old wing-rider at the end of his life. Here we see Knights of the Word fighting demons within and without, and witness Ben Holiday and his daughter each trying to overcome the unique challenges that Landover offers.

This collection of eleven tales is a must-have addition to the Terry Brooks canon—a delightful way to spend time with favorite characters, and a wonderful reminder of what makes a Brooks story such a timeless classic.

The Table of Contents:

  • The Fey of Cloudmoor (Cloudmoor)
  • Aftermath (Shannara)
  • Imaginary Friends (Word/Void)
  • The Weapons Master’s Choice (Shannara)
  • An Unfortunate Influx of Fillipians (Landover)
  • Allanon’s Quest (Shannara)
  • Indomitable (Shannara)
  • Don’t Tell Dad (Landover)
  • The Black Irix (Shannara)
  • Last Ride (Shannara)
  • Warrior (Word/Void)


Publisher’s Weekly Review:

Though Brooks states, “For me, writing a short story is much harder than writing a novel,” the 11 entries in this confident collection demonstrate his considerable skill in using the short format to further explore his established fantasy worlds. “Imaginary Friends” and “Warrior” return to the setting of the Word and the Void series, while “An Unfortunate Influx of Fillipians” reenters the world of the Magic Kingdom series. The collection’s high points are the stories that flesh out the universe of Brooks’s decades-long Shannara epic fantasy saga. Readers hooked on this Tolkienesque world will be especially pleased by a prequel and sequel to series debut The Sword of Shannara: “Allanon’s Quest” follows the eponymous druid’s search for an heir to the royal line who can oppose the evil Warlock Lord, Brona, immediately prior to the events of the series, while “The Black Irix” reintroduces a charismatic rogue, Panamon Creel, who persuades the Ohmsford brothers to join him in seeking out a missing valuable. By emphasizing characterizations and human relationships, Brooks is often better here than in his sprawling, action-packed novels. This is an easy pick for Brooks fans. (Mar.)


© Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Introduction to “The Fey of Cloudmoor”

I began reading science fiction and fantasy in middle school—right about 1956—although there was little enough of the latter being written at that time and most of the kids I knew were reading the former. It was the beginning of the age of space travel and Sputnik and travels to the moon, and that was what every kid I knew was reading about. I shouldn’t say kids but rather boys, because very few girls I knew had found their way to that sort of fiction yet.

Anyway, among those writers whose works I read and admired—while still in my burgeoning wannabe professional writer mode—was Poul Anderson. In those days, I wasn’t reading or particularly interested in fantasy. I was strictly a science-fiction kid, with peripheral leanings toward adventure stories (Boys’ Life and the like), so my favorite stories by Poul tended to fall along those lines.

But I remember one that didn’t. I read “The Queen of Air and Darkness” right after it came out in one of the science-fiction magazines, and I was captivated by it. When I was asked to contribute to the Poul Anderson anthology Multiverse in 2014, it was the first story I thought of. It always felt to me as if there were more to the story, as if the telling of it wasn’t finished. What happened afterward to the Queen and the Old Folk of Cloudmoor and Carheddin? Was that really the end of them when Sherrinford took back Jimmy Cullen? Could they really have been so easily dispatched?

I felt a certain trepidation in trying to make those determinations for Poul. “The Queen of Air and Darkness” had won both the Hugo and Nebula, and has enthralled Poul Anderson readers for decades. Who was I to mess with an icon and his art? But my marching orders were clear: I was to take something from Poul’s astounding body of work and build on it. So that was what I tried to do.

I met Poul Anderson once, years ago now, at a family gathering at his daughter’s home. I can no longer remember the occasion. He was quiet and unassuming and had about him the grandfatherly look I see in myself these days when I look in the mirror. I said hello and told him how much I admired his work. I have no idea if he knew who I was or what I did. He didn’t say, and I didn’t ask. It didn’t matter. What mattered was how it made me feel. Writers form links in an endless chain, one influencing another in a crucial, necessary rite of interaction and succession, ultimately so we may be inspired and our craft may evolve.

Poul Anderson was one who did that for me.

The Fey of Cloudmoor

He came out of the world of Men and their cities of steel and concrete in tatters, all scratched up and dirtied on the surface and broken and ripped apart inside. He carried what was left of his life in a blanket clutched to his breast, carefully shielding its contents from the sights and sounds and smells of the civilization that had ruined him and destroyed her. He thought of her all the time, but he couldn’t make himself remember what she looked like anymore. He only knew how hard they had tried to find a way through the morass of their lives, choosing to share their misery but always searching to break free of their bonds.

Hard to do when nothing in your life is real and every day is a slog through dark and painful places that strip the skin from your soul.

When she died, they had been huddled in an alleyway in the darkest part of Christmas Landing, sheltered poorly in cardboard from a steady downpour that formed a small river only four feet away. They had scored early and resold what they had to get money for food and milk for Barraboo. They had made a good choice for once, but had come to regret it with night’s hard descent and no means to soften the blow. She had been coughing badly for days and her breathing had worsened, and all he knew how to do was to stay with her. There were medical centers they could go to, but once they entered one of those places they might as well say goodbye to their baby. She might have gone alone, of course, but she was afraid to do that, as if making that choice would cost her the baby anyway.

As if, in his desperation, he might choose to sell it.

As if, in hers, she might approve.

He stole some medicine off the shelves of a pharmacy, but it didn’t seem to help her. Nothing did. She just kept coughing and wheezing, getting worse by the day. He found her an old blanket in a garbage bin and wrapped her in that, then held her close against him to share his body heat. She was so cold, and she didn’t look right. But she still held Barraboo and wouldn’t let her go, and so he ended up holding them both.

But finally he fell asleep, even though he had told himself he wouldn’t do so, and when he woke she was dead.

He never knew her real name. She never gave it to him. He called her Pearl because she was precious to him, and she seemed content enough with that. He told her his own name, though. “I’m Jimmy,” he said. “Once upon a time, I was kidnapped by the Old Folk.”

He had told that to only a very few before her and then quit doing so because no one believed him. She probably didn’t believe him, either, but she came closer to looking as if she did than anyone else. She was like that. Even at her worst, when she was so strung out she could barely put a sentence together and started seeing things that weren’t there, she could find a way to listen to him. She was tough, but she was vulnerable, too. She trusted people when she shouldn’t have. She had faith in people who didn’t deserve it. He was one of those people, he supposed. Mostly, he was good to her and took care of her and the baby and did little things to make her life more bearable when really it was Hell-on-Earth.

He thought all this and more as he rode the hovercraft out of Christmas Landing to Portolondon and his future. His and Barraboo’s. For he was determined his daughter would have a future, even if Pearl didn’t. He had fought against himself and his habit and his wasteful, reckless existence for too long. He had denied what he had known was true for too many years, persuaded by his mother and the rescuer she had hired to find him, made to believe when in his heart he knew he shouldn’t.

Memories surfaced like half-remembered dreams of his time among the Old Folk, the Outlings. He had been only a boy, little more than a baby, and so young he barely realized what was happening to him. Taken from his mother’s camp by a pooka, carried to the realm of the Old Folk beyond Troll Scarp, seduced and made happy beyond anything he could have imagined possible, his mother all but forgotten, his world made over—there he had remained until his mother had come for him, finding him with a mother’s persistence in the face of formidable odds, taking him back to his old life, telling him he would forget all this one day, it would seem a dream to him, he would become the man he was meant to be and not a pawn in the hands of creatures who could not know and would never care what it was he needed.

“The choices you make in this world should be your own and never another’s,” she had told him. “You should never be another’s pawn.”

He disembarked with his precious cargo still asleep and stood looking from the loading platform at the dingy buildings of the town. There was nothing here for him and never would be—not in this hardscrabble collection of housings and shelters, not in this scooped-up mélange of humanity and waste. He wrinkled his nose at it—a measure of its ugliness, given his own sad state. All of Roland was a backwater, light-years away from the civilized universe—the back of beyond. It allowed for habitation—breathable air, drinkable water, sustainable crops—but not for much in the way of sunlight. He shivered in the cold, empty light of the season’s perpetual night. Winterbirth, the pooka had called it. It gave him pause that he should remember this, but memory chose to keep what it wanted and discarded the rest. What mattered was how much attention you paid to memory and what you did with it as a consequence. For example, if you knew it was dangerous to go somewhere, you tried hard to remember not to go there again.

Conversely, if you remembered a place where you were happy—even if you were told you weren’t and tried very hard to forget it and pretend that what you believed then to be happiness was in fact nothing of the sort—maybe you needed to make sure.

Especially when all other options had been exhausted and nothing in your life was good. Especially when you had more than yourself to worry about, and even in your drug-addicted rootless life you knew babies were pure and innocent and deserved better than what you could give them.

Especially when hope was all you had left to give.

He looked out across the buildings to the far north of Arctica, to the shimmer of the aurora and the green of mountains and valleys and mysteries that everyone knew were waiting there and no one wanted to discover.

No one except him.