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A new novel by Terry Brooks is always a cause for celebration. For more than twenty years, the New York Times bestselling author of the classic Shannara epic has proven himself one of the modern masters of fantasy, winning the hearts and minds of devoted readers around the world. In his last acclaimed novel, Ilse Witch, a brave company of explorers led by the last Druid, Walker Boh, traveled across unknown seas in search of an elusive magic. Yet perhaps Boh and his team were lured there for sinister, unforeseen purposes . . .

Now in Antrax, as the crew aboard the airship Jerle Shannara is attacked by evil forces, the Druid’s protégé Bek Rowe and his companions are pursued by the mysterious Ilse Witch. Meanwhile, Boh is alone, caught in a dark maze beneath the ruined city of Castledown, stalked by a hungry, unseen enemy.

For there is something alive in Castledown. Something not human. Something old beyond reckoning that covets the magic of Druids, elves, even the Ilse Witch. Something that hunts men for its own designs: Antrax. It is a spirit that commands ancient technologies and mechanical monsters, feeds off enchantment, and traps the souls of men.

With the Jerle Shannara under siege and Antrax threatening the bold and unwary, the Ilse Witch finds herself face-to-face with a boy who claims to be the brother she last saw as an infant. Now a young man, Bek wields the magic of the wishsong and carries the Sword of Shannara upon his back. Unsure whether to trust Bek or to slay him, the Ilse Witch takes him prisoner. One has come pursuing truth, the other revenge. Yet both seek Walker Boh–with the fate of the Four Lands hanging in the balance.

Return to the world of beloved novelist Terry Brooks, where creatures drift up from the earth like mist, a hypnotic song can kill, a sword can cut through a veil of lies–and one man, the true heir of an ancient magic, must choose between betrayal and redemption.

From the Hardcover edition.



Grianne Ohmsford was six years old on the last day of her childhood. She was small for her age and lacked unusual strength of body or extraordinary life experience and was not therefore particularly well prepared for growing up all at once. She had lived the whole of her life on the eastern fringes of the Rabb Plains, a sheltered child in a sheltered home, the eldest of two born to Araden and Biornlief Ohmsford, he a scribe and teacher, she a housewife. People came and went from their home as if it were an inn, students of her father, clients drawing on the benefit of his skills, travelers from all over the Four Lands. But she herself had never been anywhere and was only just beginning to understand how much of the world she knew nothing about when everything she did know was taken from her.

While she was unremarkable in appearance and there was nothing about her on the surface of things that would suggest she could survive any sort of life-altering trauma, the truth of the matter was that she was strong and able in unexpected ways. Some of this showed in her startling blue eyes, which pinned you with their directness and pierced you through to your soul. Strangers who made the mistake of staring into them found themselves glancing quickly away. She did not speak to these men and women or seem to take anything away from her encounters, but she left them with a sense of having given something up anyway. Wandering her home and yard, long dark hair hanging loose, a waif seemingly at a loss for something to do or somewhere to go, or just sitting alone in a corner while the adults talked among themselves, she claimed her own space and kept it inviolate.

She was tough-minded, as well, a stubborn and intractable child who once her mind was set on something refused to let it be changed. For a time her parents could do so by virtue of their re- lationship and the usual threats and enticements, but eventually they found themselves incapable of influencing her. She seemed to find her identity in making a stand on matters, by holding forth in challenge and accepting whatever came her way as a result. Frequently it was a stern lecture and banishment to her room, but often it was simply denial of something others thought would benefit her. Whatever the case, she did not seem to mind the consequences and was more apt to be bothered by capitulation to their wishes.

But at the core of everything was her heritage, which manifested itself in ways that hadn’t been apparent for generations. She knew early on that she was not like her parents or their friends or anyone else she knew. She was a throwback to the most famous members of her family—to Brin and Jair and Par and Coll Ohmsford, to whom she could directly trace her ancestry. Her parents explained it to her early on, almost as soon as her talent revealed itself. She was born with the magic of the wishsong, a latent power that surfaced in the Ohmsford family bloodline only once in every four or five generations. Wish for it, sing for it, and it would come to pass. Anything was possible. The wishsong hadn’t been present in an Ohmsford in her parents’ lifetimes, and so neither of them had any firsthand experience with how it worked. But they knew the stories, had been told them repeatedly by their own parents, the tales of the magic carried down from the time of the great Queen Wren, another of their ancestors. So they knew enough to recognize what it meant when their child could bend the stalks of flowers and turn aside an angry dog simply by singing.

Her use of the wishsong was rudimentary and undisciplined at first, and she did not understand that it was special. In her child’s mind, it seemed reasonable that everyone would possess it. Her parents worked to help her realize its worth, to harness its power, and to learn to keep it secret from others. Grianne was a smart girl, and she understood quickly what it meant to have something others would covet or fear if they knew she possessed it. She listened to her parents about this, although she paid less attention to their warnings about the ways it should be used and the purposes to which it should be put. She knew enough to show them what they expected of her and to hide from them what they did not.

So on the last day of her childhood she had already come to terms with having use of the magic. She had constructed defenses to its demands and subterfuges to her parents’ refusals to let her fully test its limits. Wrapped in the armor of her strong-minded determination and stubborn insistence, she had built a fortress in which she wielded the wishsong with a sense of impunity. Her child’s world was already more complex and devious than that of many adults, and she was learning the importance of never giving away everything of who and what she was. It was her gift of magic and her understanding of its workings that saved her.

At the same time, and through no fault of her own, it was what doomed her parents and younger brother.

She knew there was something wrong with her child’s world some weeks before that last day. It manifested itself in small ways, things that her parents and others could not readily detect. There were oddities in the air—smells and tastes and sounds that whispered of a hidden presence and dark emotions. She caught glimpses of shadows on the vibrations of her voice that returned to her when she used the magic of her song. She felt changes in heat and cold that came only when she was threatened, except that always before she could trace their source and this time she could not. Once or twice, she sensed the closeness of dark-cloaked forms, perhaps the shape-shifters she had found out on several occasions before, always hidden and out of reach, but there nevertheless.

She said nothing to her parents of these things because she had no solid evidence of them and only suspicion on which to buttress her complaints. Even so, she kept close watch. Her home was at the edge of a grove of maple trees and looked out across the flat, green threshold of the Rabb all the way to the foothills of the Dragon’s Teeth. While nothing could approach out of the west without being visible from a long way off, forests and hills shielded the other three quadrants. She scouted them from time to time, a precaution undertaken to give her a sense of security. But whatever watched was careful, and she never found it out. It hid from her, avoided her, moved away when she approached, and always returned. She could feel its eyes on her even as she looked for it. It was clever and skilled; it was accustomed to staying hidden when others would find it out.

She should have been afraid, but she had not been raised with fear and had no reason to appreciate its uses. For her, fear was an annoyance she sought to banish and did not heed. She asked her father finally if there was anyone who would wish to hurt her, or him, or her mother or brother, but he only smiled and said they had nothing anyone would want that would provide reason for harm. He said it in a calm, assured way, a teacher imparting knowledge to a student, and she did not believe he could be wrong.

When the black-cloaked figures finally came, they did so just before dawn, when the light was so pale and thin that it barely etched the edges of the shadows. They killed the dog, old Bark, when he wandered out for a look, an act that demonstrated unmistakably the nature of their dark intent. She was awake by then, alerted by some inner voice tied to her magic, hurrying through the rooms of her home on cat’s paws, searching for the danger that was already at the door. Her family was alone that morning, all of the travelers either come and gone or still on their way, and there was no one to stand with them in the face of their peril.

Grianne never hesitated when she caught sight of the shadowy forms sliding past the windows. She sensed the presence of danger all around, a circle of iron blades closing with inexorable purpose. She yelled for her father and ran back to her bedroom, where her brother lay sleeping. She snatched him up without a word, hugging him to her. Soft and warm, he was barely two years old. She carried him from the room and down into the earthen cellar where perishable foodstuffs were kept. Above, her parents sought to cover her flight. The sounds of breaking glass and splintering wood erupted, and she could hear her father’s angry shouts and oaths. He was a brave man, and he would stand and fight. But it would not be enough; she sensed that much already. She released a catch and pulled back the shelving section that hid the entrance to the cramped storm shelter they had never used. She placed her sleeping brother on a pallet inside. She stared down at him for a moment, at his tiny face and balled fists, at his sleeping form, hearing the shouts and oaths overhead turn to screams of pain and anguish, aware of tears flooding her eyes.

Black smoke was seeping through the floorboards when she slipped from the shelter and sealed the entry behind her. She heard the crackle of flames consuming wood. Her parents gone, the intruders would come for her, but she would be quicker and more clever than they expected. She would escape them, and once she was safely away, outside in the pale dawn light, she would run the five miles to the next closest home and return with help for her brother.

She heard the black-cloaked forms searching for her as she hurried along a short passageway to a cellar door that led directly outside. Outside, the door was concealed by bushes and seldom used; it was not likely they would think to find her there. If they did, they would be sorry. She already knew the sort of damage the wishsong could cause. She was a child, but she was not helpless. She blinked away her tears and set her jaw. They would find that out one day. They would find that out when she hurt them the same way they were hurting her.

Then she was through the door and outside in the brightening dawn light, crouched in the bushes. Smoke swirled about her in dark clouds, and she felt the heat of the fire as it climbed the walls of her home. Everything was being taken from her, she thought in despair. Everything that mattered.

A sudden movement to one side drew her attention. When she turned to look, a hand wrapped in a foul-smelling cloth closed over her face and sent her spiraling downward into blackness.

When she awoke, she was bound, gagged, and blindfolded, and she could not tell where she was or who held her captive or even if it was day or night. She was carried over a thick shoulder like a sack of wheat, but her captors did not speak. There were more than one; she could hear their footsteps, heavy and certain. She could hear their breathing. She thought about her home and parents. She thought about her brother. The tears came anew, and she began to sob. She had failed them all.

She was carried for a long time, then laid upon the ground and left alone. She squirmed in an effort to free herself, but the bonds were too tightly knotted. She was hungry and thirsty, and a cold desperation was creeping through her. There could be only one reason she had been taken captive, one reason she was needed when her parents and brother were not. Her wishsong. She was alive and they were dead because of her legacy. She was the one with the magic. She was the one who was special. Special enough that her family was killed so that she could be stolen away. Special enough to cause everything she loved and cared for to be taken from her.

There was a commotion not long after that, sudden and unexpected, filled with new sounds of battle and angry cries. They seemed to be coming from all around her. Then she was snatched from the ground and carried off, leaving the sounds behind. The one who carried her now cradled her while running, holding her close, as if to soothe her fear and desperation. She curled into her rescuer’s arms, burrowed as if stricken, for such was the depth of her need.

When they were alone in a silent place, the bonds and gag and blindfold were removed. She sat up and found herself facing a big man wrapped in black robes, a man who was not entirely human, his face scaly and mottled like a snake’s, his fingers ending in claws, and his eyes lidless slits. She caught her breath and shrank from him, but he did not move away in response.

“You are safe now, little one,” he whispered. “Safe from those who would harm you, from the Dark Uncle and his kind.”

She did not know whom he was talking about. She looked around guardedly. They were crouched in a forest, the trees stark sentinels on all sides, their branches confining amid a sea of sunshine that dappled the woodland earth like gold dust. There was no one else around, and nothing of what she saw looked familiar.

“There is no reason to be afraid of me,” the other said. “Are you frightened by how I look?”

She nodded warily, swallowing against the dryness in her throat.

He handed her a water skin, and she drank gratefully. “Do not be afraid. I am of mixed breed, both Man and Mwellret, little one. I look scary, but I am your friend. I was the one who saved you from those others. From the Dark Uncle and his shape-shifters.”

That was twice he had mentioned the Dark Uncle. “Who is he?” she asked. “Is he the one who hurt us?”

“He is a Druid. Walker is his name. He is the one who attacked your home and killed your parents and your brother.” The reptilian eyes fixed on her. “Think back. You will remember seeing his face.”

To her surprise, she did. She saw it clearly, a glimpse of it as it passed a window in the thin dawn light, dusky skin and black beard, eyes so piercing they stripped you bare, dark brow creased with frown lines. She saw him, knew him for her enemy, and felt a rage of such intensity she thought she might burn from the inside out.

Then she was crying, thinking of her parents and her brother, of her home and her lost world. The man across from her drew her gently into his arms and held her close.

“You cannot go back,” he told her. “They will be searching for you. They will never give up while they think you are alive.”

She nodded into his shoulder. “I hate them,” she said in a thin, sharp wail.

“Yes, I know,” he whispered. “You are right to hate them.” His rough, guttural voice tightened. “But listen to me, little one. I am the Morgawr. I am your father and mother now. I am your family. I will help you to find a way to gain revenge for what has been taken from you. I will teach you to ward yourself against everything that might hurt you. I will teach you to be strong.”

He whisked her away, lifting her as if she weighed nothing, and carried her deeper into the woods to where a giant bird waited. He called the bird a Shrike, and she flew on its back with him to another part of the Four Lands, one dark and solitary and empty of sound and life. He cared for her as he said he would, trained her in mind and body, and kept her safe. He told her more of the Druid Walker, of his scheming and his hunger for power, of his long-sought goal of dominance over all the Races in all the lands. He showed her images of the Druid and his black-cloaked servants, and he kept her anger fired and alive within her child’s breast.

“Never forget what he has stolen from you,” he would repeat. “Never forget what you are owed for his betrayal.”

After a time he began to teach her to use the wishsong as a weapon against which no one could stand—not once she had mastered it and brought it under her control, not once she had made it so much a part of her that its use seemed second nature. He taught her that even a slight change in pitch or tone could alter health to sickness and life to death. A Druid had such power, he told her. The Druid Walker in particular. She must learn to be a match for him. She must learn to use her magic to overcome his.

After a while she thought no longer of her parents and her brother, whom she knew to be dead and lost to her forever; they were no more than bones buried in the earth, a part of a past forever lost, of a childhood erased in a single day. She gave herself over to her new life and to her mentor, her teacher, and her friend. The Morgawr was all those while she grew through adolescence, all those and much more. He was the shaper of her thinking and the navigator of her life. He was the inspiration for her magic’s purpose and the keeper of her dreams of righting the wrongs she had suffered.

He called her his little Ilse Witch, and she took the name for her own. She buried her given name with her past, and she never used it again.

From the Hardcover edition.
Terry Brooks|Author Q&A

About Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks - The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Antrax

Photo © Judine Brooks

Terry Brooks has thrilled readers for decades with his powers of imagination and storytelling. He is the author of more than thirty books, most of which have been New York Times bestsellers. He lives with his wife, Judine, in the Pacific Northwest.

Author Q&A

Terry Brooks Interview

Del Rey:Antrax is the second installment in your new Shannara trilogy, The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, which began with Ilse Witch. All too often the middle book of a trilogy is a long and leisurely build-up for the climax of the final volume, but I think it's safe to say that readers who enjoyed the furious pacing of the first book aren't going to find any letdown here. If anything, the action accelerates as the plot shifts into high gear. I hope you're saving something for the finish!

Terry Brooks: I am acutely aware of the middle-book-letdown syndrome we all have encountered in our reading. If anything, the second book in a trilogy ought to be better than the first. At least, it ought to engage us more thoroughly and make us look forward to the third. In the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series, this was easier to achieve than I thought it would be. This series is one that picks up speed as it goes, the action becoming faster and more intense as the story progresses. That isn't always the case, of course, but here it is. I think you will find that the last book is worth the wait.

DR: The last few years have seen a virtual rebirth of fantasy. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, Jan Siegel's Prospero's Children and its sequel, The Dragon Charmer, and the Harry Potter books, of course. Not to mention the first of the Lord of the Rings movies, set to open in December. Why fantasy, and why now?

TB: Well, I suppose I would argue that things aren't any different now than before in so far as audience interest in fantasy is concerned. It's just that we've had some pretty good series written in that time. Certainly the ones you mention are indicative of the good work being done in the field today. Fantasy's impact as literature really is a cumulative effect. If you think about it, fantasy still doesn't get a lot of respect from the critics, yet it is being incorporated into almost every form of fiction on a regular basis. What is it they say, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? Almost every form of fiction now feels free to borrow from the conventions of fantasy. So we are seeing fantasy conceits appear everywhere, even apart from writers like Pullman and Rowling. Of course, much of the best writing being done today comes from fantasy authors, so that adds to the increased interest. I don't think this growth spurt is complete yet, either.

DR: In reviewing Ilse Witch, the Library Journal found "a new level of history and depth," while the Dallas Morning News wrote that your powers as a novelist were "ascending." I wonder if you share this sense of renewed vigor, and whether The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara, while obviously a continuation of your classic fantasy series, might not also be seen as part of the energetic new wave of fantasies mentioned in the previous question?

TB: I don't think I am the best judge of my own work. I always think what I do is wonderful, and that not that much has changed over twenty-five years of professional writing. On the other hand, I will agree that I felt a new sense of purpose and excitement in approaching the Voyage series. I had been looking forward to getting back into Shannara for some time, and I was particularly eager to explore the themes of redemption that this series confronts. When you are excited about something as a writer, that shows in the writing. Part of the reason for leaving a series and coming back to it later is to let that excitement build for awhile and not to go stale with doing too much of the same thing. I think the readers and critics both appreciate that in my work.

DR: Antrax refers to an adversary unlike anything Walker Boh, or perhaps any Druid, has faced before. Yet the existence of Antrax was implicit from the very beginning, in The Sword of Shannara. Does the richness of your material, the way it keeps opening up in new directions that nevertheless turn out to have been present all along, ever take you by surprise? Do you ever feel that you're not so much making things up as somehow setting down what already exists?

TB: There is a sense of recording history rather than inventing it after you've been writing in a series for awhile. After so many years of Shannara, I constantly discover that where I need to go with a story is apparent from the material already written. What I write tells me where the story should go; all I have to do is pay attention. The sweep of the Four Lands history incorporates so much that it is impossible to set it all down at once or even in a couple of books. That is the nature of historical sagas, which Shannara in essence is. So avenues I have chosen not to explore earlier become avenues I want to explore later on. A recurring theme in the story is the conflict between past and present, and more particularly between science and magic. On developing Voyage, I decided this was the time to take a look at what that might mean for the Four Lands. But that is just the back story. The real story is about Walker and the Druids and their role in the future of the lands. Are they obsolete or do they still serve a purpose? That's what I want to take a close look at over the course of the next six books.

DR: I've often fantasized about having magical powers, but I think that if someone offered me the chance to be a Druid, I'd run screaming in the opposite direction. Hated and feared by their enemies, mistrusted and misunderstood by their friends, it sometimes seems that Druids are the Rodney Dangerfields of the fantasy genre: they don't get no respect. They're so different from the benevolent, beloved wizards generally encountered in fantasies, from Gandalf on down, that I wonder if you intended a criticism of that type . . . or is it a stereotype?

TB: Well, I guess we can agree that the Druids are not of the benevolent wizard variety. They are manipulative and controlling, and even though they consider themselves to be well-intentioned, they are not always successful in appearing so. The Druids are the keepers and givers of knowledge, historians by definition, but magicians of a sort, too. What they are supposed to do is to keep the races from destroying themselves as they did in the Great Wars by pointing them in the right direction. The problem is that they don't always know what that direction is because the future is never a sure thing. Even with the benefit of being able to communicate with the dead and with seers, they sometimes don't know more than the average guy. But they understand the purpose of and need for responsibility, and they don't walk away from it. I think it is too simplistic to reduce my response to Druids to either an attraction or an aversion–there is some of both.

DR: In many ways, the Shannara series tells the story of a single family over many years. Grianne and Bek Ohmsford are the latest members of this bloodline to emerge in a time of crisis and to influence, for good or ill, the fate of the world. Even Walker Boh, the Druid, has some Ohmsford blood, I believe. What makes the Ohmsfords so special? Is it an accident of history, or the gradual unfolding of some vast design?

TB: If you think about it, the Shannara series is really about the evolution of a society as mirrored through the lives of the members of the Ohmsford family. There are other families, such as the Leahs and the Elessedils, but the story is centered on the Ohmsfords. That is a conscious decision on my part, of course. The Ohmsfords are really just like you and me at heart, your basic everyman and everywoman trying to get through life the best way they can. They are constantly faced with tough choices, and they have to take chances they don't want to. Sure, what they go through is more extreme, but it is essentially our story. I want the readers to identify with these characters. So all of the Shannara stories are centered around them, giving the reader a focus for the thematic structure of the books. A famous writer once said that fiction isn't about how life is, it's about how life should be. The Ohmsfords aren't always about how we are, but about how we should be. They give us a compass by which to navigate or at least by which to consider our choices.

DR: Ever since I read your recent contemporary fantasy trilogy, The Word and the Void, I've wondered if those three books are a prequel of sorts to the Shannara series, and if their hero, John Ross, the Knight of the Word, is a precursor of the Druids. Ross's world seems a lot like the world of science and technology whose collapse in a terrible war gives rise to the magical world of the Shannara books. Am I completely off base, or am I on to something?

TB: The Word and the Void is intended to suggest what happened to a pre-Shannara world to bring about the apocalypse and the Great Wars. Certainly, the inclusion of the Word in both sets of books is intentional. Of course, if you accept that the two series are joined, it means that the Lady and the Knights of the Word failed in their efforts to control the demons and stop the destruction of humanity. It is a grim outlook. It also suggests that another form of that same battle is being fought a second time in the future of the Four Lands, this time by Druids and their allies. So does history repeat itself? Do we continually fight the same battles? What do you think?

DR: You've written about the collapse in previous books, its aftermath especially, but I can't recall your providing so many fresh details about the war itself since the original trilogy. Do you have any plans to tell the story of the collapse more directly?

TB: I haven't given any specific thought to writing about the Great Wars as a part of either series, although I wouldn't rule it out. What I need to persuade me that this is a good idea is a story that will carry the day. I always work from a story, one that involves definite characters and themes. I don't just decide, “Well, it's time to write about the apocalypse, I wonder what I can say!” At present, I am still working in the future of the Four Lands, at least for the remainder of the two trilogies, so I won't give the matter a whole lot of consideration until I am done with that.

DR: I see you've got a Web site, www.terrybrooks.net. How involved are you in the site? How important is the internet for writers today? And what impact, especially with the rise of electronic publishing, do you see computers and the internet having on writers in the near future?

TB:The Web site is maintained for me by a student at the University of Washington. He had the site up and running for several years before we met, and he asked if his could be the official Web site. After I took a look and we met, I agreed. It was a good decision on my part. I would never do this on my own, and so far none of my kids have applied for the job. I try to stay involved by answering a set of monthly questions online from fans and by using the site as my principal forum for posting art, excerpts, and tour schedules. I'm less certain about the answer to the last part of your question. I don't know if anyone can really answer it yet. Certainly, the internet is going to be important for writers. Certainly, computers are here to stay. Both my eighteen-year-old son and my five-year-old grandson are right at home on the computer, using them the same way you and I use the telephone. I think we are a few generations away from computers being standard issue, but for an increasing number of young people, computers are a way of life.

DR:Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with the Del Rey Online Writing Workshop? Was it fun? Did you discover the next Terry Brooks?

Yes, I did locate the next Terry Brooks, and I am happy to report that I tracked him down and did him in. Or her, I forget. It seemed the right thing to do. You can sleep well.

From the Hardcover edition.



Praise for The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch

"If Harry Potter has given you a thirst for fantasy and you have not discovered the magic of Terry Brooks, you are in for a treat."
--Rocky Mountain News

"Even readers who haven't read a Terry Brooks title since his classic Sword of Shannara will welcome The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch . . . The action and creatures come fast and furious. . . . This latest volume finds Mr. Brooks' power ascending."
--The Dallas Morning News

"If you were delighted and entranced by Michael Ende's The Never Ending Story, you will definitely want to sample one of more of Terry Brooks's books."
--Santa Cruz Sentinel

"The myriad Shannara fans will relish the adventure, the mystery, the magic, and the well-developed characters . . . The ending is a gripping cliff-hanger."

"The Shannara mythology gains a new level of history and depth in a tale that should appeal to the series' legions of fans."
--Library Journal

From the Hardcover edition.

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