I looked forward to the TV series The Shannara Chronicles in 2016 because it was based on the Shannara books which I really enjoyed in my teens, 20s and 30s.
I loved the original book trilogy comprising The Sword of Shannara, The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara, and the prequel The First King of Shannara. I religiously bought and read the next three trilogies: The Heritage of Shannara, The Voyage of the Jerle of Shannara and The High Druid of Shannara. After that, though, I found it difficult to keep up and reluctantly left the world of the Four Lands, but fully intending to return to it.
When the TV series was announced, I was delighted, but when it premiered in January 2016, I was disappointed. The first season was based on The Elfstones of Shannara (which was the second book), and even though it followed the basic plot of the book, the TV series felt very different.
Book vs. TV Series
I’m too lazy to compile a list of differences between the book and the TV series myself but I found this list on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange website:
Season 1 follows the basic plot of the novel, with several very significant deviations:
- In the books Wil is already studying to become a healer in Storlock at the start
- Bandon and the sword of the Warlock Lord are completely original to the television series
- The main female characters (Eretria and Amberlee) are both much more action girls in the series
- The Dagda Mor is not an ex-Druid in the novels
- Eretria does not have an integral connection to the main quest (i.e., is not required to access the Bloodfire) in the novel
- The world being post-apocalyptic is much clearer and more important in the television series. In the novels there are pretty clear clues, but nothing as overt as ruins of San Francisco and working old world weapons
- The television series tries to be a bit darker and grimmer, with more moral ambivalence. For example, the elves did not use to torture people in the books (the entire Pykon episode).
- Allanon seems more powerful in the books and tends to fight with blue fire (called Druidfire) instead of an extendible sword
What is the same: Ellcrys dying, murder of the Chosen, demon invasion, Amberlee turning into new Ellcrys, Allanon being the last Druid), Elfstones, Reaper and Shifter demons playing important roles.
For me, the biggest problem with the show was Number 6 in the list. Terry Brooks did not reveal that the Four Lands are on a post-apocalyptic Earth until much, much later in the series. Certainly in the four trilogies that I have read, the post-apocalyptic nature of the Four Lands was merely hinted at. For all intents and purposes, the world of Shannara was another Middle Earth or another Narnia, a magical world that did not have anything to do with the planet Earth. That was how I liked to think of Shannara; I like fantasy and not science fiction. I wanted another Lord of the Rings but what The Shannara Chronicles gave me instead was another The 100.
In short, it was a TV series aimed at teenagers who wanted their own Game of Thrones complete with love scenes and complicated relationships that did not appear in the books.
I have access to the second season but I have not had the urge to watch it. It was announced in January 2018 that the series had been cancelled after just two seasons. I wasn’t particularly sad to hear that.