A Knight of the Word Terry Brooks (Orbit, £16.99, 311 pages, hardback; published 13 August 1998.)
Last December I reviewed for infinity plus Terry Brooks' previous book Running with the Demon. A Knight of the Word is a sequel to that volume, and exhibits the same strengths and weaknesses.
Brooks writes with facility, creates good characters and promising situations, then disappoints the reader with obvious plotting (with twists one sees coming a mile away), and an over-simplistic denouement that undermines the sense of threat he builds up. That's Brooks for you in a nutshell -- all foreplay and no climax.
The story features the two main characters from Running with the Demon, namely John Ross, the Knight of the Word, and Nest Freemark, who Ross rescued from her demon father's machinations in the first book.
This time around and five years later, it is Ross who is in danger. Ross loses his faith in what he was doing thanks to a failed attempt to end a siege in a primary school which left many young children dead and wounded. So he abandons his calling and instead is in Seattle with his girlfriend helping a charitable organisation do great work with the homeless.
But if Ross has given up fighting the demons of the Void, they haven't forgotten about him. They want his power, they want to turn him into an agent of the Void, and in the end, only Nest Freemark and her magic can save him.
In the hands of a King or a Koontz, A Knight of the Word could have had more substance to it, with more usefully horrifying activity, and a lot more surprises for the reader along the way.
Brooks just doesn't have the inclination or the imagination to push the reader's fear threshold to the max. As I commented about the earlier volume, A Knight of the Word reads more like a toned down juvenile than a play for the adult market.
Maybe I'm wrong and there really is a market for nice, undemanding horror with cosy endings. But I doubt that a generation raised on Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Clive Barker will find much in Terry Brooks' efforts to satisfy their lust for flesh-crawling fiction.
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© John D Owen 3 October 1997