If you want to talk about the big names in modern fantasy series, you can’t miss out on one of the greatest living fantasy writers out there, Terry Brooks.
From novelizations of big screen movies to short fiction, Brooks has written a truly staggering amount of work across his 45+ year career.
However, there’s no doubt that his best-known work is his extensive collection of books set in the Shannara series.
What exactly is the high-fantasy series? What is it about? How many books are there in it? What is the best way to read them?
So many questions, and so little time!
Well, don’t worry, fantasy fanatics. This list that I have compiled will be all that you need to enjoy this long-running fantasy series, with every book in order of publication found here.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!
The Shannara Series
Before we get started, it might be best to cover what exactly the Shannara series is.
The Shannara books are set in the world of the Four Lands, where magic and primitive technology coexist, and many of the classic elements of high fantasy can be found, from Elves and trolls to dwarves and gnomes.
It is also, as the reader finds out throughout the series, that the Four Lands takes place in the distant future of our world after a nuclear apocalypse has reverted human civilization to a pre-industrial setting, a series of conflicts known in-universe as ‘the Great Wars’.
Some books in this series cover this mysterious period too, with the Genesis of Shannara covering this dark period.
From humble knights to mysterious wizards and druids, this series has plenty of factions and forces that shape the world around them.
How To Read The Shannara Series
This is a question that many new readers will start with.
After all, sometimes the first book in a series isn’t always the ideal starting point, so readers look for alternative jumping on points.
The Shannara series has 2 main ways that it can be read: Either chronologically or by publication order.
The former is a tempting method, as it starts readers both in a subgenre that they may prefer over high-fantasy (urban fantasy) acts as a setup for the rest of the series to come, and was also written at a point where Brooks had already established the tone and style of his series.
However, to follow along chronologically, you’ll often be jumping between different books and miniseries that may not have been written and published in order, which can be a little harder to track.
By contrast, reading by order of publication is a very simple method to keep track of, and you get to watch the world of Shannara evolve as Brooks develops his style.
However, you may also find that you’ll be jumping all across the series chronology-wise, meaning that plot lines that you were enjoying and the reading dropped and picked back up at different points.
For this list, I’ve tried to find a happy medium point between the two.
This guide lists the books as they were published, but I have made sure to mention where these books are set within the wider timeline of the series, as well as whether they are continuations of other series or not.
The Original Shannara Trilogy, In Publication Order
We’re at the start of our list, and where better to begin that list with the first series Brook set within the world of Shannara!
In a world that has long since passed on from the ancient evils that brought it to ruin, Shea Ohmsford has managed to avoid the worst of both the world and its dark history in sleepy little Shady Vale.
However, as a dark warlock threatens to destroy the world, it is revealed that only a true heir of Shannara can wield the Sword of Shannara.
And Shea is the last living heir out there…
- A great opening novel that sets up many of the major plot beats, ideas, and character lineages that will feature across the rest of the series.
- Brook is still finding his feet as a fantasy writer here. Many elements and characters feel that they are more than inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series.
Jumping down the family line a little, we come upon our next protagonist, young Wil Ohmsford, grandson of Shea.
With the Elven nation on the brink and threatened by an army of demons, it is up to Wil to rise to the challenge and stop their advance at any cost.
- The world of Shannara continues to be fleshed out in this sequel, with plenty of likable characters to get invested in and root for.
- Despite its further distancing from Lord of the Rings, many of the fantasy tropes and clichés of the period are still all over this book, and it can feel a little indistinct and unoriginal at times.
In the final book in the original Shannara trilogy, we follow Brin Ohmsford, daughter of
Wil from his previous book, as she is reluctantly whisked away onto a quest to save the world using the power of the wishsong, a magic that only she can use.
But dark forces seek to bring a fate upon Brin that is worse than death itself!
- Brooks starts to add some genuinely interesting new and original concepts into his world, from the power of music as physical magic to even expanding on the character of Allanon, the mysterious druid.
- The cast of focus characters is bigger than in the previous book, which gives less time for each character to distinguish themselves from the clichés that they are drawn from.
Heritage Of Shannara Series In Publication Order
We’ve moved on from the first trilogy in the Shannara series, we move on to the next miniseries in this wider universe.
Taking place around 300 years after the events of the last series, the Heritage of Shannara quadrilogy/tetralogy was also the next series to be published.
So, in terms of both publication and place on the timeline, this is the next series to go to.
The world has changed in the last 300 years. Magic is virtually outlawed in the Southlands, and is under the thumb of an iron-fisted ruler.
However, when young Par finds that he has a little of the wishsong left within him, he finds that he will be taken on a quest, some 300 years in the making!
- Brook continues to build on his base of great characters, with Par and his brother Coll feeling very grounded, always doubting themselves and wondering whether they are doing the right thing.
The story does stretch itself over too many words, and the pacing at the beginning feels sluggish.
With Allanon, the powerful druid, dead, the Shadowen have no one to stop them from controlling the Four Lands for the rest of time.
That is unless the black elfstone can be found by our heroes.
- Rather than the 3 disconnected stories of the first trilogy, this book follows the same story that we started with The Scions of Shannara, giving us even further characterization of our cast.
- While the many internal monologues give us a window into the character’s minds, they do also slow the plot down and can feel a little repetitive after a point.
The elves of Westland are gone, and even their great capital of Arborlon has fallen to ruin and dust.
Is there any hope for their return? Are they doomed to be set astray from their homeland?
Not if our hero Wren has anything to say about it!
- Once again, Brook delivers an interesting cast of characters (especially our main character Wren), who have to wrestle with their place in this magical, dangerous world.
- This book spends a lot of time trying to tie up loose ends from the previous two books so that the final book can bring these three previous books together. And that does leave some side characters with less screen (or page) time.
In the final installment in this tetralogy, the three quests that we have been following up to this point start to reach boiling point.
As the Shadowen look to grasp power in the Four Lands forever, their leader sends his four horsemen after the Scions of Shannara that we’ve been following.
- This book provides a payoff for many of the lingering questions from the previous books, as well as delivering even more character depth and interactions.
- The need to jump between the different perspectives and wrap up this saga meant that the flow was a little stuttered a few times.
Original Trilogy Prequel
For our first instance of jumping around the timeline, we come to this book!
This prequel book is the first time we jump back into the past of Shannara, despite its mid-90s publication.
This solo novel takes place after the first 3 chronological series, the Word and Void, Genesis of Shannara, and Legends of Shannara series.
The carnage and brutality brought about by magic in the first war of the races have forced the old druid order to outlaw its study, focusing instead on the sciences of the old world from before the Great Wars.
Except for Bremen. He has foreseen the coming army of Trolls that threaten to subjugate the Four Lands and needs to find a way to unite the many people of this new world.
And to do that, he’s going to need a sword…
- A great first dive into the history of the world of Shannara, and the many elements that would come to play in the later books.
- The tasks that the heroes must undergo feel a little predictable and formulaic.
Word And Void Series, In Publication Order
Now, if you’re looking to start from chronological order, this is the series that you’re going to want to look out for.
Unlike pretty much every other book or series in the Shannara collection, this trilogy takes place in the very distant past of the Four Lands, in modern-day America.
Science might be the order of the day, but magic is already here, and is already locked in a battle with the void that will stretch into the far-flung future.
The hottest Fourth of July weekend in years is when this story kicks off.
A knight of magic and a demonic force meeting in Hopewell, Illinois, might not seem like the most likely place for a showdown between the forces of good and evil. But it is the battlefield that might just determine the future of this world.
A 14-year-old girl, native to Hopewell, might just be the key that these two need to save the world, or plunge it into ruin…
- A great urban-fantasy look into a familiar world that we already know will turn to ruin.
- The heavy use of narration can sometimes take you out of a setting that is otherwise very grounded.
John Ross is the latest inheritor of an age-old mantle and has sworn to serve the Word for as long as he lives.
But the years of trials and tribulations have started to take their toll on his spirit. And with his hope and willpower worn down, there isn’t a better prize for a demon of the void to consume!
- A great next step for these characters as Nest, the girl from the previous story, grows up, and John Ross’s faith is pushed well beyond its breaking point.
- Like in some other of Brook’s books, the plot does slow down from time to time, making it hard to stay invested.
In the final tale in this prequel trilogy, we find John Ross and Nest Freemark reunited once more, ten years later.
With the emergence of a gypsy morph, a creature of great magical power, the race is on to make sure that this new life does not become used by the void to plunge the world into a bloody inferno that John dreams about in days to come.
- A bittersweet, but still hopeful tale that rounds out this period of the Shannara saga, and is very different from the rest of the series.
- The antagonists of this story, compared to the previous 2 novels, aren’t quite as memorable or imposing.
Voyage Of The Jerle Shannara Series, In Publication Order
Once again, we jump forward in the Shannara timeline and publication history, right into the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara Trilogy.
This series takes place 130 years after the events of Heritage of Shannara.
A hundred years on, the expedition to search for powerful magic ended in tragic mystery, as none of the company returned.
Now, thirty years on from that, a half-elven washes up half-drowned on the beaches of the Blue Divide, with a map to the magic, and teams up with the last of the old druids to find this font of power.
- The Old World of technology and science adds a fascinating wrinkle to this otherwise magical and low-tech environment.
- The first half of the book takes a while to establish the main players and characters.
The expedition for the lost magic continues, as Druid Walker Boh’s company finds themselves walking into a trap laid by dark forces.
Even Bek Rowe, Walker’s protégé, is among them.
However, even the sting of that betrayal can’t compare to the evil spirit that waits for them in the ruins of Castledown…
- A great continuation of the plot from the previous book, and leaves a gripping cliffhanger for the next novel to pick up!
- There might be too many moving pieces to stay engaged with any of it, making this a hard story to fully immerse yourself into.
Demons clash and witches wax poetic in this final part of the Voyage trilogy in the Shannara series.
But a centuries-old sorcerer and consumer of souls forces us to find allies in unexpected places, as an old name familiar to long-time Shannara readers rears its head once again!
- A gripping tale of the survivors from the last novel, and the old and new worlds of Shannara colliding. Brook’s work and world are starting to come together in this installment!
- While the new elements are great, the defeat of the antagonist is nothing new in this long-running fantasy series.
High Druid Of Shannara Series, First Novel
As you’ve probably started to notice at this point in the guide, the Druids of Shannara are kind of a big deal, often being fonts of wisdom, knowledge, and a lot of headaches for the heroes of this world!
So, this novel (and the continued works that we’ll pick up again later) that focus a little more on this mysterious wise (or not-so-wise) folk is sure to be a treat!
The former Ilse Witch, Grianne Ohmsford, has formed the Third Druid Council and has committed herself to the pursuit of peace and harmony among the Four Lands.
But she still has many enemies, and when she goes missing, it is up to a motley band of heroes, her plucky young nephew Pen Ohmsford, to save her from her dreadful fate!
- The return of a character from a previous series allows for some great links between the different miniseries, bringing this universe even closer together.
- This book mainly acts as a setup for the later books in this series. It can feel more like a chore to read at times if you’re looking for major action and plot beats.
Original Trilogy Short Story
Terry Brooks doesn’t dip into short fiction often. By his admission, it’s a story style that he is not well-versed in.
But when he does, however, he often comes up with incredible works like this!
Taking place a few years after Wishsong, we return to Jair Ohmsford, who must grapple with her obsession with the past that her brother has warned her about.
- It’s fascinating to see how Brook’s style has changed from the early days of this series when this section of the saga was written.
- As this short story is set right after the original trilogy ended, you’re likely going to be a little confused if you just picked this up after reading the previous entry. Make sure to read this after going through the original books.
High Druid Of Shannara Continued, In Publication Order
This is where keeping track of chronology and publication dates can get a little hazy.
Indomitable was released between the releases of the High Druids of Shannara stories, making following through this method a little hazy.
Still, we’re here now, so let’s continue following the Druids of Shannara!
Grianne Ohmsford has been trapped within a gateway to the Forbidding, opened by dark magics, and chaos continues to rain across the Four Lands.
The task of saving Grianne saving his aunt, Ard Rhys, and the High Druid of Paranor, falls onto the shoulders of the young shoulders of Penderrin, as he searches for the Tanequil, and the fabled amulet it holds.
- A powerful ending will leave you hooked and wanting to keep reading even further into the series
- The character development for some of the cast in this book feels like it comes at the cost of plot coherence. Things that needed more explaining don’t get as much time as maybe they needed.
As Penderrin edges ever closer and closer to rescuing his aunt, and Grainne tries to not slip further into hopelessness and death in her magical banishment, the forces of evil and good threaten to clash and tear the world apart once again, in this incredible conclusion to the High Druid of Shannara series!
- A gripping tale of hanging on to hope when it is most difficult to do so, as well as Pen’s character development coming full circle.
- With so many plot points and story elements to jump between, you may find your favorite plotline gets put on the back foot for a while in this book.
Genesis Of Shannara Series
Have you ever wanted to mix your love of high fantasy with post-apocalyptic story settings?
Have you wanted to see what exactly the ‘Great Wars’ that many characters have referred to across the saga looked like?
Well, wonder no more!
The Genesis of Shannara takes place in the year 2100, right in the middle of this nuclear wasteland and bloody conflict, where the old world burns away, and the new one of swords and sorcery begins to rise from the ashes.
In an irradiated wasteland, young Logan Tom, with a treasured amulet, struggles to keep his oath to find a being of great magical power who can lead the fight against this terrible darkness.
As he meets young Angel Perez and her found family of refugees and survivors, they find a common cause, and begin their single crusade: Stop the darkness, and save the world.
- While we’ve jumped to before and after the Great Wars in the Shannara series, this story takes place during this terrifying and chaotic time.
- This book seriously benefits from a prior understanding of the other Prequel Shannara books, especially Words & Void and the First King novels.
Logan and Angel go on their separate quests to find their means of fighting the hordes of demons and darkness.
Logan searches the streets of Seattle for the ‘Gypsy Morph’, a creature that is both magical and mortal, while Angel searches for a far-flung land untouched by the wars, where the elves of a bygone era have remained untouched.
- Watching our protagonists grow and change throughout this series is a real treat, especially in the face of such overwhelming odds.
- Like the previous book, many of the elements from the Words & Void series are needed to fully understand all the elements going on in this story. Still interesting, but a full appreciation needs homework!
Original Trilogy Graphic Novel
We take a break from your regularly scheduled book release to bring you a blast from the past!
A visual medium can often make a world of difference for classic novels. And a graphic novel is the perfect blend of the written word and gorgeous artwork to add new life to an older series.
Taking place between the short story Indomitable and the Heritage of Shannara trilogy, we follow the young Jair Ohmsford, as he learns how to and why he must resist the dark enchanting powers of the wishsong, as he journeys to save his friends from a dark force that threatens the world.
- The illustrations from Edwin David help bring this fantasy setting to life in a way that an ordinary novel simply can’t.
- While the visual elements are enough to make this graphic novel stand out, this does have a lot of hallmarks of older Shannara books, somewhat predictable plot beats, archetypal characters, etc.
Genesis Of Shannara Continued
Okay, back to the apocalyptic burning world of 22nd-century Earth we go!
Darkness has taken the land long enough. Knights of the Word, Angel Perez and Logan Tom, armed with their tools, experiences, and their rallying allies of light, make a last-ditch stand to push back the forces of the void that threaten to destroy what is left of the world.
- A thrilling conclusion to perhaps the most iconic historical event in the Shannara saga!
- Brook’s internal character monologues once again, while insightful, can cause the pace of the plot to stutter, and confuse some readers.
The Legends Of Shannara Series, in Publication Order
Brook isn’t done with books set in the early days of Shannara and the Four Lands if this short series is anything to go by! (Or is it more accurate to say the far future?)
This short 2-part series takes place between Genesis of Shannara and Last King, making it the 4th prequel series (3rd by chronology) before the original stories that kicked this saga off.
The Knights of the Word managed to protect the last remnants of Humanity in the Great Wars, in an idyllic sanctuary protected by magic.
But that was 500 years ago. The magic wards are wearing off, and the outside world is closing in.
What will Sider Ament, the last surviving Knight of the Word, do when the outside wastelands start creeping in?
Can he and his allies defend this new home against the Void, and who will inherit the black staff, and stand against the new wave of darkness
- A nice bridge between the older, apocalyptic stories of the Genesis series, and the swords and sorcery of the Original Trilogy.
- The story beat of ‘protagonists finds an unspeakable evil lurking in the corner of the world, and must fight it’ is one that Brooks has used before. It is still a great read, but long-time readers may feel a little déjà vu reading this one.
As the young new Knight of the Word Panterra Qu begins their journey as the bearer of the black staff, the encroaching darkness threatens to bring chaos and destruction once again.
Conspiracies fly and evil must be fought once again in this next saga of Shannara!
- This is a great further exploration of the characters forced to live in this time of great change for Shannara.
- Some of the plot twists are predictable, seeing as this is a prequel that leads to First King and the Original Trilogy.
Word & Void Continued
Brook wasn’t finished with the Word & Void series, as he has one more short story up our sleeve from this far-flung past of modern-day Earth.
The year is 1991, and young 13-year-old Jack McCall starts receiving terrible dreams and visions.
While others might be prepared to chalk it up to delusions or fanciful thinking, a fateful trip to Sinnissippi Park, where he is banned from going, will change his whole world!
- A short and fast-paced read that can be finished in just a single sitting, and adds even more context to the Words & Void series.
- This short story is only available in Kindle format, with no way to get a physical copy.
The Paladins Of Shannara Short Story Series
Like with the last entry, Brooks once again dips his toes in the world of short stories with this next entry.
This series takes place around the time of the Original Trilogy, scattered before and after the first books.
The old-favorite character Allanon the Druid returns in this short prequel to The Sword of Shannara.
Allanon, knowing that the Warlock Lord is on the rise once again, must find not only the blade of Shannara that banished him but the last rightful heir to the Shannara name.
- A short and sweet return of a classic character.
- This is a story for long-time fans. Newcomers are going to be too confused by the many references this book makes.
The Dark Legacy Of Shannara Series
Taking place 7 years after the High Druid series, the Dark Legacy trilogy is the latest chronological series in this sprawling saga.
Not only is a cutthroat politician at the helm of the newly established federation, but the druid orders of old are slowly fading into memory.
Not only that but the elfstones that protected against the darkness of the world are also vanishing.
How will young druid Aphenglow Elessedil navigate this tumultuous new world?
- A great story with plenty of familiar elements from across the Shannara saga, with a little extra political intrigue to boot!
- The characters of this tale feel a little flat in comparison to some of his earlier works.
With the older Druid orders locked in a hunt for the missing elfstones in a hellish world, and the old mystical tree of Arborlon, the Forbidding, the wastelands and darkness of old, threaten to tear through once again.
What can a young druid do against such overwhelming odds?
- The characterization of our main hero is much stronger in this next chapter of the Shannara saga.
- This story revolves around plot elements set up in the High Druid and Legend series. Newcomers are likely not going to appreciate the links and ties to the wider universe.
The Paladins Of Shannara Short Stories Continued
Putting the dark legacy on hiatus for now, let’s return to the Paladin short story series!
Taking place after the events of Elfstones of Shannara, the second book, the lone-wandering weapon’s master, who has fought for no one but himself before, must choose to fight for what is right, as a kingdom is laid to waste by a dark warlord.
- A nice, easy read from the much longer Shannara stories.
- The weapon’s master, Garet Jax, is a little boring as a main character.
Finishing off the Paladin trilogy, Shea Ohmsford, our very first main character, is haunted by a terrible odyssey he recently survived.
Can he be convinced to go on one more quest, for the hunt for a sacred artifact?
- It’s fascinating to see how Brook’s approach to writing old characters has changed.
- Not nearly as much depth as many of the other Shannara stories.
The Dark Legacy Of Shannara Continued, In Publication Order
Okay, we’re finishing off the Dark legacy saga here, moving closer and closer to the finish line!
The barrier protecting the Four Lands from the thousand-year-old demon threat starts to fade, the only elf who can reseal the demons outside is taken hostage by our cut-throat prime minister.
Can her sister, Aphen, save her before it is too late?
- A very satisfying main character and this book will tie ideas and concepts from across the entire Shannara saga together.
- The ending is a little anticlimactic.
The Defenders Of Shannara Series
Okay, don’t worry about chronology from this point on. These last two series are both the last two series released, and also chronology-wise.
When his little sister is kidnapped by a mysterious stranger, Paxon Leah, descendant of age-old kinds and mages, must both rise to the occasion, and learn to control his potential, to save her and defeat the sorcerer Arccannen.
- By this point, Brook has his magic systems and world lore down to a fine point.
- While entertaining, Paxon is your average, hotheaded 14-year-old fantasy protagonist.
Paxon Leah, now dedicating himself to the Druid order must help find the new source of the powerful wishsong magic before it falls into the wrong hands.
- Paxon receives some excellent character development in this next chapter of his story.
- The scenes of graphic violence and torture might be a little too much for some readers.
A botched peace summit and demon attack force Paxon to lead his Druid brethren to safety, as he tries to figure out who framed the Druids for this transgression.
- A classic journey for our hero, combined with some greater questions of what Arccannen has in store for Paxon
- Some character decisions seem a little contrived, especially from the villain.
The Fall Of Shannara Series
Finally, we come to the last chapter of this long and winding fantasy series!
In both the latest published Shannara books and the last chronology, we find the last saga of this world playing out before us here!
The peace that has reigned in the Four Lands for generations is threatened.
Not only is a new magical force, with powers beyond even the Druid’s understanding, threatening the peace with violence but an old Arch Druid finds himself the target of assassination.
Who could be behind this?
- Brooks successfully mixes suspense with foreboding dread in this first installment of the final Shannara series.
- The setup for this story, while interesting, does seem to come at the cost of good character-building.
War has broken out. The new, powerful forces that threaten to tear the Four Lands up have defeated even the most fearsome armies, and have their sights on the extermination of the Druid order.
How do Dar Leah, a high protector of the order, and the remaining forces of good, respond to this daunting challenge? And what else lies beyond the horizon?
- You can see the progress of the world, making the passage of time feel even more present in this series.
- Many of these plot beats have happened in other Brook works before.
The Skaar seem to be here to stay, and they struggle to come to terms with the concept of peace in this penultimate installment of this series.
- The tense atmosphere across the four lands feels light a tipping point for the series: A point of no return.
- Our main character feels a little boring compared to the side characters that populate this world.
Here we are. In the last story in the last saga.
As the Skaar continue to invade, and drastic journeys across the ocean are made, we come barreling into the final saga of this generation-spanning story.
- An ending over 40 years in the making!
- Brooks uses all of his old story beats in this one. It’s a familiar ending, but one we’ve seen before.
So, there you have it!
As far as I know, Terry Brooks has no more plans for further books in the Shannara saga. Certainly, none set after The Last Druid.
Meaning that this is a (largely) finished body of work that you are free to start reading from every point.
Not only will you gain a whole slew of new favorite fantasy tales to read, but you’ll also be able to appreciate just how much Brook’s skills as a writer have come, and how much he has changed over the years.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a book, and get sucked into a world of magic!
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Should You Start Reading The Shannara Series?
This will depend on both your chosen reading order, as well as what subgenre of fantasy you are most interested in reading.
If you’re looking to start with the earliest published book in the series, and are a lover of high fantasy, then you’ll want to begin with the original Shannara trilogy, with The Sword of Shannara.
If you want to start at the earliest chronological point, and prefer your novels to be a little more Urban Fantasy, then the Word and Void series is your best bet, with Running With the Demon.
What Is the Chronology Of The Shannara Series?
To help you out in understanding the chronology of this massive 38-book long series, here is a breakdown of the series chronology:
Word & Void (Starting with Imaginary Friends)
Genesis of Shannara
Legends of Shannara
First King of Shannara
Allanon’s Quest Short Story
The Sword of Shannara (Original Trilogy, Book 1)
The Black Irix Short Story
The Elfstones of Shannara (Original Trilogy, Book 2)
The Weapons Master’s Choice Short Story
The Wishsong of Shannara (Original Trilogy, Book 3)
Indomitable Short Story
Dark Wraith of Shannara (Graphic Novel)
Heritage of Shannara
Voyage of the Jeule Shannara
High Druid Of Shannara
The Dark Legacy of Shannara
The Defenders of Shannara
The Fall of Shannara