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Magic Kingdom For Sale – Sold!
By Terry Brooks
1986

Back Cover:
Landover was a genuine magic kingdom, with fairy folk and wizardry, just as the advertisement had promised. But after he purchased it, Ben Holiday learned that there were a few details the ad had failed to mention.

The kingdom was in ruin. The Barons refused to recognize a king, and the peasants were without hope. A dragon was laying waste the countryside, while an evil witch plotted to destroy everything.

Ben’s only followers were the incompetent Court Magician; Abernathy, the talking dog who served as Court scribe; and the lovely Willow – but she had a habit of putting down roots in the moonlight and turning into a tree. The Paladin, legendary champion of the King of Landover, seemed to be only a myth and an empty suit of armour.

To put the final touch on the whole affair, Ben soon learned that the Iron Mark, terrible lord of the demons, had challenged all prospective Kings of Landover to a duel to the death – a duel which no human could hope to win.

The task of proving his right to be King seemed hopeless. But Ben Holiday was stubborn…

This is my first Terry Brooks book i’ve read. I was huge into fantasy as a teenager, but i’ve never come across the books before. Recently i’ve been told by several of my friends to take a look into this authors that i’ve missed. Once finished my last Anne book, I was ready for something completely different and i’m glad i found this book at a recent used book sale.

Fantasy has always been a great escape for me, and a way to help break apart my reading genres. It has been a while since I found a good fantasy book to read, let alone read a fantasy book. This was a real treasure for me, as you can tell from the back cover, I was hooked before I read the first page.

The story follows Ben Holiday, a high end lawyer in Chicago. His wife passed away a year ago along with their unborn child. He is a hollow man, isolating himself and only focusing on work. Miles, his law partner was the only friend who has stuck it out with him during this time, but it’s not enough and Ben’s mind begins to wonder. It is during this depressing mood that he stables upon an advertisement in a christmas catalogue about a Magic Kingdom for sale. Ben is unable to shove the idea out of his mind, was it real, a hoax, or some sort of amusement park? His practical side tells him a magical kingdom can not exist, but there is a part of him, the child inside that wishes it were. In the end, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. His life was going nowhere in his world, there was no challenge for him. Being king of a magic kingdom he hoped would give his life more excitement, and a challenge.

From this point on, we follow Ben and all of his challenges as he discovers the magic kingdom of Landover, it’s beauty as well as the taint that is slowly taking hold of the land. Twenty years without a king has led to disaster. The vault was empty, all the barons and knights have abandoned the castle, and Ben is unable to get anyone to pledge to him – or rather not without strings attached. He can’t get the Barons to pledge until he rids them of the dragon. The River Master and his fairy people won’t pledge until the others in the kingdom take responsibility to clean up the rivers and respect the land.

The only ones who have pledged to Ben, are Quester Thews – Court Wizard, whose magic has one wondering if he can perform any spell correctly; Abernathy – Court Scribe, who has been turned into a dog by Quester by mistake and the Wizard is unable to turn him back let alone give the wizard the chance with is track record. A talking dog, awesome! There are also Bunion and Parsnip who are Kobolds – creatures i’m still unsure of though they seem to be a cross with a monkey with dumbo ears and sharp teeth. Yet despite the first appearance in the book, i’ve grown to really like these creatures, they are loyal and even Ben begins to accept them and their skills.

I will make a brief mention of the two female characters that appeared in the book. As much as Ben is obsessed over his dead wife Annie, I don’t quite consider her an active character in her book – even though there is one scene with her in it. The two I really do want to talk about is Willow and Nightshade – okay right there Nightshade is the best name for a fairy witch i’ve ever heard. But I digress.

Willow is a sylph, part fairy, part tree and I think part human. We first encounter her my accident while she’s taking a bath in the lake, Ben and her lock eyes and suddenly she claims that they were fated to meet there and that she now belongs to him. A second passes, Ben blinks and she is gone. We do not meet up with her again until they enter the fairy city made by the River Mater, a fairy who chose to leave the mists and Fairy world to live in Landover with his people. Willow is his daughter. Upon discovering that tibit, Ben does everything he can to avoid Willow, but she is there and drags him out to a clearing amongst the pines where her mother will appear. Ben is taken in by her beauty, it is more like a lust than love and Ben struggles to keep himself in check. When Willow turns into a tree, Ben is startled, amazed and a bit disgusted at it at first. Willow asks Ben to allow her to travel with them, to ask her father to have her join their group. He refuses and after the transformation – he is even more dead set from having Willow join them. Yet, we learn later on, that Willow still follows Ben and his group, risking exile by her own father. I was surprised at Willow’s character and strength of her during the course of the book. We don’t get many scenes as she doesn’t appear until after halfway in. Yet, once she’s there, she has a presence about her. When everyone was captured by the Trolls, it was Willow who snuck in and rescued Ben and the others, solidifying her role in the group – even though Ben is still not wanting her with him, but now it’s mostly the idea of keeping her safe and out of trouble. But Willow still has this strength within her, and determination. She tells Ben over and over that she would never leave him and that he can not order her to leave. I have mix feelings about Willow and her devotion to Ben, but hope that her character has a larger role in the future books.

Nightshade – the fairy witch who was exiled from the Fairy world. Cunning and extremely powerful, it is the act of a desperate Ben Holiday to finally enter her lair to ask for her pledge and help with unifying Landover agains the Iron Mark. Again, as much as there is mention of Nightshade throughout the book, we don’t get to see much of her at all. The scenes we do see make for an interesting confrontation. I really enjoyed her scenes, and how she sets up illusion after illusion around her lair to prevent others from wondering in. When Ben asks for her pledge and help agains the Iron mark, she gives him another task to complete – one that would also help him tame the dragon. Of course, she has other plans and Ben is able to avoid the back-stabbing and in the end outwit her and trick her into her own demise. We don’t even know if her demise is true or not. Ben is able to use this Io Dust on her, a form of mind control and sent her back into the mists and Fairy World, what happens to exiles when they return is anybody’s guest but she warned Ben that once the dust wears off she will kill him, and all that revenge bit. I would hate to see such a promising antagonist be destroyed so soon after her arrival in the book. I know there are a couple of other books in the series, so I will hold on to hope that there is more to do with her than just this.

In the end, I found myself unable to stop reading and end up staying up much later than anticipated to read the next chapter, then the next. I won’t give much else away as I really enjoyed this book and don’t want to ruin anything in case others have not read it either. I really need to go out and find the other books in this series and continue to read about Landover and Ben Holiday. It has captured my imagination and I rekindled my love of epic fantasy!

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