MTV brings epic 'Shannara' fantasy books to life

Posted on Jan 2 2016 - 12:00am by

Even this wizard of words thinks there might have been some magic behind the journey to bring his epic fantasy novels to the small screen.

Famed author Terry Brooks, 71, says he is as shocked as anyone that after nearly 40 years, his “Shannara” fantasy series has finally been turned into a TV show, set to debut on MTV on Jan. 5 at 10 p.m.

“It’s astonishing, I’ve spent almost a whole lifetime in this world,” Brooks told the Daily News. “It’s like time finally caught up with me after all these years.”

Like the books it’s based on, MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles,” a “Lord of the Rings”-type of series is set thousands of years in the future after civilization as we know it has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.

In its place elves, humans, trolls and other species have risen to inhabit a world they call the Four Lands and live peacefully in a preindustrial, sword and sorcery fashion.

Monsters? Check. Wizards? Check. Creepy bad guys and gutsy heroes? Check. There’s even some powerful magical talismans called elfstones to bind them all.

Elf princess Amberle Elessedil (Poppy Drayton), half-elf Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler) and thief turned hero Eretria (Ivana Baquero) are characters in MTV's new "The Shannara Chronicles."

Elf princess Amberle Elessedil (Poppy Drayton), half-elf Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler) and thief turned hero Eretria (Ivana Baquero) are characters in MTV’s new “The Shannara Chronicles.”

What’s most unexpected about the series is how it’s on MTV, a channel better known for programming like “The Real World” than one set in a fantasy realm. But MTV has been changing.

As it struggles to hold on to fickle young viewers, the former music-only channel has found modest success with scripted dramas like “Teen Wolf” and “Scream.”

And with HBO’s “Game of Thrones” growing into a global phenom, it’s understandable that MTV hopes to conjure up a similar following aimed at younger viewers.

“Fantasy has become such a ubiqutious, omnipresent force in all of entertainment that everybody is looking for something in this field,” says Brooks.

The new series is closely based on Brooks’ 1983 best-seller, “The Elstones of Shannara.” If it is successful, future seasons are likely to parallel other novels in the series. So far he’s written close to 30 “Shannara” books.

Manu Bennett plays the Druid Allanon in MTV's "The Shannara Chronicles."

Manu Bennett plays the Druid Allanon in MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles.”

“And I’ve got more in me,” he says. “I know how it all ends, it’s just a matter of writing it,” Brooks says. Noting that he’s quite healthy, Brooks adds that he’s never been fond of leaving the series in the hands of a different author to finish.

“I’m fine, but I’ve been at this for a while,” he says. “I plan to write the ending to the ‘Shannara’ books myself in the next few years.”

Meanwhile, the new TV series stars Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton and Ivana Baquero as three unlikely allies pitted against an evil, demonic force that is bent on destroying the world.

Brooks admits that given the teenaged audience MTV hopes to attract, producers infused the love triangle between the three main characters in “Elfstones” — half elf Wil Ohmsford, elven princess Amberle Elessedil and the kind-hearted sexy thief, Eretria — with a shot of brooding, supernatural “Twilight”-style hormones.

The author says he had no problem with the move.

A demon called a Fury wreaks havoc in MTV's "The Shannara Chronicles"

A demon called a Fury wreaks havoc in MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles”

“When I wrote that book I was telling a story about three young people caught up in a non-traditional love story. None of the things were there that you would find in most fantasy-themed love stories,” says Brooks.

“Given that, I felt like it was completely fine for (the producers) to expand on that. The heart of the story is the relationship between those three and the question of what they’re willing to sacrifice,” he says.

“As it turns out that brooding element is integral to the story — they want to keep their audience and their audience is young. Frankly, I took this story to MTV because I wanted to recapture that young audience. Young readers don’t know me the way they used to so this was a logical jump and a logical place for ‘Shannara’ to land,” says Brooks.

There were other changes made during the adaptation process that Brooks believes help move the story along.

“There are deviations from the books,” says Brooks. “But deviations are OK — all I told them (producers) was, ‘just don’t screw over the story.’ “

The Dagda Mor, a powerful evil Demon that seeks to destroy all things good in MTV's "The Shannara Chronicles"

The Dagda Mor, a powerful evil Demon that seeks to destroy all things good in MTV’s “The Shannara Chronicles”

The makers of the show, “were very respectful of that,” says Brooks. “Every time I had an objection we worked it through and they pretty much went along with what I suggested was necessary — it was overall a very satisfying experience.”

Watching “Shannara” is also pretty satisfying.

Although at times it might seem like “Game of Thrones” light, the makers of the show use their 10-episode season wisely to develop complex characters and a rich, layered fantasy world.

“I hope people like it,” says Brooks. “I do.”

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mtv ,
terry brooks ,
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