MTV seems to have a hit on its hands with The Shannara Chronicles, an adaptation of the Shannara series of books by author Terry Brooks.
For those not familiar with the books, MTV has done a pretty good job of setting up the story, characters and setting. However, viewers might still find a little confusion in some of the smaller details.
Also, viewers who have not yet seen the series might want to know what it's about before they invest their time in watching it. And let's face it, with all the good TV that is available now, adding a new show to a weekly viewing list means that it better be worthy of the additional time it takes to watch.
Here's a primer on what you need to know about The Shannara Chronicles, which airs Tuesday nights on MTV.
The most important thing to remember about The Shannara Chronicles is that it is not set on some fictional world that exists only in the author's mind. The books and the television series are actually set on Earth, our version of it, but only many, many years into the future. Some sort of post-apocalyptic thing has happened, and now all that's left of the old world are some old, rundown buildings and rusty cars.
Although Brooks often left the concept up to readers to decide if this was our Earth or not, MTV decided to focus on that, feeling that it was important in the story the network wanted to tell.
"MTV was drawn to that particular aspect of the work, and they wanted to make it clear right from the first where this was set so that the viewers would have an immediate identification with this world in the future," said Brooks in an interview with Tech Times. "And, obviously, in our current political and our science climate that we have right now - our concerns over environment, our concerns over the changes in the weather and so forth, global warming and all that - it's kind of necessary that they can connect to that in a way that this book goes where everything has gone south."
This makes the story of Shannara unique, as it still serves up a fantasy story with elves, demons and magic, but it all takes place in a futuristic version of our world.
"The thing that's great about fantasy is that in many ways, it's timeless, because it's storytelling and it talks about the human condition," said Brooks. "It doesn't focus on any one aspect of it. It talks about it in multiple ways, and I think that's why it's so appealing. And that's why it's found a vast audience and why now, fantasy of all kinds is the 800-pound gorilla in the entertainment world. In every aspect of the entertainment world, fantasy is dominant."
Before the story of The Shannara Chronicles takes place, it's important to understand the history of the world. Before humans ever roamed Earth, there were elves. These elves created the magical Elfstones. However, magic always comes with a price and the creation of the stones also brought demons to the world. After years of battle, the elves created a powerful spell that imprisoned the demons. This spell also created the sacred tree the Ellcrys. The battle left the elves drained of most of their magic, so they went into hiding as mankind arrived on Earth. However, they continued to guard the Ellcrys. Eventually, mankind destroyed everything during the Great Wars and humans eventually evolved to form four races (with many believing that the elves were also an evolved race of humans).
Only then did the elves come out of hiding and become the new leaders of the post-apocalyptic world.
Shannara also features a lot of characters, but the main four are the most important to keep track of: Amberle Elessedil, Wil Ohmsford, Allanon and Eretria.
Amberle is an elven princess who becomes the first female to run the gauntlet: that makes her a member of the Chosen, an elite group of elves who protect the sacred tree Ellcrys. However, Amberle becomes even more special when the Ellcrys speaks to her and gives her visions of a world falling apart after demons return to it. It is said that as long as the Ellcrys stays healthy, demons will no longer roam the Earth, but now, the Ellcrys faces death, and Amberle must go on a quest to save it and the world.
At first, Wil Ohmsford seems like a goofy half-elf who makes a lot of bad choices and inadvertently falls into mischief on a regular basis. However, he is also the last surviving member of the great elven family Shannara, something he discovers after he meets the wizard Allanon. Wil carries the legendary Elfstones, which gives him magic, a magic that he must learn to use to help Amberle in her quest.
Although not much is known about Eretria's life as a child, she is now a Rover, part of a group of human thieves who prey on the unsuspecting. Eretria manages to dupe Wil twice and steals the Elfstones, but she believes she can trade them for her freedom from the leader of the Rover group, who holds her captive. Regardless of her background, though, Eretria's destiny is bound to Amberle's quest.
Allanon is a Druid, one of the last of his kind. This means that he protects druidic secrets, often making him enigmatic. However, when he awakens from a deep sleep, which is similar to suspended animation, he runs into Wil and realizes that the young boy is a descendant of Jerle Shannara, a former elven king. Allanon is also a seasoned warrior and uses his magic to help the elves fight off the demons while Amberle continues on her quest.