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I've gotten several recommendations to read the Shannara books by Terry Brooks in the past, but now that I look on Wikipedia, I've found that the books make up several different trilogies and standalone books.

I assume that the Original Shannara Trilogy would be a safe bet to start, but I suppose that could be wrong.

Among all the different groups of Shannara books/trilogies, which need to be read before others to understand what is going on?

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    With most series like this, I tend to follow the assumption that reading order is the same as publishing order, unless there's an external source which says otherwise. In some cases (I'll give the Asimov Foundation books as an easy example) prequel books can actually serve as spoilers to books which were published first but set chronologically later.
    – Nellius
    Mar 8 '11 at 15:37
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Straight from Terry himself:

In summary:

  • For new readers, pretty much order of publication.

  • For returning readers, in order of in-world events.

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I would start with The Sword of Shannara Trilogy, which was the first published. You could also start with The First King of Shannara, which is a prequel to the SoS trilogy if you like, or you can read that afterwards. Either way, the next would probably be Heritage of Shannara, and then either The Voyage of Jerle Shannara or High Druid of Shannara, although I think Voyage is chronologically first. Not sure what after that though...although that should keep you busy for a while. All of those are trilogies with the exception of Heritage, which is four books.

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    I'd also note that it doesn't really matter when the Word & Void books are read; although they are Shannara prequels, they work as well read last.
    – Tony Meyer
    Mar 4 '11 at 21:02
  • So would I be correct in assuming that the characters in these different trilogies are generally different for each one? Mar 4 '11 at 21:08
  • @shadow Generally yes, although there is a family line that is being traced through generations, so having some basic knowledge of the family is nice.
    – morganpdx
    Mar 4 '11 at 21:18
  • @Tony I hadn't heard of the Word & Void books...thanks!
    – morganpdx
    Mar 4 '11 at 21:20
  • Perfect. This answers my question really well. @Tony Good to know - thanks. Mar 4 '11 at 21:26
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Please also note that there are also "pre-Shannara" Brooks books that describe the origins of overall Shannara universe:

I have only read the "Word vs Void" and it seems that this trilogy can be read independently of the "proper Shannara" books, though I would recommend reading them after Shannara ones simply to avoid breaking your concentration on continuity of the latter.

I don't know whether Genesis should be read before/after Shannara books, since it might provide some explanations for details of Shannara that would make it beneficial (but not critical) to be read first, although it is IMHO the last as far as publishing order.

Obviously, in either case, you should read "Word/Void" series before Genesis as the Genesis is a sequel to Word trilogy.

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  • The Genesis trilogy may contain spoilers to the Original Trilogy.
    – TimSparrow
    Sep 7 '20 at 11:14
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Start with a knight of the word series then the prequel then the sword and it's books. Then keep coming through the ages.

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  • This seems very sparse. Why is this the best order?
    – Valorum
    Oct 12 '16 at 17:51
  • Think of it as history. Do you start at the beginning or right in the middle? If you start at the beginning then you should start with a knight of the word and work your way through the history of this series. If however you like to jump around in your history then by all means start with the sword.
    – Case
    Oct 12 '16 at 18:33

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