My Gateway Novel: Wishsong of Shannara

Whenever we find something we like–a TV show, a band, a sport, whatever–there’s always something that introduces us to whatever it is, our “gateway,” if you will, that we never forget, especially if whatever turns out to be transformative in some way.

(For example, I can remember that the song that introduced me to my favorite genre of music, symphonic metal, was Nightwish’s End of All Hope, and that it was the background music for a Twilight Princess fanvid. Why I was watching Zelda fanvids, I don’t remember, but I will never forget that song.)

For me, I can still remember the first fantasy novel I ever read, the one that hooked me into a genre that has never let me go. I was 12, perusing the shelves at my elementary school library. I’d read some scifi at that point–A Wrinkle in Time, a children’s book that I really loved whose title escapes me (something with Puck?)–and was, of course, a Trekkie raised by Trekkie parents, but I hadn’t touched fantasy. The books we read in school were contemporary, and often involved children lost in the wilderness (like Hatchet or Julie of the Wolves). Or they were historical fiction.

I can even remember the shelf it was on. My elementary school library had a reading treehouse in one corner, and it was on the bookcase next to that, on the far lefthand side, second shelf from the bottom. I don’t know what possessed me to pull it out. It was a big book, over 500 pages, certainly bigger than anything else I had read.

But pull it out I did. The Wishsong of Shannara by Terry Brooks. And I took it out and read it and have never looked back.

It had magic and evil and loyalty and consequences and the hero was a girl just like me.

I’ve read a lot of the Shannara books over the years (of the original trilogy, I actually like The Sword of Shannara better), and, of course, have branched out into many other authors and other subgenres of fantasy, but I will always remember my first. And I sometimes wonder if, since I found high/epic fantasy first, that has colored my likes, since that is my favorite subgenre.

(Another fantasy book I read early on–the next year, as part of a local author event, where we all read a book by a local author and then got to meet same author–was T.A. Barron’s The Ancient One, which is part portal fantasy, part contemporary. Female protagonist again. Excellent book. Involves trees, which is probably why I like it so much.)

(The year after that we had to read Will Hobbs, and I was pretty done with “Boy survives in the wild” books by that point, so that was less awesome.)

Can you remember the book that got you into scifi or fantasy? Any other gateways you’d like to share?


2 responses to this post.

  1. I’d read fairytales and mythology-books as a child. I still fondly remember a trilogy of books on Norse and Finnish mythology, set in a framework of a fictional group of people telling the stories to each other; I can remember exactly what the covers of the books looked like, but cannot for the life of me recall the title or author.

    But my first real fantasy-novel was David Eddings first Belgariad-novel, Pawn of Prophecy. While I could today write you a *novel* of rants on my issues with Eddings and his writing, Pawn of Prophecy was the first book to introduce me to the fantasy staples, and it was definitely my gateway drug. I picked it off my big brother’s bookshelf and never looked back.

    As for other gateways…. The first Fullmetal Alchemist-anime was definitely my gateway into that – closely followed by One Piece. To this day, I have still only seen the first FMA-adaption; I’ve never seen FMA: Brotherhood. There are clear issues with deviations from the source-material in the first adaption, but it is seriously good. As long as you ignore the Conqueror of Shamballa-sequel movie, which kind of wrecks the entire premise of the anime-finale.


    • Anime is harder for me–I don’t watch a lot of it, so I can remember everything I’ve ever seen. I watched Sailor Moon before school back in the day, but always had to leave before the episode ended. As a teenager I watched Voltron on Cartoon Network, and in college a friend sent me Read or Die, and I watched Cowboy Bebop with another friend. I watched a lot more once we moved to California, because all my nerdy friends who grew up there were into anime. I might say it was Bleach, though. Certainly the first massive arc adventure manga I read.


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