The Sword of Shannara is a 1977 epic fantasy novel by Terry Brooks. The first book of the Original Shannara Trilogy, it was followed by The Elfstones of Shannara and The Wishsong of Shannara. Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and historical adventure fiction, Brooks began writing The Sword of Shannara in 1967. It took him seven years to complete, as he was writing the novel while attending law school. After being accepted for publication by Ballantine Books, it was used to launch the company's new subsidiary, Del Rey Books. Upon its release, The Sword of Shannara was a major success and the first fantasy paperback to appear on the New York Times bestseller list. Its success provided a major boost to the commercial expansion of the fantasy genre.
The novel interweaves two major plots into a fictional world called the Four Lands. One follows the protagonist Shea Ohmsford on his quest to obtain the Sword of Shannara and confront the Warlock Lord, the antagonist, with it, while the other shadows Prince Balinor Buckhannah's attempt to oust his insane brother Palance from the throne of Callahorn while the country and its capital, Tyrsis, come under attack from overwhelming armies of the Warlock Lord. Throughout the novel, underlying themes of mundane heroism and nuclear holocaust appear.
The novel has received derision from critics who believe that Brooks derived too much of the novel from The Lord of the Rings. Some have accused him of lifting the entire plot and many of his characters directly from Lord of the Rings; others have regarded the book more favorably, and say that new writers, including Brooks, often start by copying the style of established writers. [via]