‘The Shannara Chronicles’: Heroic Elves Use Magic (and Modern Tech) to Save the World

Shannara Chronicles - Austin Butler, Poppy Drayton
Wil (Austin Butler) and Amberle (Poppy Drayton) Faceoff With A Demon

Having had success with bringing big-screen hits Scream and Teen Wolf to the small screen, MTV goes a bit further back—and a lot larger—for its latest scripted project: an adaptation of author Terry Brooks’s sprawling fantasy-novel series. “People have described it as a young Game of Thrones, but it’s more like Hunger Games in that it follows twentysomethings through a world that is on the brink of destruction,” says Miles Millar, who is executive producing along with his former Smallville partner Al Gough as well as Jon Favreau and Brooks himself. “Plus, Thrones is very much about political intrigue, and ours is a quest show with a clearer path to who is good and who is bad.”

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Based on The Elfstones of Shannara—the 1982 installment of the 25-book series—the first season of Chronicles follows Wil Ohmsford (Austin Butler), a half-human/half-elf from a heroic bloodline as he joins elf princess Amberle (Poppy Drayton) and thief Eretria (Ivana Baquero) on a journey to save their land from demons and all sorts of supernatural threats. There are also enchanted trees, battling clans and a colorful fellowship surrounding a kind yet stern king (John Rhys-Davies), but Chronicles upends the genre’s typical tropes by setting the action not in an imaginary world but on Earth several thousand years in the future, where technology mixes with old-school magic—and the original novel’s plot is paired with new twists. “We maintained the spirit of the book,” Gough says. “Terry knew things would have to change for TV, and he was open to it. He said we did things he wished he’d thought of when he wrote the series!”

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Shannara Chronicles, Series premiere, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 10/9c, MTV