A mysterious stranger came into a peaceful village of Shady Vale. From him one of the village boys learned about being the last hope of vanquishing an ancient evil with the legendary Sword of Shannara. I am not going to go deep inside the plot as it was used numerous times after this book; it fact the book can be partially blamed for almost all of fantasy with a poor farm boy/girl destined to be the last humanity savior. The rest of the blame goes to The Lord of the Rings.
The general consensus about the book is that it is a carbon copy of Tolkien's writings. While I agree that the overall structure of the book is closely resembles that of the father of modern fantasy, the characters and the plot were different enough to be interesting. Regarding the characters I will be the first one to admit Allanon is a copy of Gandalf, but even he feels more human and fleshed out with the rest of the characters showing more grey sides of them, not just typical black and white.
Another feature which impressed me about the book: it gives a lot of good description of places, nature, people, etc. These descriptions are always to the point, never go into rambling mode and not boring. I can name some well-known writers who can spend a couple of pages describing a woman's dress, or even entire chapters dedicating to dishes of a fest; this book does not do it. This is something I really miss in modern writings - and I am not talking about just fantasy genre.
To my surprise the book wrapped up all of its plot lines in the end completely despite being called first book in a trilogy. So there you have it: an epic fantasy in fewer than 600 pages. I really forgot the last time I read anything epic and relatively short.
All in all this is a well written novel different enough from Tolkien to warrant 4 stars.