Re: Opinions about the Shannara Series
As with many, I read LoTR well before I picked up the Sword of Shannara. There were many similarities, but Brooks' educated common man approach to the Ohmsford brothers set them off enough from the hobbits. Layer on top of that the more recognizable politics between the border kingdoms and the Southland and the coup in Callahorn, and you have some departure from LoTR. Elfstones and Wishsong definitely get more interesting, and have their own feel.
While I haven't purchased the Elves of Cintra yet, the whole merging of the Shannara world with the Word/Void continuum in Armageddon's Children was fascinating. I thought that was a great read (so much so that I read it 3 times!), so yes, I would recommend picking up AC, at least.