About the Author:
Terry Goodkind was born in Nebraska, USA.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3.7 out of 5
Blood Of The Fold
Sword of Truth book three. In this novel Richard must finally come to terms with the fact that he is the magically gifted heir of the cruel tyrant Darken Rahl. The Imperial Order has been loosed from the Old World by Richard's own actions and he must begin to unite the peoples of the Midlands and D'hara against them. However, his efforts are hampered by the fiercely anti-magic fanatics known as the Blood of the Fold, as well as the mysterious Mristwith creatures that share some bond with Richard.
This book is one of my favourites of the series and excellently combines, politics, action, magic and its core issue, prejudiced intollerance. The Mord-Sith formerly Darken Rahl's murderous bodyguards make for excellent allies to Richard's cause as he slowly turns them away from their brutal training and shows them friendship and love.
If it weren't for the fact that you need to read books 1 and 2 to understand what's going on, I'd almost recommend that people start with this novel, so good do I think it is. Its one downside is that people who've already read some of Robert Jordan's work will find some of the themes and elements a bit too familiar (the Blood of the Fold are pretty much just the Whitecloaks under a different name).
Followed by 'Temple of the Winds'.
5 out of 5
The ninth Sword of Truth novel restores my faith in the fallen series (see the joke I made? Funny eh?). By returning Richard to the Midlands and D'Hara, Goodkind recaptures the exciting essence that made the first few books in the series so enjoyable. Also, the quality of the author's storytelling returns to previous standards, be it the likeable characters, the stunning action, or the insightful description.
This book's downside is the terribly cliched premise. Kahlan has been kidnapped (AGAIN!?), but this time, Richard is the only one who remembers she ever existed in the first place. I've seen this same plot done a dozen different ways (in comics, movies and Star Trek etcetera) and everytime it presents the same problem: we know the one who remembers is right, so why belabour the issue?
However, as well as being well written, this book also begins to set things up for the final battle between good and evil, adding a wonderful urgency to the story that largely cancels out the pointlessness of the plot and leads into a cliffhanger that has me dying to read the next installment.
One final gripe though; Goodkind should at least try to disguise the fact when he nicks someone else's character. The Sisters of the Light/Aes Sedai thing was bad enough, but here we see the return of Samuel, who is a loathsome scuttling shell of a man who craves the magic item that was taken from him. I was a bit amazed that he didn't call it his 'precious'.
Followed by 'Phantom'.
4 out of 5
The eleventh and final book of the Sword of Truth series. At least it was the final book until Goodkind decided after a couple of years that he needed to keep churning them out. Seing as how the first half of this book is a captivity storyline, which I usually hate, I was surprised to discover that it was the better half of the book. This is mostly because we get to see Richard doing what he does best; succeeding against impossible odds. Here's it's by becoming a master of the Imperial Order's beloved Game of Life and then starting a small civil war when the time comes to rescue Kahlan and Nicci (who is also captured by Jagang).
Sadly, it's all downhill from there. The latter half of the book is a great disappointment and left me wistfully remembering the glory days of 'Wizard's First Rule' and 'Stone Of Tears'. Basically, it turns out that everything we've spent the last two books reading about the Boxes of Orden is wrong and has therefore been a complete waste of time. This I could live with if it weren't for the fact that, instead of systematically resolving all the major plot issues of the series, Goodkind resolves them all simultaneously when Richard achieves god-like power and just fixes everything in the world.
Now deus ex machina is as much a part of epic fantasy as hopeless battles against overwhelming odds, but this one is really just one step too far. How is the vast Imperial Order army disposed of? Richard just wishes them away. How is the taint on the world of magic fixed? Again, he just wishes it away. Now, I've been reading this series since 2001, through it's ups and downs, and to be cheated of a proper resolution at the end is deeply frustrating and insulting.
It doesn't help that this book continues the hate-mongering trend of the latter few books of the series. I think Sword of Truth began going horribly wrong with the introduction of the Imperial Order, which Goodkind simply uses as a nebulous target for all his anger against religion, communism and non-Americans; ironic considering how the Order treats Richard and his friends.
With a final book as lacklustre as this, it makes you feel like a sucker for having bought all eleven book. The only reason this book warrants a three is because of the first half.
3 out of 5
Debt Of Bones
This is a short novella originally published as part of the 'Legends' anthology edited by Robert Silverberg. This story is a prequel to the Sword of Truth series in which the wizard Zedd, in his younger days, creates a plan to hold back the enemy forces of D'hara at the same time as fulfilling a debt owed to a young woman named Abbie.
Whilst the story has all the things you'd expect from Goodkind, action, thrills, danger and harsh reality, you don't really get much for your money. I already owned 'Legends' and bought this book believing it to be an extended version of the story, like Robert Jordan's 'New Spring', but I discovered that the only addition is a few (undeniably beautiful) drawings.
If you want my advice, buy 'Legends' and get eleven stories instead of one.
Followed by 'Wizard's First Rule'.
3 out of 5
Faith Of The Fallen
Sword of Truth book six. This particular book could go either way, depending on your taste. The story involves Richard being enslaved by Nicci, the most powerful of the Sisters of the Dark. She takes him deep into Jagang's empire and forces him to live a simple life, in the hopes of making him accept the rightness of the Imperial Order. Meanwhile, Kahlan is left to take command of the forces of the D'haran Empire in its epic battles against the Imperial Order's invading millions.
I enjoyed much of this book, particularly the battles for the Midlands which show both Goodkind's skill at capturing the epic bravery and horror of war and his ability to come up with clever new tactics for his characters to use that make you say "My, that's a clever tactic" (I cannot guarantee this, I'm afraid).
As is my tendency, I didn't much enjoy Richard's enslavement, often finding it tedious and uneventful. However, to Goodkind's credit he creates an atmosphere where you find yourself waiting with bated breath for the moment when the Imperial Order's true wrongness (sorry, very poor word use there!) is revealed to its duped people and they rise up in rebellion. I will warn you, though, that this book will often seem a VERY thinly veiled statement of how evil Communism is and how wonderful Capitalism is. I did feel that someone should explain to old Terry that the Cold War is over.
So, as I said, this book is one that you'll either love or hate and will therefore be a risk to readers whose time is precious (it's not short).
Followed by 'The Pillars of Creation'.
4 out of 5
Sword of Truth book eight. A little bit of fresh air after the poisoned fog of 'The Pillars of Creation'. In this book we see Goodkind begin to find his stride again as he reveals Richard's discovery of an entire people who are completely blind to magic, but worse, blind to evil. We get to see the landscape and culture of this new people revealed in exquisite detail as Richard slowly uses his powers as the Seeker to convince the people of Bandakar to rise up against the oppression of the Imperial Order.
One aspect of this book that I particularly enjoyed was the fact that Nicolas the Slide has no allegiance to Jagang and it is only the Emperor's powers as a Dreamwalker, being faster than those of a Slide, that keeps Jagang in control. Unfortunately, this book still has a good many downsides, one being Nicolas himself. He is a rather unconvincing and ham-actor type of villain and that's a shame.
Perhaps the worst thing about this book was that for most of it you agree wholeheartedly with everything Richard says. Both the fact that we're used to trusting the character's judgement and his seemingly unassailable logic have you completely believing in him and his ideas. I found myself doing just that until I got to the bit which says 'kill without mercy, with hate in my heart'. Then I suddenly realised that almost all of what Richard had been saying is contrary to my own beliefs of peace and tolerance. It then occurred to me that 'Naked Empire' was a very clever and subtle justification of American foreign policies of the time (under 'Dubya') and further, was almost pro-war propaganda.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying violence isn't sometimes justified, but the idea that our beloved heroes in this book can use the slogan 'kill without mercy, with hate in our hearts' is a bit chilling.
Followed by 'Chainfire'.
3 out of 5
The Sword of Truth series reaches its tenth volume. This book left me feeling very torn in my opinion of it. There is a great deal here that I didn't like, things that have sometimes been problems with the previous books too. Among these things is the fact that Zedd, Nathan and Ann all still argue that Richard doesn't know what he's talking about when he has proved time and time again that he does. Goodkind spends a worrying amount of time going into as much detail as he can about rape and torture. There is repetition of ideas we've already encountered; for instance, why is everyone so surprised when Nathan has to stand in as Lord Rahl? He's already done it once.
There's also several imprisonment storylines here, which I always find tedious. The worst of these is Kahlan's because of my issues with the whole 'we know who she is, but she doesn't' thing. Another problem is that very little of consequence happens in this book and I strongly feel that Goodkind could have made a better book by shrinking this one and 'Chainfire' into one.
My biggest problem with book however is this; at first I thought Richard's (often hypocritical) rants were aimed at organised religion as a whole, but as the book wore on I got the distinct impression that Goodkind is using the Imperial Order as a metaphor for Islam. What clued me in was the bit where the brave hero decides that his best option is to send his troops to the Order's homeland to kill their civilians and level their cities (AKA American foreign policy). But Richard does feel a bit guilty about it, so that makes it okay, doesn't it? Originally Richard's morality was one of the lynchpins of the series, but for me it has been seriously compromised by his sugar-coated hate mongering.
So, with all that stacked against the book, why do I feel torn about it? Well, it's simply that Goodkind is a skilled writer who manages to keep you engrossed and to keep you turning pages. Elements of the book also harkened back to the glory days of the series (books one through five), such as the land of the night wisps or Six the new and improved witch woman. If Goodkind can continue to recapture the early feel of the series for the next book then I look forward to reading it. If not, then at least it'll be over soon right? Right?
Followed by 'Confessor'.
3 out of 5
Soul Of The Fire
This, the fifth Sword of Truth book, is a slight change of pace and direction for the series as it focuses in on the events in the land of Anderith. First we are introduced to a new cast of characters and the political and social state of Anderith is revealed. Then our heroes are thrown into the mix as Anderith wavers between loyalty to the new D'haran Empire and the invading Imperial Order.
This is an interesting twist to the the story, although I felt it slowed the series' excellent pace a little and suffered for it. The new characters are diverse and cleverly realised and one of them is such a man of intelligence and integrity that you will wish nonstop that he'll see the error of his ways and join the right side. I like the idea of a Dominie Dirtch, a magical weapon of such power that the people of Anderith fear no enemy army and I like even more the fact they they're unaware that, because of the evil creatures known as the Chimes, there is no magic to power the weapon.
Another excellent factor here is the fact that rather than the Keeper or the Sisters of the Dark or even Jagang and the Imperial Order, Richard's true foe here is an ancient wizard who was corrupted by his own power and arrogance meaning Richard, ignorant of magic as he is, must confront an enemy far more powerful than he.
One downside to this book is the extremely irritating fact that not only is Richard the 'chosen one' as it were, but also he's proved right all the time and still no-one believes a word he says. Zedd, Ann and Kahlan all refuse to listen to him even when his reasoning is completely faultless. This, I thought, was a serious downside to a story that professes that these people love and trust Richard implicitly.
Followed by 'Faith of the Fallen'.
4 out of 5
Stone Of Tears
Book two of the Sword of Truth. As I mention elsewhere, I rapidly tire of imprisonment storylines and was a bit disheartened to realise that Richard's part of this book is entirely that. However, Goodkind puts a twist in the story that immediately caught me up once more, having Richard declare from the first that he means to be free of the prison that is the Palace of the Prophets and that he will kill anyone and everyone who sides against him when he decides to do so. This surety of will is what makes Richard appeal to me as a character, there's none of the uncertainty of most other characters, there is simply the right way and the wrong way.
Meanwhile, Kahlan, broken hearted about having sent Richard into captivity, must face a mysterious army calling itself the Imperial Order that has invaded the Midlands. The battle scenes in which she rides naked, leading a numerically inferior (and equally naked) army against the Order's cruel hordes is a real thrill and so very different from the battles in other fantasy stories. Nowhere but in Goodkind's brutal world (or our real one) would the heroes come up with the idea of dragging a chain between two horses so as to break the legs of the picketed enemy horses.
Another wonderful addition to this book is Gratch, a Short-tailed Gar who befriends Richard, this is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the Gar's in the first book were the feared servant beasts of the enemy. Unfortunately, Goodkind slips a little in this story and does use the old Dark Lord theme (as I said, this time it's the Keeper), but thankfully the actual dangers are the seeming allies who have been seduced by evil rather than the Keeper himself.
All in all, I'd say that this book is the equal of its predecessor and gives high hopes for the continuation of the series.
Followed by 'Blood of the Fold'
5 out of 5
Temple Of The Winds
Book four of the Sword of Truth series. A slight dip in the quality of Goodkind's work. I have no problems with this book on a technical level, Goodkind's prose is, as ever, evocative and thrilling, but I feel the story itself lacked something. It involves Emperor Jagang unleashing a plague upon the Midlands that Richard must find the Temple of the Winds to cure.
I have trouble expressing exactly what I didsliked about this book, but the fact that Richard has to marry Nadine and Kahlan has to marry Drefan Rahl irritated me somehow. It felt as if Goodkind was introducing a peril to Richard and Kahlan's relationship just for the sake of it, not because it carried the Sword of Truth series onwards. A specific part of that storyline that bothered me was that when Kahlan becomes resigned to the fact that she can never have Richard, she basically decides "Oh what the hell!" and fully indulges her sexual urges with Drefan, going much further than someone who's unwilling really would (there's more to that than I'll say here, so I won't spoil the plot). Speaking from a personal standpoint, if the woman I loved with all my heart was denied me, the first thing I would do would be anything other than having passionate sex with her half-sister!
It also annoyed me that when Richard goes to the Temple of the Winds, he gains complete knowledge of his powers, but wait, no, he has to give all that knowledge up and go back to being ignorant. I mean, what was the point in that?
Finally, I'll say that the torture the Drefan devises for Cara is just a bit too '1984' to be original. I'll say in the book's favour that the interaction between Nathan Rahl and Zedd is alot of fun and left me wishing for more of it.
Followed by 'Soul of the Fire'.
3 out of 5
The Pillars Of Creation
Book seven of the Sword of Truth. Relatively speaking, this book blows. It is both a departure from the regular story of the Sword of Truth series, as well as a departure from the quality. Now, before I go on, I'll say that this book is essential in establishing the factors of the next book in the series 'Naked Empire'. Often is the time that you'll hear an author or film director explain that sometimes the quality of a piece of work has to be sacrificed to establish the facts of the setting (I'm thinking 'The Phantom Menace' and 'The Matrix Reloaded'), but I will go on record here and now and say that that is rubbush. The quality should be in balance with the setting of the scene (I give you the immortal 'The Fellowship of the Ring') and anything less is poor craftsmanship.
With 'The Pillars of Creation', Goodkind has made that very mistake, believing he can sacrifice the story in favour of laying the foundations of the next book. We are taken well away from the characters who we love and whose personal development is important to us and given a whole new group of people to get to know. That in itself can be a good thing, but here the characters are awful. Jennsen is a simpering twit who is purported to be an intelligent young woman but couldn't think her way out of a paper bag. Sebastian is astonishingly transparent and when it turns out that he truly does love Jennsen you feel betrayed that he wasn't even as clever as to be lying about it. Then there's Oba Rahl; he is so sadistic and evil that he actually transcends horror and becomes ridiculous. Finally, I have to admit my abject hatred of Betty. Goodkind's books have always benefitted from their clear, and often brutal, realism, so to have one of the main character be a friggin' goat is insane! A GOAT for Christ's sake!
Richard, Kahlan and Cara's participation in the story seems very much an afterthought, as if Goodkind suddenly thought 'Oh yeah, I forgot the main characters of the series, better wedge them in at the end'.
In the novel's defence, it does have some redeeming features, things like the way in which we actually see the war from the point of view of a supporter of the Imperial Order. Also, Jagang's assault on the Confessor's Palace is very well written, right from the discovery of Jagang's mentor's severed head on a spike (see 'Faith of the Fallen') to Zedd and Adie's defence of the Palace.
In closing, I'll say that this book is necessary reading for those wishing to read the following parts of the series, but I'll warn you that by the time you get through it you may have lost your will to read any more of the Sword of Truth.
Followed by 'Naked Empire'.
2 out of 5
Wizard's First Rule
The first book of the Sword of Truth saga has a simple woods guide named Richard befriending a mysterious woman named Kahlan. This begins a series of events that will shake the foundations of his life as he discovers that his father, his brother, his friend Zedd and even Kahlan are not who he believes them to be. Richard is named the Seeker of Truth and as such he must help Kahlan and Zedd to fight the cruel tyrant Darken Rahl.
This book has all the wonder and discovery that good fantasy should have and on top of that Goodkind adds a brutal realism which graphically reveals the cost of war. In another break with fantasy tradition, Goodkind has done away with the 'Dark Lord' (although the Keeper of the Underworld fits the description, he's not the true villain here) and instead has a very human wizard whose evil is made all the more horrific for that fact. The author has taken a real risk having a sadistic mass murderer and his child-raping henchman as the villains of the piece, but the risk pays off and leads to believable (if terrible) enemies whose deaths you can geniunely delight in.
Another unusually harsh factor is Richard's brutal enslavement and torture at the hands of the Mord-Sith. Now I tend to quickly tire of scenes in a book where the hero is imprisoned, but Richard's love for Kahlan and the character's own innate power makes you devour page after page as you wait for him to recover from his ordeal and strike back.
To sum up, the characters in this book manage to retain their fantastic nature whilst being entirely believable and the same can be said of the story in general. Goodkind's prose is rich and descriptive where it needs to be, but quick and clever when the pace of the story turns. I'd also like to say that Zedd is an excellent variation of the old-wizards-as-mentor, showing a sharpness of tongue and purpose second only to Tolkien's Gandalf.
Followed by 'Stone of Tears'.
5 out of 5