Complete Sword of Truth Series – Book review

A while ago, I reviewed Wizard’s First Rule and later decided to read the whole series by Terry Goodkind. While there were some good points to it, I have no hesitation in saying that the latter half was predominantly bad. Now that all eleven books are over, I can pronounce my judgment. Unlike the Wheel of Time, I’m going to start with the bad since it stands out so much. In case you’re wondering why I went through and read eleven books, it’s because once you read the first 4 books, you have to know what happens!

Note: No specific spoilers here, but only a general commentary on the series.

The Ugly – Repetitive Sword of Truth Themes

Several things bug me about this series. One of them is that each book makes use of the same themes over and over again. For example, Terry Goodkind seems to be completely obsessed with people getting captured. In the course of the series, every single good guy has been rendered helpless in the hands of the enemy at least once, and many of them more than once. Each book contains people getting captured and then escaping. I’ve lost count of how many times the main protagonist (Richard) has been rendered helpless by someone or the other.

Sword of Truth - Eleven Books

Sword of Truth – Eleven Books

Also, Richard is somehow or the other deliberately crippled in each of the books. Either he gets debilitating headaches, or he’s prevented from using his gift (or forbidden from doing so), or he’s losing his magic or whatever. As a result, we never get to see him at his full potential as a war wizard.

And what’s with everyone being tired? I mean does no one sleep in the books? Whenever we see Richard, we hear about how he hasn’t slept well for weeks – or any of the main protagonists for that matter (Zedd is the only exception. He’s my favorite character). Another means by which Goodkind incapacitates his heroes. They’re always hungry or tired.

The next huge issue is the love story between Richard and Kahlan. Ok they’re in love. We GET IT! They behave like lovestruck teenagers. Whenever Kahlan isn’t present, Richard loses all capacity for thought and the world can go to hell. It’s sick. He doesn’t behave like an adult, but some moonstruck juvenile. Kahlan is a little (just about) better. At least she can operate cogently without Richard being around. Every book in the Sword of Truth series has to have at least one mandatory separation of Richard and Kahlan. Every single book. The two are so boring together that Goodkind is forced to pry them apart and thus provide the motivation for Richard to get off his butt and do something. Sometimes it seems that it’s the only thing that works.

Richard is supposed to be the most powerful wizard in 3,000 years and a war wizard to boot, and even at the end of the book, he still doesn’t know how to use his powers. Time and time again he gets an opportunity to learn about them from his Grandfather Zedd who’s the First Wizard of the land, and each time he throws away the opportunity – and for what? Yep – that’s right. To spend time with Kahlan. He doesn’t care that if he doesn’t learn, his gift will kill him. He just wants to be alone with Kahlan. But then hey! If he learns how to use his powers, he can actually ward off the threat from every Tom Dick and Harry who captures him! And we can’t have that can we? How will he get the motivation to rejoin Kahlan then hmm?

Just once in the series, he gets his wet dream. Kahlan is injured and she recuperates with him in a forest where it’s just the two of them. If it wasn’t for a nice evil sorceress who stole Richard away, he’d still be cuddling with her in his wooden shack in isolation. A pathetic hero to say the least.

I’ve saved the worst for the last. After the fifth book or so Richard who’s supposed to be the Seeker of Truth, mutates into the Preacher of Truth. Pages and pages (and pages) of the books are devoted to long winded black and white monologues by Richard who suddenly gets a Christ complex. The funniest part is that after dozens of pages of monologue, his listeners instead of going to sleep or throwing a rotten egg at him, stroke their chins and say “Y’know? I wish I had thought of that!” As if you can change a person’s entire nature by just boring them to death. I mean who talks like that? Goodkind tries to stuff his sickeningly righteous Ayn Rand bullshit down the throats of his readers over and over again. And then he does it again for good measure. Richard, who’s originally a nice sort of guy becomes this holier than thou – Oh I’m so wise and all knowing – jerk.

One final aspect of the entire series. What’s up with Richard losing his sword all the time? I mean I know that Goodkind has to do his usual thing of incapacitating his hero again and again, but why even bother to link the sword to Richard if just about anyone can take it and use it? Richard is separated from his sword over and over again (and Zedd even castigates him for it) – makes him seem careless you know what I mean?

Also, the whole Sisters of the Light concept was a knockoff of Robert Jordan’s Aes Sedai – complete with Sisters of the Dark resembling the Black Ajah.

The villains in the books also seem to be blessed with good luck. Somehow, the main evil guy (Jagang) repeatedly gets his hand on the rarest books in existence when they’ve been sitting right under the noses of the good guys all along. I mean his luck is simply unbelievable. All the books have a theme where things are going really really bad for the good guys and then in the last 100 pages or so, Richard the Preacher of Truth saves everyone with some jiggery pokery.

The Good

There are several really nice interesting characters in the book. They provide a refreshing break from the two main boring ones. Zedd, the First Wizard and Richard’s grandfather is the most entertaining, powerful and nicest old man in the series. Adie, the blind sorceress is an excellent complement. Nathan the powerful 1000 year old prophet is also a commanding character, but he doesn’t get much onscreen time unfortunately.

For me, the best concept was a set of scary guards called the Mord Sith. Fantastic addition. They really gave the entire series a breath of fresh air.

The villains were quite decent, though not as good as the one in Runelords (The villain called Darken Rahl however, was the match of Raj Ahten). I wish there were more good things to say about the books. I really do. After all, I spent a lot of time reading all eleven books. But I don’t feel sad that it’s over – unlike with the Wheel of Time series, or Runelords. I just feel relieved.

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Comments

  1. i agree with you on three points. The biggest put off for me was the preacher of truth richard,esp when he was with his new found sister. i mean,comeon terry,that was plain boring. luckily for me, i had soft copies so i would just scroll ten pages down until i thought i had gotten to where the action was, only to find that it was the same person still saying the same thing but just in different words. and really,wassup with richard not reaching his full potential as a wizard, where is the fun in that??and why does he have to be soo tired or injured or both most if not all of the times. I couldnt even finish the series. Chainfire was my breaking point. im done. Qouting from the review, it sure seems like Terry Goodkind tries to stuff his sickeningly righteous Ayn Rand bullshit down the throats of his readers over and over again. And then he does it again for good measure.nxaaa

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  2. Rape. Always rape. Can we not find other ways to make bad guys be bad guys than… rape?

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  3. Years ago I read the first few books, without knowing the author had a political agenda. I actually thought he meant for pretty much all the major characters to be assholes. Seriously. I figured he was just taking the “flawed hero” thing much further than others would.

    But what killed my interest was certainly the “romance” between Richard and Kahlan. It seemed to never go anywhere, after he could finally touch her. I always thought the series would have had been much better off if Richard just ended up being a mindless servant of Kahlan like anyone else who were taken by her powers. I certainly would have kept reading.

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  4. You have some great points in some of the drawbacks of this series. Also, have you finished the completed series now that it’s concluded with Warheart? I’d be interested to know where your stance lies on its present, completed form.

    I was disappointed to find that you didn’t mention most (if any) of the redeeming qualities in the series. The entire concept of the sword of truth is you fundamentally phenomenal, blatantly illustrating time and time again why people are intelligent individually, and absolutely crippled (to the point of annihilation at times) together.

    Maybe I’ll write an objective review for readers soon, where the actual substance of the series is given credit. It makes the petty “ugly” side of the series nearly nonexistent.

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  5. I’ve read the series years ago, or at least the first book, and i really loved it, and that was why i have read the rest, hoping it would continue to entertain. It felt like a build up to something better in the first book. and i just cant stand to NOT know how something ends if i like the beginning.

    While there are really enjoyable part throughout the series, it kinda becomes harder and harder to focus on the good parts, cause there are SO many bad parts.

    It didnt bother me so much that everybody is sleepy and hungry all the time. What irritated me most was:
    -all the preaching (for both sides), once is ENOUGH, and referring to it would be enough
    -she loved him somthing fierce, it hurts something fierce, miss him something fierce etc… Not sure how much he wrote it, just know that it started to be annoying
    -it was rapture!
    -checking if his sword was clear in its scabbard, could fill an entire book with that!
    -dragging out things, as if the reader didnt already figure out the problem, and the ‘seeker’ cannot figure it out before the reader can, it makes richard look stupid, and it insults the intelligence of the reader

    There is a lot more annoyance, but the review, plus the above, are the main points.

    This was the first fantasy i have ever read, and after reading a lot more, i came to the conclusion that although Goodkind has SOME original thought, he is mostly a bad copycat.

    I really liked Gratch, Nicci, Warren, Zed, Nathan, Anne (in the beginning), any mord sith, Scarlet, Rachel, Adie, for what comes to mind at this moment, cause they were consistant (nicci consistant bad, and later good).

    For the bad guys: i think i only liked darken rahl, he is just aweful without any redeeming qualities, just openly aweful, not like jagang that was brought up wrongly. Jagang is like a jehova witness you want to turn away, Darken Rahl was more like serial killer that can never be redeemed.

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  6. Desmond Ling says:

    I too have been comparing the Wheel of Time with Sword of Truth. I don’t think anyone could enjoy SoT after having read WoT. I lost my patience and desire to read on from the first few pages, and now that I’ve gotten to the part where Richard is appointed the Seeker, I think I’ll stop right there and move on to other series. I’m not great with English but the writing seems so raw, immature, (unsmooth, unpolished?) when compared to WoT.

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    • In reply to Desmond Ling

      Did you start with wot or sot. I started with sot and just finished the the 3rd wot book. I am probably going to drop the wot series. While Richards preachyness was bad and the romance was juvenile at least it was not bitchy. First chapter in i thought ugh i don’t like Nynaeve and those other two, but ill give it a try maby it picks up? I was wrong that scene where mat rescues them inside the stone and they just bitch at him was pretty much the last straw. Their was some charters i liked innitially such as lanfear faile and others but he somehow ruins his charters.( partially going by what i read from others for material after book three)
      Id take sot over wot anyday.

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